Russia's Medvedev pushes peace in Jericho

18th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed on Tuesday Moscow's support for an independent Palestinian state, and said there would be no peace progress without a move on settlements.

The Russian president's remarks were made on his first-ever visit to the occupied territories where he held talks in the oasis town of Jericho with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas.

The two men discussed ways to restart peace talks with Israel, with Medvedev saying it would only be possible through "compromise" while stressing there would be "no progress" without an Israeli decision on settlement building.

The trip was a rare Middle East visit for Medvedev, who arrived from Jordan accompanied by hundreds of Russian businessmen and was to return there on Tuesday evening ahead of talks on Wednesday with Jordan's King Abdullah.

A visit to Israel was postponed due to a strike by Israeli foreign ministry staff.

"We discussed the prospects of how dialogue may be resumed," Medvedev said. "We have to move forward despite the remaining difficulties. This movement is possible only on the basis of compromise."

Direct peace talks collapsed late last year over a thorny dispute about Jewish settlement building.

Palestinians say they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for a future state, but the Israelis have refused to halt construction, even temporarily.

Abbas said the two had discussed the impact of Israel's settlement policy and its destructive effect on the chance for fresh talks.

"We discussed several issues and where the peace process stands because of the settlements and because of Israel's actions on the ground," he said.

The Russian leader agreed that it was impossible to ignore the impact of Israel's settlement policy.

"It is obvious that without some sort of reasonable (Israeli) decision concerning their settlement activity, there will be no progress," he said. "It is impossible to close your eyes to this fact."

Medvedev also reiterated Russia's support for an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, first voiced in 1988.

"The Russian position on the Palestinian issue hasn't changed and remains the same," Medvedev said.

"Russia stated its position ... in the last century, and we fully support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to the establishment of an independent, united and viable state with east Jerusalem as its capital."

The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat first declared independence at a meeting in Algiers in November 1988, with the former Soviet Union quick to express support for it shortly afterwards.

"I'm sure that with the establishment of a Palestinian state, everyone will win -- Palestinians and Israelis," Medvedev said.

With the halt to peace talks, the Palestinians have been talking up their options if negotiations with Israel totally collapse -- one of which is seeking recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Over the past two months, six South American countries have recognised a Palestinian state inside the 1967 borders, and Abbas's government in Ramallah is determined to petition the United Nations to recognise such a state in September.

Although the Russian leader warned against "unilateral steps ... that unsettle the region" he said it was crucial to resort to international law to resolve disputes standing in the way of peace.

"We must use the entire potential of international laws at our disposal, UN Security Council resolutions, decisions by regional organisations, so that we can move onto a new level at which this problem may be resolved," he said.

Medvedev's trip comes ahead of a meeting of top diplomats from the Mideast peace Quartet, comprising the Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, who are to meet in Munich on February 5 to mull ways of giving fresh impetus to the peace process.

Should those talks achieve something concrete, Russia could press ahead with plans for an Israel-Palestinian peace conference in Moscow, Medvedev said.

"I hope that we manage to move this process away from its current stalemate," he said.

"If we manage to advance the talks during Middle East Quartet meeting, then it will be clear whether there is any point in staging a Moscow Conference," he said, while insisting that the main issue was "the result" and not where any such peace conference was held.

The last time a Russian leader visited the West Bank was in 2005, when former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin paid a visit to the region.

© 2011 AFP

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