No indication from Palestinians of return to negotiations

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (Anadolu Agency)

Joyce Karam & Mustafa Alrawi

The National  /  September 16, 2020

US official Avi Berkowitz says there are channels of communication.

US special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz on Tuesday said there was no expectation that the Palestinian Authority leadership would return to the table soon.

Mr Berkowitz, an assistant to President Donald Trump, told The National that the administration had channels with the Palestinian Authority and business leaders despite the absence of direct talks since December 2018.

“They haven’t come to the table since December of 2017,” he said.

“Do they feel the lives of the Palestinian people have gotten better because of abandoning the negotiations?”

Hopes for negotiations with other Arab countries

But Mr Berkowitz expressed more hope in having breakthroughs with other Arab countries after the UAE and Bahrain signed accords with Israel.

“There is momentum and hope in the region and we are working on finding a solution,” he said. “And these are detailed, complex negotiations,” he said.

Mr Berkowitz said he was hopeful that another accord would be announced before the November 3 presidential election because of the persistence of Mr Trump.

On Tuesday Mr Trump said five or six countries could join.

Later in the day, he said “seven or eight or nine” Arab countries are potentials, “including the big ones”.

Mr Trump was non-committal about Saudi Arabia earlier on Tuesday.

“I have had very personal talks with the king and the crown prince and I think their minds are very open,” he said.

Later, Mr Trump said: “At the right time, I think they will come in.”

He said the Palestinians were giving strong signals that they wanted to be part of the negotiations but it would happen only after others joined.

“I think they are seeing what is happening and we’ve been given very strong signals that they’d like to be a part of what is happening,” Mr Trump said.

“We will see the Palestinians at some point but before we see the Palestinians we will see other very important countries come into this transaction.”

The Palestinian Authority cut its relations with the Trump administration after the US embassy move to Jerusalem in December 2018, which was followed by a suspension of aid and closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington.