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PM denies calling Arab peace plan ‘universally acceptable’

Netanyahu’s office says 2002 initiative was not mentioned at all during Putin meeting, contradicting claim by Russian FM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with  Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on June 7, 2016. (Haim Zach / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on June 7, 2016. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Wednesday denied telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that he found the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “universally acceptable,” rejecting a claim made a short time earlier by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“The Arab initiative was not discussed at all in the conversation with President Putin,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, referring to Netanyahu’s Tuesday meeting with Putin at the Kremlin.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has already previously stated that the initiative needs to be amended, particularly in light of the dramatic changes that have occurred in the region since 2002,” the statement continued. “In any event, no Arab initiative can be used to dictate [terms] to Israel, but rather it is a subject for discussion between Israel and the countries of the region with the aim of promoting regional peace with the Arab states.”

Speaking at a joint press conference in Moscow ahead of talks with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki, Lavrov said Netanyahu had dubbed the initiative “universally acceptable” during his talks with Putin, the Russian state-run news agency Interfax reported.

“I see hope in the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu referred yesterday during his meeting with Putin to the Arab Peace initiative as a positive step that could greatly help. I did not, however, hear him demand any amendments to the peace initiative,” Lavrov said, according to Channel 10 news.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) talks to his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki as they enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow on June 8, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) talks to his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki as they enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow on June 8, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV)

The initiative, first drafted by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and later endorsed by the Arab League, calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War in return for normalized ties with the entire Arab and Muslim world. In 2013, the Arab League showed some flexibility in allowing that, to reach a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps could be possible.

Netanyahu said last month that he welcomed the concept of the plan, but stopped short of a full endorsement.

Lavrov told reporters that Russia is “committed to a two-state solution,” and said that the issue of growing terrorism needs to be addressed within the framework of a peace agreement.

“Regretfully, the situation has not improved since the time of your previous visit,” Lavrov told Maliki, the state-run TASS news agency said. “We are convinced that all the parties concerned should exert necessary efforts to correct the situation. We are committed to a two-state solution in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions and the agreements concluded by the sides.”

During his Tuesday meeting with Netanyahu, Putin expressed support for a “comprehensive and just” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Netanyahu after their talks at the Kremlin, Putin backed the two-state solution and Israel’s counter-terrorism efforts.

“We will be partners in the struggle against terrorism,” he said.

Netanyahu headed to Moscow on Monday for a two-day trip during which he was holding his fourth meeting with Putin in less than a year. The prime minister on Wednesday visited Moscow armored tank museum, where he inspected the IDF tank captured in the First Lebanon War in 1982, which Putin has returned to Israel.

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