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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 18, 2017.

    Palestinians Trust President Putin - Mahmoud Abbas

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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Sputnik whether he is ready for direct talks with the Israeli prime minister in Russia and what he thinks about US actions in the Middle East. He also spoke about what the State of Palestine will do to have its independence officially recognized, about reconciliation with Hamas, and relations with Israel.

    Sputnik: President Abbas, do you plan to visit Moscow soon?

    Mahmoud Abbas: I'm in constant contact with Moscow, especially with President Putin, to consult and exchange views on political issues related to the paused peace process and ways to promote it, as well as discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between our countries, and talk about regional and international issues of general interest. Every year, President Putin invites me to meet him. I will definitely visit Moscow at the suitable time for both sides.

    Sputnik: The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier called for a full-fledged dialogue between the Palestinian factions in the middle of next month. Are you ready to participate in such a meeting?

    Mahmoud Abbas: The ministry invited the Palestinian factions after having consulted with us. We welcome Russian efforts to gather the Palestinian factions in Moscow. We've delegated this to the representatives of Fatah and other factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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    At the moment, we are forming a political government that includes both the Palestinian factions and national leaders; we're also organising legislative elections. We hope that they will take place in all parts of the country, including the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. 

    Sputnik: If Putin invites you to meet Netanyahu, would you accept the invitation?

    Mahmoud Abbas: I have agreed many times to President Putin's offer to hold a trilateral meeting in Moscow. We trust President Putin, and we're ready to accept his invitation at any time; but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu always evades these meetings.

    Sputnik: How would you assess relations between Palestine and Russia?

    Mahmoud Abbas: Russia is a huge country; it has weight on the international stage and it also plays a role in maintaining international security and stability, especially in the Middle East. We're constantly consulting with the Russian authorities.

    We're talking here about the fact that the United States cannot be the only mediator. We need to form an international multilateral mechanism that should include International Quartet, including Russia, as well as the EU, UNSC members and Arab States.

    We have historical ties with Russia, and we'll continue working on their deepening and development, especially in the international stage. We take this opportunity to thank President Putin and the Russian government for their political support in international forums, as well as the importance of the continuation of the work of the joint ministerial committee between the two countries, in addition to thousands of Palestinian students studying in Russia, and the Russian training for many Palestinian cadres in various fields.

    Sputnik: You earned your PhD in Russia. Why did you prefer this country over others?

    Mahmoud Abbas: Russia has given me space and freedom to research and gain knowledge at its great universities. I had friendly relations with many of the Russian leadership, and my experience in Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies was quite valuable and rewarding.

    Sputnik: Do you think that when Palestine issues a request for full UN membership, it will be approved?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We submitted a request for full UN membership in 2011. So we submitted the application for observer membership and we got it in 2012, which allowed us to join 115 international agencies and organizations Especially from the European countries, and the Russian Federation is one of them.

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    We are going to keep trying to get full membership; we won't give up, because it is our natural right. On the other hand, we will work to increase the number of countries that recognise the State of Palestine, especially European states. It's worth mentioning that the number of countries that have recognized the State of Palestine has reached 139.

    Sputnik: What's your stance on the possible return of Syria to the Arab League? Could Palestine contribute to it?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We support Syria's return to the Arab League, and we hope that this goal will be achieved through consultations between the Arab states. We have always advocated the unity and well-being of the Syrian territories, and the end of the conflict through dialogue.

    Sputnik: Do you have any plans to visit Syria?

    Mahmoud Abbas: There are no plans to visit Syria in the near future; but I'm keeping a close eye on what's happening there, especially as half a million Palestinian refugees live there.

    Together with the Syrian state and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) we're engaged in the reconstruction of the Yarmouk camp in order to get those who have left the place back as soon as possible.

    Sputnik: What is happening in terms of Palestinian-American relations? What are your requirements for them "going back to normal"?

    Mahmoud Abbas:  We have suspended our relations with the American administration because of its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy to it, to lift the file of Jerusalem and refugees from the table and to encourage Israel to continue its settlement activities and take other punitive measures against UNRWA and us.

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    Having taken all these measures, the US administration can no longer play any role in the peace process alone. However, we have left a small space for dialogue with Congress so that the laws that accuse the PLO of terrorism can be repealed. We still maintain ties with security services to combat global terrorism.

    Sputnik: What are your conditions for accepting the "deal of the century", and is there any plan to counter it?

    Mahmoud Abbas: The US administration has implemented their plan in practice. We reject any plan that, be it American or anyone else's, is not based on international resolutions.

