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PA official: US delegation tells Abbas they need months to prepare peace plan

Aug. 28, 2017 6:28 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 3, 2017 6:55 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath said Monday that in a meeting with Abbas last week in Ramallah, the US delegation to the region “asked the Palestinian leadership to give United States three to four months to prepare a peace plan.”

Shaath made the statements in an interview with official PA-owned radio station Voice of Palestine, adding that during the meeting Palestinian officials reiterated demands that they insisted should be met in any peace negotiations.

The demands, Shaath said, included ending the 50-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and solutions for all “final status issues,” particularly the return of Palestinian refugees.

The US delegation, according to Shaath, showed neither support nor opposition to the Palestinian demands, but rather asked for three to four months to prepare and propose a peace plan.

Following the highly-anticipated meeting with the US delegation led by Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, media reports indicated that visit produced little results.

A brief statement released by the US only said: “The Palestinian Authority and the U.S. delegation had a productive meeting focused on how to begin substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Both sides agreed to continue with the U.S.-led conversations as the best way to reach a comprehensive peace deal.”

However, Israeli and international media outlets said that the US delegation has continued to refuse to commit to the two-state model that has been traditionally accepted by previous US administrations and the international community.

Al-Hayat reported that Kushner told Abbas in Ramallah that getting Israel to place a moratorium on the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory could not be a precondition for resumed peace talks and that building would continue, though the White House claimed that Kushner "never said" that.

The Palestinian Authority was also reportedly unable to obtain a commitment from the US to economic development in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli military and civil control.

Israel's Channel 10 reported that the Palestinian Authority also made clear to the Americans that they do not intend to halt their payments of stipends to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The reports was also denied by US sources, who said the subject was not discussed.

The meeting came after reports emerged the previous week that during a meeting with the Israeli left-wing Meretz party, Abbas expressed his confusion regarding the US stance on Israel and Palestine, saying he “can’t understand” the Trump administration’s position on the conflict.

"I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as president of the United States," Haaretz quoted Abbas as saying, and that he still “can’t understand” the Trump administration’s position on the conflict.

While Trump has maintained on many occasions that, under his auspices, the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be solved, his administration has painted a rather unclear picture regarding Trump’s plans in the region, while a number of high-profile US officials, including Kushner, are known to be staunch supporters of Israel.

In February, Trump said that when it came to a solution for the decades-long conflict he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict.

However, his elusiveness has not belied the fact that Trump and his administration have maintained their pro-Israel stance, despite stated efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he said in the past was "not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

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