Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence later this month, a senior adviser to the PA leader confirmed on Saturday, less than three days after President Donald Trump announced major changes to American policy on Jerusalem.As a part of a Middle East tour, Pence was slated to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem in the latter half of December.“There will not be a meeting with Pence. The matter is bigger than a mere meeting because the United States, in its decisions on Jerusalem, crossed redlines,” Majdi al-Khalidi, Abbas’s diplomatic affairs adviser, told official PA radio.A White House aide said Pence “still plans to meet with Abbas as scheduled” and “believes it would be counterproductive for him to pull out of the meeting,” Agence France-Presse reported. On Wednesday in a speech at the White House, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated a process to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.However, the American president stated that he was not taking a position on the final status of Jerusalem, which he said Israel and the Palestinians would decide in future peace talks.In televised remarks on Wednesday night, Abbas slammed Trump’s decisions, calling them “unacceptable” and “condemned.”On Friday, the PA president said the US was “no longer qualified to sponsor the peace process.”
Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians hope the capital of a future Palestinian state will be in east Jerusalem.According to Palestinian officials, the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and starting a process to relocate the embassy there are equivalent to siding with Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem.On Thursday, top Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub also said that Abbas would not welcome the US vice president.“In the name of Fatah, I say that we will not receive [Pence] in the Palestinians territories. He is asking to see the brother Abu Mazen [Abbas] on December 19 in Bethlehem. That meeting will not happen,” Rajoub told the Al-Hadath TV station.In a post on his Facebook page on Thursday, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh called on Arab and Muslim leaders “to refuse to welcome the American vice president.”On Friday and Saturday, the Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb and Coptic Pope Tawadros II turned down meeting requests from Pence over Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem, Egyptian and international media reported.It is not clear if other Arab leaders intend to cancel their meetings with Pence.Reuters contributed to this article.
Clashes erupt in Bethlehem over Trump"s Jerusalem move (Reuters)