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Trump Middle East envoy meets Palestinian leader Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said a 'historic peace deal was possible' under Trump's leadership
Abbas and Greenblatt discussed 'stopping incitement' (Reuters)

President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy held his first talks on Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, amid concerns that the new administration in Washington is committed to Israel as an ally at the expense of Palestinians.

Jason Greenblatt's talks with Abbas took place in Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government, a day after he held a lengthy meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"President Abbas & I discussed how to make progress toward peace, building capacity of Palestinian security forces & stopping incitement," Greenblatt tweeted after the meeting.

In a separate statement issued by the US Consulate General, the two men "reaffirmed the commitment of both the Palestinian Authority and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians".

Abbas stressed that the Palestinian strategic choice was to achieve a two-state solution, the statement added. 

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014. Since his inauguration on 20 January, Trump has been ambivalent about a two-state solution, the mainstay of US policy in the region for the past two decades.

"I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like ... I can live with either one," Trump told a news conference during a visit to Washington by Netanyahu last month, causing consternation across the Arab world and in many European capitals.

However, Trump last Friday held his first telephone conversation with Abbas since becoming president and invited him to the White House.

Trump has criticised his predecessor Barack Obama for allowing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass in December 2016. His ambassador to Israel is an advocate of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank who has fiercely defended Israel’s policies.

During the election campaign, Trump vowed to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, last month blocked former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad from becoming the new UN envoy to Libya on the basis of his nationality.

"The United States does not currently recognise a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations," she said in a statement on 10 February.

On Tuesday, Abbas said in a statement that he told Greenblatt that he believed that under Trump's leadership "a historic peace deal was possible".

Abbas and Greenblatt also discussed plans to strengthen the Palestinian economy and the importance of ensuring economic opportunities for Palestinians, the statement said.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Greenblatt discussed Israel's settlement-building "with the hope of reaching a formula that will aim to promote peace and security," the Israeli leader's office said.

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