Agence France-Presse

Narendra Modi on Saturday became the first Indian prime minister to visit the occupied West Bank for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as part of a Middle East tour.

The visit, which comes weeks after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is seen as an Indian effort to balance its strengthening ties with the Jewish state.

Modi and his entourage flew in by helicopter from Jordan, landing near Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters, an AFP reporter said.

The Indian and Palestinian leaders were set to discuss issues including information technology, health and tourism during the brief visit, after which Modi will return to Jordan.

New Delhi has long backed the Palestinian territories’ quest for nationhood and Modi has voiced support for an independent state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

Modi became the first Indian leader in history to visit Israel in July last year, with the two states signing deals on cybersecurity and energy.

India’s refusal to support US moves to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital disappointed Israel but was consistent with its support for the Palestinians.

Modi’s three-day tour will also take him to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf is a critical region for New Delhi. India sources more than half its oil and energy supplies from the region, and around nine million Indians live and work there, sending home billions of dollars in remittances annually.

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