MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday at the start of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he had discussed the Middle East conflict with his US counterpart Donald Trump.
“I just spoke with American President Trump,” Putin told Abbas before continuing the talks behind closed doors. “Obviously, we spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…I would like to convey to you his best wishes,”
The Palestinian leader was visiting Moscow in a bid to secure Putin’s support, after Trump outraged the Palestinians and their allies by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“It is very important for us to know your personal opinion in order to set the record straight and put in place a common approach to solve this problem,” Putin told his guest.
Abbas has refused any contact with Trump’s administration since Washington’s decision at the end of last year.
The December 6 White House declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outraged Ramallah and others across the Muslim world. Palestinian leaders have said it means Washington can no longer serve as a Mideast peace broker.
Trump, on the other hand introduced his decision as merely based on reality. The president stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. Afterward, however, he said several times that his decision had taken Jerusalem “off the table.”
“Given the atmosphere created by the United State’s actions, we… refuse any cooperation with the United States as a mediator,” Abbas told Putin.
“In case of an international meeting, we ask that the United States be not the only mediators, but just one of the mediators.”
The PA has been trying to convince Russia to play a much more prominent role in the peace talks since Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.
Earlier this month, Abbas met in his Ramallah office with two senior Russian officials, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the security council, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj also attended the meeting.
Abbas told them that the PA was interested in developing and strengthening its relations with Russia. He also expressed appreciation for Russia’s support for the Palestinians in various areas, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Abbas emphasized the importance of Russia’s political stance, due to its “great weight in the international arena and as part of the Quartet, which should continue to play a fair and just role,” Wafa quoted him as saying.
Wafa quoted the Russian officials as saying that Putin was looking forward to his meeting with the PA president. The envoys also affirmed Russia’s continued support for the Palestinians and efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, it said.
Monday’s meeting with Putin came two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Moscow.