President Park Geun Hye Meets with Palestinian Leader

David Lee, Feb. 18, 2016, 9:28 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye met with visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to discuss bilateral ties, presidential officials said. "The two leaders exchanged opinions on their mutual interests, including the Palestinian situation," presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said before the meeting. Abbas arrived in South Korea earlier in the day for a three-day visit after traveling to Japan. It marks the second visit by the leader to South Korea after the previous one in 2010.

Abbas also held a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between the two countries' parliaments. "The relations between the two countries will develop to the next level through exchanges between their parliaments," Chung said, expressing hope to meet a Palestinian parliamentary speaker at the Inter Parliamentary Union meeting next month. South Korea set up a diplomatic mission in Palestine in 2005, recognizing the Palestinian National Authority as the sole legitimate administrative organization to govern the area.

"I highly value the many kinds of support South Korea gave us that helped us establish peace in Palestine," Abbas said. In talks with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the Middle East leader praised Asia's fourth largest economy for its stellar record of growth and expressed his thanks to the Seoul government for pledging to support Palestine in the future. He then said that North Korea's recent provocations cannot be tolerated.

At the dinner talks, the premier pointed out that some 20,000-30,000 South Koreans visit such historical sites as Jerusalem and Bethlehem every year and asked Abbas to take steps to ensure their safety. Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, accompanying Abbas, plans to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, on Friday, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The two sides are expected to discuss ways to strengthen practical cooperation in fields such as the economy and development, and assess the recent increase in high-level visits between their countries, ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said during a press briefing. Korean Peninsula and Middle Eastern affairs will also be on the agenda, he added.

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