WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that "now is the time" to work toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The two leaders spoke on the phone shortly before Putin met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to statements released by both the White House and the Kremlin, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was an important part of the conversation between the two leaders.
In the statement, the White House said that after Trump offered his condolences to Putin for the fatal plane crash that took place in Moscow over the weekend, the Russian President noted his meeting with Abbas later in the day, "and President Trump said that now is the time to work toward an enduring peace agreement."
During their meeting, Abbas told Putin he could no longer accept the role of the United States as a mediator in talks with Israel because of Washington's behaviour, the Interfax news agency reported.
"We state that from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the U.S. in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions," Abbas told Putin at the start of talks in Moscow. He said last week that he hoped Russia could assume a greater role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying the United States "can no longer play a leading role."
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Putin mentioned the call with Trump at the start of his meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.
He said: "Naturally we spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement" and told Abbas: "I would like to convey to you his best wishes."
Putin met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two weeks ago in Moscow. Russia has managed to maintain robust relations with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority government, as well as Israeli rivals Syria and Iran.
The region's situation is "far from what we want to see," Putin said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
Trump honored a campaign promise in December by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and vowing to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.
The move outraged Palestinians and others across the Muslim world. Palestinian leaders have said it means Washington can no longer serve as a Mideast peace broker.
Reuters contributed to this report.