Abbas Arrives to Discuss Peace Talks

8200APAbbas arriving Wednesday at Vnukovo Airport. The Palestinian president will meet with muftis and Patriarch Alexy II.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for talks on holding a Middle East peace conference in Russia.

Abbas will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, said Ahmad Musleh, an official with the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow.

President-elect Dmitry Medvedev will be traveling outside Moscow and unable to meet with Abbas, Musleh said.

Abbas on Thursday is scheduled to speak at a conference at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and meet with Russian muftis. He is to meet with Patriarch Alexy II on Friday, Musleh said.

Moscow has offered to hold an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference as a follow-up to a similar conference held in Annapolis, Maryland, in November. Ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas militants has made planning difficult.

Fayed Mustafa, the Palestinian charge d'affaires in Moscow, said he did not expect Russia to invite any Hamas representatives to the conference.

"If Russia invites the Palestinians, it will be representatives of the legally elected government and nobody else," Mustafa said, Interfax reported.

Sergei Vershinin, head of the Foreign Ministry's Middle East department, said that while Moscow would not invite any Hamas representatives, it would nevertheless retain its ties with Hamas. "Our contacts are aimed at maintaining Palestinian unity on a basis that can lead to peace with Israel," he told Interfax.

The peace conference should take place in the "coming months," Vershinin told Interfax.

Mustafa said the conference should be held in mid-June, Interfax reported.