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Mohammed bin Salman exhorted Abbas to go along with US peace plan: source

President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Abbas was asked to fly with haste to the Saudi capital Riyadh immediately on Sunday

The Trump administration’s plan to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks involves convincing Israel to impose a new settlement-building freeze and generous financial aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a source with direct knowledge of a meeting between Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday.

Abbas was asked to fly with haste to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday for a meeting with both Bin Salman and King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The way in which President Abbas was invited underlines the seriousness of what the Saudis wanted to talk to Abbas about.

A Palestinian official in Ramallah said that while the Saudis wanted explanations from Abbas on the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks, they also sought to update him on what was discussed during senior White House peace envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt’s visit to Riyadh two weeks ago.

According to a source with direct knowledge of what was discussed in the meeting, the Crown Prince told Abbas that the US is getting ready to roll out its long-awaited vision of how to revive the stalled peace process.

Trump places great importance on his relationships with the key Sunni capitals in the Middle East: Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo.

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

He expects each government to assume a certain level of responsibility toward "pressuring" or persuading the Palestinian Authority to accept the American deal, which will mention a two state solution in general terms only.

The source, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Bin Salman told Abbas that Trump is confident he can convince Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze new settlement building and limit new construction to “natural growth” only.

Regarding the final borders, the US wants to ensure Israel’s security but also allow freedom of movement for Palestinians and their goods.

The plan will also include deployment of Israeli army in the Jordan Valley, something Israel has long insisted on.

As to the sensitive issue of Palestinian refugees, the US will propose that they be settled in the countries they are already in with full citizenship and rights. The international community will help with compensation.

Egypt will assist, as it has been doing for some time now, with the reconciliation between the two Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas, and Cairo will help keep Hamas contained.

Abbas’ faction, Fatah, remains at loggerheads with Hamas over the latter’s insistence on maintaining its military wing even after the unity government is supposed to come in effect on December 1.

Thomas Coex (AFP)

To entice the Palestinians to accept Trump’s plan for moving ahead, Saudi Arabia will boost its financial help to the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the assumption that Hamas will not have a relationship with Iran or Hezbollah after it joins the PA fold.

Bin Salman promised mega projects in both Gaza and the West Bank if Abbas goes along with the plan, adding that the United Arab Emirates will also pitch in.

The source said Abbas didn’t give an answer to the Saudis. He added that Abbas is not happy with the plan but is in a very weak position and may have no choice but to reluctantly go along with it, or resign.

In the source’s opinion, the “historic deal” that Trump has spoken of, is neither historic or a deal.

Asked to comment on the report, a senior White House official said that "there is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on" and added that the reported proposal was “not an accurate representation, rather it is a mix of possibilities and ideas that have existed for decades from a source.”

“As we have always said, our goal is to facilitate a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians and not to impose anything on them. We are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything and we have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations."

Mohammad Al Kassim is the Senior Middle East Correspondent for i24NEWS.

Comments

(1)

it's an interesting day when Saudi Arabia is more interested in making peace than the Pali "president" is. Abbas doesn't peace.

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