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Russia affirms recognition of Palestine

Jan. 18, 2011 1:56 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 19, 2011 8:19 P.M.)
JERICHO (Ma'an) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday reaffirmed Moscow's commitment to an independent Palestinian state.

"We have supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital since the last century, and we still support it," Medvedev said, during his first official visit to Palestine.

The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat first issued a declaration of independence at a meeting in Algiers in November 1988, with the former Soviet Union quick to express support for it.

Medvedev made the announcement following a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss their bilateral relations and the impasse in the peace process.

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 led 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."

The Russian president inaugurated 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 was also set to 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.

Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouthi said Medvedev's visit was "historic and important," and noted that Russia had an active role in the Palestinian cause.

AFP contributed to this report
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