A hoped-for first meeting between President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas under EU auspices in Brussels failed to materialize, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
European Parliament head Martin Schulz on Wednesday tried to arrange an meeting between the two leaders, who were in Brussels for talks with top EU officials trying to kick-start stalled Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
"There was no meeting because their timetables did not match up," an aide to Schulz told AFP.
Speaking after talks with Rivlin on Wednesday, Schulz had said that since both he and Abbas would be in parliament later in the day, it would be positive if they met.
But no meeting took place.
"President Abbas is ready to meet any Israeli personality working for peace but such a meeting needs preparation, which was not the case here, and it should not be done via the media," a Palestinian diplomat said.
Rivlin said he was "very sorry to learn (Abbas) rejected such a meeting … I was very happy to welcome the initiative."
"I must say I find it strange that President Mahmud Abbas… refuses again and again to meet Israeli leaders," he said.
Rivlin said direct talks between the two sides were the only answer, not the international forum that Abbas — and the European Union — supports as the best way to reach a peace deal.
EU foreign ministers on Monday backed a French initiative to call an international conference on the Middle East aimed at restarting peace talks deadlocked since 2014.
AFP contributed to this report