U.S. President Donald Trump told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that now might be their "best shot ever" to achieve Middle East peace on Wednesday, hours before the Palestinian leader is slated to address the UN General Assembly.
Trump noted that Israeli-Palestinian peace is considered the "toughest deal of all" to achieve, but vowed to devote "everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made."
Trump said Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are making efforts to advance the peace process. "Who knows, stranger things have happened, but we have a good chance," he said.
"No promises, obviously," he added.
Abbas praised Trump and his team, saying that its efforts have given him the confidence that "we are on the verge of real peace." He conveyed greetings to Jews, who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, and Muslims, who are celebrating the Islamic new year this weekend. The fact that the two holidays are taking place around the same time is "an indication we can coexist peacefully together."
Trump has met with Abbas twice since assuming office. Their first meeting took place in early May, when Abbas arrived for a state visit to Washington. The meeting was described as good and productive by both sides. Two weeks later, however, the two leaders' meeting in Bethlehem, part of Trump's first trip abroad as president, was reportedly tense and uncomfortable.
Since then, Abbas has met twice with Trump's senior advisers who are working on the peace process, and he has publicly expressed his commitment to Trump's attempt to renew negotiations with Israel.
In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, Abbas confirmed that in his most recent conversation with Jared Kushner, the senior Trump adviser had asked for a month-long time-out to develop ideas that would be presented to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Abbas' associates did not provide an official reaction to the fact that Trump did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in his own remarks to the assembly on Tuesday, saying that they expect matters to be clearer for both sides after the two presidents meet. “Perhaps it would be better that Trump not speak publicly on this subject and that we hear it in the [meeting] room, to understand the direction in which the winds are blowing,” a senior Palestinian official told Haaretz.
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