PA’s Abbas to U.S. Envoy: Our Goal Is to Get Rid of the Occupation

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. (Palestinian President Office (PPO)/Handout via REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas hosted a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf over the weekend, telling her, “Our goal is to get rid of the occupation on the basis of the resolutions of international legitimacy. East Jerusalem is and will remain forever the capital of the State of Palestine.”

Her three-day visit comes amid a degree of uncertainty surrounding President Joe Biden’s first trip to the region in July.

Leaf met with Abbas “to discuss the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, U.S. assistance to Palestinians, deepening ties, and how Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

In the meeting, Abbas reiterated to Leaf his request to remove the Palestine Liberation Organization from the U.S. list of terrorist entities, his office said.

Abbas also requested that the PLO’s office in Washington and the American consulate for east Jerusalem be reopened, after both were closed under the Trump administration. Abbas additionally raised “Israeli escalations” against Islamic and Christian holy sites, the expulsion of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, settlement approvals, and settler violence, his office said.

A career diplomat, Leaf served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014-2018. In addition, she has had postings in Yerushalayim, Cairo, Tunis, Rome and Paris.

Leaf will be at the head of a delegation also including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr and NSC Director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Cynthia Cook.

The American officials will “consult with Israeli and Palestinian partners on a range of priorities, including deepening bilateral US cooperation with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and US support for a two-state solution, deterring Iran’s aggressive regional activities, and support for Israel’s integration into the broader Middle East region,” the State Department added.

“The president [told Leaf] that the current situation is unsustainable and cannot be tolerated [given] the absence of a political horizon,” the PA’s official news site, Wafa, said.

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