Abbas says ready to meet Israel PM as part of Trump peace efforts

RamallahUpdated: May 09, 2017, 11:17 AM IST

Abbas met Trump in Washington last week for their first face-to-face talks. Photograph:(AFP)

Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday Donald Trump was expected to visit the Palestinian territories "soon" and that he was ready to meet Israel's prime minister as part of the US president's peace efforts.

Trump is expected in Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip and the Palestinian president said "we are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem" in the occupied West Bank, with speculation it will occur on May 23.

"We told him that we were ready to collaborate with him and meet the Israeli PM (Benjamin Netanyahu) under his auspices to build peace," Abbas told reporters during talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Abbas met Trump in Washington last week for their first face-to-face talks.

Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican -- the spiritual centres of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

The stop in Israel is expected on May 22, though it has not been officially confirmed.

A senior Trump aide last week did not rule out the possibility of a presidential visit to the West Bank but said that it was likely to be contingent on security and Abbas taking concrete steps toward peace.

Trump has been seeking ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.

Embassy move 

Abbas said Tuesday that "we told him again of our commitment to a peace based on justice, with international resolutions and the two-state solution as references."

Trump has however sent mixed signals over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He backed away from the US commitment to the two-state solution -- Israel and an independent Palestinian state side-by-side -- when he met Netanyahu in February.

He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annexe most of the occupied West Bank.

Trump also vowed during his campaign to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.

At the same time, he has urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

One of Trump's top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.