Did Russia recognize Palestinian independence?

Many Palestinian analysts say he did, but Medvedev did not say one single word about a unilateral declaration of statehood.

By
January 23, 2011 01:06
3 minute read.
Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev angry 311 . (photo credit: Associated Press)

Huge signs in Arabic and Russian were on display all across Jericho last Tuesday: “Welcome, dear friend – President Dmitry Medvedev” and “President Medvedev is a friend of the Palestinian people.”

A giant photo of Medvedev and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decorated an old, dowdy building near the Jericho governor’s residence where their historic meeting took place.

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The city hadn’t seen such pomp and range of highest political officials for a long, long time. President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to Ramallah in 2005.

However, this current visit was very different: this time Medvedev visited only Jericho, crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan.

It was not supposed to be this way, as the Russian president was scheduled to visit Israel as well and only canceled this visit due to the ongoing strike in the Foreign Ministry. This detail was omitted in the many ecstatic reports by the Palestinian media that flocked to Jericho.

The commentators were quick to interpret this as another sign of the “superb” relations between Russia and the PA, and received an endorsement of this theory during the speech of the honored guest.

Addressing the dignitaries and the journalists, Medvedev said that it was a “unique event, a solo visit.”



Then a festive ceremony of signing agreements between the Russian and PA Ministries of Agriculture, news agencies and Olympic committees took place. When you don’t have anything important to sign, you have to produce something, one of the Russian journalists whispered. “I’m certain that tremendous opportunities for expanding the cooperation lie ahead,” the Russian president smiled.

This might be true. However, the fact that hundreds of influential businessmen and lobbyists didn’t join Medvedev in his Palestinian-Jordanian tourney points to the disappointment of the Russian side with the cancellation of the visit to Israel. As affectionate as the meeting between Medvedev and Abbas was, it was no substitute for the important economic and political relations with Israel.

And here comes the million-dollar question: Did Medvedev officially recognize the Palestinian state or didn’t he? Many analysts in the PA ruled that he did: in fact Jericho Mayor Hassan Saleh announced that “Russia is going to recognize Palestinian independence” even before the Russian president had made his speech. And indubitably, that is exactly what Palestinians would like to hear.

Yet that was not what Medvedev actually said. In fact, there was not one single word, not one single fact regarding unilateral Palestinian independence.

Medvedev affirmed that in 1988, the Soviet Union supported the declaration of independence made by Yasser Arafat in Algiers, and that the Russian Federation today backs the struggle of the Palestinian people for independence – but so do the US, EU and UN.

Almost immediately, Medvedev said Moscow strongly opposes any unilateral acts and that as a member of the Middle East Quartet believes that negotiations are necessary and that the current framework of the Oslo agreements, the road map and the Annapolis declaration is still viable.

This last part was omitted by Arab commentators, who were quick to adapt the message to their own dreams and ambitions.

Perhaps, if the Russian president had also paid a visit to Jerusalem, some words of clarification would have been pronounced and the whole thing would have gone unnoticed.

The Palestinian card is important to Russia, which is gaining support and credibility in the Middle East. However, the Israeli card is equally important, a member of the Russian delegation told The Jerusalem Post. It’s hard to imagine that the Kremlin would be among the first of the principals to recognize Palestinian independence, but it’s fair to assume that it will not be the last one either.


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