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Russia says willing to organize meeting between Netanyahu, Abbas

Amid growing tensions over new Israeli government’s annexation plans, Russian deputy FM tells PA official that Moscow ready to help ‘in building a constructive’ peace process

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)

A senior Russian official said Saturday that Moscow was willing to organize a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, amid growing tensions between Israel and the PA over the new government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

In a phone call with PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov stressed Russia’s “support of the lawful rights of the Palestinian people for self-determination, including creation of its own independent state within the 1967 borders with the capital in Eastern Jerusalem that would live in peace and good neighborhood with Israel,” according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-owned TASS news agency.

Bogdanov also reiterated Russia’s “readiness to continue efforts… to provide cooperation in building a constructive Palestine-Israeli negotiations process, based on the known international legal basis of the Middle Eastern settlement.”

The statement said al-Sheikh updated Bogdanov about the Palestinians’ latest decisions concerning relations with Israel, seeming to refer to the PA’s announcement it was no longer bound by its agreements with Jerusalem.

Russia has previously offered to host talks between Netanyahu and Abbas, but such a meeting has yet to take place.

Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, speaks with journalists after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Lebanon, December 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The phone call between Bogdanov and al-Sheikh came a day after representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet held talks Friday.

The Quartet, which is made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, did not release a statement after the talks.

According to Channel 13, Bogdanov spoke Thursday with the Israeli Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow, Eli Belotserkovsky, to update him ahead of the Quartet meeting, which was held by video conference.

According to the report, senior Russian officials confirmed that Russia is seeking to promote an international conference with the participation of the quartet, several Arab nations and the Palestinians.

It was unclear whether an invitation would be extended to Israel to attend the conference.

The senior Russian officials said that Israel had been warned several times by Russia that unilateral annexation would lead to an escalation of violence.

On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry issued a call to Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from taking any steps that could lead to regional escalation.

Al-Ayyam, an Arabic language newspaper based in Ramallah has reported that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Abbas on Wednesday to update him about the idea of a meeting on a ministerial level under UN auspices.

According to Channel 13, Abbas told Guterres that the Palestinians would not agree that the meeting be based on the US plan.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a map of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan as he speaks to the UN Security Council at the United Nations headquarters on February 11, 2020 in New York. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

A previous Channel 13 report earlier this week claimed the summit would allow the Palestinian Authority to propose changes to US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which it has rejected out of hand.

The European Union and United Nations were also part of the Russian effort, viewing it as an opportunity to jump-start peace talks and halt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to annex parts of the West Bank that would become part of Israel under the US plan, the report said.

“The only way to stop annexation is to renew contact between the Palestinians and the US government,” a Western diplomat was quoted as saying.

The PA has boycotted the White House since Trump’s 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the transfer of the US embassy to the city, the eastern part of which Palestinians claim for a future state.

The US has since cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians and the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, and closed the PLO representative office in Washington, further drawing the ire of the PA.

Abbas announced Tuesday that the Palestinians were no longer bound by agreements with Israel and the US, citing the new Israeli government’s plan to move forward with annexation plans.

On Friday Palestinian security forces withdrew from areas near East Jerusalem after the PA ended its security coordination with Israel, according to multiple reports.

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