Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas met Thursday in Italy. Both were in Italy to attend festivities as that nation celebrates 150 years of unification.
According to reports Peres and Abbas discussed the stalled Israel-PA diplomatic process and possible ways to revive negotiations. It is not known whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware the Peres-Abbas meeting would take place during the Italy trip.
Israeli presidents fill a ceremonial role and are expected to remain aloof from controversial or partisan issues like the peace process. Despite this it came to light in April that Peres and Abbas have maintained contacts away from the limelight in which they continue to pursue back-channel talks.
It was secret negotiations between then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yassir Arafat behind Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's back that resulted in the disastrous Oslo Accords and creation of the Palestinian Authority.
Officials at the president's office refused to reveal details of the Peres-Abbas meeting in hopes of keeping them away away from the press - and Israeli public - and refused to confirm whether the two spoke alone, but diplomatic sources hinted that such conversation indeed took place.
The meeting comes despite PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' insistence Israel agree to preconditions before negotiations can begin while simultaneously threatening he will launch a third intifada if negotiations fail.
Meanwhile, France initiated its own peace move earlier in the day, proposing a conference in Paris this summer while threatening it will endorse PA at the United Nations in September as a means of coercing Israel to participate.