Abbas: Trump told me he is committed to peace process
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Abbas: Trump told me he is committed to peace process

White House said to be weighing how to revive talks; president's adviser Greenblatt set to meet Netanyahu, then PA leader in Ramallah on logistics for DC visit

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)
Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)

Despite having declared at last month’s press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was not insisting on a two-state solution, Trump told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday that he was committed to advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Abbas said Sunday.

Speaking in Ramallah, Abbas on Sunday said that his phone conversation with Trump, in which the US president invited him to the White House, was “constructive” and that Trump “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.”

He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.”

A transcript of Abbas’s remarks posted by the official Palestinian news agency erroneously included the Palestinian leader saying Trump had also expressed support for a two-state solution, but that was later corrected.

Other Palestinian sources said that Trump told Abbas he wanted to broker a deal, and that he referred to Abbas as a “partner.”

Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations. File photo. (Uriel Heilman/JTA)
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations. (Uriel Heilman/JTA)

Abbas is on Tuesday set to host Jason Greenblatt, who is making his first visit to the region since being appointed as Trump’s special representative for international negotiations. Greenblatt will meet first with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Read: Ever unpredictable, Trump throws Abbas a lifeline

Channel 2 quoted Israeli officials Sunday expressing satisfaction that the Trump-Abbas call had gone well since, they said, Israel supports a resumption of negotiations without preconditions.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The US administration is currently said to be weighing how to proceed with a renewed peace effort after Abbas’s imminent visit to Washington. One possibility being considered is a regional summit, to be held in Egypt or Jordan. If such a summit would be substantive, rather than a mere photo op, Trump would be prepared to attend, sources close to the president were quoted by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday as saying. The White House is trying to ascertain whether the Saudis can be drawn into this process, the newspaper said.

Trump intends to visit Israel in the first year of his presidency, the paper reported, and might combine the trip with a summit of this kind.

On his visit to Washington last week, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was also told by administration officials that the new US leadership was seeking a two-state deal, Channel 2 news reported Sunday.

Alternatively, Trump may invite Abbas and Netanyahu to the White House, to announce the resumption of direct talks.

Following the Trump-Abbas phone call, the Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh as saying that Trump stressed his “commitment to a peace process that would lead to a real peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

At a joint press conference with Netanyahu on February 15, Trump said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Senior PA official Jibril Rajoub told Army Radio on Sunday that he believes Trump remains committed to the two-state solution and that the US president views Abbas as an essential partner in any peace deal.

“I don’t think that he has given up on the solution or the scenario of two states for two peoples, but rather the opposite,” Rajoub said, asserting approvingly that Trump, in talking to Abbas, called him his “partner.”

Rajoub also described Trump as “brave” and said the US president “is not in anyone’s pockets.”

Former PA official and Abbas associate Ashraf al-Ajami told Army Radio in a separate interview on Sunday that the Palestinians do not want to see the US pull away from the peace process.

“What worries us is that the US will pull back from [its] diplomatic work and intervening between the two sides,” al-Ajami said, while adding that Trump told Abbas “he will do everything in his abilities in order to advance the diplomatic process and to find a solution to this conflict.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki (C) attends a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers at the headquarters of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on March 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki (C) attends a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers at the headquarters of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on March 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Sunday that the upcoming meeting between Goldblatt and Abbas would focus on planning for Abbas’s trip to Washington.

Greenblatt would not be bringing new proposals, he said.

Abbas spoke Saturday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to brief him a day after his conversation with Trump, saying that the US leader has a commitment to an “authentic” peace process.

Ahead of the conversation with Trump, the PA president had spoken to Abdullah to coordinate stances.

Giving details of the conversation with Abbas, the White House said late Friday that “the president emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal.”

The phone call between the two ended nearly two months of what Palestinian officials said had been near-total silence between Ramallah and the new administration.

Unnamed officials said last month that CIA chief Mike Pompeo paid a secret visit to Ramallah, and there have been reports of lower-level contacts between officials in Washington and Ramallah.

Palestinian sources told the London-based newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat that despite the gaps in vision between the Palestinians and the US administration, the PA had no intention of clashing with Trump or angering him but rather wanted to cooperate with him to achieve a peace deal.

There had been fears among the Palestinians that Trump would wholeheartedly adopt Israeli positions after he vowed to move the US Embassy to Tel Aviv and gave indications he would be more accommodating to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since taking office on January 20, Trump has spoken by phone with Netanyahu twice and hosted him at the White House.

But he has backtracked on a swift relocation of the US Embassy, and publicly urged Netanyahu to “hold back” on settlement building.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously included that Abbas said Trump had expressed commitment to a two-state deal, based on a Palestinian transcript of the speech.

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