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Abbas calls for peace conference in Moscow amid Putin visit

June 26, 2012 2:20 A.M. (Updated: June 29, 2012 10:27 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas called on Tuesday for an international peace conference in Moscow after meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Putin, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, is on a brief Middle East visit that analysts say is to shore up Russia's clout in the region amid the unpopularity of its support for the Syrian regime.

Netanyahu said Monday he had asked Putin to relay his readiness to resume peace talks to Abbas.

After meeting with Putin in the presidential headquarters, Abbas said he assured the Russian leader that "negotiations are the only way to achieve peace between us and Israel."

He reiterated the leadership's position that they cannot enter peace talks while Israel continues to expand settlements on Palestinian land.

Abbas asked Putin for help securing the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, especially those detained before 1994. "We already agreed with Israel that they should be released, but that has not been put into effect yet." he said.

The leaders also discussed the reconciliation process between Abbas' Fatah party and rivals Hamas.

"We know that Russia is concerned about reconciliation, and I assured Putin that we are going ahead with it. If a date will be set for legislative and presidential elections, that will be the gate to reconciliation," Abbas said.

Putin told the press conference that he believes Palestinian unity will help reach a peace deal. He applauded the Palestinians' approach to peace, saying that the "Palestinian leadership, and the president personally, have been behaving responsibly to achieve peace based on the two-state solution."

The presidents also discussed the Arab Spring and bilateral relations between Russia and Palestine.

After the meeting, Abbas visited Duheisha refugee camp, where he talked with locals and met PLC member Muhammad Lahham and Fatah official Muhammad Taha.

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