PLO 'not terrorists’, Abbas tells Biden during visit to East Jerusalem

US president calls for two-state solution and acknowledges that 'Palestinians are hurting'

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Washington must remove the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) from its terrorism list, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday, as he called for the swift establishment of a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Abbas’s request came during a meeting with US President Joe Biden who is visiting Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia as part of his Middle East tour.

“We look forward to steps from the US administration to strengthen military relations by reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem [and] removing the PLO from the US terrorist list,” Mr Abbas said during a press conference with Mr Biden in the West Bank. “We are not terrorists.”

The Palestinian leader also called for the reopening of a PLO office in Washington.

The PLO was declared a “terrorist organisation” by the US Congress in 1987, and prohibited from opening any office in America.

Mr Abbas said he had stressed to Mr Biden the need to establish “the foundations on which the peace process was based … on the two-state solution along the 1967 borders”.

He also said the window for the two-state solution was narrowing.

“The opportunity for a two-state solution on the 1967 borders may be available today [but] it may not remain for a long time,” Mr Abbas said.

The talks between Mr Abbas and Mr Biden were the highest-level meeting between the US and the Palestinian leader since former US president Donald Trump adopted a tougher stance upon taking office in 2017.

“If Israel wants to be a compliant state, it cannot continue to act as a state above the law,” said Mr Abbas.

He repeated his called for Israel to “end its occupation of the land of the state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders”.

Mr Abbas also asked for Washington's support in holding accountable the killers of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot during an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on May 11.

“Peace begins with Palestine and Jerusalem. We extend our hands for peace and to work with you, Mr President,” he said.

Mr Biden said his commitment to a two-state solution had not changed.

It is the best way to achieve an equal measure of prosperity, security and freedom, he said.

“The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own that is sovereign, viable and contiguous,” he said.

Mr Biden announced a further $200m in funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency, after announcing $100m in support of hospitals in East Jerusalem earlier in the day.

“The Palestinian people are hurting now,” Mr Biden said. “You can just feel it. Your grief and frustration. In the United States, we can feel it.”

Although such a goal “can seem so far away”, he said he would not give up on the peace process.

Mr Biden paid tribute to Abu Akleh and said her killers would be brought to justice.

“She was an American and a proud Palestinian. She was performing very vital work in independent media. Her death is an enormous loss in sharing to the world the story of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Mr Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia later on Friday to hold talks with Saudi officials and attend a summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan, known as the GCC+3.

His trip is intended to promote regional stability, deepen Israel's integration in the region and counter Iranian influence.

Updated: July 15, 2022, 6:08 PM