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Egypt, Jordan, PA look to coordinate stances ahead of White House visits

Palestinian foreign ministry says trips by Sissi, King Abdullah will set tone for Abbas’s later meeting with Trump

On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)
On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)

The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority met to coordinate positions on the peace process ahead of separate meetings with US President Donald Trump next month, Ramallah said Thursday.

On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit in Jordan on Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“In this meeting, positions were coordinated in what should be said or focused on regarding the Palestinian issue” when the three leaders visit the White House, the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The statement added that while in Washington Abbas will look to “influence” the administration as it forms a position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Sissi is slated to meet with Trump on April 3. Abdullah will meet with Trump two days later, a US official said Thursday. Abbas is expected to visit soon after, but an official date to visit the White House has not yet been announced.

Twenty one kings, presidents and top officials from the Arab League summit pose for a group photo, at a gathering near the Dead Sea in Jordan on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. With the exception of Syria, whose chair sits empty, all Arab states are participating in the annual event aiming to work on regional solutions to conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria while tackling extremism, poverty and worries over the new American administration. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)
Twenty-one kings, presidents and top officials from the Arab League summit pose for a group photo, at a gathering near the Dead Sea in Jordan on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

The meetings between the US president with Sissi and Abdullah will help determine the nature of Abbas’s visit to Washington, the ministry said.

“We will evaluate the results and outcomes of these two important visits to Washington in order to determine the shape and nature of President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington, utilizing the momentum of the two visits, drawing on their lessons and output for the benefit of the…position agreed upon at the tripartite meeting yesterday,” the ministry said.

Trump hasn’t yet formulated a policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but has said he is eager to broker a deal. His initial comments, including a campaign promise to move the US Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem and suggestions that there are alternatives to a two-state solution, caused alarm among some Arab leaders.

However, an embassy move no longer appears imminent, and some Trump administration officials have since endorsed the two-state solution, while signaling they will be critical of some West Bank settlement building.

Trump held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, amid concerns that the White House was icing out the Palestinians.

Trump’s international envoy, Jason Greenblatt, attended the summit and held talks with Abbas and the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Qatar.

Greenblatt affirmed Trump’s belief that an Israeli-Palestinian deal “is not only possible, but would reverberate positively throughout the region and the world,” the US Embassy in Jordan said. The envoy focused on making tangible progress, a statement said.

During his speech to the summit, Abbas singled out the support of Jordan and Egypt, both of which have peace treaties with Israel, as essential to the Palestinian national cause.

This may have been a rebuke to them for taking part in a secret meeting last year with Netanyahu in a summit in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba, organized by the US without Abbas’s knowledge.

At the opening to the summit, Abdullah said the two-state solution was the only way forward to a peace deal.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the summit signaled the Arab world is willing to engage with the Trump administration in efforts to negotiate a two-state deal. He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a root cause of Mideast tensions, and that resolving it would boost the fight against terrorism.

The summit’s closing statement said “peace is a strategic option” for Arab states.

At the Arab League summit, the 21 leaders and top officials endorsed the 2002 Arab peace plan, which would see Arab states normalize ties with Israel in exchange for a peace deal.

In reaffirming the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the summit undercut Israel’s proposal of a regional peace in which normalization with some Arab countries would precede a deal with the Palestinians. Abbas has vehemently opposed this idea, fearing it would further weaken Palestinian negotiating positions.

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