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PM Narendra Modi arrives in Jordan; Palestine says India can play a role in Middle East peace process

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that PM Narendra Modi can play a major role in ending the conflict in the Middle East.

PM Narendra Modi arrives in Jordan; Palestine says India can play a role in Middle East peace process

Ramallah: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi can play a major role in ending the conflict in the Middle East and establishing peace in the region.

The Palestinian President also said that he will discuss with PM Modi India's role in the Middle East peace process and the creation of a multilateral forum of negotiations to strike a final deal with Israel.

"We are receiving Prime Minister Modi in a historic visit that will demonstrate the strong ties and relations between the Palestinian people and the brotherly Indian people," Abbas said this in an interview to PTI.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday arrived in Jordan on the first leg of his tour of three West Asian countries, including Palestine, during which he would hold talks on deepening cooperation in strategic areas such as security and trade.

Upon his arrival in Jordan capital Amman, the Prime Minister was accorded a warm welcome by the Jordanian King.

PM Modi was also greeted with chants of ''Bharat Mata Ki Jai'' by the Indian community members as he arrived at Amman's Four Seasons Hotel.   

The Palestinian Presidency, in a pre-arrival welcome statement, described the upcoming visit as "historic and significant".

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine, is expected to Ramallah on Saturday amid heightened tensions in the region after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The unilateral US decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was challenged at the UN General Assembly where 128 nations, including India, voted to turn down the move as "null and void".

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 Middle East peace process.

"We will discuss the recent updates with Prime Minister Modi and the recent developments in the peace process, the bilateral relations, and the regional situation. And the possible role India can play in enhancing peace in the region, as well as discussing different economical aspects beyond the existing ties we already possess," Abbas said.

The 82-year-old Palestinian President described India as a "very respected country in the international arena" and hoped that New Delhi can have a possible role in creating a multilateral forum of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis to reach a final agreement.

He said Modi's visit to the region reflects India's long-held position of supporting peace and stability in the region.

"We believe in the importance of a possible Indian role...To reach a final agreement based on international consensus and resolutions, in which India and other countries can be part of," Abbas said.

"The long Indian position of supporting the two-state solution is well known. India has supported the Palestinian cause throughout the years of conflict, and we rely on the Indian support in order to reach the independence of the Palestinian State," he added.

As Palestine works to establish an international multilateral mechanism of negotiations, the Palestinian leader stated that "India can play a role in this".

"The relations between India and Palestine are historical...This visit will culminate the historic ties between the two brotherly people, and will help in increasing and strengthening these ties that we possess," he stressed.

Prime Minister Modi would be skipping Israel during his forthcoming tour of Middle East in a clear message that New Delhi is de-hyphenating its ties with Israel and Palestine. 

PM Modi had visited Israel last year in July in a standalone visit that had led to many analysts questioning the future of the Indo-Palestine ties.

When asked about India's growing engagement with Israel, an unperturbed Abbas said that "any state has the right to establish relations with other countries".

"We believe in the importance of our relationship with the brotherly Indian State, the support of India to the Palestinian people, and the relationship we possess with the Indian people, will not be affected by India's relations with any other State," he emphasised.

"India has recognised the State of Palestine in 1988, and we cannot forget the last Indian vote in favour of Palestine's rights in Jerusalem in the United Nations General Assembly, and all the political stands that India has taken to support the Palestinian rights in the international arena," Abbas said referring to India's vote at the UN.

India has consistently voted in favour of resolutions supporting the Palestinian cause at international forums, an issue that has bothered strategic partner Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that he was "disappointed" at the Indian vote at the UN but also expressed hope that there will be a possible change of heart over a period of time.

Appreciating India's assistance in strengthening Palestinian economy through executing several projects in the Palestinian areas, Abbas said that "he cannot forget" New Delhi's support and wishes to further discuss with Modi areas of cooperation in the economic sphere.

A number of MoUs are likely to be signed between the two sides during Modi's three-hour visit to Palestine under which India will provide funding for a number of projects in the fields of health, education, culture and women's empowerment.

"The Indian Government and its people have provided significant assistance and aid to the Palestinian people by establishing training centres, schools, and the necessary humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza," Abbas noted.

This will be PM Modi's fourth meeting with Abbas.

They had earlier met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2015, at the Paris climate summit later that year and during the Palestine President's visit to India last year.

(With PTI inputs)