JERUSALEM, ISRAEL, March 24, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Wednesday night for a 24-hour trip to Russia, after delaying his departure for a few hours following the bombing attack in Jerusalem, as reported by The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Netanyahu is scheduled to hold separate meetings in Moscow Thursday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The two held meetings in Moscow on Tuesday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in an apparent effort to take a more active and public role in the diplomatic process.
Russia, along with the US, EU and UN, is a member of the Quartet which in recent weeks has made an effort to raise its profile in the diplomatic process. Quartet representatives met twice this month with the PA’s Saeb Erekat, and once with Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho.
The EU’s envoy in Israel, Andrew Standley, said Wednesday that the Quartet feels it has a “role to play” to bring the parties together, and would continue to do so. Standley repeated the Quartet position that if the sides sat down to negotiations, it could be possible to reach an accord by September.
He downplayed the likelihood that the EU would unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, saying “we are not there, that is not the channel of thinking.” Rather, he said, the focus remained on “how to get back to negotiations, and how to engage the sides.”
Standley said that French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’s comment that the possibility of the entire EU recognizing a Palestinian state is something that “should be kept in mind” was not a declaration of EU policy.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, left for Paris Wednesday night for a visit that will include a meeting with Juppe. The new French foreign minister’s comment is sure to be one of the topics of discussion.
Likewise, Lieberman, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, will tell Juppe that Israel expected French support for the IDF’s response to missile attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli population centers.
Lieberman, the statement said, will say that the escalation in missile attacks by Hamas and increasing attempts by Iran to smuggle arms into Gaza are part of an effort to “exploit the situation in the Middle East to threaten and harm Israel.” (*)