Itongadol.- A source close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denied Monday that he had agreed to direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Russia.
Earlier Interfax news agency cited the Palestinian embassy in Moscow as saying on Monday that Abbas would agree to such a meeting.
I have not hear about that,” the senior source said, "There are Russian efforts led by President Vladimir Putin through his envoy Mikhail Bogdanov. He is now meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian sides. And after these consolations are completed, it is certain that the Russian side will make a statement.
Netanyahu\’s office said earlier on Monday the prime minister was considering an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to host the talks between the Israeli leader and Abbas. The last Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
During a meeting in Jerusalem with Michael Bogdanov, Russia\’s special envoy to the Middle East, Netanyahu discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin\’s offer to host the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
According to the Prime Minister\’s Office, Netanyahu underlined to Bogdanov that he has always maintained the position that he is prepared to meet directly with Abbas, without preconditions, and therefore he is considering the proposed meeting and the timing of such a convening.
On Saturday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority is not opposed, in principle, to a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu.
“It has been confirmed to a number of countries in recent days that there is no obstacle in principle to convening a meeting between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Maliki told the Ramallah- based Al-Ayyam daily.
However, the PA minister warned that before a meeting between the two leaders can be held, there are conditions that Israel must fulfill.
In late August, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi initially said Moscow wanted to host talks between Netanyahu and Abbas. Days later, Netanyahu spoke with Putin about the diplomatic process.
The Kremlin issued a brief statement on the phone call, saying that Netanyahu initiated it, and that the two leaders “exchanged opinions on issues surrounding the settlement in the Middle East and current aspects of the general situation in the region.”
According to the statement, “It was agreed to continue intensive Russian-Israeli contacts at various levels.” The Prime Minister’s Office did not issue any read-out at all about the phone call.
Netanyahu and Putin, who have met face-to-face four times in the last year, speak regularly on the phone. Their contacts intensified following Moscow’s military engagement in Syria last September, and much of it has to do with ensuring that Israeli and Russian forces do not accidentally clash in Syria’s skies.
Russia, which is currently taking a much more muscular role in the Mideast – and is perceived by many as trying to replace the US as the central foreign power in the region – has since 2005 expressed an interest in hosting Israeli-Palestinian talks. With Washington leading the diplomatic process, however, that idea never gained any traction.