Italy vows to stand by Palestinians

Rome, July 3 (IANS/AKI) Italy would support the Palestinian people in their bid for statehood, President Enrico Letta has said.

"I repeated to President (Mahmoud) Abbas a concept that I firmly believe in - that Italy will never abandon the Palestinian people," Letta said after a meeting with Abbas in the West Bank.

Letta also stressed the longstanding ties that bound Italy to the Palestinians.

"The historic ties between our peoples have existed for a very long time and they are relations I am happy to strengthen with this visit," he said.

Italy will hold bilateral talks for the first time in Ramallah later this year and has opened an office of Italy's foreign trade institute there, he said.

Letta said that during his meeting with Abbas, he stressed Italy's support for efforts being made by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas to get the stalled peace talks moving.

"Italy is putting all its efforts into ensuring that the peace process goes in the right direction," Letta said.

He said he told Abbas that Italy and other European nations were "firmly convinced" that the two sides should not miss the latest chance to achieve peace.

"It really could be the last major opportunity," Letta said.

Abbas said Palestinians were eager to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible and termed as "constructive" Kerry's recent diplomatic drive to achieve direct talks.

"We don't need a tent to meet Benjamin Netanyahu," Abbas said. "There is no reason why we can't meet in my home." he said, in reference to comments made by Netanyahu.

Netanyahu earlier said ahead of a meeting with Letta in Jerusalem: "I am ready to enter the peace tent with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and stay there until the white smoke rises."

Peace negotiations collapsed in 2010 in a dispute over Israel's construction of Jewish settlements on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a state.




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