Modi becomes first Indian PM to visit West Bank
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Modi becomes first Indian PM to visit West Bank

Senior Palestinian official says Abbas will ask New Delhi to support a multi-country sponsorship that would replace US as sole mediator of future Israeli-Palestinian talks

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C-L) embraces Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi upon his arrival for a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018. (Abbas Monani/AFP)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C-L) embraces Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi upon his arrival for a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018. (Abbas Monani/AFP)

Narendra Modi on Saturday became the first Indian prime minister to visit the West Bank, where he held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a Middle East tour.

The visit, which comes weeks after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is seen as an Indian effort to balance its strengthening ties with the Jewish state.

Modi and his entourage flew in by helicopter from Jordan, landing near Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters, an AFP reporter said.

The Indian and Palestinian leaders were set to discuss issues including information technology, health and tourism during the brief visit, after which Modi will return to Jordan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) walks with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah (R) upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018, for a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. (Abbas Monani/AFP)

Upon arrival, Modi laid a wreath at the grave of Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said Modi and Abbas are to sign cooperation agreements worth $50 million.

In addition, a senior official told AP that Abbas will ask India’s visiting prime minister to support a multi-country sponsorship that would replace the United States as the sole mediator in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Abbas has sought international support for replacing the US as sole Mideast mediator, after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas has so far failed to win such commitments from world leaders.

New Delhi has long backed the Palestinian territories’ quest for nationhood and Modi has voiced support for an independent state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018, for a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. (Abbas Monani/AFP)

Modi became the first Indian leader in history to visit Israel in July last year, with the two states signing deals on cybersecurity and energy.

India’s refusal to support US moves to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital disappointed Israel but was said to be consistent with its support for the Palestinians.

Modi’s three-day tour will also take him to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

India sources more than half its oil and energy supplies from the Middle East, and around nine million Indians live and work there, sending home billions of dollars in remittances annually.

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