MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Friday lamented Israel's attack on Palestinian leader Yasser Araft's residence, saying that the spiralling Mideast crisis can't be solved by military force.
The Israeli attack on Arafat's West Bank compound "isn't the way that could help find a political solution," Ivanov said at a news conference. He said that the solution "must be searched for through dialogue, including with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat," he added.
Ivanov said that Russia was conducting consultations with the United States, the European nations and others to stop the escalation of violence.
Israel's Cabinet formally declared Arafat an enemy Friday and sent tanks and troops charging into his office in Ramallah.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that Arafat would be completely isolated "at this stage" and left open the possibility that the Palestinian leader could be expelled from the Palestinian territories at a later time.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky told the Echo of Moscow radio Friday that Israeli troops wouldn't seek to kill the Palestinian leader, but "if Arafat takes up arms and fire at our troops, we naturally will have to respond," he said.
"I don't think it will come to that," he added.
Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house, said that the Israeli attack on Arafat's compound came as a justified response to the latest series of Palestinian terror attacks that killed 27 Israeli civilians in three days.
"The latest horrible crime of the Palestinians makes the harsh actions of Israel largely justified to impartial observers," Lukin said, according to the Interfax news agency.
"Now it is not clear who can sit down to the negotiating table on the Palestinian side because Yasser Arafat has demonstrated his impotence and no other negotiators are visible," he said.
Lukin, who served as Russia's ambassador to the United States in the early 1990s, said the latest round of violence has highlighted Washington's inability to find a solution to the crisis as the chief sponsor of the Mideast peace process.
"Primarily, it is a political and diplomatic flop for the United States, because Americans with their inherent confidence in their ability to resolve everything assumed the lion's share of responsibility for the settlement of the conflict," Lukin said.
Russia is an official co-sponsor of the Mideast peace process launched in 1991 but has played a far smaller role than the United States. It has built friendly ties with Israel but largely lost its clout with the Palestinians, whom it used to arm against Israel during the Soviet times.