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Palestinians ‘ready to engage in dialogue with Israel’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he was ready to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of peace efforts spurred by US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)

JEDDAH: Palestinians are ready to engage in constructive peace talks and meet with the Israeli side if certain conditions are met, a top official said.
Talks are possible on the basis that Israel is willing to withdraw from the lands it occupied in 1967, and agrees to the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman.
“We are ready to meet and engage in serious peace talks with the Israeli side if they are ready,” Abu Rudeineh told Arab News on Tuesday.
“We will not accept to meet only for the sake of the meeting. It has to be on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to addressing other hanging issues, such as refugees and settlement construction.” 
Abbas said Tuesday he was ready to meet Israel’s prime minister as part of peace efforts spurred by US President Donald Trump, who is expected to visit the Palestinian territories “soon.”
Trump is expected to visit Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip. Abbas said: “We are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem,” in the occupied West Bank, with speculation that such a visit will occur on May 23.
Abbas reiterated the Palestinian position during his meeting with Trump and members of his administration earlier this month, Abu Rudeineh said.
He made it clear that “we are ready to be part of genuine and true peace talks under the Trump administration’s umbrella, and ready to cooperate, but will never compromise” on Palestinians’ rights, the spokesman added.
During his visit to Israel, Trump is expected to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem and further discuss the possibility of relaunching peace negotiations, according to Abu Rudeineh.
“We hope he will bring positive feedback from the Israeli side to build on in terms of peace talks. We are ready if the other side shows a genuine will and desire to engage in constructive peace negotiations that eventually lead to a final settlement that meets and secures our just and historic rights,” he said.
Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centers of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

He is expected in Israel on May 22, but there has been no official confirmation yet.
Abu Rudeineh stressed that the Palestinian Authority has open channels of communication with the Arab leaders in order to unify their stances.
“We are in full coordination with the Arab leaders and our position with regard to the Palestinian cause is in total harmony with their views. The Arab leaders reiterated during the Arab Summit, which was held recently at the Dead Sea, in Jordan, the importance of implementing the Arab Peace Initiative in its entirety: full normalization between Israel and the Arab and Muslim countries in return for Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and recognition of East Jerusalem as our capital.
“Israel is yet to comply with the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative, and (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is trying to twist it around and get to normalize ties without making any commitment to the terms of the initiative in advance. This will not happen,” he said.
Trump has been seeking ways to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, which have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of the decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.
“We will get it done,” Trump said, boasting his deal-making prowess.
“It is something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
Netanyahu said he was ready to meet Abbas at any time as long as it is without preconditions, but Palestinians say years of negotiations with the Israelis have not ended the occupation.
The last public meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu was in 2010, although there have been unconfirmed reports of secret meetings since then.

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