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Meeting Putin, Abbas says Palestinians ‘don’t trust America’ to solve conflict

On sidelines of international conference in Kazakhstan, PA president sits down with Russian leader, who says Moscow’s support of Palestinians ‘is a matter of principle’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Astana, Kazakhstan, October 13, 2022. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Astana, Kazakhstan, October 13, 2022. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday that the PA does not trust the United States to be an unbiased mediator in any future negotiations.

“We don’t trust America and you know our position. We don’t trust it, we don’t rely on it, and under no circumstances can we accept that America is the sole party in resolving a problem,” Abbas told Putin in a meeting on the sidelines of an international conference in Kazakhstan.

Abbas said that the US can play a peacemaking role “within the Quartet, since it is a great country, but we will never accept it as the only one.”

Abbas’s remarks reflected his frustration with the US, which has stepped back from its once-intense mediation role between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, Washington has turned its focus toward other pressing global issues like the war in Ukraine, relations with China and economic woes.

The comments also follow a crisis of confidence between the Palestinians and the US after the Trump administration cut funding to the Palestinians and pursued policies that were seen as favorable to Israel, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

US President Joe Biden has restored the funding, but kept the embassy in Jerusalem. He also has not attempted to restart peace talks, focusing instead on more modest goals such as boosting the Palestinian economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greet each other in Astana, Kazakhstan, October 13, 2022. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The sit-down in Astana marked the first face-to-face meeting between Abbas and Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. The Palestinian readout of the leaders’ meeting did not mention the ongoing war.

According to the state-run Russian news agency TASS, Putin told Abbas that Russia’s position “on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement is a matter of principle. It is based on the fundamental decisions of the UN and does not change.”

The Russian president said that Moscow has “always advocated a just settlement on an international legal basis.”

A readout of the meeting from the official PA news agency WAFA did not mention Abbas’s comments on the United States, but said the PA president “praised Russia’s positions at all international forums in support of the Palestinian people and their just cause.”

According to Reuters, Abbas told Putin that “we are happy and satisfied with the Russian position.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

Abbas also railed against “continued Israeli violations against the Palestinian people,” according to the WAFA readout, specifically citing ongoing clashes in the Shuafat refugee camp.

Putin and Abbas spoke via phone in April, when Moscow similarly promised “to accord its political support to the Palestinian cause in all international forums.”

Russia has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause, with the PA hoping Moscow will take on a more central role in mediating between it and Israel. While Israel and Russia once enjoyed close relations, ties between the countries have soured over Jerusalem’s increasing criticism of the invasion of Ukraine and deliveries of aid to Ukraine.

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