Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday. "We would very much like the peace process to resume. I know there are many difficulties here,” Putin said.
Abbas for his part described it as “meeting between two friends," Itar-Tass news agency reported.
“Regrettably, the situation in the region is not improving, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to meet with you and talk about how the situation is evolving and outline steps toward normalization,” Russia Today quoted Putin as telling Abbas.
Abbas with Putin (Photo: EPA)
Putin told the Palestinian leader Russia was interested in improving relations, saying “This is an addition to the other issues of the regional agenda which is currently a priority for us, and our neighbors, and other countries.”
Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that Abbas was also set to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The two are expected to discuss trade relations between Russia and the Palestinian Authority, a Kremlin press service official said.
According to Ma'an, Nabil Shaath, who will accompany Abbas on the trip, said Abbas would petition Putin regarding the ongoing Israeli arrest campaign in the West Bank and seek Russi's support in gaining international recognition of the State of Palestine.
"We are facing a major crisis and Russia is an influential power, so we will discuss with Russian officials a strategic vision to end the current impasse," Shaath said.
Abbas will seek Russia's help to face the "vicious crackdown" Israel has been waging in the occupied West Bank, the Fatah official added.
According to a Russian official, "humanitarian cooperation is also set to be discussed with emphasis on rendering practical assistance to the Palestinian side in developing state institutions and in solving basic social tasks."
Abbas' visit will last three days. According to Russian media, the last time Abbas was in Moscow was at the end of last January. Abbas first visited Russia in an official capacity at the beginning of 2005 and has since then visited Russia eleven times, not including the current trip.
Speaking about the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ASd Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, Shaath told Ma'an that the PA was "notified about their disappearance hours after Israel authorities discovered that they disappeared. We don't have any information about them and it seems the Israelis do not have any information."
Last week Abbas defended coordination between the Palestinian Authority security forces and Israel, sparking a furious denunciation by Hamas.
"Those who kidnapped the three teenagers want to destroy us. We will hold them accountable," Abbas told a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia.
"It is in our interest to have security coordination with Israel, because that would help protect us," he said.
"We will never have another intifada (Palestinian uprising) - that would destroy us."
Meanwhile, Israel has Operation Brother's Keeper – a search operation which also involves a massive crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. Over 350 Palestinians have been arrested and at least five have been killed or died as a result of the operation.