Putin arrives in the West Bank

President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the West Bank on the first visit by a Russian leader.

    Vladimir Putin is welcomed by Mahmud Abbas (R)

    In talks with Palestinians intended to help revive Moscow's Cold War-era regional influence, Putin was expected to discuss helping President Mahmud Abbas strengthen his security forces on Friday.

     

     

    Palestinians said Russia, which has dropped a proposal to host a peace conference after US and Israeli objections, is offering armoured vehicles and helicopters. Israel has already voiced concern about that.

     

    The West Bank is the last stop of a Middle East tour that also took Putin to Egypt and Israel.

     

    Wreath-laying

     

    A Palestinian brass band played a rough version of the Russian national anthem as Putin and Abbas stood side by side at the presidential compound in Ram Allah.

     

    Israel voiced concern over
    Russia's nuclear role in the region

    Putin placed a wreath at the tomb of Yasir Arafat, whose death last year and replacement by Abbas has buoyed hopes for peacemaking in the Middle East. Abbas agreed to a ceasefire with Israel in February.

     

    Abbas and Putin made no comment before heading into talks.

     

    Putin will offer 50 armoured vehicles and two transport helicopters for Palestinian security forces, battered during a four-and-a-half year uprising, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath said.

     

    "This will be coordinated with Israel, because Israel controls our borders," he said.

     

    But senior Israeli officials said any such offer would be unacceptable to the Jewish state, where Putin tried, on Thursday, to allay concerns over Russia's planned arms sales to neighbouring Syria and help for Iran's nuclear programme.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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