Abbas: Israel not responding to international peace efforts
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Abbas: Israel not responding to international peace efforts

PA president tells delegation of Mexican Jews that Russia will keep trying to set up summit, despite scrapping of Friday’s talks in Moscow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) behind Comoros' President Ikililou Dhoinine during the family photo during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on November 30, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MARTIN BUREAU)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) behind Comoros' President Ikililou Dhoinine during the family photo during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on November 30, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MARTIN BUREAU)

Israel failed to respond to current regional and international efforts to revive the peace process while the Palestinians responded positively, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a Mexican Jewish delegation in his de facto West Bank capital of Ramallah.

Abbas told the delegation that Russia will continue in its efforts to arrange a summit for him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but did not specify a date, Israel Radio reported Saturday.

The Russian foreign ministry said Thursday that Netanyahu and Abbas agree “in principle” to meet in Moscow. According to Russian media reports, the two leaders are willing to sit down for a face-to-face meeting in a bid to revive peace talks.

The PA president also said a French plan for an international peace conference by the year’s end was a vital opportunity to salvage the peace process, and called on the international community to both support it and work to guarantee its success.

Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014 and the two leaders have apparently not held talks in person since 2010, although there have been unconfirmed reports of secret meetings. The two did speak briefly at the United Nations Climate Change Conference outside Paris in November. Abbas has demanded Israel release Palestinian prisoners and freeze settlement building before any summit takes place, while Netanyahu has said he is willing to meet without preconditions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

But the PA leader’s top political adviser told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that Abbas had forgone his long-held preconditions and had been planning in earnest to meet Netanyahu in Moscow on Friday, but the summit was spiked by Israel.

“There were no preconditions. That was very clear. When [Russian President Vladimir] Putin invited the two sides, he said, ‘No preconditions.’ President Abbas approved that, and he said so very clearly [on Tuesday] when he was in Warsaw,” Majdi al-Khalidi said in a phone interview.

According to Israel Radio, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub also told Palestinian TV on Friday night that Netanyahu thwarted the summit in Moscow. Now, he said, the ball is in Netanyahu’s court.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on June 8, 2014. (AP/MENA)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on June 8, 2014. (AP/MENA)

The idea of direct talks in Moscow was first floated by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in August, when he said that Putin was willing to play host.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that while the offices of Abbas and Netanyahu have agreed to meet in the Russian capital, it’s not clear when that will happen.

“The most important thing is to pick the right timing,” Zakharova told reporters. “Intensive contacts on this are ongoing.”

“We are convinced that there is a need to resume the negotiations, which would be a factor serving the interests in normalizing the situation,” she added, according to the TASS news agency.

The efforts to broker a meeting between the two became further complicated Wednesday following an Israeli report that Soviet documents suggest Abbas was a KGB spy in Damascus in the 1980s, during the time that Mikhail Bogdanov, today Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East, was stationed there. Abbas’s Fatah movement dismissed the report as an Israeli “smear campaign.”

Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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