Abbas Discusses Framework for Sponsoring Political Process
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking an international framework based on a multilateral mechanism, in an attempt to break the US monopoly over peace negotiations, a Palestinian source close to the matter said.
The source told Asharq al-Awsat that the talk is about an international framework comprising five or seven countries that is at the heart of a political process with the Palestinians and Israelis, similar to the "5 + 1" group that established the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The source said that President Abbas discussed this matter with EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.
"Among the suggestions was the addition of other states along with the quartet, to be able to manage a new political process," the source added.
The current quartet is composed of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Abbas wants to add other countries to start a political process based on "5 + 2" or "7 + 2".
Several sources indicated that Abbas wants to involve large countries such as China, Norway and Arab countries, in a "multilateral framework", including the current international quartet.
On several occasions, the Palestinian president said he would no longer accept the United States as a mediator of the political process, following President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) central council rejected Trump's decision, saying the US lost its eligibility to sponsor the peace process.
Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said EU Commission foreign ministers did not object to the Palestinian position on the refusal to deny Washington's monopoly of the political process.
"This position was clearly understood and it was evident from their discussion about further sponsorship of the negotiations," said Maliki, who attended the meetings alongside Abbas. He added that President Abbas told them that US sponsorship of the political process is over and has become part of the past.
In a joint press conference with European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Abbas suggested that EU play a central role in the Middle East peace process.
But it seems that the Palestinians' plan is still difficult to achieve, because the US is not concerned and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared on several occasions that Tel Aviv will only accept US as a broker for peace.Washington says that despite Palestinian positions, it hopes to establish its peace plan this year.
"The US administration hopes that a comprehensive peace plan will be presented this year," a senior White House official said, adding that no country in the world believes that Washington should not be the mediator between the parties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The US belief is that the Palestinians are confident of that, too," stated the official.
Speaking at the ambassadors conference, which coincided with US Vice President Mike Pence's arrival for his three-day trip to Israel, Netanyahu said Sunday: “On peace, I have a message for Abu Mazen: There is no alternative for American leadership in the diplomatic process. Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace, does not want peace.”
The Palestinian approach to partially involving the United States in a political process, comes amid growing public anger at Washington administration's stances.
While Palestinian officials attacked Pence's speech at the Israeli Knesset, describing him as biased and representing a "crusade," Palestinian citizens protested and held a strike condemning Trump's decision and Pence's visit.
Palestinians closed their shops, schools, universities, bakeries and banks and unions stopped the public transportation.
Fatah movement's spokesman and member of its Revolutionary Council Osama al-Qawasmi said the strike reflected a strong rejection of Trump's decision and the visit of his deputy.
Palestinians demonstrated at the northern entrance of al-Bireh and threw stones and empty bottles at the Israeli occupation forces. The Israeli occupation forces responded by firing bullets, and gas and sound bombs, injuring four citizens.
In Nablus, Israeli army shot and wounded two Palestinians near the Zaatara checkpoint south of the city, accusing them of attempting to carry out a stabbing operation.
Palestinian Red Crescent announced that the Israeli occupation forces refused to allow them to reach the wounded.
An army spokesman accused the two persons of attempting to stab the soldiers, saying medical staff gave them first aid before transferring them to the Bellinson Hospital in Petah Tikva in Israel.