Palestinians to snub Pence during visit over Jerusalem move

CAIRO/GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet US Vice President Mike Pence during Pence’s visit to the region this month in a snub over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian Foreign Minister said on Saturday.

Violence erupted for a third day in Gaza in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednes-day, which overturned decades of US policy towards the Middle East.

Israeli air strikes killed two Palestinian gunmen on Saturday after militants fired rockets from the enclave into Israel on Friday, which had been declared a “day of rage” by Palestinian factions.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies, who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks sparking more violence in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to critics in a statement before meetings in Paris on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron to be followed by a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels.

“I hear (from Europe) voices of condemnation over President Trump’s historic announcement but I have not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel that has come (after the announcement) and the awful incitement against us,” Netanyahu said.

Israel maintains that all of Jerusalem is its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory, and say the status of the city should be left to be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The Trump administration says it is still committed to Palestinian-Israeli talks, that Israel’s capital would be in Jerusalem under any serious peace plan, and that it has not taken a position on the city’s borders. It says the moribund negotiations can be revived only by ditching outdated policies.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinians will be looking for a new peace talks broker instead of the United States and would seek a UN Security Council resolution over Trump’s decision.

“We will seek a new mediator from our Arab brothers and the international community,” Maliki told reporters in Cairo before an Arab League meeting to discuss Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

A Turkish presidential source said Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron will work together to try to persuade the United States to reconsider the move.

A possible meeting with Pence has also been turned down by Egypt’s Coptic Church, MENA state news agency reported.

White House and US State Department officials did not respond to requests for comment. Palestinian officials said Pence had been due to meet Abbas on Dec. 19.

Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is leading efforts to restart negotiations, though his bid has shown little public progress so far.

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