By Elena Teslova and Anees Bargouthi
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed "in principle" to meet in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
"Netanyahu and Abbas have agreed in principle to meet in Moscow," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a weekly press conference.
Both sides are trying to find a suitable time for the meeting, and contacts are ongoing in this regard, she added.
Abbas on Tuesday said he had agreed to meet Netanyahu in the Russian capital as part of efforts aimed at reviving the stalled peace talks.
"Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a meeting on Sept. 9 in Moscow and I agreed to it," Abbas told a joint conference with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
He added, however, that Netanyahu had asked to postpone the meeting. "So there will be no meeting for now," Abbas said.
The Palestinian leader went on to assert that he was ready to meet Netanyahu anywhere.
"I only care about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said.
On Monday, Netanyahu met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Jerusalem to discuss Russian offers to host a meeting between him and Abbas in Moscow.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli prime minister was "ready" to meet Abbas directly and without preconditions.
On Thursday, however, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat told Anadolu Agency that no date had yet been set for the meeting.
"The Russians are making every effort to organize the meeting, and we’ve been cooperating with them positively," Erekat told Anadolu Agency by phone.
He asserted, however, that Netanyahu had replied to the Russian initiative by approving yet more Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.
While Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was "exerting efforts to resume peace talks, Netanyahu issued tenders for the construction of new Jewish-only settlements in Hebron [Al-Khalil] and East Jerusalem," Erekat said.
"The Israeli government has chosen settlement construction over the peace process," he added. "Therefore, no date has been set for the Abbas-Netanyahu meeting in Moscow or anywhere else."
U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in 2014 when the latter objected to the formation of a Palestinian unity government that included members of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007.