NEW YORK - U.S. President Donald Trump is to meet with three Arab leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Trump is due to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah for an hour-long discussion before midday. Immediately afterwards, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump is due to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in the evening. Trump is expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with all three leaders.
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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.
King Abdullah has also met Trump twice since the beginning of his presidency. In February, the king was the first Middle Eastern leader – and the second one in the world – to receive a meeting with Trump. The two met once again in May. In both meetings, Abdullah emphasized the importance of reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution. The website Buzzfeed recently reported that Abdullah also held a secret meeting with a number of senior Trump advisers in January, during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations.
Al-Sissi met with Trump for the first time exactly a year ago, on the sidelines of the 2016 UN General Assembly, when Trump was only a Republican presidential candidate. Their only meeting since Trump took office was held in May, around the same time that the president hosted Abdullah and Abbas in Washington. Sissi has expressed support for Trump's peace efforts a number of times in recent months. This week, he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their first-ever public meeting that an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would have significant positive impact on the entire Middle East.
Besides the peace process, all three leaders are expected to discuss issues related to foreign aid budgets with the president. The Trump administration supports legislation that would cut off much of the funding the U.S. provides to the Palestinian Authority, while Egypt and Jordan are facing the risk of potential cuts in American aid as a result of the Trump administration's proposed budget for the State Department.