Peres says ready to meet Abbas on Rome trip
JERUSALEM - Israeli President Shimon Peres said Thursday he is prepared to meet with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas if the occasion arises during a trip to Rome.
"We maintain relations with the Palestinian Authority, if I meet him, I will speak to him and shake his hand as is the case between representatives of any entities that maintain friendly ties," Peres told military radio from Rome.
The Israeli president is in the Italian capital for ceremonies celebrating 150 years since the unification of Italy, and Israeli radio reported the possibility of a "summit" between Peres, Abbas and US Vice President Joe Biden.
There were no additional details on the possible summit, and Peres did not confirm that such a meeting would take place.
But he acknowledged that his trip to Italy came as part of Israeli efforts to convince European nations to oppose Palestinian plans to seek United Nations membership for a Palestinian state in September.
"There are difference of opinion between European countries. Europe is not united on this issue. That's why the moment has come to try to wield influence," Peres said.
On Wednesday, Abbas held meetings in Rome with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who arrived in Israel later in the day at the start of a two-day trip.
He is holding talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in an effort to help relaunch stalled peace talks.
In recent months, Paris has floated the possibility of bringing Israeli and Palestinian officials to France for a peace conference that could help kickstart negotiations before the Palestinians go to the United Nations.