Netanyahu Heads to Paris Conference, Meeting With Putin Not Set Up Yet

Netanyahu and Macron are slated to meet on Monday ■ Netanyahu's bureau has unsuccessfully attempted to set up a meeting with Russian president

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change, Paris, November 30, 2015.
AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take off Saturday night from Israel and join tens of world leaders at the Paris Peace Forum, hosted by French President Emmmanuel Macron.

Netanyahu and Macron are slated to meet on Monday.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu's bureau unsuccessfully attempted to organize a meeting between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the event. According to reports from Russia, Putin declined to meet Netanyahu at the forum.

Netanyahu and Putin have yet to meet since the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syria in September, following an Israeli strike in the country. The two however have spoken on the telephone.

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Israel blamed the incident on Syrian recklessness, while the Russian embassy in Israel said the Air Force's actions were "irresponsible and unfriendly" and exposed the downed plane to danger.

Two weeks ago a senior diplomatic official said he expects Netanyahu will meet Putin in Paris. "We believe there's a good chance the meeting will happen there," the source said. "It's convenient, but not yet set." Netanyahu said in October that he had agreed with Putin, "to meet in the near future in order to continue important security coordination between the countries' armies."

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said earlier this week that the structure of the conference, the tight schedule and the absence of side rooms create conditions not conducive for side meeting between leaders.

French sources told Haaretz that the conference's schedule is indeed tight but that they "have no objection to, or influence over, leaders meeting."

Netanyahu contemplated cancelling his trip to Paris because of the limited possibility of private meetings between leaders at the conference, but ultimately decided to attend.

U.S. President Donald Trump is also expected to participate in the conference.

Israel Television News Company correspondent, Amnon Abramovitz, reported Friday that Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros' organization, Open Society, is among the donors to the conference. Both Trump and Netanyahu have been vocal critics of Soros in recent years.