Abbas calls for larger Russian role in peace talks

Palestinian Authority president confers with Putin in Moscow; countries reportedly working on billion-dollar energy deal

Presidents Abbas and Putin in Bethlehem in 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Presidents Abbas and Putin in Bethlehem in 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Moscow Thursday for high-level discussions with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, in which Abbas praised Russia’s role in world affairs and reportedly indicated that Moscow should become more involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Russia has an “important role” in the Middle East, and further Russian involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would promote a “guaranteed, fair and balanced political settlement,” Abbas said, according to the Voice of Russia.

Abbas praised Moscow’s traditional support of the Palestinians, which dates back to the Cold War, and said that “Russia has been a source of diversified political, economic and diplomatic assistance” and that it “opened the doors of its universities to our students.”

Russia supports “our struggle and our efforts to put an end to the occupation and to form an independent Palestinian state,” Abbas said.

The two leaders also discussed several economic initiatives, including a $1 billion plan that would allow joint Palestinian-Russian exploitation of gas fields off the Gaza coast, which Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were expected to sign during Abbas’s visit.

Russian energy giant Gazprom is involved in the discussions on mining the Gaza gas fields, which could yield some 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas, AFP reported. Technopromexport, a Russian engineering firm, is also in discussions on an oil field project near Ramallah, in the West Bank.

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