Abbas sets conditions for fresh peace talks, with diminished US role
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Abbas sets conditions for fresh peace talks, with diminished US role

PA leader says he will return to table under multilateral effort along lines of Arab Peace Initiative; expected to demand international confab during UN speech on February 20

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas reads notes as he chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 3, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas reads notes as he chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 3, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

The Palestinians are prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel, but only on the basis of an international multilateral mechanism, the Arab Peace Initiative and international resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday.

Abbas’s comments, which appeared to fall in line with the PA demand that the US not play a leading role in brokering talks, were made during a phone conversation with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Palestinian officials, angry over what they see as US bias in Israel’s favor, have refused to work with the Trump Administration on a peace initiative and say the US can only play a role as part of a larger multilateral effort, a position Israel, the US and others oppose.

The Arab Peace Initiative, which was first endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, calls for a “full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the lines of June 4, 1967.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street after the weekly meeting of the cabinet in central London on October 31, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

The plan also calls for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state “on the territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.” It also provides for a just, agreed resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue.

In return, the Arab countries would consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended and would normalize ties with Israel.

Abbas also affirmed during the phone conversation with Johnson the Palestinians’ commitment to the two-state solution, the PA’s official news agency Wafa reported.

Abbas is scheduled to address the United Nations Security Council on February 20 amid mounting tensions between the PA and the US administration.

Trump administration the ‘most hostile’

The PA has been boycotting the US administration since President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A PA official in Ramallah said that Abbas at the UN would repeat his demand for convening an international conference for peace in the Middle East as a substitute to US-sponsored direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

A picture taken on August 24, 2017 in the West Bank city of Ramallah shows a Palestinian holding a burnt flyer depicting US President Donald J. Trump defaced with cartoon shoes on his head, during a protest against the arrival of a US delegation headed by Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner to meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

“The US administration is no longer qualified to act as an honest broker in any peace process,” the official said. “The only option is an international forum where Europe, Russia, China and other countries would play a major role.”

Wasel Abu Yusef, a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, said on Monday that the Trump administration’s “deal of the century,” the details of which have yet to be released, was aimed at “liquidating the Palestinian cause.”

Abu Yusef said that the Trump administration was the “most hostile” toward the Palestinians and their rights. The Trump administration’s policies are identical to those of the Israeli government, he charged.

“Palestinian unity and steadfastness will foil all the conspiracies (against the Palestinians),” he added.

Abu Yusef said that Abbas was planning to use the UN platform to renew his appeal for “international protection” for the Palestinians in the face of Israel’s “daily crimes.”

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