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Arafat Invites Russia to D.C. Talks

October 8, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat today invited Russia to take part in Middle East peace negotiations in Washington and generally play a more active role in the peace process, Russian news agencies reported.

The invitation came during discussions between Arafat and President Boris Yeltsin about prospects for a breakthrough in the peace talks, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

Russia is officially a co-sponsor of the peace process launched by a conference in Madrid, Spain, in 1991. But the United States has played a far greater role.

Yeltsin said his government might be interested in participating in the Washington talks, but first wants to know the views of Israel and the United States on the plan, Interfax reported, citing Yeltsin aide Sergei Prikhodko.

Arafat is on a two-day visit to Moscow in the wake of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Those talks raised hopes that the stalled peace process could move ahead.

Russian and Palestinian ministers also signed a Russian-Palestinian agreement on trade and economic cooperation.

Arafat was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and other government officials, and with Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Alexy II.

``Russian-Palestinian talks assume a special meaning in the light of the difficult situation in the Middle East,″ Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Arafat’s meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday made ``substantial progress,″ according to Albright.

Palestinians were less optimistic, saying no agreements were reached Wednesday except to continue talks in Washington on Oct. 15.

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