President Trump to Meet With Palestinian President in Bethlehem

President Donald Trump is to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the holy Christian city Bethlehem in a symbolic visit to the West Bank town at the end of May.

A source within the Palestine Liberation Organization tells Newsweek, under condition of anonymity, that President Trump will meet President Abbas in Bethlehem on May 23. There, Trump will visit the Church of the Nativity.

There were no further details about the security arrangements but the source added that the Palestinian security apparatus would oversee parts of president’s visit as had been the case with previous trips by U.S. leaders to the the West Bank.

Read More: Israel to deploy 10,000 police for Donald Trump visit

A White House press spokeswoman confirmed the President would meet with Abbas but could not immediately provide more information.

It will be the second time Trump sits down with the Palestinian leader in a period of three days. He is due to meet with Abbas in Saudi Arabia on May 21 where Trump will also see leaders from Arab Gulf nations along with heads of state and government from Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iraq.

The President will travel to Bethlehem at the conclusion of a two-day long trip that will also take in a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem and the city’s historic quarter. He will also visit the ruins of the Masada fortress in southern Israel.

Following his trip to the Middle East, Trump will arrive in the Vatican to meet Pope Francis for talks on cooperation regarding “religious communities in areas of joint concern,” the White House said in a statement earlier this month.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Trump has sought to emphasize the religious dimension of his first foreign trip. Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, the location of the two holiest sites in Islam, Jerusalem which houses shrines sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and the Vatican, the seat of the Catholic Church.

The choice to meet in Bethlehem, with its importance to the Christian faith, breaks with the precedents set by Trump’s three predecessors all of whom have met with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

RTS14ZPG U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as they deliver a statement at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Carlos Barria/Reuters

Trump has said he is committed to mediating a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Lovatt says Trump will be aiming to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sit down with Abbas to discuss a peace deal later in the summer as the best possible outcome from the talks.

Trump said in an interview with Reuters in May that he believed both parties were willing to negotiate.“We need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing, we believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal," he said at a joint press conference with Abbas.

However, during his election campaign Trump said he would consider moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a break with the policy of successive U.S. governments not to recognize Jerusalem as the Israel’s capital and keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Palestinians continue to push for Jerusalem —the east of which was occupied by the Israelis during the 1967 Six Day War—as the future capital of their state.

Trump has also been ambiguous on his position with regard to the framework for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.The president said in February he would be open to any resolution that both sides in the conflict wanted, even if that was a single, unified state rather than a two-state solution.

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