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    Middle East Quartet meeting delayed at U.S. request - Lavrov

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    A meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators planned for March has been postponed by request of the United States, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

    A meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators planned for March has been postponed by request of the United States, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

    The meeting, involving representatives of Russia, the Untied States, the European Union and the United Nations, was scheduled to take place in March in Paris.

    "At the last moment, our U.S. partners proposed postponing this meeting. The Quartet's meetings... are held by mutual agreement, so the meeting in Paris will not take place," Lavrov told journalists in Moscow.

    The statement came as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership.

    Lavrov said Russia was against a pause in the Middle East peace process, especially amid the unrest that has hit the region in the past few months.

    Lavrov said "delaying the [Middle East] settlement in the current situation is in no one's interests."

    "We should make three times or ten times more efforts in the current situation in order to return the parties to the negotiation table, clearly explaining them once again the position of the international community, and what we expect from them," the Russian minister added.

    This position, he explained, includes a call for the creation of a Palestinian state in its 1967 borders, the agreement on the final status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and on arrangements that would assure security at Israeli-Palestinian borders.

    "We are sure that what is happening in the Middle East should make everyone speed up," Lavrov said.

    Direct talks between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to a standstill in September 2010, a few weeks after they resumed in Washington following a 20-month hiatus.

    The Palestinians said they would not return to the negotiation table unless Israel extends its moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, a long-standing sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Israel insists that the issue of settlements is not an obstacle to further negotiations.

    In December last year, Washington officially withdrew its call for its ally Israel to extend the settlement freeze.

    MOSCOW, March 10 (RIA Novosti)

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