Netanyahu turns down Russian offer of summit with Abbas – report

PM said to reject idea of Putin-hosted meeting in Moscow since he doesn’t want to undermine Trump’s peace plan

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a Russian proposal to set up an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in Moscow, explaining that he first wants to make the most of the US administration’s long-awaited peace plan, according to an Israeli TV report Thursday.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas for talks in 2016, both leaders expressed willingness to meet each other face-to-face, but Moscow’s efforts to broker the meeting became bogged down amid mutual accusations that the other side was unwilling to negotiate.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday met Netanyahu in Israel for talks on southern Syria. Channel 10 news reported Thursday that the two leaders also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Russian diplomats and senior Israeli officials.

The report came amid a US push to jumpstart a regional peace plan that has been blackballed by the Palestinian Authority amid anger over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US embassy there in May.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, have toured the region but did not meet with any Ramallah officials. The Palestinians refused to meet with the Trump officials, and PA leaders have criticized the Trump negotiating team.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and PM Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, July 23, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Lavrov told Netanyahu that Putin had reintroduced his peace summit proposal in a July 14 meeting with Abbas, who said he was willing to participate, the report said.

But when asked whether he would be willing to attend a Putin-hosted summit in Moscow, Netanyahu reportedly said he had no objection to meeting Abbas in principle, but didn’t want to undermine the Trump administration by holding such a summit before Washington introduces its peace plan.

“I first want to make the most of the US proposal,” Netanyahu told Lavrov, according to the report.

Netanyahu and Abbas have not met for substantive talks since 2010, and regional peace efforts have continued to falter since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Tamar Pileggi and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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