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      Lavrov Supports Palestine During Meeting with Abbas

      Russian Foreign Minister meets PA Chairman in Amman. "For us the statehood of Palestine is not questionable," he says.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 11/7/2012, 3:12 AM

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
      Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
      AFP/Khalil Mazraawi

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks in Amman with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, AFP reported.

      The talks dealt with Abbas’s plans to seek upgraded status at the United Nations later this month.

      The two also discussed the peace process with Israel, with Lavrov hailing Abbas’s commitment to return to direct negotiations with Israel, which have been on hold for more than two years.

      "I found it very important that president Abbas firmly reiterated that he is in favour of resuming direct negotiations with Israel to discuss all final status issues," Lavrov told reporters after talks in the Jordanian capital.

      "We fully support such approach; we fully support the resumption of direct negotiations," he said, speaking in English.

      Abbas formally announced in September that the PA would ask the General Assembly to grant it "super-observer" status that could give it access to UN institutions and agencies. PLO officials confirmed that the PA plans to submit its request after on either November 15 or 29.

      He later told EU diplomats he would be willing to return to peace talks with Israel after he secured upgraded membership at the UN.

      "When we have obtained the status of non-member state at the General Assembly, we will be ready to return to the negotiating table with the Israeli side to discuss all final status issues outstanding," Abbas said, according to the PA-based WAFA news agency.

      PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also attended the meeting, welcomed Moscow's support for the upcoming UN bid, which is strongly opposed by Israel and Washington.

      "President Abbas discussed with Mr. Lavrov our endeavor to seek the upgrading of Palestine's status at the UN... to (that of) a non-member state," he was quoted by AFP as having told reporters, saying Russia's top diplomat had expressed backing for the move.

      "We appreciate very much the Russian position in fully supporting the Palestinians in our endeavor at the UN," Erekat added, also speaking in English.

      "Russia has always stood behind Palestine's statehood and they will vote for the resolution," he said, standing next to Lavrov.

      Although Lavrov did not directly refer to the UN bid, he said Moscow fully backed the establishment of a Palestinian state.

      "For us the statehood of Palestine is not questionable; we recognized the State of Palestine when it was pronounced in 1988," he said, referring to the unilateral declaration of independence issued by former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat on November 15, 1988.

      "We have a full embassy of Palestine in Moscow and this is our policy," he said.

      On Monday, Erekat emphasized that the PA will push the UN bid despite pressure to back down.

      "No matter what pressure we are facing... we will not go back on our decision," Erakat said.

      "We tell the countries that are trying to undermine our action that we are not seeking a confrontation with America or to isolate Israel, but to isolate Israeli occupation and settlements, and to affirm the principle of the two states," he told reporters.

      Channel 10 News reported on Monday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened that if the PA goes ahead with its unilateral statehood bid he “will work to ensure the PA will collapse.”

      Lieberman reportedly stressed that a unilateral statehood bid by the PA will "put an end to the chances to resume peace negotiations."

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he remains ready to sit down for final status talks with the PA leader.

      "Only in direct negotiations will it be possible to clarify what the true positions are. Generally, I can say that if Abu Mazen is really serious and intends to advance peace, as far as I am concerned, we can sit together immediately. Jerusalem and Ramallah are only seven minutes apart; I am ready to start negotiations today,” Netanyahu said bluntly.

      "I will take this opportunity to again call on President Abbas to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, because peace may be advanced only around the negotiating table and not via unilateral decisions in the United Nations General Assembly, which will only push peace further away and will only lead to instability.”