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Abbas concludes South America tour

Nov. 29, 2009 10:31 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 1, 2009 9:46 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – President Mahmoud Abbas concluded his tour of Latin America in Venezuela on Friday, where he and President Hugo Chavez signed agreements to promote bilateral relations.

The agreements included a series of initiatives to increase trade between Venezuela and the Palestinian territories, in addition to student exchange programs, with Chavez emphasizing that the agreements were signed between the State of Palestine, recognized as a sovereign state, and Caracas.

In particular, Chavez presented 20 medical school scholarships to Palestinians in addition to other scholarships for master's degrees in the field of science.

Furthermore, during a ceremony held at the presidential palace, Chavez announced the decision to appoint a Venezuelan ambassador to the West Bank, stressing, "We now have a charge d'affaires; we will name an ambassador in the coming days as part of accords to boost our bilateral relations," the Reuters news agency reported.

'Palestine is Venezuela'

In a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people, Chavez offered Abbas an olive branch and a gold-plated reproduction of a sword belonging to Simon Bolivar, the 19th century South American political leader who played a key role in the region’s independence from Spain.

Presenting Abbas with these gifts, the Venezuelan president proclaimed, "Venezuela is Palestine; Palestine is Venezuela, we have a common struggle."

"We should devote the entire force of our hearts and souls towards the creation of a Palestinian state," he said.

Accompanied by the Venezuelan health minister, Abbas visited the city’s optometry clinic before he left, where he was briefed on the developments and new technologies available to patients.

Abbas' visit to Caracas brought to a close the president’s regional tour, which included Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, to gain support for a Palestinian state following the Palestinian Authority’s announcement that it will seek international support and UN recognition for unilaterally declaring a state on 1967 borders.

The Palestinian president left Caracas on Saturday afternoon with his delegation which included PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki, presidential spokespman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, as well as political advisors Mustafa Abu Ar-Rab and Nimir Hammad.

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