On Tuesday morning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the West Bank city of Bethlehem; the visit was described as “historic”. Several Palestinian officials participated in the special welcome ceremony.Palestinian and Russians officials held a policy meeting just before Presidents Abbas and Putin met in the historic city.

On Monday, the Palestine News Network (PNN) interviewed the Palestinian Ambassador in Russia, Fayed Mustafa, who stated that the talks will be focused mainly on the current impasse in peace talks and Russian efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process.

Mr. Mustafa added that a special agreement regarding the Russian Cultural Museum in Jericho will be signed, as well as other economic agreements that will be implemented in the near future.

PNN reported that Abbas and Putin will also be opening a Russian Cultural Center in Bethlehem, and will dedicate a new junction carrying the name of Putin.

During an earlier interview with the Palestine News & Info Agency (WAFA), Putin stated that Russia will be presenting a new initiative meant to boost the political process.

During an interview with the official Russian News Agency on Monday at night, Abbas stated that Netanyahu never responded to the Palestinian demands regarding the resumption of peace talks or halt settlement construction and expansion policies.

Abbas said that the current impasse in peace talks is caused by Israel’s illegal settlement activities, adding that Netanyahu’s call for the resumption of peace talks is only a public relations maneuver. Israel has shown no commitment to stop its illegal settlement activities.

He added that if Israel really wants peace, it would halt all of its violations, invasions, and its settlement construction and expansion policies.

For his part, Netanyahu stated during a press conference held with Putin after their meeting in Tel Aviv, that “he is willing to go to Ramallah to hold a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas”, and claimed that he is also willing “to welcome Abbas in Jerusalem”.

The Israeli Prime Minister added that “the most important issue is to restart the political process”, PNN reported. He did not promise any halt or even freeze in settlement construction and expansion in the occupied West Bank, and in occupied East Jerusalem.

Putin and Netanyahu also held talks on the so-called Iranian Nuclear file, and stated that “the existence of Iranian nuclear weapons is a threat to security in Israel and the entire world”, Israeli Yedioth Aharonoth reported.

Netanyahu said that the international community must impose more sanctions on Iran, and claimed that Israel seeks peace with the Palestinians and the neighboring countries.