( RIA Novosti ) - Russia wants Palestinians to restore unity, but will not get caught up in resolving contradictions between rival Palestinian factions, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said on Tuesday.
The standoff between pro-presidential Fatah and Islamist militant group Hamas has continued since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the West, remains sidelined in international negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
"First and foremost, responsibility is shouldered by the Palestinians themselves. They need first to agree on how to prevent a widening of the gap that occurred as a result of the well-known developments," Saltanov told RIA Novosti during his two-day visit to Israel.
He said Palestinian unity should be based on a sound platform that would contribute to the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.
The diplomat held talks in Tel Aviv with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, focusing on the roadmap for peace, proposed four years ago by Russia, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States. The roadmap has stalled over the failure of both Israelis and Palestinians to fulfill their obligations under the deal.
Livni said the implementation of the roadmap would become possible only after the Palestinian leadership fulfills its commitment to put an end to terrorism.
The Russian delegation's visit to Israel comes less than a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's trip to Russia, where he encouraged President Vladimir Putin to sideline Hamas, and raised concerns over Russian arms supplies to Iran and Syria.
After his visit to Israel, Saltanov is expected to visit Ramallah in the West Bank, the seat of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government, for discussions with the leadership on a U.S.-sponsored multilateral peace conference to be held in November or December in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Annapolis conference is expected to result in a framework agreement on peace efforts. The Israelis want the document to set out broad settlement principles, while the Palestinians are seeking specific terms and conditions.
The Palestinians want a detailed agreement specifying each party's commitment concerning key points, such as future borders, the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and Israeli settlements, while the Israelis are looking for a more general guideline.