Russian senator praises Sharon-Abbas meeting

Mikhail Margelov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Federation Council, has appraised the meeting between heads of government of Israel and Palestine, Ariel Sharon and Mahmud Abbas, as an "important step paving the way for implementation of the road map of Palestinian-Israeli settlement." "The atmosphere of the talks and their length inspire certain optimism. The sides are demonstrating readiness to embark on a concrete dialogue within the context of the settlement plan proposed by international mediators," Margelov told RIA Novosti.

"Israeli authorities are ready to pull back some of their troops from occupied territories, while the Palestinians intend to rein in their extremist groupings," Margelov noted. Sharon's "substantive gesture", according to the senator, is his intention to look into the dossiers of some Palestinian prisoners, and also to increase tax receipts by the treasury of the Palestinian authority.

"It is to be hoped that following a June 4 meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians and US President George W. Bush, the beginning will be announced of the road map's first stage," Margelov said.

At this phase it is planned to carry out a far-reaching security reform by Palestinians, to pull out Israeli troops, to freeze construction of new settlements, and hold free elections in the Palestinian authority.

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