Abbas thanks Saudi royals for backing Palestinian cause at Jeddah summit with Biden

PA president writes to king and crown prince expressing gratitude for supporting a 2-state solution with East Jerusalem as capital of a future Palestinian state

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers statements to the media with the US president after their meeting in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers statements to the media with the US president after their meeting in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday conveyed his gratitude to the Saudi Arabian royal leadership for backing the Palestinian cause during their summit this weekend with the US president.

Abbas sent a message to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and another to his son, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, the Wafa news agency reported.

Abbas thanked the Saudis for vocally backing a two-state solution during the Jeddah summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Friday, which was attended by visiting US President Joe Biden and GCC members.

The Palestinian leader wrote thanking them for “their support for the national rights of our people and their just cause, emphasizing the end of the Israeli occupation of our land and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” according to the report.

Abbas also lauded the Saudis on the outcome of the summit which, he said, would enhance regional security, stability and Arab economies.

After Biden’s meetings with both the king and the crown prince, the countries released a joint communique where the two sides backed the two-state solution as the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(L to R) Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa; US President Joe Biden; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Jordan’s King Abdullah II; Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; and Kuwait’s Crown Prince Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah pose together for the family photo during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3) at a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP)

“The leaders noted their determination to remain closely coordinated on efforts to encourage the parties to demonstrate – through policies and actions – their commitment to a two-state solution,” the communique states, adding that the two countries “welcomed all efforts that contribute to reaching a just and comprehensive peace in the region.”

The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs told CNN on Friday that while normalizing ties with Israel was a “strategic option,” a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians was a “requirement” before Riyadh would formalize ties with Jerusalem.

And in Jeddah on Saturday, as Biden was heading home, the Saudi foreign minister declared that Saudi Arabia’s announced agreement on Thursday to open Saudi airspace to all civilian overflights had “nothing to do with Israel” and was not a “precursor” to warmed ties with Israel. This directly contradicted public statements by Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who had welcomed the move as a tangible first step toward normalization.

Abbas had reiterated his own support for the so-called Arab Peace Initiative during a Friday press conference with Biden in what also was seen as a rejection of US plans to advance Israel’s integration in the region without waiting for progress on the Palestinian track. Biden met Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem after spending a day and half in Israel meeting its leaders.

At the press conference, Biden gave his backing for a Palestinian state but refrained from recognizing East Jerusalem as its capital. For the first time as president, Biden called for a two-state solution along the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps, but he also said the ground was not ripe for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The 2002 Saudi-sponsored proposal offers Israel full normalized relations with all 22 members of the Arab League if Israel agrees to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and with a just resolution for Palestinian refugees. The plan was never accepted by Israel.

Under the Abraham Accords, Israel has normalized ties with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, without progress on the Palestinian front. The PA has castigated the Abraham Accords’ regional signatories for ostensibly betraying the Palestinian cause.

US President Joe Biden (left) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One en route to Jeddah that Biden “made the case” to Abbas for why Israel’s integration in the region can “reinforce progress on the Palestinian track.”

Nonetheless, the US insists that its efforts to expand the Abraham Accords will not replace its efforts to promote a two-state solution in what is seen as a swipe at the Trump administration’s strategy for advancing normalization, which moved the matter forward as a means of bypassing the Palestinians.

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