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Erekat: US talk of peace deals ‘unacceptable’ as long as Trump Jerusalem decision stands

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Saeb Erekat

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Continued American “talk” of deals to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or invitations to resume negotiations are “unacceptable” as long as US President Donald Trump’s changes to American policy on Jerusalem are not reversed, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told official Palestinian Authority radio on Tuesday.

In a speech at the White House in early December, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the relocation of the US Embassy from Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv to the holy city, breaking with decades of American policy and infuriating the Palestinian leadership.

Several days after Trump’s speech, Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas announced  that the Palestinians will no longer accept Washington as an interlocutor in the peace process between the PA and Israel. Nonetheless, White House officials have continued to say they intend to put forward a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leader Abbas says Trump’s ‘crime’ over Jerusalem precludes US peace role (Reuters)

Erekat also said that the American president removed Jerusalem from the negotiating table, adding that “there is no value to a Palestinian state with out Jerusalem as its capital.”

In his speech on Jerusalem, Trump said Israeli and Palestinians should decide the final borders of the city, emphasizing that the US was not taking a position on their final status.

However, in a tweet last week, the American president said “we have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table,” seemingly contradicting his prior remark.

In his interview with Palestinian radio, Erekat added that the American administration wants to impose dictates on the Palestinian leadership by the way of “abolishing UNRWA, cutting aid, starving refugees and closing schools.”

Last Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Trump does not want to turn over American aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table.

On the same day, Trump posted a tweet, in which he suggested he wanted to cut aid to the Palestinians, if they do not want to work with his peace efforts.

In 2016, the US gave more than $350 million to UNRWA to provide education, health, social welfare and other services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other refugee concentrations in the Middle East.

Last week, UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness said his organization was not informed of any changes to US contributions to the UN agency. 

On Monday in an interview with PA radio, Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s adviser for international affairs, called on Arab states to make up for any possible American cuts in aid to UNRWA.

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