Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for refusing to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Brussels on Thursday.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas) had shown his true face in Brussels,” a statement sent from the prime minister’s office read on Thursday, Xinhua reported.
“Those who refuse to meet the president and the prime minister for direct negotiations, and those who spread blood libel in the European parliament, are lying when they say their hands are outstretched for peace,” the statement read.
Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turned down an invitation to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, as the two are currently in Brussels.
The offer was delivered to Abbas by the European Parliament President Martin Schultz, who urged Rivlin several weeks ago to meet with Abbas.
A senior Israeli official told the Ha’aretz daily that Schultz announced Abbas’ decline to Rivlin on Thursday, on the last day of latter’s visit to the Belgian capital.
The Israeli president spoke in front of the European Parliament on Wednesday. In his speech, he accused the Palestinian Authority of its ineffectiveness to rule the Palestinians and blamed the failure of the peace talks on them.
The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ended abruptly without results in April 2014, with both sides blaming each other for the talks’ failure.
There is growing international pressure to restart the peace process, after nine months of ongoing violence which claimed the lives of 32 Israelis and 205 Palestinians.
One of the initiatives currently discussed is the French peace initiative, which seeks to hold an international peace conference later this year that aims to resume negotiations between Israeli and the Palestinians.
While the Palestinians support the bid, Israel rejects it, saying the international forum is not the way to reach peace but rather direct negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had stated the forum would allow Palestinians to “avoid” direct talks and set preconditions for negotiations.
Instead, Israeli officials made statements recently alluding to a possible process to be set in motion by regional Arab states, led by Egypt, in accordance with the 2002 Saudi peace initiative.
The 2002 initiative offers full normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states in the region in exchange for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
With that, an upcoming report by the Middle East Quartet (a forum including the US, EU, United Nations and Russia), set to be released soon, is expected to draw harsh criticism on Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, and its Jewish settlements.
Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip territories, home to more than five million Palestinians, during the 1967 Mideast War. The international community views the Jewish settlements in these lands as illegal.
Israeli leaders charge the ongoing wave of violence is the result of the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence, whereas the Palestinians charge it is the result of the 49 years of Israeli occupation on lands on which they wish to establish a Palestinian state.