Abbas visits Paris as Palestinians seek French mediation, video

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday seeking French support to offset US President Donald Trump’s policy positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking to reporters after a private meeting with Macron at the Elysée presidential palace, Abbassaid he had conveyed the Palestinian position on the long stalled Middle East peace process, which, he said, Macron would pass on to Trump.

“France is interested in attempting to reach an agreement, we are in touch with all the parties. I have submitted to President Macron everything that clarifies our point of view. He will be contacting President Trump to convey our messages to him,” said Abbas.

The Paris meeting follows a series of diplomatic blows from the Trump administration aimed at the Palestinian cause. The opening of the US Embassy in the disputed city of Jerusalem in May was followed by a US funding cut to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees(UNRWA) and the shutting down of the PLO mission in Washington.

“The Trump administration has an overtly pro-Israeli stance and the Palestinians have not been in direct contact with the White House ever since Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” explained FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent, reporting from the Elysée palace. “Now France is trying to keep the whole show on the road, to try and persuade the Palestinians not to disengage from the peace process even though it seems pretty much dead in the water.”

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said earlier this month that the Palestinian mission in Washington was being shut because of the PLO’s refusal to engage in negotiations, a claim denied by Abbas on Friday.

“The Israelis claim that the Palestinians refuse to negotiate. I issue a challenge to them to provide evidence of our refusal to negotiate,” Abbas said. “All refusals to negotiate have been on the Israeli side. We are prepared for negotiations, be they secret or public, be they led by the Quartet or Western countries or Arab countries.”

The Middle East Quartet comprising the UN, US, the EU and Russia was formed in 2002 in a bid to find an agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

‘There is no deal of the century’

But the Trump administration’s position on the status of Jerusalem, one of the key pillars of the peace process initiated by the 1991 Madrid conference, threw a spanner in the already stalled Middle East peace roadmap.

In an interview with FRANCE 24 following Macron’s meeting with Abbas, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki noted that Trump’s much-touted “deal of the century” lacked any vision or objectivity.

“Trump never really invited us to sit and talk to the Israelis in the first place. He never talked details about his ‘deal of the century’. First of all, there is no invitation. Secondly there is no negotiations. Thirdly there is no deal of the century yet identified. So, to go to speak with the Israelis — on what basis?” asked a clearly frustrated Maliki.

Friday’s meeting, Maliki added, provided Abbas “a chance to explain to President Macron the realities on the ground, what the Israelis are doing to us in terms of settlements, what that means to the Palestinian state, to the contiguity of Palestinian territory.”

Following his Paris visit, Abbas travels to Ireland in a bid to secure a robust EU position on the Middle East crisis ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting next week.