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"It is imperative to show maximum restraint," Medvedev told Palestinians

News conference by President Dmitry Medvedev following Russian-Palestinian talks

PRESIDENT OF PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY MAHMOUD ABBAS: Mr President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, members of the delegation, ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome the President of the Russian Federation to the Palestinian Territories. We appreciate your visit and view it as demonstrative of the historically kind relations between the Russian and Palestinian people, as well as Russian and Palestinian leaders.

I am confident that these relations will continue developing in the future, flourishing for the benefit of our peoples.

Today, the President of Russia and I discussed various problems of mutual interest. First and foremost, this concerns the situation with the peace process, which has reached a deadlock because of well-known steps, primarily Israel’s settlement activity. Such actions tread on the rights of the Palestinian people. This is particularly visible in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli side is taking active measures to change the historic appearance and status of the city. And all this is happening in spite of international peacekeeping efforts.

I would like to use this opportunity to express my high assessment of the step taken by some Latin American nations recently in recognising the 1967 borders of the Palestinian Authority.

Today, we discussed prospects for reviving the peace process from the deadlock in which it currently stands and discussed what Russia can do in this regard, given its enormous weight and influence in the world and its membership in the Middle East Quartet. We also discussed Russia’s idea to convoke the Moscow Conference on the Middle East.

In addition, we talked about the problems of national inter-Palestinian reconciliation, where corresponding efforts are being made, and the role that the Russian Federation could play in this process. Furthermore, we discussed the unfair blockade that the Palestinian people in Gaza are subjected to. It is causing widespread suffering and deprivation. Thus, it is imperative for this blockade to be lifted as soon as possible.

As far as bilateral relations are concerned, I expressed our sincere gratitude to the President of Russia for supporting Palestine at all levels, be it our cultural and humanitarian ties, financial support or support of our security agencies.

Soon, the President of Russia and I will be opening the park complex in Jericho, which was built by the Russian Federation as a symbol of our friendship, a symbol of the strength of our bilateral relations and a Russian installation on our territory.

I also expressed our appreciation for the Russian Federation’s historic principal position on the Palestinian problem. Russia has always stood on the side of the Palestinian people, and it is no accident that the Russian Federation was among the first states that recognised our country back in 1988.

I want to once again express our feelings regarding your visit to Jericho. We feel joy and happiness – not only those of us here in Jericho, but all Palestinians, wherever they may be. We truly value your step.

Welcome, our true and faithful friends.

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Mr President Mahmoud Abbas, ladies and gentlemen,

I fully agree with what Mr President has just said. Our talks were held in the absolutely trusting and sincere tone that marks the relations between Russia and Palestine.

As I said to Mr President, this visit by the President of the Russian Federation is characterised by two symbolic features. First of all, it is taking place on the lands of ancient Jericho, which recently marked its ten thousandth anniversary, which gives our meeting historic symbolism. Second, this is the first visit by the President of the Russian Federation to Palestine which is not connected with a visit to another nation.

Certainly, our main topic of conversation was the Middle East settlement, as Mr President mentioned. We discussed possible prospects for renewing dialogue and what would be needed for this: maximum restraint and the observance of obligations. First and foremost, this concerns freezing Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. I believe that everyone present here today fully understands this.

As I already said, it is imperative to show maximum restraint; unilateral actions that could aggravate the situation are unacceptable. At the same time, it is imperative to use all the potential of existing international rules, Security Council resolutions, and decisions by regional organisations in order to reach a new level in resolving this problem. In any event, we are all hopefully awaiting the upcoming meeting of the Middle East Quartet that will be held in Munich; this is another matter that Mr President and I addressed today.

Meanwhile, Russia’s position remains unchanged. Mr President just spoke about this: Russia made its choice long ago, at the end of the 1980s. We supported and will continue to support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to establish their own state – an independent, territorially unified, sustainable state with a capital in East Jerusalem. Everyone would benefit from the creation of a Palestinian state; naturally, the Palestinians will benefit, but so will the Israelis as well as the entire region – all the peoples of the Middle East – and that is precisely the goal to be pursued.

Still, our support of the Palestinian people is not limited only to the political framework and we have witnessed the signing of a number of agreements which means that bilateral relations are progressing in agriculture, sports and information exchange. It is good and I hope that the range of cooperation between Russia and Palestine will broaden with every year.

