Netanyahu doubts Abbas claim he was ready to meet in Moscow
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Netanyahu doubts Abbas claim he was ready to meet in Moscow

PM accuses Palestinians of contradicting selves on willingness for summit; Russian envoy says Netanyahu requested postponement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte give a press conference in The Hague, September 6, 2016. (AFP/ANP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte give a press conference in The Hague, September 6, 2016. (AFP/ANP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of not actually wanting to have a face to face meeting, amid conflicting reports from Jerusalem and Ramallah over Israeli and Palestinian willingness for a Moscow summit.

Netanyahu’s comments came after both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared their willingness to face-to-face talks then appeared to blame each other for dodging a proposed meet-up in Moscow.

Abbas said earlier in the day that he was willing to meet Netanyahu, but claimed the Israeli prime minister moved the meeting, thus nixing it.

“Netanyahu’s representative proposed to delay this meeting to a later date. So the meeting will not happen, but I am ready and I declare again that I will go to any meeting,” Abbas said at a joint press conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

But Netanyahu responded that the Palestinian demands for preconditions to the talks had derailed the possible summit.

“Is Abbas prepared to meet without preconditions? We hear contradictory versions on that,” he said at a press conference alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague. “Just yesterday Palestinian spokespeople clarified that they are prepared to meet but that they have conditions — the release of prisoners and they also want to know beforehand what will be the end result of the talks, and such like.”

On Monday night, as reports swirled that Abbas had agreed to meet Netanyahu, two senior Palestinian officials said the Palestinian leader had not agreed to a meeting, and was awaiting Israel’s response to its preconditions — that Jerusalem commit to a settlement freeze and a prisoner release.

Netanyahu claimed that, unlike Abbas, he was willing to meet at any time and anywhere, given that there were no preconditions.

“This is something I have said hundreds of times and I say it again here. I am not choosy about the location — if it is here in Holland or Moscow, that is no problem. It can certainly be in Moscow,” he said. “If Abbas wants to meet without preconditions for direct talks I ready at any time. I have been calling on him to do that for seven years already and if he agrees there will be a meeting.”

On Monday, Netanyahu told Russian envoy Mikhail Bogdanov in Jerusalem that he was willing to meet with Abbas without preconditions.

“[Netanyahu] is therefore reviewing the Russian president’s proposal and the timing of a possible meeting,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

Bogdanov spoke to Abbas by phone Tuesday and and agreed to meet next month.

Bogdanov told Abbas that Netanyahu requested the summit in Moscow be postponed during their meeting on Monday, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

The Russian envoy added that Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Abbas’s role as “positive,” and said the two would remain in touch in order to organize a bilateral meeting at the United Nation General Assembly next month in New York.

Abbas’s official spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Netanyahu “had once again shown a lack of seriousness in searching for a just peace based on the two-state solution.”

Abbas claim that he had been willing to meet Netanyahu before the scheduling difficulties appeared to suggest that he has softened his longstanding insistence on the preconditions.

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

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)

Netanyahu has shown no signs he is willing to consider Abbas’s demands, and has reiterated multiple times that there would be no Israeli preconditions for such a meeting.

Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

The last substantial public meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu is thought to have been held in 2010, though there have been unconfirmed reports of secret meetings since then.

AFP contributed to this report.

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