6 Jul 2011

Ex-Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath: Russia will do its best so that ‘Quartet‘ supports Palestine‘s bid for UN membership

Ex-Palestinian Foreign Minister, now Fatah commissioner for international relations Nabil Shaath who visit Moscow on July 5 and had talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ahead of the ‘Quartet‘ meeting in Washington on July 11 has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about results of the talks with Lavrov, Palestine‘s plans regarding UN membership, and inter-Palestinian dialog.

Question: As far as I understand the main issue of your today‘s talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov was the upcoming the ministerial meeting of the ‘Quartet‘. What other issues were discussed?

Answer: We talked about the September program of the Palestinian leadership to go to the UN and seek full-time state membership in the General Assembly and to seek recognition by as many countries as possible. Russia of course recognizes the Palestinian state and has full diplomatic relations. We received a great support from Mr. Lavrov on Russia‘s support in the UN. And we also were briefed about the upcoming meeting of the ‘Quartet‘. Russia will do its best so that the ‘Quartet‘ supports [] our application for the membership in the UN and to come up with a statement that will facilitate going back the negotiations if Israel accepts it, stopping settlements and dedicating the terms of [] the borders of 1967. Now if the statement comes and Israel accepts it, we will go tomorrow to the negotiations. Of course, is the statement comes and it is not accepted, we will still I think find support of it.

Q.: Not long ago Palestinian permanent observer in the UN said that Palestine will seek the recognition of its state even if talks quit Israel will start again. Is it real?

A.: I think he is right. The two are not against each other. We can seek the membership in the UN and go to the negotiations at the same time. But really there is no chance that Israel will accept to go to the negotiations from now till September, I doubt very much. Therefore we are dedicated to this drive in September. Israel really makes it a precondition that it will go the negotiations by stopping all settlement activities and accepting the border of 1967, but it wants us to delay the recognition by the UN. First we have to see that Israel would stop all settlement activities and is accepting the terms []. I doubt very much that Israel will do it.

Q.: The General Assembly session will start in September. When should Palestine submit documents to the UN on this issue?

A.: This is a procedural matter. We have many options. The time is not just in September. We can apply on October or November, if we want to. The question of the exact time will be decided by the committee that is directing this affair. Strategically we are going, exactly how, starting with the General Assembly or the Security Council, what exactly is the form of the draft, all of these will be worked out by the committee.

Q.: When?

A.: I cannot say. We are working.

Q.: Israel‘s permanent representative in the UN said that if the UN recognizes the Palestinian state this can provoke a war in the region. Do you agree with this?

A.: Is Israel wiling to wage a war on us? They have already occupied all of our country. They want to occupy some more? We are not going to wage a war.

Q.: No long ago France proposes to convene a Middle East conference to raise money for Palestine. What do think of this conference?

A.: We support it, of course. Any conference that will bring more support to the Palestinian authorities, we welcome. But that is not contrary to our desire that political international conference be held in Moscow because that was the decision of the Annapolis agreement. But a meeting in Paris to support the Palestinian authorities, we support.

Q.: What do think about ‘peace flotilla‘ that are trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza?

A.: I think it‘s an excellent effort by people who are not carrying arms or anything and who submitted their boats to inspection by the UN and by European authorities to demonstrate to the world that they need to end embargo in Gaza. This is an excellent non violent demonstration.

Q.: Why not to deliver humanitarian aid through Israel‘s territory?

A.: Israel is sending less than one tenth of the needs of Gaza. Gaza is still under great siege by sea, by air, by land, not only humanitarian things, but also no spare parts for machines, no fertilizers for agriculture, no exports. Gaza is prohibited from exporting anything by Israel.

Q.: I mean not Israel‘s but international aid, can it be brought to Gaza through Israel or there are some difficulties?

A.: No. It is a great difficulty. It does not want to allow us [] by Israel.

Q.: The meeting on June 21 between Hamas and Fatah was delayed, when it will take place?

A.: We are in touch with each other by telephone and so on. I‘m really sorry that it has been delayed. But what President Abbas is suggesting is that Mr. Salam Fayyad continues the government of a temporary nation until the new election is coming. And Hamas does not accept it. This is what we are discussing all the time. I hope we will reach a solution some time soon. In fact I encourage Mr. Lavrov to help, if he can.

Q.: Is there any alternative candidate who will satisfy both Hamas and Fatah?

A.: There are four candidates. They were suggested by the third parties, but we are trying first to see if Hamas going to accept Salam Fayyad. If does not, we will have to look for others.

Q.: My next question is about the story with the supply of Russian armored vehicles to Palestine. Has there been any progress on this issue?

A.: Israelis are not allowing any Russian cars to come inside. These are for security people who really have maintained excellent security from any attacks on Israel. I don‘t understand why. I asked our Russian friends: what does Israel say? And they say Israelis don‘t trust you. But these cars have really light armor. In fact they have machine-guns, and Israelis asked that machine-guns be taken off. And Russia has taken off the machine-guns. They are just sending armored cars to Palestinians, but Israelis still do not accept this. They are still in Jordan.

Q.: Is this question on the agenda of Palestinian-Israeli contacts?

A.: Every time.