Saudi Arabia backtracks, as king says Trump Israel-Palestine peace plan must include East Jerusalem
Saudi Arabia's King Salman has said his country will not endorse US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan if it fails to address the final status of Jerusalem or the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
"We will not abandon you ... We accept what you accept and we reject what you reject," King Salman told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent meeting, Reuters reported on Sunday.
The renaming of the 2018 Arab League conference to "The Jerusalem Summit" in April, and a $200 million aid package for Palestinians later that month, were messages that the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees were back on the table, the report added.
The Saudi position was reportedly also expressed by King Salman during several recent talks with senior US officials and Arab leaders in the region.
The Saudi king's private assurances to Abbas and public defences of long-standing Arab positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem aimed at reversing perceptions of Saudi Arabia following a series of controversial statements by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the past year.
In December, the New York Times reported that bin Salman had pressured Abbas to accept Trump's peace plan, which made no clear commitment on a capital in East Jerusalem or full statehood.
Earlier this year, bin Salman said in an interview with US news magazine The Atlantic that Israel had the "right" to a homeland, a controversial departure from long-term Arab policy.
King Salman's recent pledges appear to have been prompted by US Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.
"They told the administration, 'what we could do for you before Jerusalem, we won't be able to do now'," a diplomat told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Diplomats in the region say the Trump administration's current blueprint for a peace plan - as conveyed during a tour of officials last month - does not include East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, the right of return for refugees, or a freeze on new Israeli settlements.
The Trump administration has not set a date to reveal the plan, with an official stating last month it wants to launch the proposal "when the circumstances are right".
Throughout Washington's diplomatic efforts Palestinian officials have expressed impatience with senior adviser Jared Kushner, saying they received no clear vision from the US on the direction or substance of talks.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian envoy to the UN said Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" for Middle East peace was "dead upon arrival" following the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
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