US ready to talk with Palestinians on peace deal, says ambassador

Mahmoud Abbas leaves UN council chamber before Nikki Haley remarks

 Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas: called for an international Middle East peace conference to be convened later this year. Photograph:  Timothy A Clary/Getty Images

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas: called for an international Middle East peace conference to be convened later this year. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/Getty Images

 

The United States is “ready to talk” Middle East peace with the Palestinians, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday in remarks directed at Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting of the UN Security Council.

US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are working on a new peace plan, sat behind Ms Haley. Speaking after Mr Abbas made a rare address to the 15-member council, Ms Haley gave no details of the US plan.

“Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr president, is yours,” Ms Haley said. Mr Abbas did not stay in the council chamber to listen to her.

White House spokesman Josh Raffel said Washington would present a peace plan “when it is done and the time is right”.

Neutral negotiator

The Palestinians no longer view the United States as a neutral negotiator, and Mr Abbas on Tuesday called for an international Middle East peace conference to be convened later this year.

The Palestinians are furious over the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and its decision to cut funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

“It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict,” Mr Abbas said. “It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference.”

Mr Abbas, who shunned a visit by US vice-president Mike Pence to the region last month, said the conference should include the Palestinians, Israel, the five permanent UN Security Council members – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – the EU and the UN.

French UN ambassador François Delattre told the council: “We are open to studying the development of the ways of international accompaniment for the peace process.” Deputy British UN ambassador Jonathan Allen described US leadership on the issue as “indispensable”.

Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon told the security council that Mr Abbas was part of the problem, not the solution, and that the “only way to move forward is direct negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians.