Netanyahu Says Willing to Meet With Abbas Any Time, but Without Preconditions

Prime minister didn’t deny there was an offer to hold a meeting in Moscow this week, but claims the Palestinian president keeps on setting preconditions. Earlier, Abbas said that he agreed to the Russian proposal but that Israel asked to delay it.

AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' remarks on a possible meeting between the two during a press conference he held together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague on Tuesday.

Netanyahu didn’t deny that there was an offer to convene such a meeting in Moscow this week, but claimed that Abbas continues to pose preconditions for such a meeting to take place.

"I'm ready to meet with Abu Mazen at any time, without preconditions, for direct talks," Netanyahu said, referring to Abbas. "It's something I've said hundreds of times and I'm saying it again here. I'm not picky about the location – whether it's here in the Netherlands or in Moscow, there's no problem. It can definitely be in Moscow. I said it to President [Vladimir] Putin and I said it to the Russian envoy [Mikhail] Bogdanov only yesterday."

Netanyahu added that "the main question is whether Abu Mazen's willing to meet without preconditions. We hear conflicting versions about it. Only yesterday, Palestinian spokespeople clarified that they're ready to meet, but they have conditions – the release of prisoners, and they also want to know in advance what the results of the talks will be."

"If Abu Mazen wants to meet without preconditions for direct talks, I'm ready at all times. I've been calling on him to so for seven years already, and if he agrees to do so there'll be a meeting," the prime minister added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbas said that a proposed meeting in Moscow with Netanyahu will not be held for now.

"President Putin has proposed a meeting on September 9 in Moscow. I agreed to this and I was to go to Moscow directly from here," Abbas told a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.

"Unfortunately yesterday in Jerusalem president Putin's representative and prime minister Netanyahu's representative held a meeting and prime minister Netanyahu's representative proposed to postpone the meeting for later, so there will be no meeting [on Sept. 9]," Abbas said.

Netanyahu met Monday with the Russian deputy foreign minister for Middle East affairs in Jerusalem on Monday to discuss the possibility of a meeting between Netanyahu in Abbas in Moscow at some point later this year. 

Bogdanov, who was sent to discuss the Russian proposal by Putin, also met 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.