Mahmoud Abbas demands international protection for Palestine

Published October 25th, 2015 - 08:00 GMT

President Mahmoud Abbas demanded "international protection" for the occupied Palestinian territory during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on Saturday.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat told Ma'an that Abbas was calling for international protection against "terrorist" acts by Israeli settlers, Israel's "extrajudicial executions," and punitive demolitions of homes belonging to suspected attackers' families.

However, the exact nature of international protection, which Abbas earlier called for on Wednesday, was not specified.

Abbas told Kerry that "a political horizon" must be found that would include resolutions to the long-standing issues of Palestinian refugees, political prisoners, and the future of East Jerusalem, Erekat said.

Abbas also said that the division of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound into Jewish and Muslim areas with specific visiting times was not an option -- a position echoed by Jordanian King Abdullah II, who was also present at Saturday's meeting.

During the meeting, the head of Palestinian intelligence, Majed Farraj, provided Kerry with documentation of Israeli violations against Palestinians, including at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Erekat said.

When Kerry asked Abbas about the wave of unrest that has swept the occupied Palestinian territory, including a series of stabbing attacks, Abbas told Kerry that young Palestinians were "angry, hopeless, and seeking independence and freedom."

On Thursday, the Washington-based Al-Monitor reported that the Obama administration was cutting aidto the Palestinian Authority by $80 million as a "message" to Abbas.

The State Department reportedly notified US Congress on Sept. 25 that it would reduce its yearly assistance to the occupied Palestinian territory from $370 to $290 million following Israeli criticism of the "incitement" by the PA in recent weeks.

Discussions over Aqsa

Saturday's meeting came shortly after Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During a four-hour meeting in Berlin on Thursday, Netanyahu told Kerry that the PA must issue a statement clarifying that Israel has not changed the "status quo" at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

"It is time for the international community to tell President Abbas to stop spreading lies that Israel wants to change the status quo or destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque," Netanyahu reportedly said.

Tensions have flared at Al-Aqsa in recent months, with many Palestinians fearing that Israel wishes to renege on a longstanding agreement preventing non-Muslim prayer in the compound.

Jews are currently allowed to visit the mosque compound, but cannot pray there under an agreement made between Israel and the Islamic trust that controls the compound following Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

It is a highly sensitive issue for the Jordanian leadership as well, as Jordan has custodianship rights over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Large numbers of right-wing Jews toured the compound during a succession of Jewish holidays in September, in a provocation that triggered much of the unrest that has swept the occupied Palestinian territory this month.

While Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the "status quo" will not be changed, other senior Israeli officials -- including cabinet ministers -- have called for the Islamic holy site to be replaced with a third Jewish temple.

The Middle East Quartet is expected to convene on Friday to discuss issues regarding the holy compound.


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