BBC News
January 18, 2011 - 1:00am

The Russian president, on a rare visit to the West Bank, has reaffirmed Moscow's recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Dmitry Medvedev said Russia had recognised the state in 1988 and his country's position remained unchanged.

The Russian premier's visit seeks to revive a collapsed peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking the country's support for a tougher stance towards Jewish settlements at the UN Security Council.

"We remember that Russia was one of the first states in the world to recognise the state of Palestine in 1988," Mr Abbas said at a news conference, held in Jericho, with Mr Medvedev.

The Russian president replied: "Russia made its choice a long time ago... we supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem."

"We made our decision then and we have not changed it today," he added.

Mr Medvedev is due to meet Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman on Wednesday.

He had been due to go to Israel, but the plans were shelved after Israeli foreign ministry staff went on strike.

Russia has suggested that it wants to play a more active diplomatic role in the Middle East, but correspondents say there has been little to show for its efforts so far.
'Fundamental commitment'

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Jerusalem says that as well as trying to expand trade links, Mr Abbas will be keen to have his counterpart's ear on the issue of the peace talks, which were suspended in September.

Palestinian diplomats say they are about to seek a UN resolution against continued settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the issue which prompted the Palestinians to leave the negotiating table. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the power to veto resolutions.

The Russian leader agreed that "without some sort of reasonable [Israeli] decision concerning their settlement activity, there will be no progress".

Ahead of the talks, Mr Medvedev's foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said Russia was not so ambitious as to believe it could single-handedly resurrect the peace talks.

"That would be a very high hurdle," he told the AFP news agency. "We do not consider ourselves a messiah."

"We are ready to demonstrate a responsible approach and share that responsibility with everyone," he added.

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the UN, US, European Union and Russia - will meet next month to discuss the peace process.


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