Meeting Abbas, MBS backs Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital
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Meeting Abbas, MBS backs Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital

Palestinian leader also holds talks with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, a day before a US-led conference on the Middle East in Warsaw, which Ramallah has said it is boycotting

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting in Riyadh on February 12, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting in Riyadh on February 12, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave Saudi Arabia’s support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on Tuesday, the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa reported.

“The Saudi crown prince affirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for Palestine in all forums and the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Wafa reported after a meeting between the  prince and visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh.

Earlier on Tuesday in a separate meeting with Abbas, Saudi King Salman made a similar remark, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Salman said Saudi Arabia “permanently stands with Palestine and the brotherly Palestinian people’s right to an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” SPA reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on February 12, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Abbas’s meetings with the Saudi leaders comes a day before an international conference on the Middle East in Warsaw co-hosted by the US and Poland.

Several Palestinian officials have said the Palestinians were boycotting the confab in the Polish capital.

They also come amid persistent reports of efforts to improve ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia and reports that the kingdom was pressuring the Palestinians into accepting the peace plan being drafted by the Trump administration.

However, Abbas’s meetings with the Saudi rulers came two days after Axios reported that an internal Israeli Foreign Ministry document had concluded that Riyadh would not back the  peace plan or normalize ties with Israel unless the Jewish state makes “a substantive concession to the Palestinians.”

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

The 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.

Prince Mohammed reportedly has previously pressured Abbas to accept the Trump administration’s nascent peace plan.

In this May 20, 2017, file photo, US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, denied on Monday that kingdom had shifted its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said the crown prince was still involved in Saudi policy on the matter.

“This is not new,” he told The Times of Israel in a phone call. “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.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, a confidante of Abbas accompanying the PA president in Riyadh, said the meeting between the Palestinian leader and Salman was “intimate” and “brotherly.”

The Saudis are expected to attend the Warsaw conference, even though the Palestinians have declared they are not going.

Late last week, the PA Foreign Ministry referred to the conference as “an American conspiracy intended to get the participants to adopt the US’s views on issues of the region, particularly the Palestine question.”

When announcing the conference in early January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it would deal mainly with Iran. But the international response has been cool, and a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recently insisted it will touch on various issues related to the Middle East’s “security and prosperity” in general, rather than targeting Iran alone.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, senior members of the Trump administration are also slated to attend the summit.

The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this article.

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