Abbas says talks with Trump positive, if short on specifics

Walking in the footsteps of many of his predecessors who delved into Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking - but ultimately failed - US President Donald Trump launched Wednesday his own "process which hopefully will lead to peace".

"Without this we will not accept any solution", said Abbas, who touted an Arab League peace plan that offers Israel diplomatic relations with the Muslim world for a Palestinian state.

Trump's long-shot effort to bring Middle East peace got off to a rocky start when he appeared to back away from supporting a Palestinian state and vowed to move the USA embassy to Jerusalem, breaking two tenets of American policy held for decades. Palestinian officials said after the meeting that Trump had not raised any specific proposals to restart negotiations.

Abbas' White House talks followed a February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved to reset ties after a combative relationship with the Republican president's predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama. Most Israelis want all of Jerusalem as their capital and reject a full return to 1967 borderlines as a threat to their security.

The Netanyahu government, like those before it, has expanded settlements on war-won lands, despite USA appeals to curb construction.

Standing alongside the USA president in the Roosevelt Room to address reporters, Abbas, speaking in Arabic, said he believed the parties are capable under Trump's "courageous stewardship and great negotiating ability" to bring about "a historic peace treaty".

"So far, we didn't talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue", he said.

Abbas said he is ready to meet with Netanyahu, and suggested the Israeli leader is avoiding such talks.

"We had planned to meet in Moscow, but he didn't show up", Abbas said, referring to Russian efforts several months ago to set up such a meeting.

Abbas said Palestinians are not cultivating a hatred of Israel as he rejected Trump's position, which is also held by Netanyahu. In the past, Abbas balked at the idea of such a summit, saying it would be pointless without general agreement on the framework of negotiations and a significant curb in settlement construction.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said he looks forward to discussing with Trump the "best ways to advance peace". "But I hope that it's possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace".

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"I'm committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement", Trump said.

Abbas, speaking through a translator, told Trump that under "your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiations ability", the Palestinians would be partners seeking a "historic peace treaty".

In a February news conference with Netanyahu, Trump broke with longtime US policy by raising the one-state idea and withholding clear support for an independent Palestine, though officials quickly stressed he would support any arrangement agreed by the two sides.

"As someone who's worked on this for the last 30 years, I don't think we've ever been at a lower point", he said ahead of the meeting.

Abbas' positive portrayal of the meeting with Trump may not be enough for a skeptical public at home. Israel considers such payments a reward for terrorists, but stopping them seems untenable to Abbas, especially at a time of broad Palestinian support for a mass hunger strike of prisoners held by Israel. Barghouti, in prison since 2002, is serving five life terms after an Israeli court convicted him of directing attacks that killed five people during a Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told reporters that "the gap between the parties has probably never been greater" but not impossible for Trump to overcome with a gradual trust-building approach.

Abbas is hamstrung by the fact that his Palestinian Authority does not control all Palestinian territory, since the militant Hamas movement seized control in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hamas accuses Abbas' government of irresponsible behavior and warns the cuts would be disastrous for Gaza's 2 million residents.

Abbas who has been in office since 2005 and was part of two failed United States attempts to negotiate peace under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, reiterated the Palestinian principles for peace.

Washington D.C. [United States], May 4: United States President Donald Trump has vowed to revive the stalled Israel-Palestine peace process by acting as a "mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator".

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017.

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