Trump mak­ing progress on Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace plan, says Tillerson

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TOVAH LAZAROFF

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to re­solve the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict is at an ad­vanced stage, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wed­nes­day in Jor­dan as part of his week­long re­gional visit.

“It’ll be up to the pres­i­dent to de­cide when he feels it’s time and he’s ready to put that plan for­ward,” he said. “I will say it’s fairly well ad­vanced.”

Tillerson sidestepped spec­u­la­tive ques­tions as to whether US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump planned to un­veil that plan in the com­ing months. “I don’t want to get in front of the pres­i­dent or his team that’s been work­ing on that,” he told re­porters.

“I have seen the plan, the el­e­ments of the plan,” he said. “It’s been un­der de­vel­op­ment for a num­ber of months. I have con­sulted with them on the plan, iden­ti­fied ar­eas that we feel need fur­ther work.”

Tillerson spoke just two days af­ter Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas met with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Moscow to seek back­ing for a peace process that does not have the US as the main in­ter­locu­tor.

In an in­ter­view with Michel Ghan­dour of Al­hurra TV, Tillerson called on the Pales­tini­ans to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table.

“I un­der­stand Pres­i­dent Ab­bas, his con­cern about cer­tain steps and de­ci­sions taken by the United States,” he said. “We hope that Pres­i­dent Ab­bas will find his way back to the table.”

The Pales­tini­ans have sought to re­place the US in the peace process since Trump an­nounced that he rec­og­nized Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

At the press con­fer­ence in Jor­dan, Tillerson said: “Pres­i­dent Trump re­mains com­mit­ted to see­ing a Mid­dle East peace process go for­ward and, as I in­di­cated, I think the de­ci­sion taken on Jerusalem was about the United States and our recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem and where we choose to place our em­bassy,” Tillerson said.

“But the pres­i­dent was clear also in his state­ment, and as I just in­di­cated in my state­ment, that the fi­nal sta­tus, the fi­nal bor­ders in Jerusalem are up to the par­ties to de­cide,” he said. :So it does not pre­clude a two-state so­lu­tion. If that is the so­lu­tion the par­ties seek, the US would sup­port that.”

Jor­dan and its leader, King Ab­dul­lah, have an im­por­tant role to play in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the peace process, Tillerson said. Trump is com­mit­ted “to re­spect­ing Jor­dan’s role as the cus­to­dian of the holy sites.”

Jor­da­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Ay­man Safadi told Tillerson that while his gov­ern­ment and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion dif­fered on its so­lu­tions to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, they shared a com­mon de­sire to re­solve it.

Safadi said he be­lieved a two-state so­lu­tion at the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of a Pales­tinian state, is on the path to “com­pre­hen­sive” peace.

Tillerson’s visit comes in the midst of the first pub­lic spat be­tween Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. The White House re­buked Ne­tanyahu for mak­ing it ap­pear as he if was talk­ing with the US about plans to an­nex West Bank set­tle­ments and giv­ing the im­pres­sion that it was some­thing that could be done in co­or­di­na­tion with the US.

At the State Depart­ment on Tues­day, its spokes­woman, Heather Nauert, echoed the White House in stat­ing that an­nex­a­tion “is not some­thing that came up be­tween the US and the gov­ern­ment of Is­rael.”

“We have been very clear about this, that ad­di­tional set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity, un­re­strained set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity, does not ad­vance the prospect for peace,” she said.

“We have also had nu­mer­ous con­ver­sa­tions with the gov­ern­ment of Is­rael where the gov­ern­ment of Is­rael has said that it would take into con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore mak­ing de­ci­sions the pres­i­dent’s con­cern about un­re­strained set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity,” Nauert said.

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