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Abbas Welcomes Russian President, Medvedev, in Jericho

Published today (updated) 18/01/2011 13:58 JERICHO (Ma'an) --

 A Russian-Palestinian Summit will be held Tuesday in the city of Jericho as the nations' leaders discuss the impasse in the peace process and their bilateral relations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in the ancient West Bank city in the mid afternoon, despite fears that he would be blocked by Israeli Foreign Ministry officials on strike. Threats of strike action had lead to Medvedev's cancellation of a planned visit to Israel.

PLO negotiations official Saeb Erekat spoke to Ma'an ahead of the visit, calling it "extremely important and historical," and saying it "reflects the depth of Palestinian relations with Russia," viewing it as a "clear indication of support."

In what will be his first visit to Palestine, the Russian president will also inaugurate a new Russian Museum, built on lands handed over to the country by the Orthodox Church. The lands had once been a holding of the Russian Tzar.

Medvedev will also participate in a series of public celebrations heralding his arrival, Erekat said.

On the sidelines of the visit, the Russian leader will sign three agreements with the PA, aimed at fostering cooperation in the media, agricultural and sports arenas.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Begins Middle East Tour in the West Bank

 15:23 18/01/2011, RIA Novosti. Sergei Veniavskiy

JERICHO (WEST BANK), January 18, 2011 (RIA Novosti) 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev began his tour of the Middle East on Tuesday with talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

This is Medvedev's first visit to the Palestinian Territories and the first visit of a Russian leader since 2005.

Medvedev and Abbas will discuss bilateral relations and the Middle East peace process. They also plan to sign several bilateral cooperation agreements. The two leaders will hold a joint news conference after the meeting.

Palestinian agenda

The Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement is a key issue on the agenda, Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said on the eve of the visit.

Direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, which resumed last September in Washington after a 20-month standoff, came to a deadlock after Israel refused to halt construction in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians have said they will not return to the negotiation table unless the building of settlements, which are considered illegal under international law, is completely stopped.

Prikhodko said Russia wants members of the League of Arab States and, ideally, Palestinians and Israelis to join the Quartet of Middle East mediators as soon as possible. The Quartet currently comprises of Russia, the United States, the United Nations, and the EU.

When asked about the Russian role in the Middle East peace process, Prikhodko said that Russia "does not consider itself a Messiah, but is ready to provide a responsible approach to the problem as uncoordinated efforts threaten to waste time."

The Russian authorities recently proposed holding a peace conference on the Middle East. Prikhodko said the idea was being discussed, but not all of the parties were ready for it.

The presidential aide also said that Russia would continue to provide the Palestinians with humanitarian aid. The issue is expected to be discussed during Tuesday's meeting.

So far, Russia has allocated some $30 million to the impoverished Palestinian Territories, Prikhodko said. The Palestinian economy has plunged significantly in the past two decades, with current unemployment rates reaching 40 percent of the labor force. Some 60 percent of the West Bank population and about 80 percent of Gaza residents live below the poverty line.

Jordan talks

Late on Tuesday, Medvedev will depart for Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah II for an official dinner. Russian-Jordanian top-level talks will take place in Amman on Wednesday.

Middle East peace efforts, and energy and military cooperation will be among the issues for discussion during the Russian president's visit, Prikhodko said on Monday.

Russia is interested in helping Jordan build its first nuclear power plant, the aide said, adding that it was not "an issue to be settled in the next few days." Several other countries have also applied to build the plant, which is expected to go into operation by 2018.

Russia and Jordan signed a 10-year nuclear cooperation agreement in 2009.

Abdullah II last visited Russia in March for talks with Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The leaders discussed Middle East settlement, bilateral military cooperation and joint projects in the hi-tech and tourism spheres, as well as in the nuclear energy sector.

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