Ivanov is hoping to increase Russia’s role in the “peace process” between Palestinians and Israelis and to push the United States to speed up the formation of an Iraqi government.

 

Ivanov is expected to show Moscow’s willingness to take part in joint monitoring operations with US forces in the Middle East, according to foreign ministry spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko.

 

“We for our part are ready to join them,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

 

The “extreme acuity” of the situation in the Middle East “and the lack of trust between the parties in conflict” means that reconciliation will be difficult to achieve, Yakovenko said.

 

Therefore, the external monitoring teams will play “a key stabilizing role in the movement towards peace”.

 

Ivanov is now in Italy after visiting Belgium.

 

He is scheduled to go to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, but not Israel.

 

The foreign minister will discuss with Arab leaders security issues concerning completion of the first stage of the US-sponsored “road map” plan, Yakovenko said.

 

These include Israeli withdrawal from Pales