Mahmoud Abbas: “The issue of recognizing Palestine will be brought up in September”

Mar 23, 2011 17:34 Moscow Time

Photo: EPA
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President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas is visiting Russia. He held talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday and will continue his visit with a trip to the republic of Bashkortostan. In an exclusive interview for the Voice of Russia, Mr. Abbas looked at prospects for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and thanked Russia for its support.

President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated Russia’s support of the Palestinian position in the peace process, and it’s our profound belief that this process should be built on the basis of the international law and the 1967 borders, and also on condition that Israel halts settlement construction on Palestinian lands. Those are the themes we focused on. We also highlighted the course of further debates ahead of an upcoming session of the Quartet.

Attempts are being made to refer the Palestinian dossier to the United Nations Security Council. But what will it change? The UN has passed many a decision on the Palestinian problem. Do you need another one?

When we recently turned to the UN Security Council, we hoped our resolution would be approved because there was nothing new in it. We just demanded an end to the construction of Jewish settlements [on the occupied territories]. And just then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that settlement construction was illegal. We included this thought, that the settlements are illegal, into the draft resolution. Despite that, the Americans vetoed it…

You often said lately that much in Palestine’s destiny would be decided in September. Why?

We are pinning our hopes on September for three reasons. Firstly, U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier that he would like to see a Palestinian state to be created in September. Secondly, the Quartet has announced that talks on the issue should be over in September. Finally, we, the Palestinians, have scheduled the formation of the necessary state institutions so that everything could be ready for recognition by September. If nothing happens in September, it will make things hard for the Palestinian leadership.

Parallel discussions are under way in Palestine on whether early parliamentary and presidential elections should be held.

That’s another issue. It has to do with reconciliation among the Palestinians. When I voiced readiness to visit Gaza…

By the way, when are you planning to go there?

As soon as we agree upon it. I am ready to go as early as tomorrow. When this happens, we will be able to agree upon a coalition government and then fix an election date. That’s the essence of my initiative. In order to proclaim the creation of our own state, we need to strike an accord among ourselves. That’s why, we are stepping up parallel efforts in two directions: to prepare an address to the UN Security Council and to reconcile to each other.

The current escalation of tensions in the Gaza Strip followed rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. Israel retaliated with air strikes. What do you think about that?

We want a calm situation in Gaza and we want a truce with Israel to stay in place. Hamas has honored the truce in the past three years. I don’t know why they fired rockets at Israel. The Israelis immediately seized the opportunity to aggravate the situation in the region. What’s the point of creating such a pretext? Why be the first to attack and trigger accusations from the international community? We have just requested Hamas to extend the truce. We even got in touch with Arab leaders so that they, for their part, could use their influence to have the truce extended. Hamas refused. And now that Israeli strikes on Gaza caused civilian casualties, Hamas is raising the truce issue again. Sixteen people were killed yesterday.

What is your attitude to the idea of holding an international Middle East conference in Moscow? Does it stand a chance?

We welcome this idea. And when the great powers agree upon holding such a conference, we will take part in it. We have no doubt that this is necessary. During the earlier conference in Annapolis, we supported the idea.

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