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Russia's position on Palestinian state unchanged: Medvedev

Wednesday January 19, 2011 07:15:39 AM, DPA

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Jericho: Russia's position on a Palestinian state was unchanged from the 1980s, when it recognized a Palestinian declaration of statehood, visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday.

Moscow was one of the first to recognize a November 1988 declaration of Palestinian independence. There were fears in Israel that during his high-profile visit to the Palestinian territories Medvedev would follow the lead of several South American countries and explicitly recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank borders, which existed prior to the 1967 Middle East war.

Addressing a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the historic city of Jericho, Medvedev said Moscow wanted to see a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He said Russia was not happy with the current condition of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and called on the parties to show self-restraint and to avoid any unilateral actions.

He also backed a Palestinian demand that Israel totally freeze construction in its West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem, and said the efforts of the international community needed to be exploited to help take the peace process to a new level.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, relaunched last September after an hiatus of nearly two years, are currently in limbo after Israel did not renew a partial, limited 10-month freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements and Palestinians pulled out of the negotiations.

The Palestinians have insisted that the talks will not be renewed until Israel renews the freeze and halts construction in occupied East Jerusalem - a demand the Israeli government has so far rejected.

Medvedev, making what Palestinians described as a "historic" visit to the Palestinian territories, arrived in Jericho in the early afternoon from Jordan.

On his first official visit to the area, he had been slated to arrive in Israel first, but that was cancelled following a strike by Israeli foreign ministry employees.

Prior to his meeting and news conference with Abbas, Medvedev signed three cooperation agreements on agriculture, information and sports with his hosts.

After the news conference, he and Abbas left to inaugurate a Russian Museum, recently built in Jericho on land owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, as part of the city's 10,000-years celebration.

Medvedev was slated to return to Jordan in the evening.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described Medvedev's visit as "historic and very important".

He told the official Voice of Palestine radio that the visit has "a message of support for the wise policies of President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the peace process and the building of state institutions".

Russia, he said, has supported efforts to build state institutions, particularly its role in training security forces.

Erekat also said Russia supported Palestinian efforts for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank.

The resolution is expected to be submitted to the Security Council Wednesday for discussion, but voting is not expected to take place for a few more days.

Erekat said the US has informed the Palestinians that it was opposed to this resolution, but he expressed hope that Washington will not veto it when it comes up for voting.







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