Mike Pence hopes for a 'new era' in Middle East peace talks, but Palestinians are looking for partners elsewhere

Lior Mizrahi/Getty ImagesUS vice President Mike Pence is seen with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an official welcome ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office on January 22, 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel.
  • US Vice President Mike Pence told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he hopes to usher in a “new era” of Middle East peace talks.
  • Pence also told the Israeli Knesset that the US was planning to move its embassy to Jerusalem by 2019.
  • Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas travelled to Brussels to ask EU ministers to broker future peace deals.

US Vice President Mike Pence told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he hopes to usher in a “new era” of Middle East peace talks, while the Palestinians have scorned US efforts and are turning to other global leaders for support.

During his official visit to Israel on Monday, Pence told reporters it was a “great honour” to be meeting in “Israel’s capital, Jerusalem,” referencing President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence added that he was hopeful that the US had helped spur a “new era of renewed discussions” about regional peace.

In a speech to the Israeli Knesset, Netanyahu said: “The close bond between the US and Israel is stronger than ever.” He added that during Pence’s visit, they would discuss US efforts “to halt Iran’s aggression, the Iranian nuclear program, and ways to advance peace and security in the region.”

Pence later told the Knesset that the US was planning to move its embassy to Jerusalem by 2019.

Before arriving in Israel, Pence met with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan and urged them to encourage Palestinian leadership to return to peace negotiations, according to officials who were travelling with Pence.

Pence will not be meeting with Palestinian leaders, who protested Pence’s visit following outrage over Trump’s Jerusalem decision in December.

Instead, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas travelled to Brussels and met with EU ministers to discuss future peace plans.

European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU is ready to take a “central role” alongside the US in mediating talks between Israel and the Palestine.

“We affirmed our conviction that the framework has to be multilateral,” Mogherini said. “We will continue working within the Quartet, which includes the US, Russia and the UN, enlarging this to a few Arab countries, and possibly Norway.”

“The Palestinian president was perfectly fine with this idea of not having the United States as the only interlocutor for the peace process, but of having a multilateral framework in which the European Union has a central role that is together with others, including our partners in the Quartet, including the United States,” she added.

Abbas has previously said that Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a “crime” and that he will no longer accept any role for the US in a peace process.

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