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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat Arrives to Canvas for Statehood




Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's world tour to discuss declaring his territory a state brought him Monday to Moscow, where he was expected to discuss the possibility of unilaterally declaring Palestinian independence next month.


Arafat held talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov upon his arrival and also planned to meet President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.


Russian diplomats said the talks would focus on Middle East peace, and whether Arafat plans to declare a Palestinian state on May 4, when an interim agreement with Israel expires.


On Sunday, Arafat visited King Abdullah in Jordan and stopped in Turkey, where he held talks with President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. He heads to China and Japan later this week.


The Jordanian king reiterated "support to our Palestinian brethren ... until they regain their full rights as stipulated in signed peace accords," Jordanian state radio reported.


The radio did not provide details, but Jordan, like other countries, has been trying to coax Arafat to postpone a proclamation of statehood until after the May 17 Israeli general elections, fearing that an early announcement could lead to the victory of hard-line politicians.


The Palestinian representative in Jordan, Omar Khatib, who attended the talks, said Arafat told Abdullah about his White House meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton and his discussions in Europe last month on proclaiming Palestinian statehood on May 4.


Last month the European Union said it was ready to consider recognition of a Palestinian state.


The Palestinians say May 4 is timely because it marks the expiration date of a five-year interim autonomy period under peace accords signed in 1993 in Oslo, Norway.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to annex parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip if Arafat declares a Palestinian state.


The Israeli government insists that official activity of the Palestinian Authority is forbidden in east Jerusalem under peace accords. Russian officials apparently plan to tell the Palestinian leader to put off the move and continue consultations with Israel.


The Palestinians should "put off the proclamation of the state so as to give a new chance for talks," Ivanov was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass.


Russia is officially a co-sponsor of the peace process, which was launched by a conference in Madrid, Spain, in 1991. But the United States has played a far greater role.