Trump tells Saudis he has ‘strong desire’ for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Riyadh DM meets with president at White House, sides agree to confront Iran’s ‘destabilizing activities’ while evaluating and strictly enforcing nuke deal

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House, on March 14, 2017. (AFP/ Nicholas Kamm)
US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House, on March 14, 2017. (AFP/ Nicholas Kamm)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump expressed a “strong desire” to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, in a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the White House said Wednesday.

Trump also told the Saudi prince in their meeting Tuesday that he wanted to “evaluate and strictly enforce” the Iran nuclear accord struck by his predecessor.

“The President expressed his strong desire to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to continue the two countries’ consultations to help reach solutions for regional issues,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump’s statement came as his envoy for Mideast peace, Jason Greenblatt, was on a “listening tour” in the region, trying to arrive at understandings to strike a peace agreement.

In the last two days, Greenblatt has met with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli officials have hinted at a desire for Saudi Arabia to play a role in a regional Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and the US is reportedly also pushing for Riyadh to be involved.

A statement by a senior adviser to Salman on the meeting carried by Bloomberg news made no mention of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, beyond accusing Iran of “obstructing of any deal to settle the Palestinian issue.”

The adviser also said the two had discussed problems with the Iran nuclear deal.

“Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stressed how bad and very dangerous the nuclear deal is on the region and that it is going to hold the Iranian radical regime back for a short period of time in their quest for producing a nuclear weapon. This deal could lead to a more dangerous and continuous armament among the region’s countries that will not accept any Iranian nuclear military capacity,” the statement read.

Trump’s meeting and private lunch with the Saudi defense minister was seen as an attempt to warm relations with the country after longstanding tensions over differences in handling the Iranian nuclear threat.

During their tete-a-tete Tuesday, Trump and Prince Salman agreed to collaborate in combating Iran’s actions in the region, according to the White House.

“The President and the Deputy Crown Prince noted the importance of confronting Iran’s destabilizing regional activities, while continuing to evaluate and strictly enforce the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the US statement read, referring to the nuclear pact by its formal name.

As a candidate, Trump often sent mixed signals about how he would handle the Iranian nuclear pact if he was elected. In his address at last year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, he vowed both to rip up the pact and enforce it.

“My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said at the conference in March 2016, calling the controversial agreement signed between the P5+1 world powers and Tehran “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.”

Later in the speech he called “at the very least” to implement the deal that lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program.

But since Trump’s election in November, his advisers have signaled he would not unilaterally walk away from the agreement unless Tehran violated its terms.

Indeed, in a call with King Salman in January, Trump, for the first time, pledged unequivocally to enforce the deal — despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord that he has repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.

Along with Israel, Saudi Arabia has been one of the Middle Eastern countries most opposed to the nuclear deal.

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