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    Russia intends to do everything possible to normalize the situation in Palestinian territories as soon as possible, President Vladimir Putin told Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian National Authority, on the phone Monday.

    MOSCOW, July 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia intends to do everything possible to normalize the situation in Palestinian territories as soon as possible, President Vladimir Putin told Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian National Authority, on the phone Monday.

    "The PNA head informed the Russian president about the situation in Palestinian-Israeli relations in connection with the mounting crisis after an Israeli serviceman was seized and an Israeli military operation started," the Kremlin press service said.

    The Palestinian leader thanked Russia for efforts to defuse the crisis, the press service said.

    Russia, along with the U.S., UN, and EU is a mediator in the Middle East peace process and an author to the Road Map settlement plan. It also invited members of Hamas, the radical organization that won a landslide victory in Palestinian general elections in January, to Moscow in early 2006. The move was heavily criticized by Israel, which does not recognize the Hamas-dominated government and the other mediators in the Quartet.

    Putin held the telephone conference with Abbas following a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who also met with her Russian counterpart earlier in the day.

    Sergei Lavrov called on the Palestinian leadership to stop violence against Israelis, and on Israel to show restraint. He also pledged assistance in the release of an Israeli soldier abducted by Palestinian militants, the latest in a series of abductions and suicide bombings from Palestinian militants and Israel's raids on Palestinian territories.

    "We are witnessing another spiral of violence that must be stopped at all costs, which requires patience and wisdom from both sides," Lavrov said following talks with Livni.

    Livni said Israel would not let terrorism become an instrument for attaining goals in the Middle East.

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