'Abbas’s refusal to meet me in Brussels is strange,' Rivlin says

Both men were simultaneously visiting the European Union’s main governmental headquarters to talk with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Rivlin and Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rivlin and Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s odd that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to meet with Israelis leaders, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said upon learning he had been snubbed by the Palestinian leader in Brussels.
“On a personal level I find it strange that President Mahmoud Abbas, my friend Abu Mazen, refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders,” Rivlin said.
Instead Abbas “turns again and again to the support of the international community,” Rivlin said.
“We can talk. We can talk directly and find a way to build confidence,” Rivlin said.
He spoke during a joint press conference with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Both Rivlin and Abbas are simultaneously visiting the European Union’s main governmental headquarters to talk with Mogherini and to address the European Parliament about the possibilities for jump-starting the peace process which has been frozen for the last two years.
But while they walked down the halls of the same buildings to discuss resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there was no interaction between the two men.
German politician Martin Schulz, who heads the European Parliament, attempted to arrange a meeting or even a small exchange between Abbas and Rivlin.
The Israeli President said he was eager for such an exchange, but Abbas rejected Schulz’ initiative.
“I was happy to welcome the initiative by the representative of the EU to set a meeting between me and President Abbas who is also visiting Brussels this very day.
“I was very sorry to learn that he rejected such a meeting.
We will not be able to build trust between us if we do not begin to speak directly and to look at what we can do and what can be done and not at what can not be done,” Rivlin said.
“There is a lot to be done,” he said.
“We must stay focused on the bilateral negotiations between the Palestinians and us. Direct talks is the only possible way to build trust and to resolve the conditions for a peace perspective between Palestinians and Israelis,” Rivlin said.
“There are no short cuts, no detours in the Middle East,” he added.
Mogherini did not address Abbas’s refusal to meet Rivlin, when she spoke with reporters right after Rivlin.
“I will not comment on what Rivlin mentioned about the presence at the same time here in Brussels of himself and President Abbas, but the EU is constantly working, daily with both parties with a sense of friendship.
“We are convinced that yes, we can be friends of Israel and friends of Palestine. This allows us to be bridge builders.
“No one can replace the willingness of the parties to engage in direct negotiations,” Mogherini said.
Israel has persistently called on the Palestinians to hold direct talks and has explained to the international community that the pursuit of any other process only hardens the Palestinian refusal to resume negotiations.
The last peace process that involved direct talks fell apart in April 2014.
The Palestinians have preferred an internalized process and only want to talk with Israel, once the parameters of a final-status agreement have been set.
This includes an understanding that the two-state solution will be at the pre-1967 lines and a timetable for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank.