Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin’s remarks at the celebration of International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Moscow, November 29, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to welcome all of you as we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Russia values the high level of relations with Palestine, as well as the intense, trust-based and genuinely friendly bilateral dialogue. Our country’s leaders and personally President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin attach great importance to the Palestinian track in Russia’s foreign policy. Since 2005, he had 17 meetings with Mahmoud Abbas. Their most recent meeting took place in Moscow in July 2018, and the two leaders had a telephone conversation on July 12, 2019.
I would like to inform you that President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has sent a message of congratulations to President of the State of Palestine to mark today’s occasion.
We are looking forward to seeing President of the State of Palestine in the Russian capital in May 2020 at the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Russia strongly supports efforts to restore unity within Palestine on the political platform offered by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and hold elections on all Palestinian territories.
November 2019 marks a milestone in our bilateral relations. At the end of this month, we marked 45 years since the Soviet leadership approved the establishment of a PLO representative office in Moscow. This happened on November 27, 1974 during a visit by a Palestinian delegation to the USSR, headed by PLO Executive Committee Chairman Yasser Arafat. This moment is regarded as the start of the process that resulted in the establishment of diplomatic relations between our country and Palestine.
Today, we consider expanding trade and economic cooperation to be among the priority areas of bilateral cooperation. We are aware of the adverse factors related to the challenging military and political situation in the Middle East, and the continuing occupation of the Palestinian territory by Israel. Nevertheless, trade between Russia and Palestine increased 66 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, exceeding 5 million dollars. This, of course, is a modest result. Making maximum use of the existing potential for the benefit of the Russian and Palestinian people is our shared objective. It is in this vein that this question was discussed at the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission held in Moscow on November 22.
Russia attaches great importance to strengthening bilateral cultural and humanitarian ties. In particular, the reconstruction of Bethlehem’s historical and religious centre financed by Russia is advancing at full steam, and is expected to be completed by early next year.
Thousands of Palestinians graduated from Soviet and then Russian education institutions. In 2018, 600 Palestinian students were enrolled in Russian universities, including 271 students who study under full grants.
We are working on increasing the number of Russian tourists and pilgrims visiting Palestine and the Christian holy sites on Palestinian territory. Russia successfully operates a museum and park in Jericho with an archaeological exhibition and laboratory. Efforts are underway to include this complex on tourist routes, as well as in the Russian Holy Sites project. The Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Bethlehem is up and running.
Russia believes that by working together we can bring the day when Palestinians will have their own state closer and build a prosperous country, the establishment of which will be essential for achieving sustainable peace and security in the region.
I would like to wish wellbeing and cohesion to the Palestinian people who have had to deal with so many challenges. I also reaffirm our solidarity with the aspiration of the Palestinian people toward fulfilling its legitimate right to a life of dignity within its national state.