Indian PM lays wreath on arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat's grave

Indian PM Modi meets with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas, says he hopes 'Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner.'

AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
Adnan Abidi, Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday became the first Indian prime minister to visit Judea and Samaria, where he held talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as part of a Middle East tour.

The visit, which came weeks after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was seen as an Indian effort to balance its strengthening ties with the Jewish state.

"I have once again assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of the Palestinian people's interests," Modi said following a meeting with the Fatah leader.

"India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner."

Modi and his entourage had flown in by helicopter from Jordan, landing near Abbas's Ramallah headquarters and laying a wreath at the mausoleum of late Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat.

Arafat, who founded the Fatah terrorist organization in 1959, led the PLO, an umbrella organization of anti-Israel terror groups, from 1969 until his death in 2004.

Born in Egypt in 1929, Arafat spent most of his life at the helm of organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and directed numerous terror attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.

New Delhi has long backed the PA's quest for nationhood and Modi has voiced support for an independent state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

After a bilateral meeting, Abbas gave the Indian leader a medal "in recognition of his wise leadership" and "efforts to promote the historic relations between the State of Palestine and the Republic of India."

Speaking alongside Modi, Abbas said they had discussed "bringing the political process out of the deadlock due to the continued Israeli occupation of our land and the political impasse following [US President Donald] Trump's decision on Jerusalem and the refugees."

Trump in December broke with decades of US policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move which India voted against in the United Nations. In January, the US announced it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA, citing a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.

"We count on India's role as an international force of great prestige and weight," Abbas said, noting "its rising power at the strategic and economic levels" that could "contribute to the achievement of a just peace in our region."

The Indian leader said his country "hopes for peace and stability in this region."

"We believe a permanent solution to Palestine is possible through dialogue. Only diplomacy and farsightedness can break the cycle of violence and free it from the baggage of the past," Modi said.

"India and Palestine's historic relations have stood the test of time. Palestinian interests have always got our support and remained at the top in our foreign policy."

Modi became the first Indian prime minister ever to visit Israel in July last year, with the two states signing deals on cybersecurity and energy.

Modi was later taking off for Jordan for the rest of his three-day tour, which will also take him to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf is a critical region for New Delhi.

India sources more than half its oil and energy supplies from the region, and around nine million Indians live and work there, sending home billions of dollars in remittances annually.