Abbas: PA, US are 'partners' in pursuit of peace

PA president thanks US counterpart for commitment to peace; Obama: Palestinians deserve a state of their own.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama (photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama
(photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Thursday his commitment to peace with Israel and expressed opposition to violence.
At a joint press conference in Ramallah with visiting US President Barack Obama, Abbas said that Palestinians believe that peace is necessary and inevitable. “We also believe that it is possible,” he said.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
“We believe that peacemaking, as much as it requires political courage, also requires an expression of good faith, a recognition of people’s rights, respect for the other, and dissemination of a culture of peace and a commitment to international legitimacy and its resolutions.”
Abbas stressed that “peace shall not be made through violence, occupation, walls, settlements, arrests, siege and denial of refugee rights.”
He described his talks with Obama as “good and useful.”
Abbas said he focused during his talks with the American president on the “risks” of settlement activities and the need to release Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
Abbas also said he was determined to achieve reconciliation with Hamas so that Palestinians would be able to “march towards making peace, security and stability.”
Obama began his remarks by greeting Abbas with the Arabic word marhaba [“hello”].
Noting that he had visited Ramallah five years ago, Obama said he has returned to the West Bank because the US was “deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.”
The Palestinians, Obama said, “deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope – that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity.
Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own.”
Obama hailed Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for the progress they have made in building institutions of a Palestinian state.
Lashing out at Hamas, Obama said that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continued to live in misery and under repression. “Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely, because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down rather than building Palestine up,” he said.
Obama condemned the firing of the rockets from the Gaza Strip toward Israel earlier on Thursday. “We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot,” he said. “We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians – a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent.”
Obama said he reaffirmed during his one-hour meeting with Abbas that the US remained committed to realizing the vision of two states, “which is in the interest of Israel, the US and the world.”
The US, he added, sought an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinians, alongside the Jewish State of Israel.
“As I have said many times, the only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves,” Obama said. “There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution.”
Calling on both Israelis and Palestinians not to give up on peace, Obama announced that US Secretary of State John Kerry intended to spend significant time, effort and energy in trying to bring about a closing of the gap between the two sides.
Later, Obama met separately with Fayyad and a group of Palestinian teenagers. He also attended a Palestinian folklore dabka dance.
Addressing the US leader, a Palestinian teenager said: “We hope you will make a state for us and end the suffering under occupation. We also hope you will work to release our prisoners so that they could return to their children.”
As Obama arrived in Ramallah, scores of Palestinians demonstrated in the city center to express opposition to the visit.
The protesters chanted slogans in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Some also criticized Abbas for meeting with Obama.
Similar anti-US demonstrations took place in Bethlehem and Nablus, as well as in the Gaza Strip, where protesters set fire to pictures of Obama.
Hamas reacted to Obama’s statements in Ramallah by saying they were “poisonous and misleading.” Hamas denounced Abbas’s remarks as “weak.”
“Obama’s statements reflect a total bias in favor of the Israeli entity,” Hamas official Salah Bardaweel said.