Obama,Abbas to discuss proximity talk progress next week

US president looks to "advance the aspirations of the Palestinian people."

George Mitchell and Mahmoud Abbas 311 (photo credit: Madji Mohammed/AP)
George Mitchell and Mahmoud Abbas 311
(photo credit: Madji Mohammed/AP)
WASHINGTON – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with US President Barack Obama on June 9, the White House officially announced Thursday.
The long-anticipated meeting will focus on the proximity talks with Israel, with the president assessing their progress as well as addressing the US efforts “to work cooperatively to develop the institutions that can advance the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support the establishment of a Palestinian state,” a statement put out by the press office said.
The meeting will follow by one week a last-minute visit by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the White House this coming Tuesday, at the end of his trip to Canada.
Unlike Netanyahu’s last Oval Office encounter, when his meeting with Obama in March took place under a total media blackout, this visit is scheduled to have a photo op and press conference.
The treatment Netanyahu received in March did not sit well with many members of the Jewish community, who were critical of the evident tension between the countries that ensued after the US publicly and repeatedly reprimanded Israel for approving new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem during a visit of Vice President Joe Biden.
In the intervening weeks, the Obama administration has made a concerted effort to reach out to Jewish groups and mend fences, including meeting with leaders from The Jewish Federations of North America just last week.
“I had the feeling that we’re all in a much better place,” Kathy Manning, chairwoman of the JFNA Board of Trustees, said Friday following the group’s meetings with White House officials. “Their [intention] is that this next meeting will be a good and productive meeting.”
The JFNA delegation met with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, top National Security Council advisers Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro, and Congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle during this week’s Washington mission.
During their conversations, they urged Obama to
visit Israel as soon as possible, called for more American pressure onArab countries to make gestures toward Israel, and stressed theimportance of the Iranian issue.
Senior administration officials on a conference call with reportersFriday stressed that progress was being made on a new UN SecurityCouncil resolution sanctioning Iran for continuing to enrich uranium inthe face of international demands that it stop.
“We’ve been working with the full council for nearly two weeks on thedraft resolution elements and making good progress on that,” a seniorUS official said. “This is a priority effort for the council at thispoint.”
He offered the positive assessment despite dug-in opposition tosanctions from two UN Security Council members – Turkey and Brazil –which recently negotiated their own deal with Iran in a move that manyhave expected will hurt the sanctions process.
The administration officials also castigated the two countries duringthe call, rejecting assertions that the deal the two brokered confirmedto US demands concerning Iran’s nuclear program.