INDIAN MINISTER of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj meets with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday renewed his call for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East.
Abbas was speaking in Ramallah during a meeting with visiting Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.
Swaraj, on her first trip to the region as foreign minister, arrived in Israel late Saturday night. She went immediately to Ramallah on Sunday morning, and returned to Israel in the afternoon when she began her official visit. She is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in separate sessions on Monday.
Abbas said that the international conference was needed in light of the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“The Palestinian issue is the core of the conflict in the region and the world,” Abbas said. “Achieving peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on 1967 borders will ensure peace and stability in both the region and the world.”
Abbas said that the PA leadership was making an effort to find a solution to the crisis in Syria, but did not elaborate.
The Palestinians are keen on developing their relations with India, Abbas said. He praised Indian aid to the Palestinians.
The Indian minister reiterated her country’s support for the two-state solution. India would continue to provide the Palestinians assistance politically and economically, she said.
A statement put out by the Indian External Affairs Ministry last week said that Swaraj was starting her visit in “Palestine” because it “reflects the importance India holds for Palestine it its engagement with the countries of the region.”
Swaraj’s visit comes just three months after President Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel, on the first trip here by an Indian head of state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom Netanyahu has developed good relations, has also been slated for some time to make a visit to Israel, which would be the first ever by an Indian prime minister.
No date, however, has been formalized for that trip.
In addition to meeting Netanyahu and Rivlin, Swaraj is also scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
Swaraj will not be the only foreign minister in the country on Monday, as both Netanyahu and Hotovely are slated to meet with visiting Rwanda Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo who is in the country on a twoday visit.
In recent years, Rwanda has emerged as one of Israel’s best friends in Africa, often abstaining – rather than voting against Israel – on significant UN votes, including votes in the UN Security Council where it was a member in 2013-2014.