President of Russia Vladimir Putin: President Abbas, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to once again welcome Mr Abbas, the President of Palestine, here in Sochi. We had substantive and constructive talks, which, as always, took place in a spirit of trust and openness. We discussed bilateral relations, the Middle East peace process, and the region’s biggest problems.
Russian-Palestinian relations are traditionally friendly and our regular meetings with President Abbas are evidence of the high level of our political dialogue. We are pleased to see that our ministries and agencies maintain regular contacts. Our intergovernmental commission is working hard, and the biggest issue on its agenda is, of course, to build up bilateral trade and develop investment cooperation.
We hope that the Eurasian Economic Union’s decision to include Palestine among the users of the common preference system will also boost bilateral trade. This decision means that a range of Palestinian goods are now exempt from customs duties when imported to EAEU territory.
Humanitarian ties have always had great significance in our cooperation. I would like to remind you that Russia, for a long time now, has supported Palestine in training specialists. There are 500 Palestinians studying today in medical, technical and humanitarian fields in Russian universities.
We have carried out a number of major cultural projects.
Last year, Russia took part in work to renovate Bethlehem’s historic and religious centre – Star Street. This street opens onto the square in front of the Church of Nativity. I am sure that this restoration of the town’s main sites will bring increased numbers of pilgrims and tourists from Russia. More than 300,000 Russian citizens visited Palestine in 2016.
You saw that President Abbas and I took part via video linkup in the opening of a multifunctional centre in Bethlehem today. It was built with Russian assistance and is a gift to the Palestinian people. The Russian industrial group Alliance and Mr Bazhayev, who is present here today, played a big part in this, and I would like to express special gratitude to him for this.
Our joint work on this project does not end here. We will work with the Palestinian managing organisation to carry out various educational and humanitarian programmes.
This year, Palestine will host the Days of Russian Culture, the programme of which includes film screenings, exhibitions, and musical events. Earlier, last December, the Days of Palestinian Culture were a success, with events in Moscow, Grozny, and Tver.
Of course, Mr Abbas and I discussed in detail the situation with the Middle East Peace Process. I would like to stress that peaceful coexistence of two countries, Palestine and Israel, is an essential condition for ensuring genuine security and stability in this region.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has but one solution – a political, negotiated solution based on international law. It is therefore important to maintain bilateral relations, refrain from unilateral steps, search together for mutually acceptable solutions, and fight terrorism together.
As a member of the Middle East quartet, along with the UN, the USA, and the European Union, Russia will continue to give its full support to resuming direct dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Let me conclude by once again thanking Mr Abbas and our Palestinian colleagues and friends for the substantive and constructive conversation during today’s talks.
Mahmoud Abbas (retranslated): In the name of Allah the compassionate and the merciful, Mr Putin, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to meet with you today.
Mr President, we held good talks aimed at strengthening the relations between our countries and our friendly peoples. Our relations are longstanding and strong. Russia has always been our friend and has always supported Palestine in different international forums.
We will never forget that Russia was one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian state on the international arena. We seek through every means to continue developing and reinforcing our bilateral ties and activate our bilateral intergovernmental commission’s work. In this respect, let me express sincere gratitude for all that Russia has done in terms of its programme of support for building the Palestinian national state and its institutions.
I would also like to express particular gratitude to President Putin and my highest praise for this large and well-equipped multifunctional centre that Bethlehem has received as a gift. Today via video linkup we opened this centre, which will serve to develop culture, sports and business.
I briefed Mr Putin on developments in Palestine in light of the continued Israeli occupation directed against our people and our land, the policy of building settlements and strangling Palestine by economic means, and the continuing detention of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. All of this undermines hopes to bring peace to the region and undermines the very idea of a solution of the issues of the two states.
I would like to note the need to meet the humanitarian demands of the thousands of prisoners who are currently on hunger strike. We are making every possible effort to have them freed. This is a major issue for us and we must resolve it.
We remain supportive of achieving a comprehensive fair and permanent peace based on the rule of law and justice, as well as internationally binding resolutions. Earlier, we welcomed the invitation, which dates back several years, to hold an international peace conference in Moscow. We also welcomed your invitation to hold a trilateral meeting in Moscow. We remain willing to accept such invitations at any time, as the Russian Federation plays a key role in the international arena and in the efforts to achieve peace in our region.
A week ago, I accepted an invitation from President Trump to meet with him at the White House and expressed our total willingness to cooperate with him, and to make every possible effort to conclude a historic peace deal that would put an end to the confrontation between the Israelis and us. We welcome President Trump’s focus on trying to help us find a solution to the struggle between the Israelis and us.
Also, in our conversation with President Putin, we touched upon a number of issues concerning the situation in the region. We appreciate Russia's counter-terrorism efforts, as well as its contribution to strengthening security and stability in the Middle East, including Syria. From the outset, we have stood for resolving crises in the region through dialogue in order to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of these countries.
Mr President, considering the role and influence of Russia in promoting the peace process, we look forward to seeing our people enjoy its freedoms and sovereignty and live in an independent Palestinian state with the capital in East Jerusalem within the 1967 borders, side by side with the Israeli state, which will put an end to the occupation that has been imposed on us for 50 years now.
We believe that fighting terrorism and extremism is an international responsibility, and we, for our part, are committed to it. We believe that our people acquiring their freedom and independence will deny the extremists leverage and help consolidate the foundations of security and peace in our region.
Your Excellency, I would like to once again express our sincere and deep gratitude for your hospitality. We wish you good health and happiness, and Russia and its friendly people – continued prosperity and progress, as well as the continued advancement of the friendly relations between Russia and Palestine, which are deep and historic. Long live Russian-Palestinian friendship!