US Secretary of State John Kerry recently prevented a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas from taking place, an Israeli daily reported on Sunday, citing Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The State Department denied the report, which appeared in the Haaretz broadsheet.
Earlier this month Abbas was encouraged by a non-American official to meet with the Israeli prime minister to discuss the stalled peace process, according to unnamed Palestinian and Israeli officials cited by the paper.
The Palestinian Authority president said he would bring up the possibility with the US secretary. Kerry then told him to hold off on any meeting with Netanyahu until after he and Abbas met ahead of the UN General Assembly, scheduled to begin Monday.
Palestinian officials said Kerry sought to ensure American involvement in any peace bid, and therefore asked Abbas to postpone the meeting.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, said Kerry was absorbed in the Iranian nuclear deal and was unable to take on Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
US officials said Kerry intends to dive back into peace talks, but said the Palestinian account was a misrepresentation aimed at deflecting attention away from Abbas’s reluctance to meet Netanyahu.
“The secretary is interested in reengaging on the issue,” a senior US official told Haaretz. “He is talking to a full range of experts and stakeholders to better understand the options as part of our ongoing policy review.”
Kerry and Abbas are both in New York for the UN General Assembly. They are expected to be joined later this week by Netanyahu.
Kerry and Abbas met on Saturday afternoon in New York.
According to Israel Radio, the US secretary sought to persuade the PA president not to drop his promised “bombshell” in his Wednesday address at the UN General Assembly.
Abbas has said he will make an important announcement in his speech, but has not elaborated.
Netanyahu will address the UN General Assembly on Thursday, a day after the PA president.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu said he was willing to meet Abbas “right now” to resume peace negotiations without preconditions.
Secret contacts between Netanyahu and Abbas have been taking place for several months, according to recent reports, including in The Times of Israel. Those reports have been denied by both the PMO and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
American officials, meanwhile have indicated that intensive engagement on the peace process would be resumed after the Iran Deal was inked.
Nine months of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart in April 2014 amid mutual recriminations.