Abbas aide: PA not severing ties with US over Jerusalem recognition
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Abbas aide: PA not severing ties with US over Jerusalem recognition

Nabil Shaath says contacts with administration on the peace process are 'interrupted,' but communication still open on other matters

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas  appeared to back away Sunday from the Palestinian threat to sever ties with the US over the recognition of Jerusalem, saying that they were only “interrupted.”

“We are not cutting our relationship with America. We are protesting the move of Mr. Trump,” Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath told The Times of Israel in a phone interview.

“We think Mr. Trump has acted in a way that makes it impossible for the United States to act as an honest broker. We are just expressing that,” Shaath said.

Nabil Shaath, the Commissioner for External Relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Nabil Shaath, the commissioner for external relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

He clarified, however, that all other communications between the PA and the US were not affected, even though the PA has stated that its president, Mahmoud Abbas, will not meet US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits later this month.

“We still have a delegation in Washington. There are matters with which communication is still continuing. Communication about the peace process is interrupted,” Shaath explained.

The US is a central source of aid for the Palestinian Authority. In 2016, the US provided $712 million to Palestinians, and is the world’s largest supplier of such aid.

A little over half of those resources are given to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA).

On Saturday Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said that a meeting planned between the PA president and Pence was canceled “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.

Abbas had viewed close ties with Washington as strategically important because of the US role as Mideast broker. The snub of Pence signaled a sharp deterioration in relations.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The White House warned on Thursday that canceling the meeting planned for the West Bank would be “counterproductive.”

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party, had said Friday that Pence was “not welcome in Palestine.”

US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday in a move that outraged Palestinian leaders, but which was hailed as historic by Israel. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The move was fully supported by Pence.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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