President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to Moscow Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestine National Authority. I am certain that today’s visit will open a new stage in the development of our bilateral relations. As you know, we have approved a joint declaration, which reflects our views on the main issues.
I would like to note that Russian-Palestinian relations are based on a solid foundation of friendship and mutual understanding that we have built up over the decades. Yasser Arafat, who was a sincere friend of our country, played an important part in this.
The President and I have just held substantial and, I would say, very fruitful talks.
The central focus at our meeting was on our bilateral relations and issues of reaching a settlement in the region. At the bilateral level we discussed, of course, developing our economic ties and supporting the new administration’s efforts to bring about economic recovery and find solutions for social problems. Last year, Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry sent a large delivery of medical equipment and medicines to Palestine and we will continue to help Palestine to resolve its most pressing humanitarian problems. We place a lot of importance on developing our contacts in the field of education. The Russian government has decided to increase the number of scholarships given to Palestinian students from 100 to 150, and this is the biggest quota of any that Russia allocates to the Arab countries. Russia also plans to help build two schools in the West Bank – this matter is still being examined and I hope that it will soon be settled.
We spoke, of course, about the situation in the region and how to settle the problems that have built up there. We support a speedy normalisation of the situation. It is our view that the Arab-Israeli conflict can be settled on the basis of the according United Nations Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab peace initiative and, of course, on the basis of the Roadmap that was drawn up by all the participants in the peace process. We believe that settlement should be all-encompassing in nature and that the ultimate objective of the peace process is the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel which, of course, has the right not only to exist, but has the right to a secure existence.
Russia supports the new Palestinian leadership’s steps to reform the Palestinian administration. We place great importance on preventing terrorist acts and developing an inter-Palestinian dialogue in the interests of achieving political settlement with Israel.
The withdrawal of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank will be a major step, we think, on the road to ending Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. This provision should be included in the Roadmap and carried out in coordination with the leadership of the Palestine National Authority.
I wish to stress once again that we firmly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and that we reaffirmed our commitment to fighting actively this global scourge.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the President for the frank and substantial discussion we had, for our meeting today. I am sure that it will be of benefit for developing our bilateral relations and bringing about a settlement in the region.
President of the Palestine National Authority Mahmoud Abbas: Thank you Mr President.
First of all, I would like to say that I am really happy today to meet with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and I thank him for the way our delegation and myself have been received.
We have just held very fruitful talks during which we discussed bilateral issues, and these talks reflect the depth of Russian-Palestinian relations that have been reinvigorated of late. For our part, we are ready to develop them further.
We highly value the Russian Federation’s stand in support of international legality, and thus in support of the just cause of the Palestinian people, who are fighting for the creation of a sovereign and independent state that would coexist with Israel. This is especially important now when a window of opportunity is open, a window of hope for developing the peace process. We, for our part, have taken a number of important steps to strengthen the democratic process in our territories, we have held elections to choose the head of the Palestine National Authority and have carried out various reforms in different areas.
Now we can see that the international community is stepping up its efforts to begin implementing the Roadmap and to help the two parties to the conflict in order to encourage their return to the negotiating table.
Russia does and should play an important part in international relations both through its own initiatives it puts forward and through the role it plays in the quartet of international mediators.
We reached an agreement on activating the work of the joint bilateral working committee on the Middle East. We have reached an agreement with Mr Putin and Russian officials to step up this committee’s work. From our side, the committee will be headed by our foreign minister, Nabil Shaaz.
I would once more like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to Mr Putin, the Russian leadership and the Russian people for the help they give to the Palestinian people at various levels and in various areas, including in economic and political areas, in security and in other fields. We are deeply grateful for the help we receive from the Russian Federation.
Question: My question is for the Russian President and the President of the Palestinian Authority. Could you please say how you view the results of the elections to the National Legislative Assembly that took place in Iraq on January 30?
Vladimir Putin: The conditions in which the elections were held were very difficult, to say the least. We understand that, of course. At the same time, the fact that the elections did take place is a great event, perhaps even a historic event for the Iraqi people, because it definitely does mark a step towards democracy in the country. This was the first time in many decades that Iraqis were able to take part in such a process. We realise that there is a great deal of work ahead both to ensure safe conditions for life in Iraq and to restore full sovereignty, and this should be one of the international community’s primary objectives. Russia welcomes this event and we will do all we can to help bring about settlement in and around Iraq.
Mahmoud Abbas: I fully agree with the President. The event that took place in Iraq is a major step on the road to democracy. We in Palestine would like to see an Iraq that is a unified, united and sovereign state. The Iraqi people will without doubt strive to achieve this goal. No one wants to see a divided Iraq.
Question: To what extent can Russia play an effective part in the peace process? Mr President, how do you view the recent measures taken by the Palestinian administration?
Mahmoud Abbas: Given the Russian Federation’s significant place in international relations, the ties it has with the countries in the region and the effective part it plays as a partner in the quartet of international mediators, I can say that Russia has a very effective and important role to play in the peace process. Based on our close historical contacts with Russia I want to say that we have full confidence in its views, its wisdom and in the actions it undertakes in the Middle East to further the peace process in order to bring about a just settlement in the region.
Vladimir Putin: The Middle East region lies in close proximity to our own borders. Russia has traditional, centuries-old ties and contacts in all areas of cooperation with the countries of the region. The situation in the Middle East has a direct impact on the world economy and on one of its most important sectors, a sector in which Russia holds a particular place – the energy sector. This and many other reasons besides are what determine our active position regarding the Middle East settlement issue.
We will work within the framework of the international mediator structure and will work directly with our partners in the Middle East on a bilateral level. We will strive to help find compromise solutions that everyone living in the region can accept.
As for the measures taken and efforts made by the new Palestinian administration, I want to say that effective administration is always an important factor in development. Anarchy always leads to problems and complicates the situation. The growing ambitions of individuals who seek above all to defend their own political interests are usually at odds with the people’s interests, especially when their actions go beyond the bounds of the law. We therefore support, of course, the action taken by the President of the Palestine National Authority to create an effective administration, including and above all in the area of security. I wish him success.