I would like to particularly thank my colleague, President Mahmoud Abbas, for his attentive attitude toward Russia’s efforts to revive its presence in the Holy Land with respective works already accomplished in Jericho. I hope that this will be a nice gift for Palestinians as well and attract tourists and pilgrims from Russia and other nations.

I’d like to once again thank our Palestinian friends for inviting us and for the opportunity to make this visit.

QUESTION: A question for President Mahmoud Abbas. Everyone knows that you have very positive feelings toward the Russian Federation. Today, the President of the Russian Federation made remarkable, far-reaching statements in support of the Palestinian people. How do you, Mr President, assess these statements?

And for the President of the Russian Federation: is Russia planning to put forward an initiative to overcome the current stalemate in the peace process? We would all very much like that.

MAHMOUD ABBAS: Indeed, I have held feelings of love, respect and a high appreciation of the Russian Federation for quite some time. These feelings probably emerged over forty years ago.

At the beginning of the 1970s, I was the chairman of the Friendship Society – at the time, it was the Soviet-Palestinian Friendship Society. And today, I continue to consider myself the Russian Federation’s number-one friend among the Palestinians.

I must say that in the past and now the Russian Federation’s position remains unchanged in principle: it supports the validity of the Palestinian peoples’ hopes and aspirations to establish an independent state with a capital in East Jerusalem. The President of the Russian Federation just confirmed this.

Indeed, these are not just slogans but serious steps and positions. They are manifested in the support we receive from Russia in the economic and financial realms, in educating our specialists, and in the cultural sphere. Thus, we can say that we see Russia’s impact on the future Palestinian statehood. There is enormous Russian influence – cultural, spiritual, and other – on the Palestinian people.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I will try to be brief.

The Russian initiative is, if you will, on the table. It consists of holding the Moscow Conference on settling the Middle East conflict as soon as possible. It needs to be held not for the sake of meeting, but in order to resolve this problem or make significant progress.

We have the foundation to do this. It includes all the international conventions, the corresponding United Nations resolutions, the Arab Initiative, the solutions discussed in Annapolis, and a whole range of other aspects on which there is common understanding. If we combine things, then we will achieve results. But we are also ready to continue the ongoing diligent work within the framework of the Quartet. That is simply our debt.

QUESTION: The situation in Palestinian-Israeli settlement remains complicated. Many mechanisms have been suggested to resolve this situation, but nevertheless, talks are at a standstill. Palestine is stating that it is ready to declare independence.

I have a question to both leaders concerning this. First of all, how do you assess today’s situation in the negotiation process, and what do you think can be expected from the upcoming meeting of the Quartet of international mediators in Munich? Is some kind of breakthrough possible? And Mr Medvedev, you already mentioned the Russian initiative to hold a conference on the Middle East in Moscow. Perhaps you can tell us about the progress of this effort, the implementation of this initiative, and possible dates when it will be held?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Everything we have already said evidences that we are unsatisfied with how thing stand. It is entirely clear that we are seeing a total deadlock in the talks. And there is currently no forward movement, in spite of the fact that there were indirect talks in the last year, and subsequently, direct talks, which meant there was an opportunity to reach agreements. This is very sad because there is a whole range of negative processes that go with it, including a blockade of Gaza, as well as the overall continuation of tension in the region.

It is therefore clear that nobody is satisfied; we need to move forward, even in spite of the remaining difficulties. Clearly, this kind of movement is only possible on the basis of compromises. And at the same time, it is clear that without making some kind of reasonable decisions on settlement activity, there can be no advances. Everyone recognises this today, and nobody can close one’s eyes to this fact.

But as far as our initiative to hold a special conference is concerned, we certainly should do our best but only when the time is right. I must repeat again that there is no point in holding a conference if it comes to nothing. It is to be held when certain results have been achieved. I hope that if we are able to get the process moving from this standstill, if we can advance the talks during the consultations that will be held by the Quartet of Middle East mediators, then prospects for a Moscow conference will become clearer. But what’s most important is to get results, rather than the geographical location or dates of these meetings.

MAHMOUD ABBAS: I would like to add to that. Naturally, there are two choices: either negotiations and peace or a return to violence and terror. The second option is not our choice, and we will never follow that path. Thus, we are telling the Israelis to choose peace. It is in their interests. By ending settlement-building, we can return to the negotiating table and discuss resolving the Palestinian problem on the basis of the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative, and other international decisions.

Clearly, we also have certain hopes for the meeting of the Middle East Quartet next month in Munich. We hope that based on the results of that meeting, more advanced decisions will be made that will compel Israel to return to the negotiating table.

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