Sunday 21 January 2018

Trump vows to cut peace deal for the Palestinians

Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Ruth Sherlock

Donald Trump said last night that he wants to "prove wrong" those who doubt there can be peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and vowed to work to secure this "toughest deal".

In their first meeting at the White House, Mr Trump and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, sought to show renewed determination to end the near seven-decade-long conflict. "We'll start a process which hopefully will lead to peace," Mr Trump said.

"Over the course of my lifetime, I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let's see if we can prove them wrong, OK?"

Mr Trump, a real estate and casino mogul who ran for the presidency largely on the promise of his negotiating skills, said he would be a "mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator" for peace. He said both sides should be willing to participate in direct negotiations.

"There's such hatred, but hopefully there won't be such hatred for very long," said Mr Trump, speaking alongside Mr Abbas in the Roosevelt Room after their meeting.

While the US president spoke only in broad terms, Mr Abbas called for a two-state solution that would see the creation of a Palestinian state based on pre-1976 borders. Israel rejects a full return to 1967 borders as a threat to its security.

"Mr President, it's about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and of our land," Mr Abbas said, referring to the West Bank, which is under Israeli control.

Mr Abbas also played to Mr Trump's ego, praising his "courageous stewardship" and "wisdom" which he said had given Palestinians "hope".

Mr Trump expressed near unequivocal support for Israel throughout his election campaign. And in his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, two months ago, he signalled an era of renewed relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to work together to make diplomatic progress on the threat posed by North Korea, following weeks of escalating tensions between the state and the US.

The White House said in a short statement that the two leaders spoke by telephone about the best way to resolve the "very dangerous" situation in North Korea.

The Kremlin said that Mr Putin and Mr Trump agreed to try to schedule a face-to-face meeting in Germany in July - around the G20 summit in Hamburg.

"Russia's influence will be helpful [on North Korea], but not nearly as much as China's co-operation," Matthew Wallin, Senior Fellow at American Security Project, said.

He said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs to see that having functioning nuclear weapons is a bigger threat to the country's existence "than the threat of an American or South Korean invasion without them".

"Like China, Russia sees North Korea as a useful check on American power in the region", but Mr Wallin said it was "unclear" if either Mr Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping are willing to put pressure on Mr Kim.

Moscow described the call as "business-like and constructive" with the two presidents also discussing the crisis in Syria. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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