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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with Russian President Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has offered to facilitate a meeting in the next few weeks between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority, Western diplomats briefed on the Russian initiative tell me.

Why it matters: Dialogue was severed between the U.S. and the Palestinians two and a half years ago, and the Palestinians aren't taking part in negotiations on President Trump's peace plan. New talks could also offer a way to prevent escalation on the ground as Israel considers annexing parts of the West Bank.

According to the diplomatic sources, the UN and the EU support the Russian initiative and see it as a way to create a new political process that slows or stops Israel's moves toward annexation.

"The only way to stop Israeli annexation is to renew talks between the Palestinians and the U.S.”
— Western diplomat

The big picture: Palestinian leadership has cut almost all ties with the Trump administration since it moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Authority demands that any future peace talks be held in a wider framework like the Middle East Quartet, which includes the U.S., Russia, the UN and the EU.

In order to overcome the Palestinian boycott, the Russians are proposing a mini summit in Geneva with the Palestinians, the U.S., the other members of the Quartet and Arab states, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

  • It's unclear if Israel would be invited to this meeting or to a separate summit.
  • Russia's deputy foreign minister for the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, spoke on Tuesday with White House special envoy Avi Berkowitz and officials from the U.S. National Security Council.
  • Berkowitz didn’t rule out the Russian proposal but said the meeting would have to be framed around the Trump plan, and the Palestinians would have to present their reservations and their proposals for changes to the plan, sources briefed on the call told me.
  • Bogdanov also called the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, yesterday and discussed with him “the assistance of the Quartet of international mediators” in the peace process, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
  • Western diplomats tell me the Palestinians are not ruling out the Russian initiative but haven’t given a final answer.

Go deeper: Palestinian president says all agreements with U.S. and Israel void due to annexation plans

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - World

U.S. presses Israel to cool ties with China over support for Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Aug. 24. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday to further cool relations with China and limit Chinese investments in Israel over the new strategic partnership agreement China signed with Iran, Israeli and U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has been lobbying Israel for two years to scale back its relations with China. Until now, those efforts have had very little success.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.