Abbas heading to Saudi Arabia to discuss Trump’s Jerusalem decision

PA ambassador to Riyadh denies Saudis have put pressure on Palestinians to accept an American peace proposal

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

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Saudi leaders in Riyadh on Tuesday in order to discuss US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Palestinian Authority Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bassam al-Agha said the visit, in which Abbas will meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, comes in the context of constant coordination between Riyadh and Ramallah, according to the PA’s official news site 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.

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

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, according to Wafa, that reports about that meeting were meant to harm at the Saudi-Palestinian relationship.

The Palestinians now say that after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, they will no longer accept the US as a mediator in the peace process.

Abbas’s senior diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi told The Times of Israel on Sunday that Palestinians would no longer meet with any US officials to discuss the peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 22, 2015 (Flash90)

Before heading to Riyadh, Abbas will convene the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization Monday evening at his headquarters in Ramallah to discuss potential responses to Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

This will be the first general meeting of the Palestinian leadership convened by Abbas since December 6.

Abbas has visited numerous Arab and Muslim capitals in recent weeks, including Istanbul, Cairo, Amman and Doha, in his quest to find broad support for a regional and international response to the Jerusalem issue.

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