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Abbas says talks with Trump positive, if short on specifics

At a White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Trump pledged to reinvigorate the stalled Mideast peace process that has bedeviled his predecessors and said he would serve as "a mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator" between the two sides.

As he concluded and turned to shake hands with Trump, Abbas added in English: "Now, Mr. President, with you, we have hope".

Trump extended his support to the Palestinian leader, saying that he wants Abbas to be the person who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, and prosperity to both peoples and to the region.

Despite what many experts see as a long-shot bid, Trump told Abbas: "I will do whatever is necessary".

There have been no serious negotiations on terms for a Palestinian state alongside Israel since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister. Netanyahu rejects the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and rules out a partition of Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. The Netanyahu government, like those before it, have expanded settlements on war-won lands, despite USA appeals to curb construction.

President Abbas said that their strategic option and choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state, a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.

"We hope this will be a new beginning", Abbas told Palestinians at a meeting in Washington on the eve of the talks.

"We had planned to meet in Moscow, but he didn't show up", Abbas said, referring to Russian efforts several months ago to set up such a meeting. Abbas and other Arab leaders have said doing so would inflame already simmering tensions. In the past, Abbas balked at the idea of such a summit, saying it would be pointless without general agreement on the framework of negotiations and a significant curb in settlement construction.

On Thursday, Mr Netanyahu said he looks forward to discussing with Mr Trump the "best ways to advance peace".

Planning is under way for a possible visit by Trump to Israel near the end of May.

His meeting with Trump, according to former White House official and peace envoy Dennis Ross, gives him "relevance and a boost" on both the Palestinian front and the regional arena.

"I'm committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement", Trump said.

"It is something that I think is frankly, maybe not as hard as people have thought over the years", Trump said, exuding his trademark bravado. Three Republican senators urged a halt to such payments in a letter to Trump that reflected widespread opinion in Congress.

In a February news conference with Netanyahu, Trump broke with longtime US policy by raising the one-state idea and withholding clear support for an independent Palestine, though officials quickly stressed he would support any arrangement agreed by the two sides. Officials now say Friedman, who is expected to take up his post next week, will live at the residence.

Trump has faced deep skepticism at home and overseas over the chances for him to achieve any quick breakthrough, not least because his administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy for restarting the moribund peace process. Many Palestinians have become disillusioned with Abbas' strategy, after two decades of intermittent USA -led negotiations ended in failure while Israeli settlements keep expanding. Israel considers such payments a reward for terrorists, but stopping them seems untenable to Abbas, especially at a time of broad Palestinian support for a mass hunger strike of prisoners held by Israel.

The turnout at the rally "reflects the people's support for the prisoners at a time when the Palestinian leadership failed in everything", said Sharif Suleiman, a 32-year-old project manager who attended the gathering.

Abbas promised that under "your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiating ability", the Palestinians would be partners seeking a "historic peace treaty". Hamas accuses Abbas' government of irresponsible behavior and warns the cuts would be disastrous for Gaza's 2 million residents.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, where he and President Donald Trump spoke.



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