PA looks to Russia, China to upstage United States

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said repeatedly that the US has forfeited its role as a mediator due to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

December 20, 2017 02:47
2 minute read.
Xi Jinping, Mahmoud Abbas in China, July 2017

China's Xi Jinping and PA president Mahmoud Abbas in China, July 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dispatched delegations to Moscow and Beijing on Tuesday, as part of efforts to find new sponsorship for the peace process, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

The move came as Ahmad Majdalani, a PLO executive committee member who is leading the delegation to China, ruled out any Palestinian officials meeting with US peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt during his upcoming visit to the region. “No one from the Palestinian side is going to meet with Jason Greenblatt, officially or unofficially,” Majdalani told The Jerusalem Post.

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Majdalani told the Voice of Palestine radio station that the delegations would carry a message from Abbas to Russia and China about finding new sponsorship for the peace process within the framework of the UN to replace US sponsorship.

Abbas has said repeatedly that the US has forfeited its role as a mediator due to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “The US is with Israel and supports it and backs it,” Abbas told a Palestinian leadership meeting on Monday. The Palestinians say they will also boycott US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region in January.

The Palestinian delegation to Russia, which will include veteran Abbas adviser Nabil Sha’ath, will likely get a sympathetic hearing. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized the US for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution aimed at overturning Trump’s move. “It is unfortunate that the US has chosen an approach that runs counter to the will of the international community and is diluting the international legal framework of the Middle East peace process,” the ministry tweeted.
Palestinian leader Abbas says Trump's 'crime' over Jerusalem precludes US peace role (Reuters)

Abbas is scheduled to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Riyadh on Wednesday. On Thursday, he travels to France for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, where he hopes to push forward the Palestinian position that the European Union should take an activist role in peacemaking.

Nathan Thrall, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, does not believe the Palestinian efforts to find an alternative mediator to the US will succeed. “There is a desire among Palestinians to have a different mediator other than the US, but for any peace process to take place Israel would have to partake in it, and it prefers that the US remain mediator. The Palestinian desire is sincere but there isn’t much chance of success.”

In Thrall’s view, the Palestinian boycott of US officials will not be sustained for long. “I think resuming contacts with the US and discussing with the US peace process-related issues, developments in Area C [of the West Bank] and the possibility of talks resuming in one form or another will happen quite soon,” he said.

“Whether they’ll engage in a Trump-led peace process is another question. But I think the boycott of US officials is not going to last long at all.”

Talal Awkal, a Gaza-based columnist for Al-Ayyam newspaper, said the US is the only power that can press Israel to agree to a two-state solution, but instead it sides with Israel. He does not think there will be any peace negotiations. “We will find ourselves in front of the fact that the US and Israel have no place for Palestinian rights,” Awkal said.

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