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18 July 2024

Russia's Medvedev holds Mideast talks with Abbas


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held talks Friday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas focused on efforts to kick-start stalled peace negotiations with Israel.

Abbas told Medvedev in opening remarks at the Russian president's suburban Moscow residence that the Palestinians "will always draw upon your advice and the favourable approaches proposed by the Russian Federation."

He added that the local leadership of Jericho had decided to name one of the West Bank city's main streets after Medvedev in honour of his visit there in January 2011.

"I see this as a symbol of Russian-Palestinian friendship, which stretches back not decades but centuries," Medvedev said.

"This is proof of the fact that our relations remain on an excellent level."

Abbas arrived in Moscow on Thursday on the final leg of a European tour that also saw him visit London and Berlin.

The trip is aimed at securing European backing for the Palestinians' position amid unsuccessful attempts to resume peacemaking efforts with Israel.

Russia is a member of the so-called peacemaking Middle East Quartet that also includes the United States along with the European Union and the United Nations.

Moscow's influence in the region has waned considerably since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it still remains a port of call for Arab world leaders who grew up under Soviet patronage.

Direct Middle East peace talks have not been held since September 2010 and the third round of exploratory meetings conducted in Jordan on January 14 produced no tangible result.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday following her meeting with Abbas that it was "very, very important that we see progress, that each side sees that good will is there."

The Jordanian meetings are running up against a Thursday deadline imposed by the Quartet amid few signs of compromise on key issues such as Israel's decision to continue the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Russia has called for a freeze on new constructions and Medvedev reaffirmed his commitment to an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital during his January trip to the West Bank.

But Moscow is also nurturing trade with Israel and has close cultural links with the Jewish state thanks to the vast Russia-speaking diaspora there.

Abbas is paying his eighth visit to Russia since assuming his post in January 2009 amid a breakdown in his Fatah movement's relations with Gaza-based Hamas.

A Palestinian official quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency ahead of the talks said Abbas intended to underscore the "defiant stance of the Israeli government and its refusal to stop settlement activity."

Analysts expect few shifts in Russia's carefully balanced approach to the conflict following March elections in which Medvedev is expected to hand over his seat to current premier and two-term Kremlin incumbent Vladimir Putin.

Abbas has received a warm welcome so far on his six-day stay. On Saturday he is to receive an award named after Russia's late Orthodox Church patriarch Alexy II.

He will also attend a conference in the central Russian region of Chuvashia.