Quartet of Mideast to meet next month - Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators would meet next month to discuss the establishment of Palestinian control over evacuated Israeli settlements, Russian news agencies reported.

Earlier this week, Israel completed its unilateral withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from all of the Gaza Strip and four isolated settlements in the West Bank.

"This withdrawal should be completed in all its aspects in order to secure the possibility for existence of the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank under Palestinian administration," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"We are discussing what Russia can do with this goal, both as a member of the Quartet and in bilateral relations with the Palestinians," Lavrov said after talks with his Palestinian counterpart, Nasser Al Kidwa.

He said the Quartet would next meet in New York on Sept. 20. In addition to Russia, it includes the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

The United Nations announced last week that the Quartet would meet on the sidelines of a U.N. summit from Sept. 14-16 to assess Israel's disengagement from Gaza. The Quartet has expressed hope that it would lead to a return to the "road map" peace process, which envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Al Kidwa said that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was "an important and positive step," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

"We must continue the conversation to find agreement on questions tied with the checkpoints between Gaza and the West Bank," Al Kidwa said through a translator, reports the AP.

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