Russian daily interviews Palestinian leader on Israeli settlement policy

Text of report by the website of heavyweight liberal Russian newspaper Kommersant on 26 June

Interview with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian National Authority, by Andrey Baranovskiy; place and date not given: "’Russia Is a Guarantor That the Quartet Will Not Adopt Israel’s Position’"

On the eve of today’s visit of President Vladimir Putin to Palestine (for his visit to Israel see p 6) Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian National Authority, spoke about the prospects of a Mideast settlement to your Interfax correspondent Andrey Baranovskiy specially for Kommersant.

[Baranovskiy] What are you expecting of the president’s visit?

[Abbas] Mr Putin and myself will necessarily discuss the peace process, which is in crisis owing to the Israeli Government’s insistence on the pursuit of a policy of building settlements and its attempts to divert the negotiations from their essence. We will discuss also the idea of an international conference in Moscow and also Palestine’s appeal to the United Nations that it obtain full membership or the status of a state that is not a member of the United Nations.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and member of the Mideast Quartet together with the United States, the EU, and the United Nations, Russia has long-standing strategic relations with the Middle East. Its position on the Palestinian problem is built on respect for the principles of international law and the UN Charter, defense of the rights of the peoples, including the rights of the Palestinian people, to self-determination and the formation of an independent state, and an end to the Israeli occupation of the territories of 1967.

[Baranovskiy] What can Russia do to advance the peace process?

[Abbas] Russia is employing for this bilateral relations with all parties, including the United States and Israel, and also the platforms of international forums. Russia is an important guarantee that the other parties to the Quartet do not conclusively adopt Israel’s position. Russia’s actions in the UN Security Council and other international organizations lend their decisions great weight.

[Baranovskiy] How do you evaluate the events of the "Arab Spring"?

[Abbas] The changes that are occurring in a number of states as a result of the so-called Arab Spring are the result of the movement of the peoples of these countries, which are demanding freedom and justice. We believe that these are these countries’ internal issues. Our principle is respect for the wishes of these peoples. At the same time, we are making efforts to ensure that these changes be peaceful, without bloodshed or the destruction of these countries. We encourage all who are so able to participate in the creation of the conditions for negotiations between civic forces in the countries encompassed by the "Arab Spring".

[Baranovskiy] Has your recent correspondence with Israeli Premier Netanyahu produced any result?

[Abbas] Unfortunately, Premier Netanyahu’s response to my letter did not touch on the essence of the problems that are the nucleus of any negotiations. These being the borders of the Palestinian state and liberation of the occupied territories. His letter was very general, it contains merely a call for a return to negotiations without any commitments regarding a freeze on the building of settlements.

[Baranovskiy] Are the Palestinians prepared for compromise?

[Abbas] The Palestinians have displayed great flexibility. We agreed to indirect and also direct negotiations to reach a settlement that is based on the principle of two states and the "land for peace" formula. But the building of settlements, which are spreading throughout the territory of the West Bank, like a cancer, is resulting in deadlock. So the ball is in Israel’s court.

[Baranovskiy] How do you evaluate the situation in Syria? Could events in this country spill beyond the region?

[Abbas] The events in Syria, where people are being killed, are painful to us. Syria has sacrificed much for the just Palestinian cause, taken in approximately half a million Palestinians, and occupies an important strategic position in the Middle East. Our position is not to interfere in internal affairs. The solution is up to the Syrian people. The spread of violence is undoubtedly threaten ing stability in the region and will influence Syria’s neighbors.

[Baranovskiy] When will parliamentary and presidential elections be held in Palestine?

[Abbas] After a government of national accord under my chairmanship has been formed. And when the Election Commission completes its work in the Gaza Strip. Elections will be held six months after this. The date of the elections–presidential and parliamentary and to the National Council–will be determined after the government is formed and the work of the Election Commission has been completed.

Source: Kommersant website, Moscow, in Russian 26 Jun 12


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