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Mideast Starts Progress on Roadmap?

US President George W. Bush's Mideastern tour came as order to start roadmap implementation, which promises final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The roadmap aims to make all Arab countries recognise Israel and its sheer right to exist, with peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence for final goal. To demonstrate that Israel and the Arab world are both willing to live according to those blueprints was principal aim of the summit in Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt, and Jordan's Aqaba.

There is a thorny road to travel on the map. Ever new obstacles are coming up even before the older ones are removed. That is clear to all negotiators - the USA, Israel and the Arab world - and to Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, the three on the international mediation quartet who were not represented at the latest summits. Be all that as it may, objectives have been set, and found approval, however reserved it might be, of all conflicting parties.

Strides have been blueprinted to implement the roadmap. Russia has done for it no less than the others on the mediating quartet, and the Mideastern summits were among those strides, say our informants in Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

President Bush had never before been to the Middle East since he appeared in the White House. Moscow calls to regard his visit in the light of quadripartite peace efforts, and hopes the US diplomacy will proceed from quartet prescriptions as before.

The USA, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations are no rivals in the Mideastern settlement cause - it is preposterous to expect any success outside teamwork, and everyone is aware of that, point out Foreign Ministry functionaries.

Prejudice and suspicion reigned on all sides only recently. The Arab world was nagging at the USA for an alleged pro-Israeli bias, while Israel accused Russia, the EU and the UN of working for Arabs. The atmosphere was stifling negotiations.

Now, it all depends on the mediators' teamwork, and Russia heartily welcomes President Bush's work to promote the roadmap, and is glad to see America building up its settlement efforts.

John Wolf, US Assistant Secretary of State, will lead an ad hoc team to monitor both conflicting sides' compliance with the roadmap. President Bush officially announced Mr. Wolf's appointment during the Aqaba summit.

It has not been agreed upon to this day just how the monitoring agency the roadmap envisages will work. So it will be quite safe for the USA to assume the duties as long as it complies with the mediating four's previous decisions, says one of our interviewees. The arrangement makes America ever more responsible for unbiased evaluations of regional developments. Its new huge responsibilities will certainly promote settlement.

We are all starting on a long road, Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, said after the Sharm-al-Sheikh summit. True, it will be a long and thorny road to travel, Russian diplomats join in.

Progress to peace is starting now. It must concern not only Israeli negotiations with Palestine but with Syria and Lebanon. With that aim in view, the quartet ought to blueprint practical action to implement the roadmap on the Syrian and Lebanese approaches, and so to provide the chance for full-scale Mideastern peace efforts revived, says Igor Ivanov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Marianna Belenkaya, RIAN

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