Abbas Asks Blinken to Press Israel on Settlement Freeze, Settler Violence

The U.S. secretary of state urged Israel to de-escalate tensions before Ramadan, as he visits the region for historic 'Negev Summit' with Arab allies

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) receiving U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah on Sunday.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) receiving U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah on Sunday.Credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / PPO
Jack Khoury

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the Biden administration to press Israeli on freezing West Bank settlement expansion and curbing settler aggression, in a meeting Sunday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah.

According to Abbas, the international political action following Russia's invasion of Ukraine exposed a double standard when compared with the issue of Israeli occupation, which has not received the same attention or demands of accountability.

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Israel earlier on Sunday, Blinken called on Israel to take steps to de-escalate tensions with the Palestinians, including curbing settlement expansion, settler violence and halting evictions of Palestinians from their homes, in the run-up to Ramadan.

Blinken's comments came ahead of a historic Middle East foreign ministers' summit getting underway Sunday at Kibbutz Sde Boker, attended by Blinken, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.

Jordan's King Abdullah will also hold talks with Abbas on Monday, in a visit widely expected to focus on efforts to reduce tensions in the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in April this year.

Abdullah's visit is unrelated to the six-way summit in Israel, to which Jordan was informally invited.

Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz – who met with both Abbas and Abdullah in recent months – wanted to meet with Abbas and King Abdullah in Ramallah, but it remains unclear whether a three-way meeting will indeed take place.

In an initial reaction to the foreign ministers' summit in Israel, in which the Palestinians will not be participating, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that Israel is ignoring the Palestinian issue and deepening the occupation.

A statement by the ministry alleged that Israel is attempting to create a false impression by focusing on Iran and the emerging nuclear agreement with the goal of crushing the Palestinian issue and removing it from the international agenda.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called on the participating countries to "pay attention to the conduct of Israel and what it is doing in the occupied territories."

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