WASHINGTON, (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Washington for his first official meeting with President Barack Obama expected to focus on Israel’s continued building of settlements in occupied territory.
Abbas’s US visit followed a two-day trip to Canada during which he met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the stalled Middle East peace process.
The Palestinian authority has ruled out restarting peace talks with Israel unless it removes all roadblocks and freezes settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, top negotiator Ahmad Qorei told the Haaretz daily.
He said Abbas would present the conditions during the White House talks with Obama Thursday.
The discussions come just 10 days after Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has ignored calls from the United States for a complete freeze on settlement building in the occupied West Bank and rejected limits on building Jewish enclaves in Jerusalem.
Abbas is in Washington with his Western-backed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who was sworn in last week at the head of a new Palestinian government that excludes the Islamist movement Hamas after the rival factions failed to agree on a unity deal.
The two factions have been at loggerheads since Hamas forces ousted Abbas loyalists from the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Since then, the Iranian-backed Hamas has run the Gaza Strip and the secular Abbas has been in charge of the West Bank.
More active US support for the Palestinian quest for independence is all the more crucial for Abbas since Netanyahu has so far failed to publicly back the creation of a Palestinian state or to freeze settlement activity.
Israeli media meanwhile said Tuesday that Netanyahu is willing to tear down settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in return for US backing on its stance on arch-foe Iran.