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Israel's Netanyahu Briefs Putin On Trump's Middle East Plan

Updated

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow on January 30.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.

Netanyahu made a stopover in the Russian capital on January 30 after visiting Washington where U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited proposals the previous day.

The plan met with wild praise by the Israeli leader but was greeted coolly at the United Nations and European Union and with anger by Palestinians and others.

Meeting Putin in the Kremlin, Netanyahu described his Moscow visit as symbolizing "further strengthening relations" and said he wanted to hear the Russian leader's "insights" about the U.S. peace plan.

"You are the first leader I am speaking with after my visit in Washington for Trump's deal of the century," he said. "I think there is a new opportunity here, maybe even unique opportunity."

The prime minister also thanked Putin for what he said was a "swift" decision to grant pardon to a U.S.-Israeli national jailed in Russia on drug charges.

"We will have a chance to say a few words about our bilateral relations," said Putin, who did not mention the peace plan in his public remarks.

Trump's plan would give Israel control over Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley and it declared Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital."

It also spoke of the possibility of an independent Palestine with its capital in parts of eastern Jerusalem, but set a series of conditions that must be first met by the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas immediately rejected the plan as too pro-Israel and said the Palestinians would prefer to continue peace talks with neutral brokers.

Palestinians have said they do not consider Washington to be an impartial player in the decades-long conflict after Trump made what they consider to be pro-Israeli policy decisions.

Russia, meanwhile, has been seeking a larger role in the region and as a mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians in recent years.

Putin met last week with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Bethlehem.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on January 29 said Russia was "ready to continue to undertake all efforts, do everything it can, to reach a viable peace in the Middle East."

On his flight back to Israel, Netanyahu was accompanied by dual Israeli-U.S. citizen Naama Issachar, who had been released earlier in the day from a penal colony in the Moscow region.

Putin on January 29 ​pardoned Naama Issachar, who was serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for smuggling drugs, on "humanitarian principles."

Issacher was arrested at a Moscow airport in April and sentenced to prison in October for possession of 9 grams of marijuana.

Issachar's fate had sparked a wave of sympathy in Israel, and bringing the 26-year-old home after 10 months in prison was a publicity coup for Netanyahu ahead of March 2 elections.

Israeli TV stations screened live coverage of Issachar's arrival at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv.

With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax
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