'Russia won't change stance on Palestinian state'

In W. Bank, Medvedev says decision taken by Soviet Union in 1988 will not change but doesn't clarify whether Russia recognizes 'Palestine.'

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 18, 2011 17:07
2 minute read.
'Russia won't change stance on Palestinian state'

Medvedev Abbas 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said Russia will not change its stance towards Palestinian statehood during a visit with Palestinain Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

Medvedev said the Soviet Union had recognized a Palestinian state in 1988 after Yasser Arafat declared independence.

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The Russian president's announcement came after reports Tuesday speculating that his country would join several South American countries who have declared their recognition of a Palestinian state.

During a press conference held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho, Medvedev said "We made a decision then and we will  not change it today."

He also expressed willingness to take on a greater role in the peace process, saying: "From the establishment of a Palestinian state, everyone will benefit, both Palestinians and Israelis. The region will also benefit, all of the people in the Middle East would benefit. That is the goal we should strive for."

Medvedev stated that the Palestinians have the right to a viable state with east Jerusalem as a capital.



The Russian leader also sided with the Palestinian demand that all settlement construction must stop.

"We discussed the conditions for resuming talks with Israel, which include continued self-control and strictly abiding by commitments, and before anything else, freezing all Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem," Medvedev said.

Russia has been floating the idea of hosting a Mideast conference, but Medvedev suggested Tuesday that some progress in talks would have to made first. "The most important issue is the result, not the place and not the timing," he said.

Abbas said halting settlement construction and resuming negotiations is also an Israeli interest. "There are two options, either peace or terror and violence," he added. "We shall not choose terror and violence."

The Palestinians seized the high-profile visit as an opportunity to showcase their progress toward building an independent state.

The ancient town of Jericho was decked out in Russian and Palestinian flags, and black-clad Palestinian troops with assault rifles lined the streets. Abbas and Medvedev were received by an honor guard in a red carpet ceremony.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Medvedev visit is a way of telling the world that the Palestinians are ready for statehood. "Look at us. We are ready for independence. That's the message," Erekat said.

The Russian president did not visit Israel because of a strike by Israeli diplomats seeking higher wages. The strike prevented the sides from making proper preparations.

Medvedev hinted at the unusual circumstances, saying that "this visit is important for two reasons ... this is the first visit of a Russian Federation president to region and to the Palestinian Territories that does not include a visit to a neighboring state."

Abbas laughed, and the Palestinian audience clapped.

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