Putin proposes Israel help in rebuilding of the West Bank infrastructure

Russian President &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/12/09/40548.html ' target=_blank>Vladimir Putin promised Friday to give equipment and training to Palestinian security forces and offered help to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Putin met for about two hours with Palestinian leader &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/14946_.html ' target=_blank>Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on the third day of his historic visit to the region. The two leaders focused on the Middle East peace process and Russian aid to Palestinians.

The Palestinians and Moscow have a long history of political and cultural cooperation dating to the Cold War, when the Soviet Union backed Arab states and the Palestinians in their fight against the U.S.-backed Israelis.

About 15,000 Palestinians — including Abbas — studied in Russian universities. In recent years, however, Russian ties with Israel have warmed. Putin's trip — the first by a Kremlin leader to Israel and the occupied territories — was seen as an effort to burnish Russia's credentials as a key Mideast mediator and a player on the world stage.

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