International relations

Palestine president in India ahead of Modi Israel trip

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas landed in New Delhi late Sunday for a three-day visit looking to strengthen ties with India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic trip to Israel.

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives at Palam Air Force Station in New Delhi on May 14, 2017 © (AFP)

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives at Palam Air Force Station in New Delhi on May 14, 2017 © (AFP)

NEW DELHI - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas landed in New Delhi late Sunday for a three-day visit looking to strengthen ties with India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic trip to Israel.

Abbas arrived with a delegation for his third state visit to India, where he will hold key talks on bilateral, regional and international issues, including the peace process in the restive Middle East, according to India's foreign ministry.

On Monday -- day one of his visit -- he will zip to an IT centre in Noida, a satellite city outside the Indian capital, aiming to forge greater cooperation in technology.

He is also slated to make an address at New Delhi's India Islamic Cultural Centre in the evening.

On day two, he will meet with Modi, his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj after a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace and laying a wreath at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.

He is scheduled to head back home on Wednesday.

Abbas and Modi will sign several deals "on cooperation in various areas", the foreign ministry said, without providing specific details.

"India and Palestine enjoy historically close and friendly ties," it said in a statement late Saturday, reiterating India's "political support to the Palestinian cause".

New Delhi is hosting Abbas ahead of Hindu nationalist Modi's unprecedented visit to Israel reportedly in July -- the first-ever by an Indian premier -- with observers calling it a balancing act by India to assuage both sides.

Although there has been no official announcement of his visit so far, Modi told a rally last month that he was "soon going to Israel».

India has traditionally voiced its support for Palestinian statehood, initially shunning diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

The frost has thawed, however, in recent years, with India -- the world's biggest arms importer -- seeking closer defense ties with Israel, a top weapons exporter.