US President Donald Trump sent his peace envoy back to the Middle East on Tuesday in a move seen as a sign that he intends to make a push for a peace deal.
The envoy Jason Greenblatt met late Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a resort on the Dead Sea in Jordan, which is hosting this week’s Arab League summit. Abbas’s spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah described it as a “follow-up” meeting to exchange ideas, according to the official PA news agency Wafa. Abbas heads to Washington for his first meeting with the new president in the next few weeks.
Greenblatt also met with a series of Arab leaders and is expected to hold further talks on Wednesday as the summit starts.
Ahead of those meetings, Greenblatt met with European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini for talks focused on advancing the Israel-Palestinian track. “It’s a priority for both of us,” he tweeted.
Mogherini shared Greenblatt’s tweet, adding that close cooperation between the European Union and the US is essential to achieve peace in the Middle East.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 28, 2017
— Federica Mogherini (@FedericaMog) March 28, 2017
Israel’s Channel 2 TV said that Trump’s decision to “court” Abbas was a clear signal to Jerusalem that Trump was very serious about peace and intended to push forward with the peace process “very soon.”
Despite the close relationship the president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to have had so far, Trump has lately turned his attention to Abbas, in an attempt to bring him to the negotiating table with Israel, Channel 2 said.
This represents a marked change of direction for the Trump administration, which initially gave the Palestinians the cold shoulder. It may be in part due to the inability of the Americans and Israelis to reach an agreement on West Bank settlements.
Sources close to the settlement movement say that not only has Israel not received a green light for continued building in the West Bank, but that the US is telling Israel to slow down or stop, Channel 2 reported.
On Sunday Netanyahu denied media reports of a supposed agreement with Washington to limit West Bank settlement construction, claiming the reports were inaccurate and that negotiations on the matter were still in progress.
After failing to reach an agreement with Greenblatt on the issue of settlements during the latter’s visit to Jerusalem, Netanyahu dispatched his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz to Washington last week to continue talks on the matter with Greenblatt alongside Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the AIPAC conference, indicating to delegates that the president would push for a peace deal.
“Let me be clear,” he said, “President Trump is also invested in finding an equitable and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… And while there will undoubtedly have to be compromises, I can assure you all President Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel.”