Abbas says talks with Trump positive, if short on specifics

Published: Updated:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his first meeting with President Donald Trump left him hopeful and he thinks the US can play an important role as mediator between Palestinians and Israelis.

Abbas says he and Trump did not discuss details. Abbas told reporters late Wednesday that “so far we didn’t talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue.”

There have been no serious negotiations on terms for a Palestinian state alongside Israel since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister. Trump said Wednesday he’s optimistic about prospects for a deal, but offered no specifics. Abbas said that “what is needed is to bring the two parties together” and that he is ready to meet with Netanyahu.

It was earlier reported that US President Donald Trump welcomed Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to the White House Wednesday for what he hoped would be “terrific” talks on relaunching the Middle East peace process.

Trump assured Abbas that he sees a “very good chance” for Israeli-Palestinian peace and that “we will get it done.” He added: “We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The US president greeted Abbas on the White House lawn, barely two and a half months after having received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I’m committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement,” Trump confirmed. “But any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper in peace.”

The source of Trump’s optimism was not immediately apparent. He offered no details about his effort or how it would be any different from attempts over the past two decades during which former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all tried and failed. Palestinian officials said after the meeting that Trump had not raised any specific proposals to restart negotiations.

Asked what distinguishes Trump’s plans from previous attempts, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said merely: “The man is different.” The peace process has been stalled since 2014, and there have been no serious attempts to restart negotiations.

Like previous US leaders, Trump faces numerous obstacles in the long-shot bid. They include the contours of a potential Palestinian state, Jerusalem’s status and the question of Palestinian refugees. Complicating it all are the vehement Palestinian criticisms of Israeli settlement construction and Israeli complaints that Palestinians are inciting violence.

Abbas insisted he is committed to peace, but he made clear Palestinian demands for a separate state based on borders that existed before the 1967 Mideast war, a capital in east Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.

“Our strategic option, our strategic choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of two states, a Palestinian state, with its capital of east Jerusalem, that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967,” he said.

Abbas also said “peace” would allow Israel an opportunity to normalize ties with the Arab states. He also added that a peace deal based on a two-state solution would aid the fight against terrorism.

Israel rejects the 1967 lines as a possible border, saying it would impose grave security risks. Israel also opposes Palestinian demands on refugees and stakes its claim on an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Trump did not discuss any of those issues Wednesday.

(With agencies)