Kremlin to supply PA with new weapons

PLO ambassador to Russia sacked for attending photo exhibition in solidarity with Gazans.

Medvedev Abbas 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Medvedev Abbas 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Moscow has promised to supply the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank with new weapons, including two helicopters. The Russians have also agreed to supply the PA with more than 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 300 armored vehicles, 100 pistols and large quantities of ammunition, a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the PLO ambassador to Russia, Afif Safieh, has been sacked for attending a photo exhibition in solidarity with the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the official in Ramallah said. The PA is an organ of the PLO. PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided to fire Safieh after learning the ambassador had attended a "pro-Hamas rally" in Moscow, the official said. He said the decision was also taken following complaints from a number of embassy employees that Safieh was spending too much time at concerts and theaters. Abbas was currently under heavy pressure to rescind the decision, the official added. The case of Safieh is the latest in a series of scandals that have hit PLO embassies around the world in the past few years. Some of the ambassadors have been accused of seeking the citizenship of the countries where they are serving, while others have been accused of running their embassies as private fiefdoms. The dismissal of Safieh, a veteran Palestinian diplomat and a former ambassador to Washington, angered representatives of the Palestinian and Arab community in Russia, who wrote a letter of protest to Abbas. In the letter, they said they were extremely disappointed by the decision to remove Safieh from his post. They also pointed out that many of the PLO embassies around the world were plagued with "moral, administrative and financial corruption." "The decision to fire Ambassador Safieh was taken on the basis of lies," the writers charged. "It was taken on the basis of a so-called security report that was written by someone in the embassy." The letter said that the decision "reflected the low level that the Palestinian diplomatic establishment has descended to." Referring to the controversial "pro-Hamas" event, the letter asked: "Since when is defending the rights of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip considered an expression of support for Hamas?" Abbas's decision came on the eve of his visit to Moscow, where he met on Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and briefed him on the latest developments in the PA territories and Egypt's failed attempts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. A PA official said Abbas was hoping to persuade the Russian government to host a Middle East peace conference similar to the one that the former US administration held in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2008. The official said that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who met with Abbas on Monday, promised to consider the possibility of convening the peace conference in Moscow later this year. Meanwhile, a Palestinian Authority official on Tuesday denied a Ma'ariv report according to which the PA had decided to boycott the Netanyahu government. "There is no decision to boycott the Israeli government," the official said. According to the report, the PA was demanding that the government first accept the two-state solution and all the agreements that were reached with the Palestinians, as well as halt settlement construction, before holding talks.