Abbas turns down suggested meet with Rivlin in Brussels
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Abbas turns down suggested meet with Rivlin in Brussels

As both leaders visit Belgium to address EU parliament, PA leader declines European invitation for sit-down with Israeli president

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas addresses the media at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THIERRY CHARLIER)
President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas addresses the media at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THIERRY CHARLIER)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas turned down an invitation to meet with President Reuven Rivlin while the two leaders are in Brussels, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Rivlins office told The Times of Israel the Palestinian leader “refused to accept a European initiative to set a meeting between the two.”

Earlier this week, European Parliament President Martin Schulz sought to arrange what would have been the first meeting between Rivlin and Abbas as both visited the European capital to address MEPs on regional peace initiatives.

After speaking with Rivlin on Wednesday, Schulz told reporters he hoped the two leaders would cross paths when Abbas arrived at the assembly later that evening.

“I hope (Abbas) will arrive in due time before President Rivlin will leave, so my answer to you is that the diplomatic progress I wish depends a bit on the timetables of both,” he said.

“If we achieve that both are crossing the floor in the European Parliament, I think they will not run away from each other so I will do my best,” Schulz added.

Rivlin interjected: “I can assure you that I will not run away.”

President Reuven Rivlin listens as President of the European Union Parliament Martin Schulz speaks during a joint press conference, after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels, June 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)
President Reuven Rivlin listens as President of the European Union Parliament Martin Schulz speaks during a joint press conference, after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels, June 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

The European Union has been pressing hard to get the stalled Middle East peace process back on track based on a two-state solution.

EU foreign ministers on Monday backed a French initiative to call an international conference on the Middle East, aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian talks which have been deadlocked since 2014.

On Wednesday, Rivlin told MEPs the French plan suffered from “very fundamental faults” and was doomed to fail.

“The French initiative suffers from fundamental faults. The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” Rivlin said.

Like other international initiatives to reach a peace agreement, the president said the plan’s inflexible “all or nothing” approach to the implementation of a two-state solution ignores the total lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians.

Rivlin urged EU nations to instead show patience and facilitate trust-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abbas spoke to the plenary on Thursday, calling for a two-state solution and backing the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for normalization of ties with Israel in exchange for a full West Bank pullout and other concessions.

As part of the French initiative, earlier this month representatives from 28 Arab and Western countries, the Arab League, the European Union and the United Nations met in Paris to discuss ways in which the international community could help advance the Palestinian-Israel peace process. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to attend the meeting, which aimed to lay the ground for a full-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.

AFP contributed to this report.

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