Putin envoy talks to Netanyahu about possible summit with Abbas in Moscow

Netanyahu's office said earlier on Monday the prime minister was considering an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to host the talks between the Israeli leader and Abbas.

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September 5, 2016 14:31
2 minute read.
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Netanyahu and Abbas. (photo credit: LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

 
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Contradictory signals emerged from Moscow, Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday following a meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in his office with the special Russian Mideast envoy about a possible meeting in Moscow between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Following the meeting with Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the region, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying that the two discussed the idea of Putin hosting the meeting.

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“The Prime Minister presented Israel’s position that he is always ready to meet with President Abbas directly and without preconditions,” the statement read. “He is therefore reviewing the Russian President’s proposal and the timing of a possible meeting.”

The idea of Putin hosting what would be the first meeting between the two men since 2010 was raised last month when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met the Russian leader in Moscow. Netanyahu and Putin discussed the matter a few days later in a phone call.

Shortly after the Netanyahu-Bogdanov meeting, the Russian Interfax news agency quoted the Palestinian embassy in Moscow as saying that Abbas had agreed to the direct talks.

A senior source close to Abbas, however, quickly denied the report.

“I have not heard about that,” the source said, “There are Russian efforts led by President Vladimir Putin through his envoy Mikhail Bogdanov. He is now meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian sides. And after these consolations are completed, it is certain that the Russian side will make a statement.”

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Bogdanov is scheduled to travel to Ramallah on Tuesday for discussions on the matter with Palestinian officials.

While Netanyahu has said he is willing to meet Abbas anyplace, anytime, the Palestinian leader has said that he would meet Netanyahu only after Israel freezes settlement construction and releases the final tranche of Palestinian prisoners that were to have been released in 2014 had the negotiations led by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the time run their course.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly in recent weeks that Jerusalem will not make concessions to the Palestinians “just for the privilege of holding a meeting” with Abbas.

Russia, which is currently taking a much more muscular role in the Mideast – and is perceived by many as trying to replace the US as the central foreign power in the region – has since 2005 expressed an interest in hosting Israeli-Palestinian talks. However, with Washington leading the diplomatic process, the idea has, to this point, never gained much traction.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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