Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas hosted a U.S. delegation on Saturday led by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf.

Her three-day visit comes amid a degree of uncertainty surrounding U.S. President Joe Biden’s first trip to the region, scheduled for July.

Leaf met with Abbas “to discuss the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, U.S. assistance to Palestinians, deepening ties, and how Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

In the meeting, Abbas reiterated his request that the Palestine Liberation Organization be removed from the U.S. list of terrorist entities, according to a statement from his office. He also requested that the PLO’s office in Washington and the American consulate for eastern Jerusalem be reopened. Both were closed under the Trump administration.

Abbas also discussed “Israeli escalations” against Islamic and Christian holy sites, the expulsion of Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem, settlement approvals and settler violence, according to the statement.

“Our goal is to get rid of the occupation on the basis of the resolutions of international legitimacy. East Jerusalem is and will remain forever the capital of the State of Palestine,” he told Leaf.

A career diplomat, Leaf served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014-2018. In addition, she has had postings in Jerusalem, Cairo, Tunis, Rome and Paris.

The U.S. delegation includes Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr and NSC Director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Cynthia Cook.

The American officials will “consult with Israeli and Palestinian partners on a range of priorities, including deepening bilateral U.S. cooperation with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and U.S. support for a two-state solution, deterring Iran’s aggressive regional activities, and support for Israel’s integration into the broader Middle East region,” according to the the State Department.

However, this may be deemed insufficient by Abbas, who has lost support among large sectors of the Palestinian public.

“[Abbas told Leaf] that the current situation is unsustainable and cannot be tolerated [given] the absence of a political horizon,” the official P.A. news agency WAFA reported.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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