Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Russian deputy foreign minister for Middle East affairs in Jerusalem on Monday to discuss the possibility of a meeting between the prime minister and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow later this year.
Mikhail Bogdanov, who was sent to discuss the Russian proposal by President Vladimir Putin, will also meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Tuesday.
Following the meeting, the prime minister's bureau released a statement saying that Netanyahu told the Russian deputy foreign minister that he is "always willing to meet Abbas without preconditions, which is why he is considering the Russian president's proposal and the timing of a meeting."
The idea to arrange a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas in Moscow was first raised by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi two weeks ago. Sissi told reporters that he had spoken to Putin about the idea and that the Russian president expressed interest in it.
A few days later, Bogdanov held separate meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors. The next day, Netanyahu and Putin spoke on the phone, with the Kremlin saying that the two leaders discussed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Despite the reports about Russian efforts vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it appears that a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas in Moscow is not yet on the horizon. Netanyahu has declared that he is willing to meet with Abbas without preconditions and without having to pay the price for the meeting with gestures like releasing prisoners. Abbas has also said that he is willing to meet with Netanyahu but has demanded that the meeting be more than just a photo opportunity, and that Israel commit to releasing prisoners and freezing settlement construction.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told the Ramallah-based Al Ayyam newspaper that if Israel makes these gestures toward the Palestinians, they won't oppose the meeting between the two leaders. He added, however, that Netanyahu is refusing to meet the conditions, which is why the future of the meeting is in doubt.