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Russian president backs modern Palestinian state

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday pledged his nation's continued support in helping the Palestinians acquire a modern, unified and sovereign state.

Medvedev, who was in Amman for talks with King Abdullah II, also found time on the final day of his two-day trip to the region to take a dip in the Jordan River in commemoration of Jesus' baptism.

In a statement released by the royal palace after his meeting with Abdullah, Medvedev was quoted as telling the king that Moscow "will do its utmost to achieve a permanent peace in the Middle East."

The Russian leader's visit comes during a time of deadlock in the U.S.-led Mideast peace efforts.

Moscow is a member of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace makers — along with the U.S., the EU and the U.N. Medvedev met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in the West Bank, where he gave Palestinian aspirations a boost.

"I told my Palestinian friends that our ultimate goal is the creation of a modern, unified and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," Medvedev said Wednesday.

He did not visit Israel during the trip because of a strike by Israeli diplomats.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks briefly resumed in September, but quickly collapsed after a slowdown on Israeli settlement construction expired. The Palestinians say they won't negotiate unless Israel halts all construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured lands sought by the Palestinians for their state.

Israel has rejected calls to renew the freeze, and the Obama administration has been unable to bring the sides together again.

Abdullah stressed the "importance of the Russian role in the Middle East, which significantly contributed to the region's stability in the past," according to the statement.

"We will continue to welcome an effective and central Russian role in attaining stability in the region, resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and achieving a two-state solution," Abdullah said.

The two leaders also discussed closer economic and energy cooperation, including possible Russian investment in Jordan's nascent nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes, the statement said.

It did not elaborate.

Official statistics show that two-way trade exchange reached $233 million in 11 months last year, the bulk of it is Jordanian imports of mainly Russian wheat, barely, wood, cars and spare parts. Jordan's exports to Russia included vegetables, pharmaceuticals and hygiene products.

Russian media reported that Medvedev also took a dip in the Jordan River on Wednesday in a commemoration of Jesus' baptism.

Russia's RIA Novosti and ITAR-Tass said Medvedev was dunked three times — in line with Orthodox tradition — at a site in western Jordan where Jesus is said to have been baptized by John the Baptist.

No other details were available.

Two Jordanian officials said the event was closed to the media at the request of Russian officials, who said the president wanted privacy. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to brief the press.

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Associated Press writer James Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.