BETLEHEM - Agence France-Presse
Putin (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hold a joint media briefing. AP photo
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas yesterday urged Russian
President Vladimir Putin to help unblock long-stalled negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians.
Putin met with Abbas during a stop in Bethlehem on a brief trip to the West Bank, a day after a stop in Israel
where he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and President Shimon Peres. In a statement to the press after their meeting, Abbas urged Putin to help secure the release of dozens of Palestinians held in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords peace deal, and to host a peace conference in Russia. “We asked our friends to help us to release our prisoners who were arrested prior to 1994, who it was agreed with Israel
would be released, but have not yet been freed,” Abbas said.
“We assured the president that the way to peace is through negotiations with Israel, and we continue to call for him to hold an international peace conference in Moscow, as we previously agreed.” Abbas has in recent months frequently called for the release of 123 Palestinians detained by Israel
since before the 1993 Oslo Accords, accusing Israel
of failing to honor a commitment to do so.
Putin yesterday praised what he called Abbas’s “responsible position,” but cautioned that “any unilateral actions before the final peace settlement are counterproductive.” “It is necessary to demonstrate extreme reserve, and strictly follow obligations taken upon oneself,” Putin added. Later in the day, Putin went to Jordan to hold talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II as part of a Middle East tour aimed at boosting Moscow regional role.