Palestine seeks India's role in peace process

Palestine seeks India's role in peace process

On Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic visit to Palestine, President Mahmoud Abbas sought India's support for a multi-country mechanism to achieve a "just and desired peace" with Israel in accordance with the two-state solution.

Abbas accorded a red carpet welcome to Modi, the first Indian prime minister to make an official visit to Palestine.

Soon after his arrival, Modi visited the Mausoleum of Yasser Arafat and laid a wreath at the grave of the iconic Palestinian leader.

Abbas also conferred the "Grand Collar of the State of Palestine" on Modi, recognising his key contribution to promote ties between India and Palestine.

The two leaders later discussed the full range of India-Palestine ties following which the two sides signed six agreements worth around $ 50 million, including setting up of a $ 30 million super speciality hospital in Beit Sahur.

Three agreements in the education sector worth $ 5 million, one MoU for procurement of equipment and machinery for the National Printing Press and one for construction of a centre for empowering women were also signed.

At a joint press statement with Modi, Abbas acknowledged that the Indian leadership has always stood by peace in Palestine.

"We have never rejected negotiations...we have been and are still ready for negotiations," he said.

Abbas said the formation of a multilateral mechanism that is produced by an international peace convention is the ideal way to broker negotiations with Israel, which is India's strategic partner and among its top arms suppliers.

"We rely on India's role as an international voice of great standing and weigh through its historical role in the Non-Aligned Movement....," Abbas said.

The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their future capital.

"The support for Palestinian interests in our foreign policy has always been a priority - continuous and steadfast," Modi said.

"Friendship between India and Palestine has stood the test of time. The people of Palestine have shown remarkable courage in the face of several challenges. India will always support Palestine's development journey," Modi said.

India hopes for Palestine to soon become a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful environment through dialogue, Modi said, amid applause.

Though India has shied away from becoming a party in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian leader on several occasions has stressed on a possible role for New Delhi in the West Asia peace process.

India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.

Modi flew in a Jordanian army helicopter straight from Amman to Ramallah. Modi's chopper was escorted by choppers from the Israeli air force.