Erekat: Medvedev's declaration – historic step
Chief Palestinian negotiator says Russian president's recognition of Palestinian state will be remembered by Palestinians for long time to come. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry admits workers' strike greatly damaged efforts to block wave of recognition of Palestine
Hours after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev declared his country recognizes an independent Palestinian state, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the statement as "an historic move to make the Palestinians proud for a very long time to come."
Medvedev's announcement found Israel embarrassed and unprepared. The Foreign Ministry admmited that the workers' union's strike greatly compromised efforts to block the wave of recognition of a Palestinian state. "We are utterly blind to what's going on," one Foreign Ministry official told Ynet.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority boasted the fact that the Russian president visited the PA without first touring Israel and stressed a precedent has been set.
Medvedev said Tuesday during a visit to Jericho that Moscow had effectively recognized Palestine back in 1988 and has no intention of changing its position now. He noted that all would benefit from the establishment of a Palestinian state, including the Israelis.
Medvedev and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AP)
Talking to Ynet Erekat noted, "We appreciate the Russian recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders whose capital is east Jerusalem."
He added that the Russian president's visit had more than political significance. "Russia signed with us a series of agreements including agriculture, communications and sports deals," he said. Medvedev announced Moscow will transfer $10 million to the PA and inaugurated the new Russian museum in Jericho, which according to Erekat is an important symbol for the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian government's spokesman Ghassan Khatib told Ynet that Medvedev's visit had met their expectations. "This visit proves how truly important international recognition of an independent Palestinian state is. Russia has an important role in the peace process as well as a positive role in the UN's Security Council, ahead of the submission of an Arab proposal draft calling to condemn Israel over settlement construction."
Medvedev left for Jordan Tuesday where he is scheduled to meet King Abdallah. Gaza media outlets affiliated with Hamas ignored the Russian president's visit to the West Bank.
Meeting Palestinian expectations. Medvedev and Abbas (Photo: Reuters)
The Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that ever since the disruptions imposed by the Ministry's Workers Union three weeks ago, there has been no correspondence between the Ministry and its missions overseas.
The Palestinians have spent the past few months trying to get Latin America, Europe and Asia to declare their recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and upgrade their missions' status across the world.
Following Brazil's recognition, which was the first country to do so, the Foreign Ministry decided to launch a diplomatic containment effort. However, when the disruptions began, diplomatic work abroad was hurt and now the Palestinians are taking full advantage of the vacuum that was created.
Despite the strike, backstage efforts are being made in order to block this political wave of recognition, especially in Latin America. "We are constantly in touch with our ambassadors, but many of them follow the Foreign Ministry's disruptions," a Foreign Ministry official said. "We are definitely wondering what will happen first – total recognition of Palestine by the relevant countries or the end of the Ministry strike."
The current estimate is that other countries in Latin America, possibly all of them together, will recognize the Palestinian state within a month.
The Foreign Ministry described this Palestinian campaign as a 'political intifada' aimed at securing as much international legitimization as possible before their expected petition to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans on visiting London next week to meet with British Foreign Minister William Hague, and later travel to Portugal. State officials estimated that Lieberman will try and get the UK to help prevent a similar domino effect in Europe. The issue will also be discussed during the newly appointed French foreign minister's scheduled visit to Israel.
The Foreign Ministry's Director of Communications Yossi Levy responded to Medvedev's statement: "We are not surprised by the statement made by the President of the Russian Federation. It's nothing new in regards to Moscow's well known stance dating back to the 1988 declaration. Contrary to inaccurate reports, the Russian Federation president did not discuss the borders but only repeated that same statement recognizing the Palestinian people's right to their own state. Israel regards Russia as having an important role in the political process and cherishes its balanced, responsible and thoughtful position."
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report
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