Abbas Sees 'Historic Opportunity' for Peace Under Trump, Says Palestinian Envoy

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, March 27, 2017.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, March 27, 2017.Credit: Virginia Mayo/AP

WASHINGTON - Five days before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives in Washington for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, one of his closest advisers told Haaretz that Abbas believes there is a "historic opportunity" to reach a peace agreement under Trump's leadership, and that he is looking forward to forging a "strategic partnership" with the new American president.

Dr. Husam Zomlot, the recently appointed chief representative of the PLO in Washington, said that Abbas is coming to Washington with one clear objective: creating a political horizon for peace together with Trump. He added that Trump and Abbas had a "very positive conversation" when they spoke on the phone last month, and that Abbas is ready to "employ his vision for peace with full force."

Asked about the meeting's agenda, Zomlot clarified that "there is one thing on the agenda – and that thing is the historic opportunity for peace presented by President Trump."

In an interview with Reuters overnight, Trump said, “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever.”

In contrast to some in Israel who declared that Trump's election was the end of the peace process, Zomlot sounded positive about working with the U.S. administration.

"Go back to what I said at that time, ever since the day President Trump won. We have been consistent, saying for months that President Trump brings with him a very serious opportunity for peace.

"When you have a president who from day one commits himself to peace, and invests time and effort in reaching a solution, that's the definition of a historic opportunity. President Trump has the political capital, the relationships with all the parties involved, and the will to actually achieve this goal."

According to Zomlot, "President Abbas will arrive with one goal in mind – that goal is forming a solid strategic partnership with President Trump, and working together toward that very noble goal of ending the conflict and achieving peace. And let me just say, this is a globally awaited peace we're talking about."

Trump and Abbas have already spoken once on the phone, a conversation that took place in mid-March and focused on ways to restart the peace process.

"It was a very positive conversation," Zomlot said. "It focused on two main issues: first of all, President Trump's willingness to intervene and his belief that peace is possible, something which is extremely significant for us. And second of all, President Trump's invitation to President Abbas to meet him at the White House and start the journey together toward the desired peace – for the Palestinians, the Israelis, the United States and the whole world."

Ahead of the meeting next week, Zomlot said that "for President Abbas, the objective is leaving Washington when there is a political horizon and renewed hope for peace."

Abbas declared recently in an interview that he is willing to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "any time" under Trump's patronage. He added that "we are glad that now the U.S. administration listens about us from us, and not from third parties."

Zomlot, who has been in touch with administration officials ahead of the upcoming visit, emphasized that "President Abbas has what it takes to be the partner for peace, and to go hand in hand with President Trump toward a historic agreement. He has a vision for peace, he has a strong and proven commitment to diplomacy, and he has the legitimacy to reach a final agreement, in a way that no one else does. President Abbas will arrive to Washington ready to employ his vision for peace with full force."

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