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Saudi reaffirms support for Palestinians
February 13, 2019
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RIYADH: Saudi King Salman said on Tuesday the kingdom was committed to an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital ahead of a US-led conference on Middle East peace and security.

 The monarch was speaking during a meeting with visiting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Riyadh.

 King Salman said his country “permanently stands by Palestine and its people’s right to an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital”, reported the official Saudi Press Agency.

 The pledge comes as the United States is expected to offer hints of its proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in Poland.

 Announcing the two-day conference last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that foreign ministers from around the world would attend to take up the “destabilising influence” of Iran in the Middle East.

 But with most major European powers sending low-level representation, the United States and Poland have toned down the agenda, saying the gathering is not focused on Iran but rather looking more broadly at the Middle East.

 US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has been putting the final touches on a “deal of the century” for the Middle East, will make a rare speaking appearance on Thursday.

 Kushner, whose family is close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is not expected to unveil the proposal until after the April 9 election in Israel.

 Kushner will reportedly visit the Middle East at end of this month, during which he will make a stop in Saudi Arabia.

 The Trump administration faces an difficult task in selling any deal to the Palestinian Authority, which remains livid over his landmark 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem -- claimed by both peoples -- as Israel’s capital.

 The Palestinian government -- which has labelled the Warsaw conference an “American conspiracy” -- has refused talks with the United States until it starts what it calls a more balanced policy.

The Palestinians on Monday called on Arab nations to boycott or downgrade their representation at a Mideast summit co-hosted by the United States, as Abbas traveled to Saudi Arabia discuss “the dangers facing the Palestinian cause.”

The conference in Poland is widely seen as a US-led effort to isolate Iran, which was not invited. The Palestinians cut off all contacts with the Trump administration after it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, saying it was unfairly biased toward Israel.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted the Palestinian ambassador in Saudi Arabia as saying “the visit is a continuation of the communication between the two leaderships under difficult international circumstances, as well as attempts to terminate the Palestinian cause.”

A senior Palestinian official said the visit had come at the invitation of the Saudi king, and talks were expected to focus on a peace plan the US says it is working on. The Palestinians have pre-emptive rejected the plan, saying President Donald Trump’s Mideast team is hopelessly biased.

The US has said the Warsaw conference is aimed at promoting peace and security in the Middle East. But it appears to be focused on building a united front against Iran, a country that both Israel and the Saudis see as a grave threat.

US officials say that Trump’s chief Mideast adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner will also discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not clear if this will include details of his peace plan.

Earlier Monday, the Palestinian foreign minister asked Arab countries to boycott or downgrade their representation at the Poland conference, which begins Wednesday.

Agencies
 

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