King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
(photo credit: AP)
Saudi Arabia is urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to enter
direct talks with Israel, and can “sweeten a deal” by offering financial
assistance for agreeing to negotiations, a top Israeli diplomatic official said
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According to the official, the US – which is pressing Abbas
to enter the talks – was behind a meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday between Abbas
and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.
“The Saudis can have a lot of
influence,” the official said, adding that they have thrown their weight – along
with Egypt and Jordan – behind efforts to coax Abbas back to the
Last week the Arab League gave Abbas the green light to enter
direct negotiations if he desired.
“Everyone now realizes the key is in
his hands,” the official said.
Over the past few months the US has
invested a great deal of effort trying to get Saudi Arabia and other
to back a return to direct negotiations, and to urge Abbas to go back to
Abbas, meanwhile, does not – at least publicly – seem to be
budging, reiterating his position after the meeting late on Wednesday
Abdullah that he would start negotiations only if Israel agreed to a
settlement freeze and to the establishment of a Palestinian state based
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, by contrast, is
calling for direct talks without any preconditions.
Ross, a special adviser to US President Barack Obama, arrived in Israel
Thursday for a series of meetings that, according to diplomatic sources,
focus both on the Palestinian issue and Iran. Following Ross’s meeting
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Barak issued a statement saying they
situation in Lebanon and ways to prevent a recurrence of Tuesday’s
skirmish, and the need to find a basis for “regional cooperation in the
against the radical axis and against outside forces threatening the
Diplomatic sources said it was not clear when US envoy
George Mitchell would return to the region, as he was waiting for a
Abbas on direct talks before coming back.