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9 Dec, 2009 09:01

“The only way is to apply to the UN Security Council” – Palestine FM

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki discussed the Middle East peace process with RT ahead of a meeting with his Russian counterpart.

RT: What are the main goals of your visit to Moscow?

Riyad al-Malki: As you know, the President of the Palestinian Autonomy is taking very active diplomatic steps in Latin America now. We are on a visit to Moscow since Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and it is essential for us to continue our contacts with the Russian leadership considering the changes on the Palestinian track and in the Middle East in general. This is why we are going to update the Russian leaders on the situation, particularly considering Israel's refusal to obey international community requirements to stop settlement activities, including the so-called natural growth of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, especially in East Jerusalem. As a result of such actions by Israel, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations cannot be resumed. If no progress is achieved in the negotiation process, we will have to request the UN Security Council makes a resolution that will determine the borders of the Palestinian state to ensure the framework of future talks. Our visit to Moscow is of great importance in this respect.

RT: Do you think Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who visited Moscow shortly before you, managed to convince Russian leaders to change their stance on the Palestinian problem?

R.al-M: Russia's position has been clear and consistent in recent years. Commitment to that position has been repeatedly confirmed by the statements from Russian leaders on all levels about supporting the Palestinian people in their fight against Israeli occupation and about establishing a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. Our being here confirms that once again. We have arrived upon the invitation of Russia's Foreign Ministry to continue coordinating Russian-Palestinian cooperation. There is an embassy of the Palestinian State in Moscow, which is a vivid proof of the consistency of Russia's position. I do not think Lieberman will be able to make anyone change their position on the rightful Palestinian problem. Even when he was visiting some European capitals that had historically shared Israel's positions or had been close to them, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, he received a cold shoulder there and heard what he would have rather not have. What did he expect, if he failed to convince the capitals that had traditionally upheld Israel's positions? How was he going to win over Russian leaders, who had for decades supported the fight (and the right) of the Palestinian people to establish a state of their own? I think Lieberman did not even dare to attempt to persuade Russian leaders to change Russia's position, as he knew that Moscow's reaction to his attempts would be negative.

RT: Which way will the Palestinian Autonomy go after Mahmoud Abbas?

R.al-M: The Palestinian leadership does not even think about dismissing the current authorities. Its power is the national achievement of Palestine. For the first time, Palestinian people have managed to establish their national autonomy, albeit not fully authorized for administration, and the movement towards establishing a state. I think we should defend that achievement to move further along the path of creating a Palestinian state. Therefore, the dissolution of the current authority is not even a possible option for the Palestinian leadership. Even if anybody mentions this option, this is merely a personal opinion and not an official position. As for the third Intifada, I think we took lessons out of the first and second Intifadas. This is why we are not going to throw our people into a risky venture and endanger our future with an Intifada whose consequences may be fatal for our people and its achievements.

RT: Turning to the UN Security Council can help you get support, but the US can veto any decision by the Security Council. What will the Palestinians do then?

R.al-M: The talks are in a deadlock at the moment, with the Israeli government refusing to obey the requirements of the international community and deliver on Israel's obligations to stop settlement activities. Under these circumstances, we are at a dead end, and the only way out for us is to apply to the Security Council in order to use international law. Here in Russia I expect to receive similar support from the Russian government. After Moscow, I am going to Havana, where the meeting of nine Latin American and Central American states will take place. I hope to find similar support there. After that, I am going to Portugal, France, etc. So, we are taking active diplomatic steps to mobilize support of the international community. Therefore, when we apply to the Security Council, it will not be just a Palestinian initiative, but an international initiative in support of the Palestinians. And when we apply there, we will see that everybody shares our requirements: the need to demarcate state borders of Palestine in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank of Jordan within the 1967 borders, with the capital of the Palestinian State in East Jerusalem. This is what we aspire to, and I think these are not just our dreams but quite feasible goals.

RT: What do you think of Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to temporarily stop the building of settlements along the border?

R.al-M: Our position is well known. We cannot accept returning to the negotiating table unless Israel begins delivering on its obligations regarding the first phase of the roadmap. We demand fulfillment of the obligations mentioned in the roadmap. This is not just Palestine's position. Look at the positions of European countries, for example, the position of Russia, voiced by Minister Lavrov, who said that Russia welcomes Israel’s position, but considers it insufficient to resume the talks because settlement construction should be stopped completely. Israel should fulfill its obligations set forth in the roadmap and ratified in Annapolis, regarding the complete discontinuation of the settlements, including those in East Jerusalem.

RT: A recent survey carried out by the Israeli Institute of National Security says that, without Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians pose a bigger threat to Israel. Do you agree?

R.al-M: If this report was issued by that center, I think the Israelis should take it very seriously. This is because the reason of the crisis we are facing now is in Israel's position. The Israeli government refused to resume the negotiations and continues building settlements. They stepped away from their roadmap obligations and do not fulfill them. This is why they bear responsibility. We can only find a way out of the current crisis if Israel fulfils its obligations. We can meet anywhere tomorrow and discuss the renewal of the talks. It is not difficult, but it is up to Israel. Israel can let the talks fail, or it can hold them successfully. It is connected with Israel's position. Israel is to be held accountable – and blamed – for thwarting the peace process and for all possible consequences.

RT: But the peace dialogue is gridlocked anyway. What is your diplomatic strategy?

R.al-M: We welcome all possible initiatives including a peace conference to reach a peaceful settlement given that it covers the range of issues concerning the Middle East. The solution should be comprehensive and cover not only the Palestinian track, but also the Lebanese and Syrian one. We welcome this approach and think that it is the cornerstone of success. We do not have any problems and we told the present US administration and Barack Obama about that. We have been saying it to his special envoy George Mitchell many times. As for the breakup within Palestine, we are for the resolution of this issue and mending the breakup. On November 15, we visited Cairo and signed a document there expecting Hamas to come and sign it too. But, unfortunately, they did not come because of the pressure coming from other states in the region. We hope that they will come any other time to sign it – that is what President Abbas was talking about in Lebanon. He also said previously that we expected the signing of this document followed by a peaceful process and preparations for the election. As for the future, we definitely think that we have a strategy, according to which there are two ways: The first is strengthening the position of a Palestinian citizen in the world. It is important and we are working in this direction. Secondly, the Palestinian government endorsed and announced the plan of putting an end to occupation and building the Palestinian state within two years – the so-called “Fayad Plan” – and we spread this plan around the world and asked other countries to help us in implementing it.

RT: You started your career in the ranks of an opposition front. Later, you joined the official line of the Palestinian government – the line of negotiations. Have you ever regretted this?

R.al-M: First of all, I am self-critical. I value past experiences and I am objective in my evaluations in order to get the use out of them for the future. I would not want to go back to that past, of course. Did I make a mistake in making the decision on the negotiation process? Of course not. I think that, despite its failure, those negotiations were the best for the Palestinian people, for protecting their achievements and in setting the direction of development of the Palestinian state. If you compare any armed resistance, given the balance of forces and Israeli aggression against Gaza, you will see over 1,600 dead as the result, including many children and women, Approximately 5,600 were wounded, infrastructure was destroyed, and 25,000 houses were lost. And then think of the price we have to pay for the missile that someone directed to a deserted district. I think we need to realize our responsibility in protecting our people, because our souls are something to treasure and we need to value our achievements of the past years. We have achieved a lot in this world, including receiving worldwide respect and, surely, the most recent experience that we have in establishing our state. I think this is important and I am sure that holding negotiations is the right, as well as a cheaper and closer approach for establishing an independent state.

RT: Thank you for your time.