Peres hails Abbas refugee comments

2012-11-03 21:45
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Richard Drew, AP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Richard Drew, AP)

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Jerusalem - Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday saluted as "courageous" remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in which he appears to relinquish Palestinian refugees' right to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

"Abu Mazen's courageous words prove that Israel has a real partner for peace," Peres said in a statement, using the name by which the Palestinian president is informally known in Arabic.

In an interview broadcast on Friday night by Israeli commercial TV station Channel 2, Abbas said that he had no intention of trying to regain his childhood home in the northern town of Safed in Galilee, today located inside Israel.

"I want to see Safed," he said in English. "It's my right to see it but not to live there."

In a direct pitch to Israeli viewers, apparently aimed at assuaging their concerns ahead of a Palestinian bid to seek upgraded UN status, he reiterated his acceptance of the Israeli state within the borders that preceded its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day war.

"Palestine for me now is '67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital," he told Channel 2. "This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, I am living in Ramallah, I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel."

Abbas was born in Safed in 1935 in what was then British-ruled Palestine. With the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, he fled into exile along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.

"These are significant words," Peres said. "We must all treat them with the utmost respect.

"These positions stand exactly in line with those of Israel and with the clear majority of the population, which supports the solution of two states for two peoples. This is a brave and important public declaration."

The militant Islamic group Hamas, which has said that it will never recognise Israel, has condemned Abbas's comments and called for protest rallies later on Saturday throughout the Gaza Strip.

Read more on:    mahmoud abbas  |  shimon peres  |  israel  |  palestine  |  middle east peace
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