Abbas expects Arab summit backing ahead of talks with Trump


The Palestinian president said on Tuesday that he expects this year's Arab summit to deliver a "clear message to the world" about Palestinian rights.

Mahmoud Abbas spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, which brought together kings, presidents and top officials from 21 Arab countries. The long-stalled Palestinian quest for statehood is a key issue at the gathering. Several of more than a dozen draft resolutions deal with the Palestinian issue.

Abbas said he expects the summit to give full backing to the Palestinian positions and to deliver a "clear message to the world about Palestinian rights."

A 2002 Arab peace plan, which offers Israel normal ties with dozens of Arab and Muslim states in exchange for withdrawing from war-won lands sought for a Palestinian state, is to be reaffirmed when heads of state meet on Wednesday.

On the eve of the summit, Abbas met with U.S. President Donald Trump's international envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who has been shuttling between Israel, the West Bank and Jordan in recent weeks to assess prospects for reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations after years of paralysis.

Israeli settlement construction has been a major obstacle to resuming talks. Abbas has said he can't negotiate while Israel continues to build more homes for Jews on occupied lands. Greenblatt has talked to Israel's leader about construction curbs.

Referring to the settlements, Abbas said Tuesday that "we are now waiting how things are being dealt with between them (the Americans) and the Israelis." At the same time, he said, there are "lots of questions from the American side at this stage and we answered all of their questions."

Abbas initially feared he would be sidelined by the Trump administration, which early on embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump has since invited Abbas to the White House, a meeting Abbas said he expects to take place in late April or early May.

Greenblatt met on Tuesday with the Qatari and Egyptian foreign ministers as well as the European Union's foreign policy chief on the sidelines of the summit. In Twitter messages, Greenblatt said he was talking to them about ways to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Earlier Tuesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan welcomed Arab leaders arriving for the summit, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is being sought by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The international group Human Rights Watch urged Jordan to arrest al-Bashir, based on two long-standing arrest warrants issued by the court. The charges were filed in connection with his government's campaign against insurgents in Sudan's Darfur region.

Jordan has said that as an Arab League member Sudan has a right to attend Wednesday's summit.

Al-Bashir has travelled despite ICC arrest warrants, but is careful where he goes.    (AP)

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