13 Jan 2011

Head of Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas: We are certain that the UN will recognize the independence of the Palestinian State

Head of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas gave an interview to Interfax ahead of the first visit to Palestine by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Question: Mr. Abbas, how do you see Russia’s role in the Middle East conflict resolution and how important is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Middle East for the peace process?

Answer: Russia is a great country, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and one of the founders of the United Nations formed after World War II which saw the defeat of Nazism and Fascism. Since the Soviet period up until the present day Russia has played a crucial role in the Middle East where Russia’s presence has enormous significance. Russia seeks to implement the provisions of the UN Charter, to implement the resolutions renouncing aggression and firmly defending peoples’ rights to self-determination, which primarily concerns our Palestinian people who have been under the longest and most cruel settlement occupation in modern history.

Russia led by its current leaders is seeking to advance the peace process, and is doing so at various levels, both personal and in the framework of the Middle East Quartet and through various international organizations. We fervently welcome the visit to Palestine by President Medvedev who will be a dear guest for me and for all our people. We are totally confident that this historical visit will become a great contribution to the efforts to establish fair and lasting peace securing our people’s right to self-determination and to the creation of its own independent state with the capital in East Jerusalem.

Q.: What is your assessment of the contacts between Russian officials and Hamas figures? Do you believe such contacts facilitate the settlement of intra-Palestinian differences and improve relations between Hamas and Fatah?

A.: Like us, the Russian government is trying to put an end to the split weakening of the Palestinian position and to hold a dialog with Hamas by convincing them to sign the document prepared by [our] Egyptian brothers. We are calling for the same, and our Russian friends work in full coordination with us and at all levels. We are aware of the issues being discussed between Russian officials and Hamas representatives, and we support such a discussion, we agree with it and we hope that the sincere efforts by Russia and other regional parties interested in a fair solution to the Palestinian problem and having no motive other than the termination of the intra-Palestinian split will lead to the formation of the national unity government of independent figures who will be liable to conduct presidential and parliamentary elections in Palestine so that the Palestinian people choose their leaders and manifesto.

Q.: Which steps in your view should be taken to improve the relations between Hamas and Fatah?

A.: The first step, like I already said, is the signing of the Egyptian document, which the Fatah movement has already done. Then the national unity government will be formed of independent figures – economic experts, and then the lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip and preparation for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Q.: In which nearest time period do you think an agreement can be reached with Israel over the supply of Russian APCs to Palestine? And what matters should be resolved for this with Israel?

A.: There is no problem with the time period, but there is a problem with Israel‘s abandoning all of its promises, with its totally unmotivated abandoning of its own resolutions. Such a controversial Israeli position has puzzled us, our Russian friends, as well as Americans, because there is virtually no reason for such refusal by Israel that is still not letting APCs pass through. Similarly, Israel is refusing to let assault rifles and ammunitions pass through for our security forces.

Q.: Russia has expressed its willingness to continue to supply special equipment to Palestine. What sort of special equipment are we talking about here?

A.: We are talking about APCs (armored personnel carriers). We reached an agreement over the specifics and type of weaponry on these APCs with the previous Israeli government under Ehud Olmert, then Tsipi Livni, however, the agreement was not implemented. And now, under the new government led by Netanyahu, this matter and many others have been either frozen or simply abandoned by the Israeli government.

Q.: There were earlier reports about your plans to seek the UN recognition of the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in the event of failed talks with Israel. When could Palestine turn to the UN with such a demand?

A.: We are currently working to ensure that the Security Council adopt a resolution (based on multiple previous resolutions) which would renounce the settlement process and recognize the independence of all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem. We are maintaining political and diplomatic contacts with various countries in order to receive their recognition of our Palestinian state within the June 4 borders, and recently we received such recognition from a number of Latin American countries. If such a resolution cannot be adopted by the Security Council, we intend to refer this matter to the UN General Assembly.

Q.: How likely in your view is the success of such a referral to the UN General Assembly? Do you expect the Palestinian state to be recognized by the leading powers and to finally settle its relations with Israel?

A.: All great powers, including the United States, not only agree to it, moreover, it was them who have proposed the road map which stipulates the end to the Israeli occupation committed in 1967 and the creation of a viable, geographically united Palestinian state. Russia, China, the European Union and many other nations have repeatedly supported the creation of the Palestinian state by dismissing and condemning Israel’s settlement policy, this was shown by the results of the voting at the UN General Assembly when the overwhelming majority of nations supported the rights of our Palestinian people… Moreover, quite a significant part of the Israeli people support peace and the two-state solution. Since the Israeli government continues to persistently ignore the resolutions of international legitimacy, we will have to apply with the UN General Assembly and we are confident of the success of such a step, thanks to the broad international support for efforts to create an independent Palestinian state. We are also convinced that the end to the occupation is nearing, and it cannot last forever.

Q.: How do you assess the refusal by the United States to put pressure on Israel to stop the settlement activity? How efficient in your view is the role of the Barack Obama administration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution process?

A.: Everyone knows that the United States failed in its bid to convince the Israeli government to put at least a three-month freeze on settlement construction, and Israel‘s persistence has shown how necessary it is to add international efforts to those of the U.S. in order to discontinue the Israeli settlement policy and its most dangerous component, the things that are occurring in the occupied East Jerusalem.

President Obama and the U.S. administration continue making efforts, but they keep encountering two obstacles: the persistence of the Israeli government, on the one hand, and the influential pressure from certain pro-Israeli forces in the U.S. Congress. We are convinced that to reduce the internal pressure on the U.S. administration it needs strong international support so that we could exit the current situation of stagnation.