02/01/2005, 00.00
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Peace begins in the Holy Land, Russian Patriarch tells Palestinian President

On an official visit to Russia, Mahmoud Abbas signs a joint statement with Putin to implement the road map.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Holy Land is an "irreplaceable component" of the Middle East peace process, this according to Aleksij II, Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia who met at the Danilov monastery in Moscow Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), currently on an official visit to Russia.

Peace, according to the Patriarch, requires that "the possibility to visit the holy places is not only guaranteed to local residents but also to all peoples since it is here we find the three religions with faithful around the world".

The Patriarch stressed that the Orthodox Church is in favour of inter-faith dialogue in the Middle East. "The Russian Orthodox Church," he said, "has been present in the Middle East for a long time and is ready to help Palestinians through the dialogue amongst religions".

Aleksij II thanked Mahmoud Abbas for "returning the Orthodox properties in Hebron and Jericho" and stated "that is time to define the legal title of the Russian mission to these properties".

In his meeting with the Patriarch, Abbas, who was elected on January 9, reassured him saying that talks between Palestine and Israel "focus on the Holy land".

The PNA President added that "ongoing negotiations offer some optimism" and that "soon we shall hear some good news".

The Palestinian leader also signed a joint statement with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in which both parties pledge to implement the road map and call on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a step towards peace. 

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