In ‘challenge’ to Netanyahu, Erekat says Abbas willing to meet PM anywhere
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But Washington is not an acceptable venue, a PLO source says

In ‘challenge’ to Netanyahu, Erekat says Abbas willing to meet PM anywhere

In response, Israeli official says PM ‘has said on numerous occasions that he is ready to meet Abbas anywhere without preconditions’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before holding direct peace talks at the State Department in Washington, DC, Sept. 2, 2010. (Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images via JTA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before holding direct peace talks at the State Department in Washington, DC, Sept. 2, 2010. (Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anywhere in the world, according to a senior Palestinian official.

“I challenge Mr. Netanyahu [to meet Abbas], officially. He can choose any country, any country on earth. Moscow, Beijing, London, Berlin,” Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle last week. “He will meet him. This is a challenge, a declared challenge.”

Another PLO official, who asked to remain unnamed, said Erekat meant to say Abbas is willing to meet Netanyahu anywhere other than Washington, DC.

“We will not participate in a meeting sponsored by the Trump administration,” the official said.

Both Abbas and Netanyahu have frequently declared their readiness to meet, but have not held formal talks in several years.

The last known encounter between Abbas and Netanyahu was at the funeral of former prime minister Shimon Peres in September 2016, where the two briefly exchanged pleasantries.

The last time Abbas and Netanyahu met formally for negotiations was in September 2010 in Jerusalem.

Saeb Erekat speaks to journalists after a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, at the Royal Palace, in Amman, Jordan, on January 29, 2018. (Khalil Mazraawi, Pool Photo via AP)

When asked if Netanyahu would accept Erekat’s offer, an Israeli official, who also requested anonymity, said the prime minister “has stated on numerous occasions that he is ready to meet Abbas anywhere without preconditions.”

Erekat did not mention any preconditions in his proposal for a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu.

The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in May 2014.

Many officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration have said the US intends to publish a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early next year.

Last week, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said a US peace proposal would be released “at the appropriate time.”

Netanyahu has said he will look at the apparently forthcoming peace plan with an “open mind,” while Abbas has vowed not to consider any US proposal.

In the past year, the Trump administration has infuriated the Palestinians by moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, and closing the PLO representative office in Washington.

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