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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Hosts Arafat, Urges Caution

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The Kremlin received Yasser Arafat warmly Friday but urged him to exercise extreme caution in proclaiming Palestinian statehood.

The move dashed any Palestinian hopes that Moscow, a traditional ally, would back Arafat’s plan to declare an independent state whether or not he forges a final peace deal with Israel by their Sept. 13 target date.

The Palestinian president said he believed the "bold operation" of seeking peace could still be completed.

Following Arafat’s talks in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov joined Arafat at a news conference where he said Russia would stick to its support for a Palestinian state.

But he added: "As concerns the optimal moment for taking up statehood, we consider that all possible developments of the situation need to be thoroughly considered."

A unilateral Palestinian announcement would almost certainly prompt Israel to declare it was annexing areas of Palestinian territory, further upsetting any idea of a negotiated accord.

The main sticking point in the talks is the question of East Jerusalem, where Arafat would like to establish the Palestinian capital — a move bitterly opposed by Israel.

Arafat told the news conference he was glad of Russia’s support. He said he had told the Russians about last month’s U.S.-sponsored Camp David summit with Israel, where the two sides failed to hammer out a deal.

Asked if he expected compromises could be reached with Israel, he said he believed so.

"I always remember my late partner former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who gave his life for the Middle East peace process," he said.

"We have to complete this bold operation, this peace process no matter how hard it may be and irrespective of the difficulties we may encounter on the way… for the sake of our children," he said.

Political analysts said Moscow would probably try to persuade Arafat to sit down to fresh talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who spoke by telephone to Putin on Thursday about the peace process.

The Foreign Ministry released a statement quoting Arafat as saying he intended to carry on negotiations and wanted to "play his part on the road to a historic compromise with Israel."

Arafat left later Friday, heading for Finland and Norway. He was the first Arab leader to hold direct talks with Putin since he was elected in March.

In Soviet times, Arafat might have expected more unquestioning support for his position. But post-Communist Russia has fostered warmer ties with Israel, which has an important minority of Soviet and Russian Jewish emigrants.

Analysts also saw Friday’s meeting as a chance for Moscow to reestablish itself as a diplomatic player in the Middle East peace process, which it co-sponsors with the United States.