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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Appeals to Barak, Arafat to Halt Violence

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President Vladimir Putin urged Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Friday to take "decisive steps" to stop the violence in the Middle East.

His statement came after Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, addressing the State Duma after meeting both leaders this week, warned of the danger of a major war and urged deputies to restrain anti-Israeli anger and take a cautious approach.

"The latest outbreak of violence in the Palestinian territories has brought the situation in the Middle East to a dangerous turn," Putin said in his statement, issued by the Kremlin.

He appealed to Arafat and Barak "to immediately do everything possible to normalize the situation and to restore direct dialogue in the search for a way out of the crisis."

The Duma backed down from condemning Israel and supported a carefully worded statement on the Middle East after hearing Ivanov’s appeal for restraint.

Many deputies had called for the government to back its one-time Arab allies and denounce Cold War-era foe Israel, target of decades of Soviet condemnation.

But a senior official said Moscow now saw Middle East violence in the framework of a radical Islamic threat, implying a stance less hostile to Israel. Israel has backed Russian action in rebel Chechnya against Moslem independence fighters.

"The Middle East crisis proved that we were right in saying there is a single arc of extremism stretching from the Philippines to Kosovo," Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Security Council, was quoted by Interfax as saying in St. Petersburg.

Earlier, deputies had said they would toughen the wording of their resolution in response to Israeli rocket attacks on Palestinian targets Thursday.

"Israel has in fact launched a war against Palestinians, which means a disruption of the entire Middle East peace process," the head of the Duma’s foreign relations committee, Dmitry Rogozin, told reporters.

But after Ivanov’s address, deputies adopted on preliminary reading the original, mildly-worded statement, which called on both sides to show restraint.

"We cannot under any circumstances give in to the [anti-Israeli] rhetoric heard from the mouths of Duma faction leaders today," said Alexei Arbatov, a senior deputy from the liberal Yabloko bloc.

"We know better than any how heavy and tragic such problems are because we ourselves are coping with analogous questions in the Caucasus, where there is terrorism, just as there is in the Middle East, and difficult territorial problems and Islam."