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    Russia's foreign minister to start talks in Israel, West Bank

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    MOSCOW, June 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister will begin talks in Israel Tuesday with the country's leaders on the crisis in the Palestinian territories, before traveling to the West Bank, the ministry's spokesman said.

    Sergei Lavrov will meet in Tel Aviv Tuesday with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, and the country's new president, Shimon Peres. On Wednesday, the Russian diplomat will be received by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, and then by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

    "Naturally, the talks will focus on discussing ways to overcome the crisis, and the priority objective is to help end fratricidal violence and restore unity among Palestinians," ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

    Earlier in the day, the envoys of the "Quartet" mediating the situation in Israel-Palestinian conflict - Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations - met in Jerusalem for the first time since radical Islamic group Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip almost two weeks ago.

    Since the beginning of the month, at least 115 people have been killed and hundreds injured in armed clashes between Hamas and the pro-presidential Fatah movement in the enclave.

    The Hamas takeover prompted President Abbas to dissolve the coalition Cabinet, in which power was shared with the Islamists, and to establish an emergency government in Ramallah. The new government, led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has received the backing of most Western nations and of the more moderate Arab states.

    Kamynin said it was important to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, primarily in Gaza, where the EU has suspended all remaining humanitarian programs since the coup. The diplomat hailed Israel's plans to unfreeze tax revenues withheld from the Palestinian National Authority since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006.

    The spokesman said that ensuring the safety of Russian nationals in the Palestinian territories will also be considered during the minister's visit.

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