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Abbas to discuss in Moscow ways of resuming Palestine-Israel talks

January 19, 2012, 2:59 UTC+3

Israel’s continued settlement on the West Bank obviously does not promote normalization

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MOSCOW, January 19 (Itar-Tass) — The head of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas, is arriving in Moscow on Thursday at the invitation of the Russian president to discuss the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. On January 20, Abbas will be received by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The signing of several agreements is planned.

“During the visit the sides will discuss political issues related to the peace process and in light of Russia’s important role as a member of the Middle East Quartet and permanent member of the UN Security Council,” the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow told Itar-Tass.

Despite the fact that it will be the sixth meeting between Medvedev and Abbas and the eighth visit of the PNA head to the Russian Federation, the main theme of the talks does not change - the Middle East settlement. The “Arab Spring” that came to the region in 2011 has practically not affected the Holy Land and not melted the ice in the Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Russia, as an active participant in the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the US, EU and UN) is working energetically overcome the permanent crisis state in the dialogue between Palestine and Israel. Experts have made cautious forecasts on the settlement progress, referring to the consultations on rapprochement that started on January 3. The meetings will continue until January 26 – when the 3-month period the Quartet gave to the parties to present their ideas on the future borders and security expires.

Israel’s continued settlement on the West Bank obviously does not promote normalization. For Palestinians this issue remains of fundamentally important.

During his trip Mahmoud Abbas may also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Sergei Stepashin, and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. It is planned to hand to the PNA head the Patriarch Alexy II Prize for 2011, awarded to him by the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations as recognition of his major role of laureate in the cause of serving humanity and laying the foundations for cultural dialogue and tolerance between peoples.

After his Moscow leg of the visit Abbas will travel to Chuvashia, where he will meet the republic’s head Mikhail Ignatyev and First Deputy Chairman of the Central Spiritual Board of Russian Muslims, Chairman of the Religious Board of Muslims of the Republic of Chuvashia Mufti Albir Krganov.

The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, since then it has named itself Palestinian National Authority.

The Palestinian Authority was formed in 1994, pursuant to the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the government of Israel, as a five-year interim body, during which final status negotiations between the two parties were to take place. As of 2011, more than sixteen years following the formulation of the PA, a final status was not reached. According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was designated to have control over both security-related and civilian issues in Palestinian urban areas (referred to as “Area A”), and only civilian control over Palestinian rural areas (“Area B”). The remainder of the territories, including Israeli settlements, the Jordan Valley region, and bypass roads between Palestinian communities, were to remain under exclusive Israeli control (“Area C”). East Jerusalem was excluded from the Accords.

In Palestinian legislative elections, which took place on 25 January 2006, Hamas turned victorious and Ismail Haniyeh was nominated as Prime Minister. However, the national unity Palestinian government effectively collapsed when Hamas and Fatah engaged into a violent conflict, taking place mainly in the Gaza Strip. After the takeover in Gaza by Hamas on 14 June 2007, Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led government and appointed Salam Fayad as Prime Minister. Though the new government's authority is claimed to extend to all Palestinian territories, in effect it became limited to the West Bank, as Hamas hasn't recognized the move and continued to rule the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority continues to handle the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, while Hamas government continues to control Gaza Strip, though they signed a reconciliation agreement to unite the governments. A preliminary date for all-Palestinian elections has been estimated to be May 2012, though regional circumstances of the Arab Spring, and especially the crisis in Syria, threaten to destabilize Hamas and hence postpone the date.

The politics of the Palestinian Authority take place within the framework of a semi-presidential multi-party republic, with the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), an executive President, and a Prime Minister leading a Cabinet. According to the Palestinian Basic Law which was signed by Arafat in 2002 after a long delay, the current structure of the PA is based on three separate branches of power: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The PA was created by, is ultimately accountable to, and has historically been associated with, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with whom Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords.

The PLC is an elected body of 132 representatives, which must confirm the Prime Minister upon nomination by the President, and which must approve all government cabinet positions proposed by the Prime Minister. The Judicial Branch has yet to be formalized. The President of the PA is directly elected by the people, and the holder of this position is also considered to be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In an amendment to the Basic Law approved in 2003, the president appoints the Prime Minister who is also chief of the security services in the Palestinian territories. The Prime Minister chooses a cabinet of ministers and runs the government, reporting directly to the President.

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