India re-affirms support to Palestinian cause

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New Delhi, Oct 7: India today reaffirmed its consistent support to a negotiated solution to the Palestine issue based on the relevant UN Resolutions, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Roadmap.

India also announced a grant of 10 million dollars as budgetary support to the Palestinian National Authority to help meet its immediate requirements and an additional 10 million dollars as assistance for development projects.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Palestinian embassy building here.

The Prime Minister who held talks with visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today and later attended the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Palestinian embassy, said the solution to the Palestinian issue should result in a sovereign, independent, viable and United State of Palestine living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel.

''India's association with and commitment to the Palestine is rooted in our modern history that goes back to our struggle for independence.

As early as in 1936, a 'Palestine Day' was observed in India and fraternal greetings went out from Indian leaders to their Palestinian counterparts,'' the Prime Minister said in his remarks at the foundation stone laying ceremony. .

He said soon after Independence, India had the privilege of serving on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine formed in 1947 by the UN General Assembly.

''This step marked the beginning of our consistent support to the Palestinian cause in the United Nations and all other international fora,'' he said.

India recognised the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.

On March 26, 1980, India granted diplomatic recognition to the office of the PLO in New Delhi, two days before the historic first visit of Chairman Yasser Arafat to India.

India accorded recognition to the State of Palestine soon after its proclamation in Algiers in 1988, and opened its Representative Office in Palestine in 1996.

In November 2007, India participated in the Annapolis Conference on peace in West Asia in the hope that a determined process would be launched to secure Palestinian rights and achieve a just, durable and comprehensive peace in the region. ''That, regrettably, remains an elusive goal,'' the Prime Minister added.

He said earlier this year, India was ''shocked and dismayed'' by the violence in the occupied territories, including Gaza.

''We hope that wiser counsel will prevail and that the path of dialogue will remain the preferred path to realise peace in the region,'' the Prime Minister said.

Observing that India and Palestine have been ''steadfast partners'' over decades, the Prime Minister said ''India's commitment to Palestine and its future should find one of its embodiments in the building which stands before us. I have no doubt that it will serve as a symbol of our friendship and solidarity in the future,'' the Prime Minister said while referring to the embassy which is coming up in the Diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri.

The Prime Minister said India would continue to do all to assist Palestine in all its endeavours, including in capacity and institution building.

Earlier, the Prime Minister and the Palestinian President held talks and discussed the latest situation in West Asia and the progress on the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).

The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for setting up a school at Abu Dees in Jerusalem.

''We have signed today an MoU to finance construction of a school to be named the Jawaharlal Nehru High School in Abu Dees near Jerusalem,'' the Prime Minister said .

Minister of State for External Afairs E Ahamed, who signed the MoU with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki, said India would be willing to play any role that would help establish peace in West Asia.

The Palestinian President, while thanking India for the consistent support to the Palestinian cause, said they had special regard for India because it had always helped their cause and never expected anything in return.

President Abbas who arrived here last evening on a three-day State visit, is also scheduled to meet Vice-President Hamid Ansari, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition L K Advani.

Later this evening, he will call on President Pratibha Patil who will host a banquent in honour of the visiting dignitary.

The visit takes place in the backdrop of heightened engagement between India and West Asia on one side and increasing Defence cooperation between India and Israel.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had also visited India a few months ago.

Mr Abbas is scheduled to visit Agra tomorrow from where he will fly to Colombo on Thursday before returning home.

UNI

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