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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary...
Home ›  Press Releases  ›  Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) in Ramallah on President's Ongoing Visit to Palestine (October 12, 2015)

Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) in Ramallah on President's Ongoing Visit to Palestine (October 12, 2015)

October 13, 2015

Press Secretary to President (Shri Venu Rajamony): Good evening friends and welcome to Palestine from our side. I hope you had a pleasant afternoon. Secretary (East) will brief first on the discussion in the meetings so far and the developments of the day. Joint Secretary (WANA) Shri Satbir Singh is also with us. Both of them need no introduction. Mr. Mahesh Kumar is the Representative of India here in Palestine.

Secretary (East) (Shri Anil Wadhwa): Dear friends, today we had delegation-level talks, actually it was President talking to President Mahmoud Abbas and rest of us were just present there.

The main issue, as you can guess, was what is happening in the region between Israel and Palestine. The second issue that was discussed was also the way forward in the Middle East peace process. The third of course is the issue of terrorism and the terrorist groups which are there in the region.

Our President has conveyed full support for the Palestinian cause, reiterated that support, which is based on the principles put forward by the Quartet and also the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, namely that we believe in an independent, united, viable state of Palestine living side by side in peace with Israel with East Jerusalem as its capital. President also congratulated the Palestinian side on raising of their flag in the United Nations which happened a few weeks ago.

On his part President Mahmoud Abbas first of all stated that Palestine is doing its best to ensure that the clashes as far as the Palestinian side are concerned are contained; that the issue arose after the aggression of what he called religious people as far as the Al-Aqsa mosque is concerned and actions by them; that Palestine does not desire a solution which is based on violence given the fact that there are a number of settlers scattered along Palestinian territories and roads, streets, etc.; and that he has been speaking to world leaders since he wants a negotiated settlement and not hatred between the two sides. He said that Palestine wants to live as friendly neighbour with friendly relationship instead of hostility with Israel.

President Pranab Mukherjee conveyed that Yasser Arafat is a respected leader in India, most admired person cutting across political divide, and that irrespective of whom you speak to in India he is still deeply regarded, and we are keenly watching the process. He also conveyed that we are happy on the course of action that has been adopted by Palestine in this regard and the fact that the Palestinian position is one which is the right choice. He also conveyed that in today’s world violence has no place and tolerance must be practised and advised whenever it is possible.

President Mahmoud Abbas conveyed also the position with regard to the Palestinian territories, historically what has happened to the Palestinian territories; and stated that what Palestine was asking for was a settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders, not according to the current situation where its territory had been taken up due to settlements, and that this was not something which was unreasonable and was actually agreed upon and recognised in the peace processes in the late 90s.

President conveyed that India had decided to double the number of ITEC slots to 100 from the current 50 and also increase the general scholarships for Palestine from 10 to 25. In other words he said that India would always support Palestine in capacity building efforts, and whatever is feasible or whatever is required by the Palestinian side that India would be ready to come forward with help.

Both sides finally agreed that there was no difference in the solution which was being put forward by them and that the only way forward was a negotiated settlement based on peaceful negotiations and settlement of conflict as per the established principles.

One other point which was mentioned specifically by President Mahmoud Abbas is that in 2002 it was agreed by the 57 Arab and Muslim countries that if Israel were to withdraw from Palestinian territories, then all of them would recognise the State of Israel, and that is something which still remains valid and it should form the basis of the future of the peace process taking this very important facet into account.

Talking about ISIS, Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra which we are active in the region, President Mahmoud Abbas said that we do not believe in these organisations, neither does Palestine want them to come to Palestinian territory; and if Israel wants to help in this regard and to keep them off their vicinity, then the best thing is to solve the conflict as quickly as possible and to reach a negotiated settlement.

He also mentioned the fact that Syria should have a peaceful negotiated settlement, a peaceful solution to Syria would be in everybody’s interest, otherwise the developments could spread on to Lebanon and other places.

He also said that Palestinians were peace seekers and they followed the footsteps of Gandhiji, and Gandhi’s principles are still revered in Palestine.

Finally, our President conveyed to President Mahmoud Abbas that India will work with them and that they should have full confidence in the way forward since they were espousing a cause for peace and negotiated settlement.

At the end of these talks there was a grant which was announced of USD 5 million by India to Palestine. A symbolic cheque was handed over of course and the real cheque was also handed over later. This grant is to be used by Palestine for budgetary support.

In addition, there were a number of projects that were announced, in total of USD 17.39 million. That includes five projects. The first was setting up of a techno park in Ramallah which will cost about USD 12 million; second is setting up of the Palestinian Institute of Diplomacy at a cost of USD 4.5 million; the India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in ICT and Innovation in Gaza which will cost USD 1 million; cooperation between Birzeit University in the West Bank and Jawaharlal Nehru University at a cost of USD 21,670 for a Ph.D. programme, this was a support for five years; and then India Studies Chair at Al-Quds University which will amount to USD 268,000. So, that is another about Rs. 35 lakh for five years. That is the programme. The total amount is USD 17.79 million, not 17.39 million. I stand corrected there.

Tomorrow the President will inaugurate the India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in ICT and Innovation. This will be at Al-Quds University and the Jawaharlal Nehru Secondary School for Boys in Abu Dees. These projects are also a gift from the Government and people of India to Palestine as part of India’s capacity-building initiatives in Palestine.

I think that is all I had to say.

Press Secretary to President: I will just add to one point which Secretary made. When President Mahmoud Abbas referred to Mahatma Gandhi the words he used were, ‘We are peace seekers in the footsteps of Gandhiji, the eternal leader who achieved freedom for his country by speaking and practising peace’.

President Abbas also gave two documents to our President which explain the Palestinian position on various aspects of the dispute, copies of which we are distributing to all of you. So, it will also give you a clear understanding of what the position is.

