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    Full Text of Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas' Interview With Sputnik

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    Leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas told Sputnik in an interview that Palestine was seeking the participation of the international community in solving the conflict between Palestine and Israel, noting that Russia should play a key role in the reconciliation process.

    - The Russian-Palestinian intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation convened for the first time in the Palestinian capital in March. Your Excellency, please share your opinion on the current level of Russian-Palestinian political and economic relations?

    I thank you for this opportunity, it is my pleasure to answer questions for Sputnik news agency.

    The relations between Palestine and Russia started long time ago and are developing in several areas, the latest meeting of the intergovernmental commission is an important component of our bilateral relations. The political aspect of the relation is a key one, we have a continuous cooperation and coordination at all level including between president Putin and myself, we meet regularly and share views on different matters, mainly the question of the peace process and the way Russia could help to ending the Israeli occupation and the achievement of a just and lasting peace. Russia has a key role in this matter and we wish for it to be more visible. We also discuss the very difficult situation in the Middle East and try to see what we can do together in order to find political solutions to the ongoing problems.

    - Russia recently withdrew its air forces from Syria after, according to Moscow, achieving its strategic goals in Syria. In Your Excellency's view, what role does Russia play geopolitically in the Middle East these days? What role does Russia currently play, and what role should it play, in mediating the peace process between Palestine and Israel?

    Russia's role in the region is historical and vital to balanced international relations. That said, it is clear that Russia role took a new proactive dimension in the Middle East since its important engagement in the Iran nuclear negotiations that was successfully concluded, and in the Syrian crisis where we hope it will help to restore peace and stability.

    From here we wish to see this dynamic in the Russia foreign policy extended to the peace process between the Israelis and us. The quartet led by the United States did not succeed to achieve progress because of the Israeli government rejection to its efforts. This situation is imposing the need of new multilateral approach, where Russia should have a central role, and which will allow other Arab and European partners to participate in new and effective mechanism with time table and references and international conference similar to other international groups that achieved progress in Iran, Syria and other conflicts.

    - Your Excellency, you stated in an interview that Palestinians understood and accept the painful compromises required to reach peace well before the Oslo Accords were signed. What issues are Palestinians ready to compromise on today to reach peace?

    This is true and we did it, in 1988 the Palestinian National Council which is our Parliament, decided to recognize a solution built on two States, one is already existing which is Israel and to establish the State of Palestine on our land occupied in 1967, the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its Capital, which means that we accepted a historical Palestine. This is a huge and painful compromise for our people, to which the Israelis haven't reciprocated until now.

    - At the end of March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted four resolutions related to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. One of these resolutions related to investigative processes to ensure Israeli accountability for violations carried out in occupied Palestinian territories. Is the Palestinian Authority in contact with the UN in regard to the steps needed implement this resolution? Has Your Excellency seen any initial results since the introduction of these resolutions?

    The importance of the mentioned resolution is that it has practical aspects with regard to the listing of companies working in or with Israeli settlements in Palestine. The government of Palestine via the ministry of Foreign affairs and our mission in Geneva are following closely this matter with the UN and we hope for the resolutions to be implemented soon by both the UN and its member states. I here want to reiterate that settlements are illegal and considered as a war crime under international law.

    - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on March 23 that Israel is ready to hold unconditional talks with Palestinian representatives "anytime, anywhere". Is Your Excellency and the Palestinian Authority ready to put aside doubts about Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution and resume peace talks?

    I am always ready to meet Mr Netanyahu in order to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations that will lead to the end of the occupation and to a lasting peace that will ensure freedom for our people and state. Policies and practices of the government of Israel and the dramatic facts on the ground due to the ongoing confiscation of our land, building of more settlements and the demolition of Palestinian houses, leave no doubts about Netanyahu's commitment to destroy the two state-solution

    - On March 27, you had a meeting in Amman with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon where you briefed him about recent developments in the Palestinian territories and updated him on Palestine's plan to seek a UN Security Council resolution to halt the construction of Israeli settlements. What progress has been made in the implementation of this plan?

    The consultations are ongoing with the Arab League at the ministerial level and with other international partners in order to decide on the content and timing for its submission to the Security Council. Israeli Settlements are illegal and constitutes the main obstacle in achieving peace based on two state.

    - A French proposal to hold an international conference on settling the Palestinian issue was also discussed between you and Ban Ki-moon. Your Excellency, could you please elaborate on what progress has been made in the preparations for this conference?

    We highly appreciate the French initiative to hold an international conference, it is time for the international community to renew its efforts to achieve a final peace. The French are engaged nowadays in consultations with all concerned regional and international parties in order to finalize the details for this conference. From our side we need this initiative to be the starter for a new multilateral process with a new mechanism where Russia should play a central role, and that will allow practical steps toward ending the Israeli occupation and achieving a just peace.

    - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called on Muslims across the globe to strengthen their unity against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Addressing the 5th Extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Palestinian issues in Jakarta, Zarif lashed out at Israel for its "expansionist plans" to change the demographic makeup of al-Quds (Jerusalem). Could Your Excellency please elaborate on the role Iran is playing in establishing an independent State of Palestine?

    Iran as well as all other Muslim countries member of the OIC have a duty toward Palestine and Al Quds. To face the Israeli practices and violations against our people, mainly in East-Jerusalem, a lot is still needed to be done.

    - It was reported recently that Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a unity government and hold parliamentary elections for the Legislative Council and the presidency within six months. What is Your Excellency's assessment of the prospects for two the factions' rapprochement given the fact that meetings have been held over the years and three agreements were signed — in Qatar, Cairo and Gaza — but none of this has led to any real changes on the ground? Have any concessions been made by the two sides in regard to critical issues that have divided Hamas and Fatah in the past, such as the fate of prisoners, political arrests, and the return of the Palestinian Authority's rule to the Gaza Strip?

    Reconciliation is a top priority on our agenda, we want to achieve our unity as soon as possible to be able to focus on the only real priority which is to end the Israeli occupation and reach peace.

    Meetings in Cairo and Doha are focusing in achieving an agreement to form a unity government and go for elections immediately. We hope to see progress soon.

    Tags:
    Hamas, Fatah, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Russia, France
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