Abbas discusses Trump’s peace plan with Saudi King
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Abbas discusses Trump’s peace plan with Saudi King

Gulf monarch says his country will continue to support Palestinians in international arena and work for independent Palestinian state

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday discussed the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process and an American plan to restart Israeli-Palestinians peace talks with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, according to the PA’s official news agency.

Abbas informed the Saudi king of “the latest developments regarding the Palestinian issue and American efforts to move the peace process forward,” Wafa reported.

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, paid a secret visit to Saudi Arabia last month in his latest effort to restart Mideast peace talks.

Despite many meetings between US officials from the current administration with Israelis and Palestinians, Washington has yet to clarify how it intends to return both sides to the negotiating table since talks broke down in 2014.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim / Wafa)

The Wafa report added that Abbas briefed the king  on “developments in the national reconciliation process to end [Palestinian] division.”

Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, is currently in negotiations with Hamas to bring the PA’s rule back to the Gaza Strip by December 1. Hamas took control of the Strip in a violent conflict with Fatah in 2007.

Abbas’s visit to Riyadh comes after Hamas last week handed the PA control of all the Gaza Strip border crossing, in a test of a reconciliation accord signed last month under the auspices of Egypt.

The Wafa report said the two leaders also discussed ways to develop their “excellent” bilateral relations.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim / Wafa)

The Saudi king, the report added, affirmed his government’s long-standing support for the Palestinians in international forums, and its commitment to provide “all that is required to bring about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abbas is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman later today.

Abbas was unexpectedly summoned to Riyadh on Monday, just as the Gulf kingdom was at the height of a major crackdown on members of the royal family.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne oversaw an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country’s most powerful princes, military officers, businessmen and government ministers. Some of them are potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom Sunday as he further consolidated power.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran, saying that Iranian missiles in Yemen “may constitute an act of war.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently locked in a battle for regional hegemony, and blame each other for spreading extremism throughout the Middle East.

The Saudis also said on Monday that Lebanon is considered to have declared war on the Gulf Kingdom, due to political hegemony of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah in the small Mediterranean country.

Senior Hamas officials last week met and spoke with Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, and the two terror groups have said they share the same goals.

In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing of the Gaza-based terror group.

On Saturday, a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Tehran for the second time in recent weeks, in order to attend a memorial service for the father of Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Official Hamas media)

On Monday, the London-based Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Rai quoted Palestinian sources who said that Abbas had been summoned to Riyadh so the Saudis could ask him to join an anti-Hezbollah coalition.

Also on Monday, Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh, who said he remains committed to bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

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