Pence said to ask Egypt, Jordan to coax Palestinians back to table
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Pence said to ask Egypt, Jordan to coax Palestinians back to table

US vice president seeking to repair ties with Ramallah, which is boycotting the administration over its changed policy on Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

US Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly asked Egypt and Jordan to reach out to the Palestinians on behalf of the US in an apparent bid to patch up relations strained by the Trump administration’s recent policy shift on Jerusalem.

Pence asked Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II to tell Palestinian leaders the US is interested in restarting peace negotiations, Bloomberg News reported Sunday, citing a source familiar with the talks.

The Palestinian Authority announced a boycott of the US administration last month in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Sunday, Abdullah urged Pence to “rebuild trust and confidence” in the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in light of the fallout between Ramallah and Washington.

“Today, we have a major challenge to overcome, especially with some of the rising frustrations,” the king told Pence after a meeting in Amman.

“Jerusalem is key to Muslims and Christians, as it is to Jews,” Abdullah said. “It is key to peace in the region. And key to enabling Muslims to effectively fight some of the root causes of radicalization.”

Pence told the king that “President Trump made a historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but as he also made clear in that decision… we continue to respect Jordan’s role as the custodian of holy sites, that we take no position on boundaries and final status — those are subject to negotiation — and as I’ve made clear and the president made clear to the world: the United States of America remains committed if the parties agree to a two-state solution.”

Welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli leaders across most of the political spectrum, Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem drew condemnations from much of the international community and infuriated the Palestinians, who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern sectors of the city as a future capital. They accused the US of siding with Israel, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the move disqualified Washington from acting as a mediator in the peace process.

The Palestinians subsequently announced they would not be meeting with Pence during his visit to the region.

Netanyahu welcomed Pence to Israel on Sunday in a Facebook post, and later at an event for foreign diplomats, hailing the American vice president as a “great friend of Israel.”

He also stressed there was “no alternative” to the US as a peace broker, and that anyone who rejects the US in that capacity “does not want peace.”

“I have a message for [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas: There is no alternative to American leadership in the diplomatic process. Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans on peace does not want peace,” Netanyahu said.

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