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WEST BANK: Russian president’s visit boosts Palestinian morale

January 18, 2011 | 12:56 pm

Westbank-medvedev

Palestinians received a badly needed morale boost on Tuesday from the leader of a superpower, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

At a time when Palestinian morale was very low with the stalemate in the peace process and a feeling of abandonment from the Obama administration, Medvedev came to the rescue.

First, Medvedev made a special visit to the Palestinian territories, coming this time from Jordan, not Israel. Previously, visitors coming to Israel spend two or three days in the county meeting all kinds of officials and visiting all kinds of places. And while they are in Israel, visiting officials usually pay a complimentary and very short visit to the Palestinian areas meeting only with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office for two or three hours.

Medvedev was going to do the same thing, but a strike by Israeli foreign ministry employees who refused to facilitate his visit forced the Russian president to cancel his trip to Israel. But he insisted at the same time to keep his part of the visit to the Palestinian areas and decided to make his trip coming from Jordan therefore bypassing Israeli foreign ministry protocols.

Medvedev realized the importance of this step to Palestinian morale. Addressing reporters at a news conference with his Palestinian counterpart Abbas in the ancient West Bank city of Jericho, where Medvedev spent the day, he said that “this is the first visit for a Russian president to the region and Palestinian territories that is not tied to a visit to a neighboring country.”

While the Russian president did not name the neighboring country, it was clearly understood to be Israel, and a big applause by the audience in the hall was a witness to that.

Second, the Palestinians needed all the help they could muster from a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the Middle East peace quartet as they prepare to ask the Security Council to vote in favor of a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories.

The U.S. has already informed Palestinians that it will not support that resolution, and therefore the Palestinians are hoping for support from Russia and other permanent Security Council member states to offset a possible U.S. veto.

Medvedev did not say if his country will vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution or not, but he did blame the political stalemate on Israel’s settlement construction.

“Without a decision to stop settlements,” he said, “there will not be movement forward.”

He said, “We all are not happy with the situation of the peace process. Today, there is a stalemate, a crisis. There is no movement and this negatively affects the situation in the Middle East.”

Abbas said he discussed with Medvedev “possibilities to get the peace process out of its jam and what role Russia can play toward that.”

Medvedev’s third boost was his affirmation that Russia’s late 1980s recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders has not changed.

“Russia’s position from the Palestinian issue has not changed and remains the same,” he said. “Russia made its choice in the late '80s, and it supports the right of the Palestinian people to have their viable and contiguous state with East Jerusalem as its capital. A Palestinian state is a win to everyone: the Palestinians, Israel and the entire Middle East. This should be our goal,” he said.

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

Photo: In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tours a museum with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on January 18, 2011 in Jericho, West Bank. Credit: PPO/Getty Images 

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