White House: Kushner, Abbas Meeting Aimed to Launch 'Substantive Peace Talks'

In contrast to skepticism expressed in recent weeks, the White House says Abbas meeting was 'productive' and both sides expressed willingness to 'continue with U.S. led conversations'

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner in the West Bank city of Ramallah August 24, 2017.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner in the West Bank city of Ramallah August 24, 2017. Credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS

The White House said in a statement released on Thursday night that the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the U.S. delegation led by Jared Kushner was "productive." 

The short statement also said that the meeting "focused on how to begin substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks" and that "both sides agreed to continue with the U.S.-led conversations as the best way to reach a comprehensive peace deal."

After a round of talks in Arab countries, Jared Kushner met Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Ramallah.

At the start of their meeting, Abbas told Kushner he was willing to work with the U.S. administration to reach a "peace deal."

Kushner stressed at the beginning of their meeting that Trump was very optimistic about the chances of reaching a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, saying the president is striving to create a better future for both people.

"We very much appreciate the efforts of President Trump, who announced from the beginning that he will work to reach a historic peace deal and has repeated this more than once during the meetings we held in Washington, Riyadh and Bethlehem," Abbas said before his meeting with Kushner.

"I want to stress that the American delegations is working for peace and we will work with them to reach what Trump calls a peace deal. We know things are hard and complicated, but nothing is impossible if you put in an honest effort," he said.

In contrast to the skepticism sounded in the past two weeks, both Netanyahu and Abbas made an effort, at least publically, to voice willingness to cooperate with American efforts to renew peace talks.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement he and Kushner spoke about ways to advance peace and regional security. "Talks were effective and significant," Netanyahu's office said, adding "the prime minister expects talks to continue in recent weeks."

In recent days, several Palestinian officials said off-the-record in recent days that the American peace team was biased in Israel’s favor and even reciting Netanyahu’s talking points. Abbas didn’t use these words, but at the beginning of the week he criticized the Trump administration and said he didn’t understand the White House’s conduct on the peace process at a meeting with a Meretz delegation.