Palestinian officials head to US to prepare for Abbas visit
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Palestinian officials head to US to prepare for Abbas visit

White House says Trump and the PA leader will look to reaffirm commitment to reaching a peace accord

Saeb Erekat, right, Palestinian chief negotiator, and Mohammad Shtayyeh, left, arrive at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 29, 2013. ( AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Saeb Erekat, right, Palestinian chief negotiator, and Mohammad Shtayyeh, left, arrive at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 29, 2013. ( AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Senior Palestinian officials were set to travel to Washington Sunday to prepare for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbass’s visit to the White House next week for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump.

PLO Secretary General and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will lead the delegation in a series of high-level meeting with administration officials, including Trump’s son-in-law adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Abbass’s senior economic adviser, Muhammed Mustasfa, will also be part of the delegation.

Trump is set to host Abbas at the White House on May 3 for talks on efforts to revive the Middle East peace process, the White House said last week.

“They will use the visit to reaffirm the commitment of both the United States and Palestinian leadership to pursuing and ultimately concluding a conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing.

Trump spoke to Abbas for the first time over the phone in March, when he invited him to the White House.

In December, the Trump transition team refused to meet with Palestinian officials visiting Washington, putting them off until after the January 20 inauguration, according to Erekat, the main point man for official contacts with the US. Other advisers say Abbas tried to arrange a phone call with Trump after the November election and again after the inauguration, but received no response to his requests. The White House did not respond to a January letter in which Abbas expressed concerns about the possibility of the US moving its embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem.

But after meeting with Greenblatt in Ramallah last month, Abbas said he believed a “historic” peace deal with Israel was possible with Trump in office.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president's assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president’s assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

Greenblatt told Arab foreign ministers a week later that Trump was committed to reaching a deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would “reverberate” throughout the Middle East and the world.

Greenblatt has made two trips to the region since Trump assumed the presidency in January in an effort to jumpstart the long-dormant peace negotiations.

During those visits, he met with multiple stakeholders in the conflict, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas. Trump hosted Netanyahu at the White House in February.

In an interview published last week by the Japanese news site Asahi Shimbun, Abbas expressed willingness to meet Netanyahu in Washington under the auspices of the Trump administration.

“I am ready to meet the prime minister of Israel anytime in Washington under the patronage of President Trump,” he said.

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