*UPDATES WITH STATEMENTS DURING PRESS CONF.
RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday for his first official visit to the Palestinian territories.
Modi flew from Jordan aboard a Jordanian military helicopter to Ramallah, where he was welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at al-Muqata, his Ramallah headquarters.
Speaking at a joint press conference after their talks, Abbas said the Palestinians are committed to the peace process as a way to achieve the two-state solution.
“The Palestinians have never refused peace negotiations,” Abbas said, going on to call for the formation of an international committee as a “better way” to sponsor the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
“We count on India’s role and influence in the international community to help accomplish peace in our region,” he said.
“We are committed to the political ways and negotiations as a way to gain our freedom and establish our independent State in the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
The Indian Prime Minister, for his part, underlined the strength of relations between India and the Palestinians, saying that India’s support for the Palestinian cause has become a constant focus in New Delhi’s foreign policy.
In earlier statements to Anadolu Agency on Saturday, Palestinian Foreign Ministry undersecretary Tayseer Jaradat said talks between the two leaders would focus on Palestinian efforts to get international sponsorship of peace talks with Israel.
“India has a strong influence and very good relations in the international community,” Jaradat said, “We will use the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to continue working for international sponsorship of the peace process,” he added.
The Palestinians have rejected the U.S. sponsorship of peace talks with Israel in the wake of Washington’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- currently occupied by Israel -- might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.