Trump expresses ‘reluctance’ on chances for Middle East peace
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Trump expresses ‘reluctance’ on chances for Middle East peace

US president says deal ‘could happen’ but sounds cautious note over White House efforts to broker Israel-Palestinian peace

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Kuwait leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in the White House in Washington, September 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Kuwait leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in the White House in Washington, September 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

US President Donald Trump expressed reservations Thursday about reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but said he had not given up on his efforts to bring the two sides together.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to reach the “ultimate deal” by brokering a peace accord and has tasked a number of his senior advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner to mediate between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Speaking alongside the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah at a White House press conference Thursday, Trump said: “I think there is a chance that there could be peace, but again I say that a little bit reluctantly.”

“We have tremendous talent working on that particular transaction,” he added.

Asked if he was about to start a new peace initiative, Trump said, “We are discussing, we are working” toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“It is something that could happen,” he said.

Trump acknowledged that previous administrations had come close to, yet never reached, a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. But he said: “We’re going to give it our best.”

Last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas separately met with Kushner, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell during a visit by the US delegation to Israel.

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner (left), meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on August 24, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

After the delegation met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where Kushner told the prime minister that Trump is “very committed” to help broker a peace deal, Netanyahu said he believed peace with the Palestinians was “within our reach.”

During the delegation’s meeting with Abbas, Kushner reportedly said that Trump would present a peace plan in the next three to four months in exchange for the Palestinian leader abandoning efforts to pursue statehood in international bodies.

But the Palestinians have expressed disillusionment with Trump over US peace efforts.

Days after the delegation’s visit to Israel, the White House dismissed as nonsense a report that Kushner had warned Abbas that a settlement freeze long sought by the Palestinians could not be a precondition for talks.

And just weeks earlier, in a private, off-the-record conversation with congressional interns, Jared Kushner said he was not sure the Trump administration could offer anything “unique” to solve the conflict.

The discussion was recorded by one of the interns present and subsequently leaked to Wired, which published Kushner’s entire answer to a question about the White House’s attempts to broker an accord.

“What do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right end state is. And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution.”

AFP contributed to this report

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