Palestinian, Russian leaders urge settlement freeze to resume negotiations

08:11, January 19, 2011      

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the West Bank city of Jericho on Jan. 18, 2011. (Xinhua/POOL)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday called on Israel to stop building settlements in order to resume stalled peace talks.

"There are two options: negotiations and peace, or violence and terrorism," Abbas told a news conference after his talks with Medvedev in the West Bank city of Jericho, "The Palestinian side will never choose the second option."

The Palestinian-Israeli negotiations halted only weeks after the United States brokered their launch in September last year. The Palestinians walked out of the talks when Israel resumed building settlements in the West Bank and refused to extend a 10- month moratorium on construction.

"The Israelis should choose the way of peace for their benefit, " Abbas said.

Medvedev also agreed that Israel should "freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem" to show commitment to its obligations in order to resume the negotiations.

Russia, together with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, comprise the Quartet of international mediators observing the Middle East peace process.

Medvedev said that the Quartet is "unsatisfied over the current status of the peace process," adding that the Jewish settlement " blocks any progress from moving forward."

Meanwhile, Medvedev said that Russia supports the Palestinian people's "right in establishing a united, viable and independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

He added that the birth of the Palestinian state "would be a gain for all, including the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Middle East."

Abbas noted that the former Soviet Union recognized the Palestinian statehood in 1988. He also greeted some Latin America countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador, which have recognized the future independent Palestinian state.

The Russian president and the delegation accompanying him signed several agreements with the Palestinians. Officials said the agreements involve mutual cooperation in fields of agriculture, media and sport.

The two leaders also attended the opening of the Russian museum in Jericho, the Palestinian city which celebrated its 10,000 years anniversary in 2010. Before the Russian leader arrived, Abbas described the visit as "historical."

Medvedev will return to Jordan to meet the Jordanian king. He was due to visit Israel as well, however, a general strike among Israel's foreign ministry staff blocked arrangements for the visit.

Source: Xinhua
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