    Sputnik: Can Arab states act on the basis of the "deal of the century"?

    Mahmoud Abbas: In April 2018, at the Arab summit in Tehran, Arab states decided to reject the "deal of the century". We reaffirm that the Arab states won't make any decisions that Palestine rejects regarding its cause and the fate of its people.

    Sputnik: What are the prospects for the normalization of Israel's relations with Arab states? What's your stance on the issue?

    Mahmoud Abbas: Israel won't get any peace and security until a fair agreement is reached with the State of Palestine based on international legal resolutions. In fact, the Arab Peace Initiative has marked the way for natural relations between Israel and Arab states.

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    The normalization of relations between Israel and any Arab state will be possible only after the occupation has ended and the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people has been achieved.

    Sputnik: How are you going to achieve your goals?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We will keep on working towards peace in accordance with international law. We will patiently seek the path to our freedom.

    Sputnik: Are there any contacts between Israel and Palestine, or have they completely stopped?

    Mahmoud Abbas:  We keep security coordination and other contacts for daily affairs, but there are no political contacts. They were cut off by Israeli aggression, their continuing settlement activities, the introduction of racist laws by Israel, its arrogant policies, arrests and other actions that violate the existing agreements, international law and Security Council resolutions, especially in Jerusalem. What Israel does in Jerusalem is changing its character and identity, and attacking its Christian and Islamic sanctities.

    Sputnik: What is your international plan of action?

    Mahmoud Abbas: This year, Palestine was able to gain chairmanship in the G77+China group. Although Palestine has a UN observer status, the General Assembly has granted us rights similar to those of a permanent UN member for 2019.

    We will continue to work to consolidate our right to full membership and to the international protection of our people, and we will continue to join international organizations and treaties and seek further recognition of the State of Palestine.

    Our hands will remain outstretched for peace, and we hope that the international community will succeed in convening an international conference and forming an international multilateral mechanism.

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    Sputnik: What is required to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in Gaza and the West Bank?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We are forming a new government. According to a Constitutional Court decision, we have started organizing legislative elections; we've instructed the central election commission to do this.

    We'll announce the date of the elections as soon as it becomes possible to hold it in Jerusalem, in Gaza and in the West Bank.

    Organizing elections will help us to better unite in the coming period and meet the challenges that stand in our way.

    Sputnik: Do you believe in the seriousness of Hamas' reconciliation intentions? What is preventing this process?

    Mahmoud Abbas: Hamas has blocked all Egyptian attempts and didn't agree to implement the 2017 agreement; moreover, they prevented the return of the government of national reconciliation to Gaza. Hamas is also responsible for last year's assassination attempt on the Prime Minister [Rami Hamdallah] and the head of Palestinian intelligence.

    This is despite the fact that we're still offering our hand to Gaza. For 11 years, we have given Gaza $100 million per month. We confirm that we won't accept the separation of Gaza from the homeland. Gaza is not a state, and there is no state without Gaza.

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    The activities of Hamas are unacceptable, so they must adjust their course in order to become part of the Palestinian national project, and not pursue their narrow goals. 

    Sputnik: Do you want to appoint any national figure as your deputy?

    Mahmoud Abbas:  We held the National Council and elected a central council of the PLO, the parliamentary frameworks of the Palestinian people everywhere, and the subject of appointing a deputy needs legislation.

    Sputnik: Will Palestine participate in the Warsaw conference? At what level will it be represented?

    Mahmoud Abbas: Palestine will not participate in conferences convened by the United States. The State of Palestine won't take part in any international conference that is not based on international resolutions and we did not authorized anyone to negotiate on behalf of us.

    Sputnik: When will the US present their draft Middle East settlement? Do the Palestinians know what it says?

    Mahmoud Abbas: As we said, we no longer care what the United States will offer as long as it is not based on international resolutions and legitimacy.

    Sputnik: What do you expect from the Israeli elections?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We will deal with election results, whatever they may be. What is important is that the next government abide by the resolutions of international legitimacy and signed agreements for a just and comprehensive peace between the two sides.

    Sputnik: Do you think that the decision to form a separate government, without Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is deepening the gap between Palestine and the basis for Gaza's separation from the West Bank?

    Mahmoud Abbas: We believe in Russia's efforts, so we have accepted the invitation sent to the Palestinian factions. This will provide an opportunity to assess the situation together with our Russian friends; and Hamas should accept the provisions of the 2017 Cairo Agreement to put an end to the division and achieve reconciliation. This will inevitably lead to elections in which everyone will take part.

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    After this, in accordance with the election results, a government will be formed. And any elections should include Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

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