Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with his visiting counterpart from Luxembourg Xavier Bettel.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could possibly take place in Luxembourg, if not in Moscow, the premier indicated Monday.
In a joint press conference, Netanyahu said his visiting counterpart from Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, had invited him to the small European country. Bettel's visit was his first to Israel.
"Prime Minister Bettel has invited me to Luxembourg, and he said the Palestinians might also come there," Netanyahu said. "Therefore, it's either Moscow or Luxembourg," he asserted in reference to a Russian-offered meeting
between himself and Abbas that has yet to come to fruition.
"We'll see, either one - or any other place," he added, reiterating that Israel is "always ready for direct negotiations without preconditions."
On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Netanyahu and Abbas have agreed “in principle” to meet in Moscow.
The announcement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at a weekly news conference culminated a week of mixed signals from Jerusalem and Ramallah, regarding a meeting under the auspices of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas had said throughout the week that they were interested, but that the other side was putting up obstacles.
Zakharova said that the “main thing now” is to choose “the right moment” for the meeting. “Intensive contacts on this matter are continuing,” she said.
Although Netanyahu said earlier last week in The Hague that he would be willing to meet in Moscow if the Palestinians did not put any preconditions on the talks, there was no word from his office following the Russian Foreign Ministry statement regarding the matter.
Palestinian officials said early in the week as well that Abbas was willing to hold talks without conditions.
Putin’s special Mideast envoy, Mikhail Bogdanov, was in the region this week and held talks with both Netanyahu and senior PA officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah about the idea.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.