Abbas to Russia: Pressure Israel to halt Gaza escalation

PA president slams Netanyahu's criticism of Hamas unity talks: "He's always wept to US that he can't negotiate with divided Palestinians," says Ma'an report.

March 23, 2011 12:15
2 minute read.
PA President Abbas with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov

PA President Abbas with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Pool)


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to put pressure on Israel to end the "escalation" of strikes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was set to depart for Russia Wednesday evening but officials said there was no plan for him to meet with Abbas while they are both in Moscow.

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In addition to requesting that the Russians pressure Netanyahu over the escalation of violence in Gaza, he also criticized him for commenting on Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

Responding to Netanyahu's speech Tuesday in the Knesset where he said that Abbas could choose between "peace with Israel or Hamas," the Palestinian Authority president retorted, "Israel has no right to object to Palestinian conciliation, it has no stake in Palestinian national unity."

"Netanyahu has always wept to the Americans, saying that the Palestinians are divided and he cant negotiate with them like this," Abbas said, adding that unity between Fatah and Hamas would increase the chances of a prospective Palestinian state, Ma'an reported.

The prime minister was scheduled to hold talks with Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.

One Israeli official said Netanyahu was willing to meet Abbas anywhere, but that this was not the purpose of his visit to Moscow. He said the purpose was to discuss bilateral issues with the Russian leadership.

The Kremlin has a penchant for inviting Israeli and Palestinian leaders around the same time. Netanyahu last visited the Kremlin in February 2010, when he was preceded by both Abbas, who was there two weeks earlier, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who was there just a matter of days before Netanyahu.

The timing of those visits led to speculation that Moscow was trying to create the impression that it was a major broker in the region and able to engage with all the parties to the conflict.

Medvedev visited Jericho via Jordan in January, but did not come to Jerusalem on an official visit because of a Foreign Ministry work stoppage at the time. Diplomatic officials said Netanyahu’s visit this week was meant to make up for that lost visit.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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