Abbas declines meeting with Rivlin while both in Brussels


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin expressed regret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declined to meet with him while the two leaders were in Brussels.

Martin Schultz, the parliament’s president, had offered to arrange and mediate the meeting while both Abbas and Rivlin were at the European Union to speak to the Parliament and meet with EU officials.

On Thursday morning, Schultz told Rivlin that Abbas had refused the meeting, the Israeli media reported, citing an unnamed senior Israeli official. Rivlin said he had welcomed the initiative.

“I was very sorry to learn that he rejected such a meeting,” Rivlin said at a joint news conference with the EU’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, The Times of Israel reported.

He also said: “On a personal level I find it strange that President Mahmoud Abbas, my friend Abu Mazen, refuses again and again to meet with Israeli leaders,” Rivlin said.  Instead Abbas “turns again and again to the support of the international community.”

“We can talk. We can talk directly and find a way to build confidence,” the Israeli leader said.

Abbas’ office told Haaretz that no meeting had been planned with Rivlin.

In a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday, Abbas blamed global terror on Israel’s control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

“Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear, there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world,” Abbas asserted.

He also reiterated Palestinian Authority support for a two-state solution based on the recent French peace initiative and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

Also in his speech, in off-the-cuff remarks that do not appear in the PA’s official transcript, Abbas accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, a medieval anti-Semitic libel, Reuters reported. Reuters and other news sources could not verify that such a call took place, and the group that Abbas’ office cited as having provided the information denied providing such information.

In his speech to the parliament on Wednesday, Rivlin rejected the French peace initiative, saying it “suffers from fundamental faults.”

“The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” he said.

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