Putin invites Israel's Netanyahu to Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow in a letter congratulating him on forming a new government, an Israeli official said Wednesday.

The invitation came as US President Barack Obama was due in Israel on his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office more than four years ago.

Netanyahu "received a congratulatory letter from... Putin. The letter congratulates (the) prime minister on forming the new government in Israel and invites him to visit Moscow," the Israeli premier's spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.

He added that the date of the visit had yet to be decided.

The new coalition Israeli government took office on Monday after more than 40 days of tortuous negotiations during which Netanyahu was forced to make concessions to cabinet partners.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas lat week visited Moscow where he told Putin he hoped to establish peace talks with Israel later this year but admitted that the chances of progress were slim.