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22 Dec, 2008 23:12

Moscow promises to support Palestine

Russia is ready to provide financial support to Palestine, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said at a meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow.

Lavrov also said that Russia was fully supportive of Abbas's policy in the Middle East.

It has been eight months since Mahmoud Abbas last visited Moscow, and in that period his political challenges have changed dramatically. Back in April he was hoping for the best, and now he is trying to avert the worst.

Air strikes, funerals, and vows to fight the enemy – the bloody circle continues as Hamas abandons a ceasefire, while contenders for Israel’s highest office promise to topple the Gaza leadership. The fragile peace process is once again on the brink of collapse.

Russia is a member of the ‘Quartet’ – along with the U.S., EU, and the UN – that seeks to broker peace in the Middle East. However, unlike other Quartet members, Russia recognises the legitimacy of Hamas, the Islamic party that controls the Gaza Strip. Moscow maintains ties with both Hamas and its rival party Fatah.

Nevertheless, the Russian Foreign Minister stressed Russia’s support for Abbas and called on all the parties to exercise restraint.

Speaking at a joint media conference, Sergey Lavrov said:

“The Russian government supports Mahmoud Abbas as the leader of Palestine in a variety of areas. First and foremost, this concerns the security efforts deployed by the Palestinian government. We are also ready to encourage co-operation in investment.”

The Palestinian leader responded by saying that he hoped “the upcoming Moscow conference on the Middle East will lay a good foundation towards peace in the region”.

“I want to say that we highly value Russia's role in the peace process,” Mahmoud Abbas added.

Abbas has also met with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The Russian and the Palestinian leaders discussed ways to co-operate on peace in the Middle East.

Medvedev thanked the Palestinian leader for visiting the Russian internal republic of Chechnya, and expressed hopes that more leaders would come to the region to witness the transformation of the area. Abbas also met with its president Ramzan Kadyrov and visited the tomb of his slain father Akhmat Kadyrov.

Abbas has become the first Arabic leader to visit Chechnya after the 1990s armed conflict in the North Caucasian region, when some forces in the Islamic world openly supported Chechen militants. Hosting an Arab leader in Chechnya means a lot for the Kremlin, which has long maintained Chechen militants were supported by Islamic terrorist networks.

“This is not your first time in Russia but recently the geography of your trips has widened – you’ve visited the city of Grozny in Chechnya. We think that’s very useful,” Medvedev said.

Now almost completely rebuilt, a decade ago Chechnya seemed as far away from peace as Palestine is now. Abbas even hinted the Chechen example may come in handy. “We had a chance to familiarise ourselves with the experience of the Chechen leadership both in political and social issues,” Abbas said.

Earlier on Monday, Abbas was honoured by Russia's Muslim leaders for his contribution in bringing peace to the region.

This is likely to be the last foreign visit for the Palestinian leader, whose term in office ends next month.