BEIRUT

Middle East

Hawkish new Israel president ready to meet Abbas

Israel's newly elected President and former Minister and Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin greets supporters as he arrives to visit at the Western Wall in the Jerusalem's Old City June 10, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/Menahem Kahana)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's hawkish president-elect Reuven Rivlin, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, has said that he is willing to meet Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, a newspaper reported Thursday.

"I met with Abu Mazen (Abbas) in the past on a number of occasions and I will also meet with him in the future," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Rivlin as saying.

"We both realize that direct dialogue is the condition for our Middle East to be a safe place," he said Wednesday at a three-day conference in occupied Jerusalem for Jewish media.

Rivlin said that he received a letter from Abbas after he was elected on June 10 to succeed elder statesman Shimon Peres, whose term ends in late July.

Yediot published what it said was an image of the letter, in Arabic, which congratulated Rivlin and called for a peace agreement and an independent Palestine.

The incoming president is a staunch backer of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and has never hidden his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Settlements were a key issue that derailed the latest round of U.S.-backed peace talks in April after nine months of fruitless negotiations.

Rivlin, a former military intelligence officer and lawyer by profession, was quoted in 2010 as saying he would "rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution."

 

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