Abbas urges Europeans to play greater role in peace process, recognize Palestine
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Abbas urges Europeans to play greater role in peace process, recognize Palestine

PA chief tells summit in Egypt that EU nations’ failure to recognize Palestinian statehood is a betrayal of their values, insists such a move would not jeopardize negotiations

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of Arab and European leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh on February 24, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of Arab and European leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh on February 24, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged European states on Sunday to play a greater role in mediating the peace process and recognize the “State of Palestine,” contending that the absence of such recognition was a betrayal of European values.

“Has the time not come for European states that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so, especially in light of your belief in the two-state solution?” Abbas said in a short speech at a two-day summit of Arab and European leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian resort city.

“You have recognized Israel, supported it since its establishment and defended its security. That is your right. But if you’ll allow me to say this: Your not recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination in its state is a move that contradicts your values and your European principles.”

While several European countries have recognized Palestine, the majority, including France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, have not done so.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center right, greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center left, during a group photo at a meeting of leaders at an EU-Arab summit at the Sharm El Sheikh convention center in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Israel has long said that recognizing Palestine before a peace deal is finalized will harden the Palestinians’ negotiating positions, making it more difficult to reach an agreement.

Abbas said that European states recognizing Palestine would not be a “substitute” for negotiations, or a move against Israel. In the past, he has said such a move would encourage Palestinians to maintain their hope for peace.

Abbas also called on the Europeans to play a greater role in peace negotiations and repeated his frequent call for an international peace conference not under the exclusive auspices of the US.

The Palestinians have been shunning the Trump administration since the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moved its embassy to the city. Relations plummeted further after Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.

Abbas said the US stance encouraged Israel to act above the law and said it meant that the US could no longer act as a “sole” mediator.

Abbas has repeatedly said he will reject the long-promised Trump peace plan that is expected to be unveiled after Israel’s April 9 elections.

Instead, he has reiterated his support for the Arab Peace Initiative, also known as the Saudi Initiative, which the Arab League endorsed in 2002 in Beirut.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, center, attends a meeting of leaders at an EU-Arab summit at the Sharm El Sheikh convention center in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Leaders from European Union and Arab League countries are holding their first-ever summit, meeting in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss migration, security and business deals. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

“Implementing the Arab Peace Initiative as it was founded in 2002 is the only way to achieve peace, and this is what all the Arabs are standing behind,” he said on Sunday.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that he does not want to work within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative, stating he would like to normalize Israel’s ties with the Arab world even without advancements in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

A former senior Saudi official, however, recently said Saudi Arabia sees solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a prerequisite to normalizing ties with the Jewish state.

“From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around,” Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, a former Saudi intelligence minister and ex-ambassador to the US and UK, told Israel’s Channel 13 news in an interview earlier in February.

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