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    Mideast road map must be supported - Russian diplomat

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    MOSCOW, February 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry called on Israel and Palestine Thursday to continue to work on the road map peace plan to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.

    "Although the road map is a long way from being implemented, it would be counter-productive to abandon it," Ambassador-at-Large Alexander Kalugin told a news conference in Moscow.

    The diplomat said Russia's position was to avoid taking any rash steps, to follow events and to prevent any negative developments of the situation.

    He said it was necessary to wait until a new government had been formed in Palestine following the election triumph of Hamas, which is widely seen as an extremist organization in the West, and elections had been held in Israel before making any new moves.

    According to Kalugin, only once the Palestinian government has been formed and its program announced will it be possible to determine the further steps that will be taken by the "quartet" of international mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the United Nations, European Union, Russia, and the United States) and each individual member.

    Kalugin said it would be unreasonable to make demands of Palestine alone.

    "It takes two hands to clap, so Israel must meet Palestine halfway," the diplomat said.

    "We expect the Palestinian authorities to comply with previous agreements signed between Palestine and Israel, adhere to their commitments and, last but not least, acknowledge Israel's right to exist," Kalugin said referring to a statement that the "quartet" had made at a London meeting on January 30.

    The diplomat said Hamas must understand that it had won in the January elections to the Palestinian parliament because people had voted in protest against the inert nature of the incumbent authorities and corruption, which had affected all structures of power.

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