Holding peace talks is “not one of the priorities” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russia's peace envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov told a Palestinian official Tuesday, adding that the Russian-proposed talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been called off, the Middle East Eye reported.
“Bogdanov told us frankly that Netanyahu not only rejected the Palestinian demands for the meeting—such as a settlements freeze and the release of the pre-Oslo prisoners—but also that a meeting with (President Mahmoud) Abbas is no longer one of his priorities,” the Palestinian official told Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity.
Bogdanov held a meeting with Netanyahu Monday where the prime minister told him he was not interested in peace talks with Palestinians because Abbas had preconditions, the Russian deputy foreign minister told the Palestinian official.
“Netanyahu said his priority now is two things: fighting terrorism and making peace with Arab countries,” he said and added that the Russian envoy quoted Netanyahu as saying, “When I make peace with the Arabs, Abbas will join us—so let him stand alone.”
However, Abbas had agreed to President Vladimir Putin’s offer for talks Monday, while Netanyahu's aid had said the he was still considering the offer.
Despite the behind closed doors confirmation that the Russian talks have collapsed before they even started, Bogdanov told reporters that work continues on "the date, form and content of the meeting" after his meeting with the Palestinian delegation Tuesday.
But Netanyahu publicly used the same words he has been using for the past few years regarding any peace talks with the Palestinians.
“If Abu Mazen (Abbas) 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," Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying Tuesday.
But Abbas aides told reporters that the meeting was unlikely to happen. “When are we going to agree with Netanyahu on the content of the meeting? It’s very difficult,” Jibril Rajoub, an aide to the Palestinian Authority leader, said following the meeting with the Russian delegation.
The current U.S. administration of Barack Obama has given up on attempting to broker any peace talks between Palestinians and Israel after Secretary of State John Kerry threw in the towel in 2014 after nine months of talks ended in failure.
While Russia’s efforts might end before they even get wings, over the years Washington has demonstrated that despite the billions of dollars in aid it provides to Israel every year, successive administrations have failed to use their leverage on Israel to achieve any steps forward on peace.