At White House, Abbas to ask Trump to back Arab peace plan

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said his first meeting with Donald Trump left him hopeful and he thinks the U.S. can play an important role as mediator between his people and Israelis.

"Trump and Abbas reaffirmed the commitment of both the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority to achieve a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians", the White House said. "So far, we didn't talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue", he said.

However, there have been no serious negotiations since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister.

The two leaders "reaffirmed the commitment of both the United States and the Palestinian Authority to achieving a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians", the White House said.

Abbas said he believed their partnership could bring about a historic peace deal, emphasizing that he wants to see a Palestinian state with borders that existed prior to the region's war in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

As an "intermediary", "referee", "facilitator", "lead to peace", Trump stressed that repeated failures in the past did not necessarily mean that the task was impossible. "I'm always ready for genuine peace", he added.

U.S. officials had said Mr Trump would press Mr Abbas to end payments to families of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

"I also applaud the Palestinian Authority's continued security cooperation with Israel".

Pence said Trump is "personally committed to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict" and "valuable progress" is being made.

USA officials had said ahead of Wednesday's meeting that Trump would press Abbas to end payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails.

"We believe that we are capable and able to bring about success to our efforts because, Mr President, you have the determination and you have the desire to see it become to fruition and to become successful".

Israel has pressed demands that Abbas halt monthly stipends for the families of thousands of Palestinians killed or jailed as part of the conflict, including those who killed or wounded Israelis.

That move would likely spark Palestinian fury and is privately seen by many in the Israel and USA security establishments as needlessly inflammatory.

It would be his second known visit following a brief tour of Eilat in 1989 when he expressed an interest in building a casino in the southern resort town, according to Israeli media.

Palestinians are losing hope in getting an independent country and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

A few minutes later as a Cabinet Room lunch got underway, Trump, who was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told Abbas that achieving the peace pact is "maybe not as hard as people have thought over the years".

Over decades, Palestinians have been seeking diplomatic recognition for their independent state on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which is partially occupied by Israel, and the Gaza Strip.

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