Mahmoud Abbas won’t accept U.S. role in peace process “from now on”

Mahmoud Abbas won’t accept U.S. role in peace process “from now on”

Palestinian president calls President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital a "crime"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has told Arab and Islamic leaders that the United States is no longer fit to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and should be replaced as mediator by the United Nations.

His remarks outlined a significant policy shift in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Mr Abbas said his people will no longer accept the United States as a peace broker but added that they remain committed to international resolutions which have formed the basis of the process.

He was speaking at the gathering of heads of state and top officials from Islamic nations at a summit in Turkey that is expected to forge a unified Muslim world’s stance against Mr Trump’s move.

Mr Abbas said Mr Trump’s decision was a “crime” which came at a time when the Palestinians were engaged with Washington in a new push to reach what he said was anticipated to be the “deal of our times”.

“Instead we got the slap of our times,” Mr Abbas said.

“The United States has chosen to lose its qualification as a mediator … We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process from now.”

The speech marked a significant shift in Mr Abbas’ approach toward the United States, after years of focusing on courting US goodwill because of Washington’s role as sole mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Immediately after Mr Trump’s announcement last week, Mr Abbas had said the US effectively disqualified itself as a broker, but Wednesday’s speech was more sharply worded and delivered to a global audience.

It was also part of a speech that called on the gathering for specific steps to counter the US decision on Jerusalem.

“We call that the (peace) process in its entirety be transferred to the United Nations,” Mr Abbas said.

He also called on countries that believe in the two-state solutions to recognise Palestine as a state, and urged Arab and Muslim nations to financially support east Jerusalem.

Mr Abbas also urged Muslim nations and countries with relations with Israel to take necessary political and economic measures against Israel “to force it to abide by international consensus” to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem.

Last week, Mr Abbas’ aides said the Palestinian leader would not meet with Mike Pence during the US vice president’s planned visit to Israel and the West Bank next week.

Mr Abbas had initially planned to meet with Mr Pence in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, but two senior aides have said the meeting would not take place because of Mr Trump’s move on Jerusalem.

The Istanbul gathering of heads of state and top officials from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was also an opportunity for the Muslim world to offer its strongest response yet to Washington’s move.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current president of the OIC, called on countries to urgently recognise the Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Erdogan has been among the most vocal critics of Trump’s announcement. In remarks to the summit, he said Israel is an “occupying state” and a “terror state”.

Jerusalem’s status is at the core of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Mr Trump’s December 6 announcement was widely perceived as siding with Israel.

It also raised fears of more bloodshed as past crises over Jerusalem had triggered violent outbreaks.

King Abdullah II of Jordan told the gathering that the Trump decision was “grave”, threatening the resumption of any peace talks.

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