Question: Did he also say something about the missing Indians in Iraq?

Secretary (East): Yes, he did reiterate that the missing Indians in Iraq are safe and that Palestine would do whatever is possible to secure their release.

Question: Was any evidence presented?

Secretary (East): No evidence was presented.

Question: Any location that they have been able to point out?

Secretary (East): The general location which we had provided was Mosul. …(Inaudible)…

Question: You said President Abbas said that the 39 Indians who were taken over by ISIS are safe.

Secretary (East): Which is also something that they have said before.

Question: When you say that President Abbas was talking about 2002 when the 57 Muslim countries laid down the principles for a settlement, is this a precondition for Arab …(Inaudible)… peace process, or do you have any kind of a sense that they are willing to …(Inaudible)… for a peace process …(Inaudible)…

Press Secretary to President: We are distributing to you the details of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. If you read it, you will understand what it is about.

Secretary (East): This is one of the initiatives. There are many initiatives, as you know. There is the Quartet, there are the UN Security Council Resolutions, plus there were the Oslo Accords, there was this Arab Peace Initiative. This is the Arab Peace Initiative.

Question: I was asking whether this is the template.

Secretary (East): Not necessarily. This is something, what they said, which should act as an incentive to Israel.

Question: President Mahmoud Abbas at the UNGA recently spoke about the Oslo Accords not being as valid as they were and you cannot really hold Palestine responsible to it any longer because the Israelis are not doing anything. Did he explain what …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): He did not go into the details of Oslo Accords but all he said was that we were asking for settlement of territory on the basis of 1967 maps because subsequently thereafter there has been a number of settlements by Israelis.

Question: …(Inaudible)…these questions also about the Palestinian Authority which …(Inaudible)… from the Oslo Accords. If they are dissociating themselves …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): They are not dissociating themselves from the Oslo Accords.

Question: What is India’s position in …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): India would support a resolution on that basis, yes.

Question: Pre-67 war?

Secretary (East): Yes.

Question: India’s UN vote, did it come up for discussion because the Palestinian Ambassador himself said in those days that they were let down by the Indians at the UN …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): That is a past story now. There is no longer an issue. We have explained our stand to them in detail and they have understood what the issue is, and it is the references in the operative paragraphs to resolutions with International Criminal Court (ICC) which we cannot support.
We have explained to them in detail.

Question: At UNGA when President Abbas said that Palestine will no longer be bound by its agreement with Israel, and on the other side from Gaza now Hamas leader Ismail Hanieh announcing, he threatening actually, that there could be a third Intifada, does New Delhi also anticipate there can be a third uprising in coming days, weeks, months?

Secretary (East): We certainly hope not because an uprising is not in the interest of any of these sides. There have been a number of principled agreements that have been reached and unless you negotiate on the basis of those agreements in a peaceful, negotiated manner, you will not be able to reach any agreement and we just spiral into violence cycle once again. So, that is not in anybody’s interest. Of course we would dissuade everyone from that path and I am sure, as you heard from what President Mahmoud Abbas has been saying as well, that Palestine itself is looking for a negotiated settlement.

Press Secretary to President: If I can just add to this, President Abbas repeatedly said that they are focused on calming the tensions so that they can discuss the longer term, larger issues of an eventual resolution and peace.

Just one more point. In response to the President assuring him that India will continue to support Palestine and work with them in whatever way it can, President Abbas said he was confident that India will be with Palestine as India has always been.

Question: You mentioned that tomorrow our President will inaugurate the ICT Centre. Could you give us a sense of what has happened to the computers which are stuck?

Secretary (East): Computers are not stuck, they are cleared.

Press Secretary to President: They have arrived. You will see them tomorrow.

Question: All of them?

Secretary (East): All of them.

Press Secretary to President: We hope to have a photograph of the President, and the Palestinian dignitary will be present there.

Question: What about the four communication systems that are at the Ben Gurion airport?

Secretary (East): The communication system, because of the frequencies as we explained to you earlier, are not something that the Israelis would allow into the region. So, they would be replaced by ones with different frequencies which are acceptable.

Question: In the past there have been discussions about land swap to accommodate the current ground situation. Is President Abbas going back to the older position of settlement according to the 1967 borders, or would he be still willing to …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): It is like this. The 1967 borders were recognised in the Oslo Accords and whatever happened by way of settlements is outside the agreements. So, obviously the Palestinian side would like settlement to be on the basis of the 1967 borders and that is their position. If there is to be that settlement, then of course there will have to be land swaps.

Question: Can you …(Inaudible)… the current cycle of violence as going on and what was the …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (East): The issue was that President Abbas was very forthright in saying that they are working towards controlling the tense situation, and that is their aim that they do not want any escalation in violence, which is something that is a good sign because that is the only way. I think our President completely agreed with him and encouraged him to follow that path.

Question: Did our President express any condemnation or concern over Israelis killing …(Inaudible)… Palestinians in recent attacks where there were air strikes or firings and other things?

Secretary (East): No, we did not go into those details.

Question: Did President Abbas elaborate on the genesis of this current upsurge of violence?

Secretary (East): Yes. As I said in the beginning, he said that the genesis was because of religious extremist elements from the Israeli side who are aggressive in their stand as far as the Al Aqsa mosque is concerned. So, he attributed the start to that process.

Question: New Delhi has any position on that?

Secretary (East): No, we do not have a position.

Question: Did the Palestinians raise India’s vote in the UN on Israel?

Press Secretary to President: I think that question was asked by somebody.

Secretary (East): No, that issue did not come up.

Press Secretary to President: Thank you very much. We shall meet again tomorrow sometime in the evening in Jerusalem.

 
 
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