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Palestinian, Russian Presidents Meet in Bid for New Peace Talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Russian President Vladimir Putin near the Black Sea resort of Sochi Monday, seeking support for renewed peace talks with Israel.

The Palestinian president says he is meeting with Mr. Putin in hopes of reviving the stalled peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Mr. Abbas called for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to agree to new talks "in a bid to find a peaceful resolution" to the Middle East conflict.

The Palestinian leader received a warm welcome from Mr. Putin at the Russian leader's country retreat near the southern resort city of Sochi.

In televised greetings, Mr. Putin said he was "very happy" to receive the Palestinian leader, and seek ways to solve the Palestinians' problems, including economic hurdles.

Russia recently sent $10 million in aid to an account controlled by Mr. Abbas.

Russian officials say this was intended to help Palestinians cope with a severe financial crisis, since the United States and European Union cut off aid to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Both are demanding that the radical group renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Russia has criticized this approach, and has also held talks with Hamas leaders.

The recent money transfer and summit meeting appear to be a way to also bolster support for Mr. Abbas, who at times has been at odds with the Hamas government.

In recent years, Mr. Putin has sought to increase Russia's role in the Middle East peace process.

Russia is a member of the so-called Middle East "Quartet," which also includes the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations. Last week the Quartet said it would establish a temporary financial mechanism to funnel aid to the Palestinians.

From Russia, Mr. Abbas travels to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.