Putin: Do not expel Arafat, restart peace talks

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation is against the expulsion of President Arafat from his Ramallah headquarters and calls for both sides to return to the negotiating table.

The position of the Russian President was made clear in a joint press conference on Sunday in Moscow with Russian and German journalists present, on the eve of his visit to Germany. He defended that Yasser Arafat “is a leader internationally recognised, respected, influential in the Arab world and above all in Palestine” and attacked the position of Ariel Sharon.

“Even a simple attempt to expel him”, continued President Putin, “to not speak about an actual expulsion, would provoke a radicalisation of certain forces in the Arab world, whose influence would end up increasing”.

Calling on both sides to return to the negotiating table, President Putin’s words come as Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov prepares to meet United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union Foreign Policy spokesperson, Josep Pique and US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Madrid on Wednesday. This meeting will formulate the text which Mr. Powell will deliver to Ariel Sharon on Friday.

Josep Pique stated that “There will not be a real solution without the participation of the USA, the EU and the Russian Federation”. He added that Colin Powell will travel to the Middle east with a plan to draw up internationally recognised frontiers for Israel and Palestine and that he will outline the terms of international support for both parties, once the frontiers have been accepted.

Josep Pique warned Israel that if it did not withdraw immediately from the occupied territories, the Foreign Ministers would discuss economic sanctions at their next meeting.

Late on Monday evening, there are reports that Israel has announced that it was proceeding with the withdrawal of its forces from two towns in the West Bank.


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