President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas (retranslated): Your Excellency, dear friend and our guest who is close to the heart of every Palestinian!
We are happy to welcome you here in Bethlehem, the ancient land of Jesus Christ’s birth, one of the world’s most important historical and spiritual centres along with Jerusalem, the place of Prophet Mohammed’s ascension.
We would like to thank the entire Russian nation, which you represent here, for the comprehensive and multi-faceted assistance it provides to the Palestinian people in their just struggle.
Russia has always provided such support and assistance to the Palestinian people at all stages of their struggle to bring to reality their national aspirations associated with the creation of an independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. Moreover, we are united by unbreakable cultural, spiritual, religious and other bonds. One example of this is the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. Last year, a museum and park complex opened here on Palestinian soil, in Jericho, the oldest city in the world. Today we have the honour to accompany your Excellency to the opening ceremony of the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Bethlehem.
Today the President of Russia and I discussed a number of issues of mutual interest, especially the future development of bilateral Palestinian-Russian relations. We also discussed in detail the situation evolving in the peace process, including Israel’s settlement activities, which are the main obstacle on the path to peace.
We asked His Excellency for assistance in the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons since 1994. Relevant arrangements and agreements with the Israeli side are in place, but unfortunately they are not being executed.
We have confirmed to Mr President that the only way to achieve peace in the region is through negotiations with Israel. We also reiterated today the need for a peace conference in Moscow on the Middle East, as had been agreed some time ago.
We have also discussed the domestic situation in the Palestinian territories and inter-Palestinian reconciliation. I have confirmed to His Excellency that if the timing of presidential and parliamentary elections is determined, we will be able to tackle the reconciliation issue.
Today we also discussed the situation developing in many Arab countries in the light of the Arab Spring events; we stated our position in great detail because we know that our views are of interest for Russia. Events in Arab countries are also of vital importance to us.
Once again, we are happy to welcome Mr President, our dear friend and a person close to every Palestinian heart. We also welcome the delegation accompanying you.
We wish you every success and would like to take this opportunity to express our deep respect to you personally, the friendly Russian people and the friendly Russian Government. We are very glad to see you on Palestinian soil and we hope that your visit to the independent state of Palestine is not in the too distant future.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like to thank our friend President Abbas for his invitation to visit Palestine.
We have just completed our talks with the President of the Palestinian National Authority [Mahmoud Abbas]. I would like to note that the talks were both constructive and informative.
We discussed the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and in the Middle East in general. We talked about the region’s problem areas and the prospects of our bilateral cooperation in a wide range of fields.
It is important that we can rely on time-tested traditions as we build our plans for the future. Continuity is one of the key preconditions for the sustained development of bilateral relations.
For example, for Russia there is no problem in recognising an independent Palestinian state. This was done 25 years ago by the Soviet Union, and Russia, as we know, is the Soviet Union’s successor and its position on this matter has not changed. In this regard, I want to emphasise that our discussion on all the issues on our agenda today was very open and constructive.
Our humanitarian contacts are expanding. As you have heard already, the Russian Centre for Science and Culture has opened today in Bethlehem.
I would like to thank our dear friend Mr Abbas for his continued support of the Russian presence in the Holy Land and for effective assistance in the implementation of such projects. I am sure that the centre will help to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian, cultural, scientific and educational spheres, and in the field of youth exchanges.
One example of an excellent tradition of our cooperation remains the special quota for scholarships paid out of the federal budget for Palestinian students studying at Russian Universities.
We should give additional impetus to trade and economic relations. I hope the Business Council for Cooperation with Palestine and the Palestinian-Russian Business Council will play an important role here.
Undoubtedly, we will continue our political dialogue. Our positions are very close or practically identical on all key regional and global issues.
We have discussed in detail the ways of overcoming the crisis in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. I note here the responsible position of the Palestinian leadership and President Mahmoud Abbas, their commitment to a peaceful settlement based on international law and the two-state principle.
I am convinced that any unilateral actions taken before the final reconciliation is reached would be counterproductive. It is essential to exercise the utmost restraint and strictly adhere to the commitments taken on earlier. In addition, the speedy restoration of political unity in Palestine on the platform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation will also contribute to the resolution of the conflict.
We believe that efforts on all these issues are certain to bring about positive results and contribute to stabilising the situation in the Middle East.
In conclusion, I would like to stress once again that we appreciate the readiness of Palestine, the Palestinian people and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to develop a close partnership and friendly relations with Russia. For our part, we will do everything in our power to build up mutually beneficial cooperation.
I would like to thank the Palestinian leadership and President Abbas for today's meeting.