Abbas with Medvedev - AP - Jan. 18, 2010
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, hold a press conference in the West Bank town of Jericho on Jan. 18, 2011. Photo by AP
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday in Jericho that his country did not withdraw its 1988 recognition of a Palestinian state, but fell short of an new and unequivocal recognition of the state within the 1967 borders, similar to declarations made by a number of countries over the past two months.

Medvedev spoke during a visit to the West Bank described as "historic" by the Palestinian media. He was also scheduled to visit Israel, but this was canceled due to the strike by Foreign Ministry personnel.

The statement was translated from Russian and Arabic in a number of ways yesterday, with some interpretations coming close to the renewed recognition anticipated by the Israeli media.

Medvedev crossed into Jericho from Jordan via the Allenby bridge, and told reporters yesterday he was happy to visit the most ancient city in the world. He said that Russia supports a freeze on Israeli construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. He stressed that the establishment of a Palestinian state would serve not only Palestinians and Israelis, but all peoples of the Middle East, and reiterated his call for a peace summit that would bring all players in the peace process to Moscow.

The Israeli media's expectations of Russia's recognition of the Palestinian state stemmed mostly from a remark by Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath, who told the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat that Medvedev will emphasize and reiterate Russia's recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Sha'ath praised the reiteration, which eventually failed to arrive, as a significant political move, due to Russia's involvement in international diplomacy and the opportunity for Russia and Europe to play a greater role in the political process, in view of what he described as America's unwillingness to pressure Israel to follow through with its commitments to the peace process. Sha'ath also said Medvedev arrived with $10 million of aid for the Palestinian Authority, and that the leaders would sign six agreements on cooperation in various fields. He said that following the recognition by 10 out of 43 Central and South American states, Palestinians were optimistic about winning recognition from European states including Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Norway.

The Foreign Ministry said in response that Russia's statement marked no change to the well-known Russian position "published in Moscow in 1988 - in other words, 22 years ago."

The ministry stressed that nothing in the president's words hinted that Russia recognized the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. "Israel sees the Russian Federation as playing an important, balanced and responsible role in the diplomatic process," the ministry's statement said.