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Trump envoy denies reported completion of US Mideast peace plan

Jerusalem Old City is seen through a door with the shape of star of David, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday, Dec. 6. 2018.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Despite Washington's reported progress, Palestinian officials continue to denounce any US-led peace initiative

US Special Representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, denied the reported completion of President Donald Trump's long-awaited "deal of the century" for Mideast peace.

“The plan is done… [the president] is happy with the parameters of the deal,” a Monday report from Fox News quotes a senior administration official as saying.

The report said the finished proposal is between 175-200 pages long and can be accessed by fewer than five people, according to the report.

In a tweet, Greenblatt told the popular US news network that their sources gave them "bad info."

"While the plan is close to complete, we aren't there yet & we'll continue to refine it until release. 175 pages is also inaccurate. It's a very detailed political/economic plan but not that long," Trump's envoy said.

Emphasizing that it is unlikely the plan will be published before Israel’s elections April 9, the official added, “We are not going to do anything that threatens Israel’s security.”Benjamin Netanyahu - Facebook

The State Department also denied accusations from the Palestinian Authority who alleged that the US has asked international banks to stop transfers to the PA in an effort to apply financial pressure on the Ramallah government to support the Trump peace plan.

"The United States has not requested foreign donors restrict assistance to the Palestinians, nor has it requested that financial institutions cease transfers to Palestinian Authority bank accounts," the State Department asserted, adding that "we are aware of media reports suggesting this has occurred. Those reports are incorrect."

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Monday said the PA would take legal action in order to counter US efforts to pressure the Palestinians into supporting the deal.

“The leadership is following these new American attempts to impose a financial siege on our people, and is looking for legal steps to bring lawsuits against the United States over all these illegal steps on the one hand, while searching for suitable financial alternatives to respond to these punitive measures,” al-Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio station.

The US “Deal of the Century” has been in the works since Trump took office in January 2016, and though much has been made of it in Washington, the Palestinians are unanimously critical of any US-led peace initiative.

Palestinians and the US administration have stopped communicating directly (except through Twitter), after the US embassy move to Jerusalem last year. The Palestinians have stopped receiving any kind of aid from Washington, aggravating the deep structural crisis that affects their economy.

Nonetheless, Trump's administration will conduct a number of diplomatic missions in February geared toward increasing support for the plan among US' Mideast and European allies.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are set to attend what has been called an "anti-Iran" summit in Warsaw later this week, where they will address global leaders on US priorities for peace in the region.

Pence and Pompeo will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Iran's presence in Syria and efforts to combat the Islamic Republic's nuclear development.

The Palestinians rejected an invitation to attend the summit, citing concerns that the agenda will be dominated by US-led efforts they do not endorse.

White House advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are preparing to tour the Middle-East later this month to gather support for the economic part of the US president's 'deal of the century,' with a stop planned in Riyadh.

Al-Ekhbariya via AP

The reported finalization of the plan also coincides with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s official two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to meet with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz to discuss “the latest development in Palestinian, especially dangers facing Jerusalem,” according to a report from West Bank-based news outlet Wafa.

Abbas’ visit to the oil-rich Gulf monarchy comes on the heels of reports that Saudi Arabia’s government will refuse to support any US peace plan that fails to make “substantive concessions” to the Palestinians.

Channel 13’s Barak Ravid on Saturday reported that an Israeli Foreign Ministry report -- contradicting the current Israeli government’s claims of soon-to-be normalized relations with Gulf nations --- was circulated in December among a small group of Israeli officials and diplomats.

"There was a feeling in the last year that there was a window of opportunity to reach a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia — but, even if there was such an opening, this window is closed for now" Foreign Ministry officials told Channel 13.

The report also alleged that a January 14 meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (widely referred to as MBS for short) had reinforced the Israeli document’s conclusions.

US officials briefed on the meeting allegedly claimed that MBS had told Pompeo that Saudi Arabia would not support the Trump administration’s Middle East Peace plan if it did not address a number of Palestinian demands- chief among them the formation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Interestingly, the report stated that Saudi King Salman had decided to take back the Israeli-Palestinian conflict file from his son in order to 'roll Saudi policy back to the kingdom's traditional alignment with the Arab Peace Initiative.'

The Arab Peace Initiative puts the creation of a Palestinian state according to pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital as preconditions for normalization of ties between Israel and signatory states. It was originally adopted by the Arab League in 2002 and has been re-endorsed by the League twice since, once in 2007 and again in 2017.

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