Palestinian president meets Israeli defence minister ahead of Biden's visit

High-level meetings between the leaders tend to focus on economic and security co-ordination

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz. AFP
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met late on Thursday in the occupied West Bank to discuss security co-ordination ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit next week.

High-level meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders are rare and tend to focus on day-to-day economic and security co-ordination.

An Israeli statement said the meeting in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, was conducted in “positive terms”.

It said the sides agreed to “continue security co-ordination and avoid activities that may cause instability”.

Mr Gantz wished Mr Abbas and the Palestinian people a happy Eid Al Adha, the statement said.

Mr Abbas “stressed the importance of creating a political horizon, respecting the signed agreements and stopping the actions and measures that lead to the deterioration of the situation,” Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior aide to the Palestinian president, wrote on Twitter.

Mr Abbas also stressed the importance of having a “calm atmosphere before President Biden’s visit, which we welcome,” the tweet said.

Mr Gantz met with Mr Abbas twice last year and announced measures to improve economic conditions in the occupied West Bank. He remains defence minister in a caretaker government ahead of elections planned for November 1.

Mr Biden is due to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank from July 13 to 15, and will hold talks with new Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Mr Abbas before heading to Saudi Arabia.

The Palestinians seek a state in the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

On Sunday, Mr Lapid held his first Cabinet meeting since taking over as leader, promising a functional government despite the political instability that is sending Israel to its fifth elections in less than four years.

Mr Lapid also said Israel would take any step necessary to defend itself after it shot down three unmanned aircraft allegedly launched by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

He took over last month as prime minister as part of an agreement forged last year that created a coalition government after a series of defections.

Israel will head to the polls again on November 1, when Mr Lapid will seek to convince voters to adopt his centrist vision and deny former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted last year after more than a decade in power, a chance to return to lead the country.

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