U.S. says Mideast talks ?productive? as Kushner departs, but don?t commit to 2 state solution

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?August 25 at 3:57 AM
?A U.S. delegation led by Jared Kushner had a ?productive? meeting with the Palestinian Authority on how to begin Middle East peace talks, the State Department said Friday, though some Palestinian officials expressed frustration that the U.S. still has not committed to a two-state solution.

Both sides agreed to continue with the U.S.-led conversations as the best way to reach a peace deal, the State Department statement said. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also struck a positive note in public comments a day earlier after meeting with Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, and deputy national security advisor, Dina Powell, in Ramallah.

“We know that this delegation is working for peace, and we are working with it to achieve what President Trump has called a peace deal,? Abbas said at the beginning of the meeting, according to the Palestinian Authority?s news site Wafa. ?We know that things are difficult and complicated, but there is nothing impossible with good efforts,” he said.

The U.S. team is in the Middle East in an attempt to find a way to kick start the peace process, which Trump has described as the ?ultimate deal.? In addition to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian premiers on Thursday, they have also met with Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian and Qatari leaders during their trip.

But the U.S. delegation refrained from committing to a two-state solution ? the primary focus of peace efforts for decades. That has rankled Palestinian officials, who say that negotiations without any set parameters will only benefit the Israeli side.

For weeks Palestinian officials have called on the United States to back a two state solution and ask Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community consider illegal and an obstacle to the creation of any future Palestinian state.

Most notably in a meeting with left-wing Israeli lawmakers last week, Abbas noted that he?d met Trump?s envoys ?about 20 times? but they had failed to convey a commitment to a two-state solution to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to leaked comments.

?We have clearly emphasized to the Americans the importance of having a public statement that has a commitment to the two-state solution,? said Ashraf Khatib, a spokesman for the negotiation affairs department of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. ?There hasn?t been any.?

A small group of demonstrators gathered in Ramallah as the meeting took place on Thursday, protesting a delegation that is widely seen as biased towards Israel.

?We have told the Americans that we are committed to the American effort,? Khatib said. ?We?ve also told the Americans that we want clarity on their approach.?

U.S. officials have said that they have not ruled out a two-state solution, but that it is down to the two sides, not them, to agree on a way forward.

Trump is ?very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in the area,? Kushner said ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu.

Analysts say a corruption scandal engulfing the Israeli leader will make him even more beholden to fringe elements within his right-wing coalition, likely making him an inflexible negotiating partner. The 82-year-old Abbas is also fighting for his political survival as he reaches the end of his political tenure and is keen to carve out a legacy.

?Without a vision it will be negotiations for negotiations sake,? said Khatib.