Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas expressed hope Monday for a swift renewal of peace talks with Israel and prodded the new Hamas government to forgo violence against the Jewish state.
While appealing to both sides of the conflict on a day Palestinians set aside to mourn Israel's creation, Abbas expressed concern that the economic crisis in the Palestinian territories would deepen if not resolved soon.
"We expect the new Israeli government to enter into talks with us, as we are its partner and believe in a peaceful resolution," the ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies quoted Abbas as saying during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The only way is talks that would lead to a resolution on the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and at which a solution would be found that satisfies both sides and puts an end to unresolved problems," he said, according to the news agencies.
Abbas (right) meets Putin (Photo: Reuters)
Putin, who has sought to boost Russia's Mideast role, called Russia "a friend of the Palestinian people" in televised comments and praised Abbas for "big efforts to normalize the atmosphere in the Palestinian territories."
Abbas thanked Putin for transferring USD 10 million to an account controlled by Abbas earlier this month, calling Russia a "friendly state that invariably supports the Palestinian people."
Peretz: We must seek deal with PA
In a separate speech broadcast on Palestinian radio and television, Abbas told Israel "we want to make a just and lasting peace with you."
"Let's sit at the negotiating table, away from the dictates and the unilateral policies, and let's stop the pretext that there's no Palestinian partner," he added. "The partner exists, and we extend our hand to you to make peace."
Defense Minister Amir Peretz also called on Olmert Monday to utilize the negotiations option to the fullest and try and implement the convergence program in agreement with the Palestinians, before embarking on unilateral moves.
According to Peretz, "the convergence plan, which is aimed at setting the State of Israel's permanent borders and guaranteeing its future as a Jewish and democratic state, is at the center of the government's Basic Principles. I hope the plan will be realized in agreement with the Palestinian side and with full international support."
"I believe that the prime minister, as he has promised, will indeed exert sincere, real and serious effort to reach an agreement with the Palestinians before any decision on a unilateral convergence plan," Peretz added.
He went on to say that "there is an unequivocal democratic majority among the State's citizens and the Knesset to realize the plan. Dominating another people has not been good for us. The sooner we liberate ourselves from it, while changing the distorted preference of the settlement area beyond the Green Line at the expense of the State of Israel's social periphery, the better."
Ilan Marciano contributed to the report