Abbas travels to Riyadh for meeting with King Salman
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Abbas travels to Riyadh for meeting with King Salman

Senior PLO official Ahmad Majdalani denies report that Saudis recently shifted positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

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 arrived in Riyadh on Monday for an official visit scheduled to include a meeting with Saudi King Salman, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Abbas’s visit comes as Israel has lobbied for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to open more direct channels despite the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Abbas and Salman were slated to discuss “the current political situation and the dangers the Palestinian issue is facing, especially regarding Jerusalem,” the Wafa report said.

It was not clear if he would meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pictures published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency showed Abbas, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh arriving in the Saudi capital.

Abbas’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes two days after a report that an internal Israeli Foreign Ministry document had concluded that Riyadh would not back the Trump administration’s forthcoming Middle East peace plan or normalize ties with Israel unless the Jewish state makes “a substantive concession to the Palestinians.”

The report, carried by Axios, cited officials who read the Foreign Ministry paper.

The Axios report also said the document stated that Salman had taken back responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict file from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and realigned Saudi policy on the issue with the Arab Peace Initiative.

Bin Salman reportedly has previously pressured Abbas to accept the Trump administration’s peace plan, which the White House says it is still working on.

Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said the crown prince was still involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and denied there had been any shift from Riyadh.

“This is not new,” he told The Times of Israel. “We have long been satisfied with the kingdom’s position, which was and still is to support the Arab Peace Initiative.”

The Arab Peace Initiative calls on Israel to agree a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue in exchange for Arab nations subsequently normalizing relations with it and declaring the Arab-Israeli conflict over.

“The king and the crown prince have both been and still are involved in Saudi’s policy on this issue. The crown prince also has always supported the Arab peace initiative.”

The last time Abbas visited Saudi Arabia was in April 2018 when he attended a meeting of the Arab League.

In recent months, the PA president has come out in strong support of Riyadh in the wake of international criticisms against it over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist.

Khashoggi, who was a US resident and regime critic, was murdered and his corpse dismembered inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

The murder has been traced to people working directly under the crown prince.

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