Saudi King tells Abbas he supports East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital
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Saudi King tells Abbas he supports East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Palestinian Authority leader briefs Salman about efforts to counter US recognition of holy city as Israeli capital

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

Saudi King Salman, right, receives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 20, 2017. (Al-Ekhbariya via AP)
Saudi King Salman, right, receives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 20, 2017. (Al-Ekhbariya via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on Wednesday and discussed plans to respond to the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

During the meeting, Salman voiced the kingdom’s support for East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The monarch stressed “the legitimate right of the Palestinian people in establishing their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the SPA official news agency reported.

“During their meeting, the president briefed [Salman] on the latest developments and contacts being made by [Abbas] to protect Jerusalem from the dangers posed by the announcement by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the PA’s official news site Wafa said of the meeting.

Abbas was also slated to meet with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman later Wednesday, according to Wafa.

Saudi Arabia has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s decision, calling it “unjustified and irresponsible.”

In a December 6 address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. 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.

A number of news reports, including by The New York Times and Reuters, have claimed the Saudi crown prince pressured Abbas in their last meeting early in November to accept a US peace proposal that closely mirrors Israeli demands to resolve the conflict and differs widely from what the Palestinians say they would be willing to accept.

The PA ambassador to Saudi Arabia asserted that these reports are “baseless.” All Palestinian officials who have spoken on the record about that meeting have said likewise. The ambassador said that reports about that meeting were meant to harm the Saudi-Palestinian relationship.

Following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinians declared they will no longer accept the US as a mediator in the peace process.

Abbas said he would now seek a multilateral international process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led by the United Nations. He also said the Palestinians would return to seeking full membership at the UN after freezing the push at the behest of the United States in 2011.

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