Russia is a full and equal member of the international "quartet", actively working to implement the "Road Map" provisions on a Middle East settlement.
RIA Novosti was told this by well-known US political scientists - director of the Middle East program of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies John Alterman and the president of the Washington Foundation for Middle East Peace, Ambassador Philip Wilcox Jr.
Till 2002 Mr. Alterman was the US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East problems. Philip Wilcox Jr. is a career diplomat and held the post of US Consul-General in Jerusalem.
The political scientists hold the view that the developments of the past few months in the region demand that all the members of the Middle East Four take an active stand, and that the "quartet" more clearly formulate its role.
As I feel it, the "quartet" has not been displaying proper activity of late - the development has been rather going through the bilateral Russian-Israeli or US-Israeli dialogue but not through a more complex process with the participation of all the members of the "quartet", Ambassador Wilcox stressed.
The president of the Foundation noted Russia's negative stand on the plans of the Israeli Prime Minister to build "a wall of security". The wall is very dangerous, since it undermines talks. Such issues as the borders between Israel and Palestine, resolution of the settlement problem, and the problems of Jerusalem, water and security - all this can be settled only through talks, Mr. Wilcox stressed.
The "road map" is endangered because Prime Minister Sharon decided to act unilaterally - this is what he calls his program of delimitation. The "Road Map" proposes negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians but Sharon does not want to hold talks, claiming that he does not see a Palestinian partner with whom such talks could be held, the Foundation's president said.
In his opinion, the current Israeli Premier wants to continue building the separating wall but the borders he speaks of will not make it possible to set up a viable sovereign Palestinian state.
Mr. Sharon's plan does not coincide with the "Road Map", Mr. Wilcox stated and noted that Mr. Sharon had asked the Bush administration to accept his plan and to give certain promises, for instance, concerning recognition of the annexation of a number of settlements. I think that the Bush administration will not agree to comply with this request but at the same time it will not pressure Mr. Sharon toughly enough to make him agree to talks with the Palestinians, the Ambassador said.
All the sides - Russia, the USA and the other members of the "quartet" - must impel Mr. Sharon and the Palestinians to recommence the talks. They must do so together but not as Mr. Sharon wants this to be done, Mr. Wilcox said and added that the USA must also behave more actively.
At the moment the USA's position is not very firm, and for this reason Mr. Sharon does what he wants. The USA is so busy with Iraq that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not receiving the priority attention it requires, the Ambassador went on to say.
In Mr. Alterman's opinion, the "Road Map", for now, has slim chances to register success. There have not been any bilateral talks between the Israelis and Palestinians already for a certain time. The "map" was worked out to boost trust between the sides, but instead of it this trust not only has not grown but, conversely, has diminished since the moment of its adoption, the political scientist believes.
It is necessary for the "quartet" to make greater efforts to display its role, and to designate its work both in supporting the actions in the region, and in supplementing the role of other participants in the process. So far, the "quartet" has not found an ideal form for this, the director of the Middle East program concluded.
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