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Palestinian President Abbas visits FC Barcelona to gather support for statehood

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday visited widely popular Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona as he sought to gather international support for the establishment of an independent state.

President Abbas toured the Spanish club’s sport facilities and was briefed about the history and evolution of FC Barcelona.

The Palestinian President met with Barcelona official Carlos Fellarobi and discussed opening a Barcelona soccer school in the West Bank to train young Palestinians.

“Sport is a bridge for peace in the Middle East and a tool to spread love between nations, the Palestinians are a sports loving nation, and one of the peoples that love and follow the Spanish teams as well,” President Abbas said, according to the Palestinian news agencies Ma’an.

President Abbas on Wednesday had visited Real Madrid – another Spanish soccer giant – and expressed hope for cooperation between Spanish and Palestinian soccer teams.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of the most popular football teams across Palestine with both teams enjoying a loyal fan base across the country, according to Ma’an.

President Abbas’ visit was part of a tour in several European countries to mobilize support for a UN vote on an independent Palestinian state.

“Whatever happens and whatever the reaction and the result of our action in the UN, we know conclusively that we will return to the negotiating table to reach the best solutions with the Israelis,” AFP quoted President Abbas as saying during his visit to Barcelona.

“The efforts that we have taken to go to the United Nations in September will not be detrimental to peace nor to negotiations that we want to continue to have,” he added.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told visiting Palestinian president that the bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state was “legitimate” and said Madrid would determine its position “based on the proposals that arise, in a constructive spirit.”

The United States has tried to dissuade the Palestinians from taking unilateral steps saying such moves could jeopardize the peace process.

(Mustapha Ajbaili, Night Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: Mustapha.ajbaili@mbc.net)