Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned to Ramallah on Thursday, saying that he had remained true to the national principles of the Palestinian people during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama last Monday.
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Observers took the statement to mean that Abbas and the Palestinian leadership had not capitulated to pressure from Obama.
"We travelled and we stood by our obligations," Abbas said. "Rest assured that in the end we will prevail. We will be true to our principles and will not compromise them."
In an unusual move, Fatah held a reception in the presidential compound in Ramallah on the president's return. On the eve of his meeting with Obama, rallies of support were held in Ramallah and several other towns.
Palestinian Authority sources said the shows of support for Abbas conveyed both external and internal messages. Externally, they conveyed to the United States that Abbas would not succumb to pressure, while internally they demonstrated the continuing support of the Palestinian people for the president – and especially that of Fatah, in light of the criticism voiced recently by former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan.
Abbas' next test will come next week, when Israel is scheduled to release a fourth tranche of prisoners. In terms of the agreement that enabled negotiations to begin, Israel undertook to release 104 veteran prisoners in return for a Palestinian undertaking to refrain from seeking additional membership in international institutions.
Israel has already released 74 prisoners and the final 30 are due to be released on March 29, among them 14 Israeli Arabs and one prisoner from Jerusalem.
The lack of apparent success in the negotiations has put the final release in doubt, though Palestinian spokesmen have been stressing that the release is not conditional on progress in the negotiations.
Abbas will convene the Palestinian Authority's governing institutions over the next few days to report back from his meetings with Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and to sum up the results of nine months of negotiations.
Observers do not expect the president to make any dramatic announcements, given that additional meetings with Kerry and his team are still expected to take place before the end of the nine-month negotiating period.