Abbas will meet David Cameron, Nick Clegg and William Hague, just days after the second round of talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives aimed at easing the path to direct negotiations between leaders of the two sides.
Earlier there had been confusion over an apparent meeting with British Jews. PA ambassador Manuel Hassassian told the Jewish News: “We wanted to have a meeting during the last visit but it didn’t work out for technical reasons. Now he’s meeting the Portland Trust and they’re inviting some members of the Board of Deputies. I don’t know exactly who is coming and what will be the nature of the meeting.” The Trust works to promote peace through economic development.
Stressing the significance of the gathering, he said that such a meeting was unprecedented in the UK, “but the President met AIPAC during his last visit to the US. I’m pleased about this meeting, we should know where each other stands and how we can expedite the peace process”.
While businessman and Bicom chair Poju Zabludowicz has previously hosted secret talks at his north London home between Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres, the type of parley Hassassian seemed to have in mind would indeed have been a first and raised eyebrows among some Israel supporters.
But the Board of Deputies flatly denied anyone from the organisation would be meeting Abbas. And Nicola Cobbold, CEO of the Portland Trust, said: “The Portland Trust is having a private meeting for the President. It’s standard for the Trust to meet with senior Palestinians.”
The event, though, is expected to be attended by prominent figures in the Trust – including co-founders Sir Ronald Cohen and Sir Harry Solomon – who are also Jewish. It comes less than two weeks before the target date set by the Quartet for Israelis and Palestinians to present proposals on security and borders with a view to moving to direct talks.
British sources said as well as looking for Abbas’ assessment of where talks are, the visit will be an opportunity to strengthen moderates in light of the return to talks and to make clear the importance of continuing to engage with the current process.
It is important, they stressed, for the Palestinians to stick with the process rather than look at the alternatives.
Abbas’ visit to the UK comes hot on the heels of the third trip by Alistair Burt to Israel and the territories since becoming Middle East minister.
In a packed schedule he met Israeli politicians, NGOs backed by the UK and the parents of Israeli-British terror victim Daniel Viflic. He also addressed students at Bar Ilan University, urging them to consider studying in the UK and referring to an expected 25 percent increase in trade and services between the two countries last year.
The speech included plenty of tough talking on settlement construction, with the Burt saying: “The more settlements that would have to be moved if there was a peace deal, the more families that would have to be uprooted, the harder it becomes to agree that deal. And the harder it becomes even conduct negotiations with the other side in good faith, because building more and more houses across the Green Line does not show that Israel is absolutely committed to finding a just and lasting solution. It risks sending exactly the opposite signal.”
On Iran, he added: “A few weeks ago Britain imposed tough new financial restrictions against Iran. These new sanctions make it illegal for any financial institution in the UK to have any dealings with any institution in Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran. They are the toughest of their kind and we will build on them, getting others to follow suit. We are working with the EU on sanctions against Iranian oil.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who met Burt and is also in the UK next week, said: “The discussions held are another example of the strong relationship between our nations and the shared concerns we have over developments in the region, especially concerning the unacceptable steps taken by the Iranian authorities towards the development of nuclear weapons.”
Elsewhere, the Jewish Leadership Council, along with representatives of the Board, are set to meet Cameron on Monday.
Learn more »