MOSCOW - Russia received the chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel on Thursday, urging the two sides to strengthen trust to build stability in the recently resumed Middle East peace negotiations.

"We understand that you are only at the very start. We want the resumed talks to assume stability," news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as telling Saeb Erakat at the start of their meeting. "We want the negotiations to achieve the result that we are all after - a final settlement, including all the issues concerning final status, so that a Palestinian state emerges that lives in peace and security together with Israel and other nations," Lavrov said. Russia's top diplomat added that Moscow fully supported Washington's efforts to relaunch the negotiations after a hiatus of nearly three years.

"Considering the lengthy pause we saw in the negotiating process, we find it especially important to strengthen trust between the two sides," Lavrov said.

Palestinians and Israeli officials held their latest talks in Jerusalem on Tuesday after conducting a first round of negotiations on August 14. No details about the meetings have been disclosed due to a request from Washington for a strict news blackout.

Russia - a Palestinian ally in the Soviet era that more recently has developed a friendship with Israel - is a member of the Middle East peace Quartet that along with the United States also includes the European Union and the United Nations.

The long-awaited return to peace talks was overshadowed by a new row over Israeli settlement plans for the occupied Palestinian territories. Lavrov made no direct mention of the settlement issue but at the same time praised the Palestinians for showing "restraint."

Lavrov also said: "We welcome Israel's decision to release a group of Palestinian prisoners."  Israel freed 26 Palestinians last week - the first batch of 104 prisoners that the Jewish state has promised to release as a symbolic gesture aimed at easing the path toward talks.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official accused Israel on Thursday of preventing the United States from taking part in peace talks, two days after a new round of meetings.

"The American side has not participated in any meetings until now between Israel (and the Palestinians)," Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio.

"Washington said it would be a direct partner in talks but so far this hasn't happened because of Israel's insistence on keeping the US away from meetings," he said.

"If the US can't impose its presence, then it will not have any direct influence on achieving progress in negotiations," Abed Rabbo added.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held two separate meetings on Tuesday in the latest round of US-backed talks between the two sides.

The talks, which resumed last month after a three-year hiatus, have been overshadowed by Israeli plans to build more than 2,000 new homes for Jewish settlers on occupied Palestinian territory.

Abed Rabbo slammed the settlement expansion plans, saying they threatened the renewed peace efforts. "Israel's continued and unrestricted settlement building is a danger to resumed talks, which could end in disaster," he said.