Palestinian leaders say Trump ‘sabotaged search for peace, freedom’

Source:AFP Published: 2018/1/3 23:53:39

Palestinian leaders said Wednesday they will not be "blackmailed" after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid worth more than $300 million annually, his latest provocative move that could upturn years of careful diplomacy.

Relations between Trump's White House and the Palestinians were already tense after the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital last month.

The December 6 announcement concerning the disputed city led Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to say the US could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.

Trump's threat in a tweet on Tuesday to try to force the Palestinians into negotiations led to further outrage, though Israeli ministers lauded the move.

The Palestinians rely heavily on international aid, with many analysts, including Israelis, saying such assistance helps maintain stability in a volatile region.

"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," Trump tweeted.

"With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures.

The US has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for UN programs in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel receives more than $3 billion in military aid per year from Washington.

Abbas' spokesman said they were not against negotiations, but that talks should be "based on international laws and resolutions that have recognized an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital."

"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement that "we will not be blackmailed."

"President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice," she said.

Trump came to office boasting that he could achieve the "ultimate deal" that secures peace in the Middle East, something that has eluded presidents since the late 1960s.

For most of the past half century the US has been seen as the indispensable - if sometimes imperfect - arbiter of the peace process. Trump's actions are likely to cast that further in doubt.



Posted in: ASIA-PACIFIC

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