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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Raps Israel for Peace Impasse

President Boris Yeltsin blamed Israel on Tuesday for a deadlock in Middle East peace talks and called on the United States to apply pressure on its ally to get the process back on track.


"The Middle East crisis is continuing, and it will be very difficult to overcome, largely I think because of Israel's unconstructive position," Yeltsin told a group of reporters after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


"The United States has some influence on Israel and should work here more actively, although we, too, should do more in this direction," he said.


Russia and the United States are co-sponsors of the peace process begun at an Arab-Israeli peace conference in 1991.


But Russia, mired in problems at home, has been less involved in the Middle East than during Soviet times, when Moscow traditionally backed Arab countries in their disputes with Israel.


"Russia's presence in the Arab world, and in the Middle East in particular, is clearly insufficient," Yeltsin said. "We must have a constant high-level presence there."


He noted that Mubarak had criticized Russia for not being active enough in the region.


"Americans come [to the Middle East] all the time, and Russia -- I don't even know how to put it -- completely ignores us," Mubarak was quoted as saying in a story published Tuesday in the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "It seems to me that it should be just opposite -- you must be the most active people here."


In response, Yeltsin promised to send his foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, on a trip to Egypt in the near future.


After their talks, the two leaders signed a joint political declaration and several economic agreements. (See story, Page 10.)


The Middle East peace talks have been stalled since March, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the go-ahead for work to start on a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem on Arab land occupied in a 1967 Arab-Israeli war.


Yeltsin rejected allegations by some Israeli politicians that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was to blame for recent bomb attacks in Israel, which have deepened the crisis.


"One should not blame Mr. Arafat today for terrorist acts. That's not serious," he said.


He said that, as a co-sponsor, he supported the principle of negotiations based on a "land for peace" formula. In a joint statement issued after their talks, Yeltsin and Mubarak, who once attended a top Russian military academy in the era of Cold War cooperation between the Soviet Union and Egypt, outlined common views on a number of international and bilateral issues.


On Israel, they made clear that they saw a halt to Jewish settlement-building as a crucial condition for peace.


"It is necessary to secure a situation where unilateral actions which would have a negative influence on the peace process, like the construction of settlements on occupied territory, be prohibited," the statement said.