Arafat meets with Russian president

MOSCOW, Feb. 19 (JTA) — Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat met this week with Russian President Boris Yeltsin to discuss Russian-Palestinian relations and the Middle East peace process. Arafat, who arrived Tuesday in Moscow for a two-day visit, also held two meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. When he greeted Arafat, who last visited Moscow three years ago, Yeltsin called him “a friend of the Russian people” and the “legitimately elected leader of the Palestinian people.” During their meeting, Yeltsin told Arafat that Russia, as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, would “continue to energetically work to help solve conflicts” in the region, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin. When he met with Arafat, Primakov spoke of creating joint business enterprises to help the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian leader also met with Patriarch Alexey II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and invited him to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem for the celebration of Christianity’s 2,000th anniversary. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Moscow on March 10, when he is expected to sign with Yeltsin several agreements aimed at boosting Israeli-Russian economic ties.

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