Russia Backs Palestinian State

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has reaffirmed recognition of a Palestinian state, saying Moscow will not change the position adopted by the former Soviet Union when it recognised independence for Palestinians in 1988.

"Russia’s position remains unchanged. Russia made its choice a long time ago," Medvedev said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on Tuesday.

"We supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem."
Medvedev made the comments during his first visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Russian head of state.

He stopped short of issuing a declaration of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the modern Russian Federation, which he represents. But much like the rest of the world, he was supportive of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

The visit and meeting with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, reinforced already strong Russian-Palestinian ties, Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh said, reporting from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

‘Hopes and Optimism’

Abbas thanked Russia for being "one of the first states in the world to recognise the state of Palestine in 1988".

"This surely has raised a lot of hopes and a lot of optimism among Palestinians that this kind of recognition would boost their efforts and might influence the upcoming quartet meeting in February," Al Jazeera’s Odeh said.

Russia is a partner of the United States, European Union and United Nations in "the Quartet", the international powers overseeing Middle East peace negotiations.

Medvedev arrived ahead of next month’s quartet meeting in Munich, in a bid to try and help revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The negotiations collapsed at the end of last year after Israel refused to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.

"We discussed the possible prospects of resuming the dialogue," Medvedev said. "In order to do that, we need to express maximum moderation. This in the first place relates to the freezing of settlement activity of Israel on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem."

On Tuesday, Medvedev stressed the importance of compromise, saying there would be "no progress" without an Israeli decision on settlement building.

"Russia [is] aligning itself with the Palestinian position and implying that it would relay that position when the international quartet meets," our correspondent said.

She added that Palestinians are hoping Russia’s move adds momentum together with the several other countries that have also recognised Palestine.

Talks Collapsed

With the collapse of peace talks with Israel, the Palestinians have been talking up their options if impasse continues. One of the options is seeking recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

In the past two months, there has been a string of recognitions by Latin American states including Brazil and Argentina, which some analysts say could be a precursor to a move by the Palestinians to seek full United Nations membership.

The Palestinians today say 109 states out of 192 United Nations member countries recognise their statehood.

Israel has warned that a "unilateral declaration" of statehood would set back the peace process.

"I’m sure that with the establishment of a Palestinian state, everyone will win – Palestinians and Israelis," Medvedev said.

In addition to the political significance of Medvedev’s visit, at least three agreements were also signed between the leaders, and about $30m allocated to media, agriculture and sport in the region, ensuring a lot more Russian involvement in Palestinian nation-building, our correspondent said.

(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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