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    RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: ISRAEL SHOULD COMPLY WITH ROAD MAP

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Any steps taken by Israel should comply with the Road Map and advance towards fulfillment of the UN Security Council's Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 mentioned in its preamble, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Izvestia, when asked about Russia's stand now, when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is demonstrating increasing determination to fulfill his plan of "unilateral disengagement" with Palestine.

    "So far we do not have any clarity as to the parameters of this plan. In any case, we do not consider it an alternative to the Road Map," the minister said.

    According to him, full withdrawal from Gaza, eliminating settlements in the sector and withdrawing Israeli troops, should be viewed as a positive, but only initial step towards comprehensive settlement, which would include creation of independent Palestine, peacefully coexisting with Israel.

    The procedural and practical issues, which will inevitably arise after withdrawal from Gaza, including in the security, social and economic sphere, should be coordinated in advance with the Palestinian national authority, Lavrov believes. Some of them, especially those related to real estate, its potential owners and guardians, should be defined at consultations between Israel and the quartet of mediators.

    "We believe that international organizations should play a significant part in rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. We would also welcome Egypt's broker efforts, possible participation of other countries of the region in assisting the PNA in establishing law and order and stability in Gaza," the Russian minister pointed out.

    "Even if Israel does not consider the PNA a partner for negotiations, for the international community the Palestinian authorities with their institutions and leaders remain the only legitimate force on the Palestinian territory that should and must exercise its powers," Lavrov said.

    "In any case it is unacceptable for Israel after the withdrawal to resort to use of force against Gaza or to destroy its infrastructure, as was the case earlier. Naturally, the Palestinian party in its turn has to do its best to establish order on its territories and to prevent terrorist operations," the minister said.

    According to Lavrov, the irreversibility of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is of principal importance with all that it implies for Palestinians and the world community.

    "If Palestinians again find themselves hostages, do not have freedom of movement, they will be unlikely to perceive the withdrawal of Israeli troops and liquidation of settlements as a quality change in their situation. The world community will also be unlikely to accept such - however necessary - steps within "unilateral disengagement" as partial fulfillment of, for example, the UN Security Council's Resolution 242", Lavrov emphasized.

    "The process of withdrawing settlements from there, as we see it, should not be carried out by expanding Israeli settlements on the Western Bank, for it contradicts the Road Map. We cannot rule out that at a certain stage there will arouse a question of international presence in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal. Its form can be defined by the quartet in coordination with Palestine and Israel," the minister said.

    "We, as well as other members of the quartet, are sincerely interested in the settlement to become comprehensive, so that alongside with Palestinian problems, Israel would settle its relations with Lebanon, occupation of Syria's Golan Heights would be ceased for otherwise it seems impossible to establish lasting and fair peace between Israel and Syria," Lavrov maintains.

    "Russian diplomacy will continue to actively support this understanding of peace and stability in the Middle East," he concluded.

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