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Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Says Abbas willing to meet Netanyahu in Moscow

Sept. 3, 2016 2:42 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2016 10:59 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Amid reports that Russia would be willing to host a meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia said Saturday that the Palestinian leadership would be open to joining the meeting.

Ambassador Abd al-Hafith Nufal told Ma'an that the Palestinian leadership would be willing, “in principle,” to take part in the meeting “sought-after by Russia” to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The ambassador said that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov had met with President Abbas in Amman almost two weeks ago, and expressed Russia’s desire to contribute to direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

He added that Bogdanov is set to visit Israel on Monday, and will meet with Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of holding a meeting in Moscow.

"We want peace and are willing to fulfill Russia's request to take part in the meeting, the ball is now in Israel's course to resume negotiations,” Nufal told Ma’an.

Nufal added that the talks with Russia will not be an alternative to the ongoing French peace initiative, but will rather “build the basis for a new stage [in negotiations] and will complement international initiatives to resume peace talks.”

According to Nufal, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will visit the occupied Palestinian territory in November to meet with Palestinian officials and discuss bilateral relations.

Over the past several months, France has been leading renewed peace efforts between Palestine and Israel with the aim of solving the decades-long conflict between the countries.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staunchly rejected the multilateral French initiative in April, saying the “best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations."

Prior to Russia’s recent interest in conducting bilateral negotiations, Netanyahu had welcomed Egypt’s bilateral efforts through restarting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly expressed support for the French initiative, and in April shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN out of fear that doing so could thwart progress of new French proposals, causing outrage among various Palestinian political factions.

All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.

The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014.

Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel's ongoing settlement building and the government's refusal to release veteran prisoners.

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