Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a senior Russian official he would look into the possibility of meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow, Netanyahu’s office said Monday.
Netanyahu met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Jerusalem to discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to host him and Abbas in Moscow for direct talks, the first in six years.
“The prime minister presented Israel’s position that he is always ready to meet with President Abbas directly and without preconditions,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
“He is therefore reviewing the Russian president’s proposal and the timing of a possible meeting.”
Bogdanov said “formats, dates and venues” for a possible meeting were being discussed, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported.
“The work goes on, contacts are in progress. Different options of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement are being explored, including personal contacts,” he said.
“Vigorous efforts in all directions are being made,” he added.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas would be the first parley between the two in some six years. The Russian proposal is the latest in a series of international initiatives aimed at jumpstarting moribund peace talks.
French special envoy Pierre Vimont is slated to arrive in Cairo next week on a similar mission. He will meet with foreign ministers from several Arab states and the PA to discuss holding a major multilateral peace conference in Paris before the end of 2016.
Bogdanov, who is Russia’s special presidential representative for the Middle East and Africa, is to also visit the Palestinian Authority during his stay in the area.
During the meeting, Netanyahu and Bogdanov were expected to discuss other regional issues as well, including Russia’s direct military involvement in the Syrian civil war on behalf of President Bashar Assad who is battling a five-year long insurgency.
Last week a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization praised Russia as a more “credible” and “balanced” third-party facilitator for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks than the US.
“Russia can fulfill a positive, credible and more balanced role,” Ahmad Majdalani told the el-Raad television station, “since the US is not at all interested in pressuring Israel, which is carrying out its policy in the region.”
The latest flurry of peace initiatives was also reportedly raised Thursday in a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and US Secretary of State John Kerry in New Delhi, where both were on official visits.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2014. Palestinians have demanded as preconditions to the restarting of talks a freeze in settlement construction and the release by Israel of a fourth batch of prisoners promised during negotiations in 2014.
Netanyahu has said he is prepared to meet Abbas “anytime” but without agreeing to any preconditions.