MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he plans to visit Russia before the year’s end to discuss the Middle East peace process and the probe into the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In an interview with Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) radio, Abbas said Russia plays an important role in the Middle East and could play a “big and important role” in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“Russia is our old friend, and we do not hide anything from our friends. On the contrary, we want to inform the Russian leadership about how these talks are progressing,” Abbas said.
Moscow has recently strengthened its ties with Egypt in a move that could signify a return in force to the Middle East while US diplomacy is failing in the region.
Abbas also said Palestinians will seek an international investigation into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “We believe it is time to take this probe to an international level, and we will ask for Russia’s assistance,” he said.
Earlier this month a Swiss study found evidence of polonium in Arafat’s remains, but said that the radioactive isotope was not detected in sufficient enough quantities to definitively conclude he was poisoned.
Abbas said the issue of an international investigation had been raised at talks with the United States, which is believed to oppose the idea, but “no response has yet been received.”
Arafat, a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, died aged 75 in a military hospital near Paris in November 2004 shortly after falling violently ill at his West Bank compound. The Palestinian committee investigating Arafat’s death has said Israel is the "only suspect." Israeli authorities have always strenuously dismissed widely circulated rumors that they were behind the death.
The sides are also expected to discuss ways to resolve the Syrian civil war. “We are sure that the only possible solution for Syria is peace talks among all the parties. This is the only way out,” Abbas said.