Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO executive committee and a top Palestinian negotiator, blasted U.S. President Donald Trump's envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, saying Saturday that the pair's visit to the Middle East is actually an attempt to topple the Palestinian Authority.
Erekat also charged that the envoys' work visit was also intended to "destroy UNRWA," the UN relief organization aiding Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinian negotiator claimed that the American delegation's real intention was to remove the issue of Palestinian refugees from the negotiations table.
Erekat's words come amid a five-stop trip Kushner and Greenblatt took across the Middle East, throughout which the senior aide and the special peace process envoy carry out meetings with Middle Eastern leaders.
The two met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. A White House statement said that they discussed the ways "the humanitarian situation in Gaza can be alleviated, while maintaining Israel's security" and the administration's commitment "to advance peace."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also issued a statement concerning the American delegation's visit to the Middle East. His bureau wrote that "the American delegation has to realize that there's no point in looking for alternatives and illusions that are meant to divide the Palestinian homeland and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, added on the Palestinian president's behalf that "true peace obligates the implementation of decisions made by the international community, that are based on a two-state solution, a Palestinian state built on the 67' borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and the creation of an international mechanism to put the peace process back on the right track."
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Meanwhile Erekat, who spoke to Palestinian radio station Voice of Palestine, claimed that the Americans "want to destroy UNRWA through providing direct aid to countries that host the refugees, and through providing aid worth a billion dollars to the Gaza Strip without involving UNRWA. All of this is meant to take the refugee issue off the agenda."
He added that any attempt to present an alternative aid plan to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip is actually meant to separate the Strip from the West Bank and the replace the Palestinian leadership there.
According to him, Netanyahu has expressed willingness to help the Strip, but any sums of money Israel will transfer to Gaza will be deducted from budgets allocated to the Palestinian Authority. Erekat said that this stipulated aid is in itself another attempt to topple the PA and is laying the groundwork for the establishment of an autonomous ruling entity in the Strip.
Erekat said that the leaders who met Kushner and Greenblatt in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt had clarified to the American team that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could only be resolved through the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.
Two other conditions that were stressed to the U.S. delegation were that such a future state ought to have East Jerusalem as a capital and that an agreement regarding the refugee issue also has to be reached.
"We appreciate the stance of the Arab world and hope that the U.S. administration understood that the Palestinian issue is nonnegotiable," Erekat added.
The Palestinian negotiator spoke Friday in Amman with the Jordanian minister of foreign affairs, Ayman Safad, after the latter participated in a meeting with Jared Kushner. Erekat said that according to Safad, the U.S. doesn't seem to have a draft for a peace plan that could serve as a basis for serious talks with Israel. Due to the Palestinian boycott of Washington, Jordanian King Abdullah II has become a messenger of sorts for the Palestinians vis a vis the White House, and next week he is slated to hold a meeting with Trump in Washington.
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