Trump trip: President meets with Palestinian President Abbas

F. Brinley Bruton, Associated Press
President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before beginning their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 23, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Donald Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday, a day after promising to make a renewed effort at peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The president made the journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, passing a billboard which declared the "city of peace welcomes the man of peace."

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Speaking after their meeting in the West Bank, Abbas said he was ready to be Trump's partner in trying to reach a deal that would establish a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured half a century ago.

Standing next to Trump, Abbas said the Palestinians "are committed to working with you to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel."

He stressed that the conflict with Israel is not of a religious nature.

Trump reiterated his hope that he help both parties would work out their longstanding differences.

"If Israeli and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East," he said, adding that "would be an amazing accomplishment."

After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the president said "we can truly achieve a more peaceful future for this region and for people of all faiths and all beliefs and frankly all over the world."

Trump also placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall, sending a signal of solidarity with Israelis. The visit raised questions about whether the U.S. would indicate the site is Israeli territory. The U.S. has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Old City seized in the 1967 war.

Earlier this month, the president told Reuters that he wanted to "see peace with Israel and the Palestinians."

"There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever," he said.

While en route to Tel Aviv from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump was seeking unity in the fight against terrorism, as well as an opening step in the quest for peace.

However, White House aides have played down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting it as more symbolic than substantive.

The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.