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Trump and Abbas were making progress before 'backstabbing' Jerusalem decision: Palestinian envoy

Pre-negotion talks were going 'from strength to strength' according to Husam Zomlot [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 January, 2018

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Palestinian envoy to the US Husam Zomlot refuted blame laid on Palestinians for abandoning peace efforts, sharing details of 'backstabbing' Trump's turnaround after promising start to discussions
Palestine's envoy to the US has revealed a "blossoming friendship" between officials of the two countries, until President Donald Trump broke with international consensus and formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

Husam Zomlot accused Trump of "backstabbing" the Palestinians with his 6 December vow to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, during this week's speech in Washington.

He said the move blundered burgeoning peace efforts and shattered Palestinian officials' trust in the US administration.

Speaking at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, Zomlot offered a rebuttal of Trump's remarks this week, when the president accused the Palestinian leadership of disrespecting his deputy Mike Pence during a regional tour, by refusing to meet him.

Zomlot hit back saying Trump's unprecedented Jerusalem move was a "goodbye kiss" to the two-state solution and broke the longstanding official US policy of neutrality on the issue.

"If it's a blame game, bring it on," the diplomat said. He further revealed how the Palestinians had been "literally nagging" the US to commence official peace negotiations for months.

Zomlot said Trump initiated the process by calling the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last March, wooing his counterpart by saying what "great things" he had heard about him "from everybody".

Trump said Abbas was "the man, the statesman" committed to making peace happen and told the PA leader how strongly he felt about ending the conflict.

He promised to be a "fair arbitrator" in the peace process and vowed to deliver the "ultimate deal", Zolot said.

Abbas was thrilled with the call and accepted Trump's invitation to the White House, a visit which he claimed was a great success.

Husam Zomlot addressing the Middle East Institute in
Washington DC on Friday [YouTube]

Zolot said that the pre-negotiation discussions between the Palestinian and US leaders went "from strength-to-strength" over three meetings between May and September. The diplomat - then Abbas' aide - emphasised how desperate the Palestinian team was to get official negotiations underway, but said they were being stalled for seemingly "unknown reasons".

"We did not understand where the delay was coming from. But now we do," Zomlot decried, referring to Trump's Jerusalem announcement shortly after.

"President Trump, you did not take Jerusalem off the table, you took the table altogether," Zomlot said.

The searing attack on Trump continued with Zomlot mocking US Vice-President Mike Pence for trying to "re-enact the world as it was 3,000 years ago".

He also attacked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for plotting to upend budding Palestinian-American relations.

Zomlot's address comes days after Pence announced that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem in 2019 during his visit to Israel.

The Palestinian leader refused to meet with Pence during his trip to the Middle East earlier this week.

To make matters worse, President Trump made a series of disparaging remarks about Palestine at the Davos World Economic Forum, as he cosied up to his "close personal friend", Netanyahu.

He in turn thanked Trump profusely for the Jerusalem recognition.

Early in Trump's presidency, the former entrepreneur proposed the "deal of the century" to end conflict between Palestinians and Israeli.

After its terms were leaked by PLO official Saeb Erekat, the "ultimate deal" was slammed by Palestinians. Abbas labelled it the "slap of the century".

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