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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Scrapping Pence-Abbas talks 'counterproductive': White House aide

The comments come in the wake of President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinian children walk past vandalised graffiti depicting US President Donald Trump and slogans against US Vice President Mike Pence painted on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian protestors near an Israeli checkpoint on December 7, 2017. AFP  / THOMAS COEX
Palestinian children walk past vandalised graffiti depicting US President Donald Trump and slogans against US Vice President Mike Pence painted on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian protestors near an Israeli checkpoint on December 7, 2017. AFP / THOMAS COEX

The White House warned on Thursday that cancelling a planned meeting between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and US vice president Mike Pence in the wake of Washington's policy shift on Jerusalem would be "counterproductive".

Amid indications that Mr Abbas may withdraw from a planned meeting later this month, a White House aide said Mr Pence "still plans to meet with Abbas as scheduled" and "believes it would be counterproductive for him to pull out of the meeting".

The vice president is due to travel to Egypt and Israel in the second half of December, a visit that has taken on extra significance in the wake of president Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas's Fatah party, told AFP that Pence was "not welcome in Palestine" during his upcoming visit.

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Read more:

Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Palestinians warn of escalating protests over Jerusalem

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Mr Rajoub also signalled that the Palestinian leader would not meet with Mr Pence.

"And President Abbas will not welcome him because of the statements he made" about Jerusalem.

Mr Abbas has not made similar comments and his office could not immediately be reached.

Mr Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sparked Palestinian protests, sporadic clashes and a call for a new intifada as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the region.

Some Palestinian leaders have indicated that they no longer consider the United States an honest broker in the peace process.

Mr Pence's trip now risks becoming a lightning rod for Palestinian anger.

In an effort to keep the trip on the rails, the White House is likely to only consider the meeting cancelled if they hear that from Mr Abbas himself.

Breaking off ties with Washington in such a public way would be risky, but the 82-year-old Palestinian leader could be under fierce domestic pressure to make the snub.

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