Ramallah, Feb 10 (PTI) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today said he is ready to engage in negotiations with Israel but made it clear that East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine, as he held talks with visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In December last year, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a controversial decision which angered the Palestinians, sparked protests in the Middle East and raised concern that it could further destabilise the already volatile region.

The unilateral US decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was challenged at the UN General Assembly where 128 nations, including India, voted to turn down the move as “null and void”.

The status of Jerusalem is the centre of Palestine’s conflict with Israel.

The historic city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.

“I would like to re-assure our commitment to political action and negotiations as a means of achieving our national goals to freedom and independence in accordance with the two- state solution along the lines of 1967 and internationally legitimate resolutions so that both Palestine and Israel can co-exist in peace and security, provided that East Jerusalem is the Capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas said at a joint press statement with Prime Minister Modi.

“We have not and will not reject negotiations ever and we have said and we still say that we are ready to engage in negotiations, the formation of a multi-lateral mechanism that is produced by an international peace convention is the most ideal way to broker such negotiations,” the 82-year-old Palestinian leader said.

With a multi-lateral mechanism, Abbas was referring to a framework that would apparently replace the US’ long-standing monopoly as a mediator in the vexed Middle East peace talks.

President Abbas received Modi who said that India hopes for Palestine to soon become a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful environment.

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine, re-assured Abbas that “we are committed to take care of the cause and well-being of Palestinian people”.

The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their future capital.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.