Saudi Arabia reaffirms stance on Palestinian statehood

King Salman says US peace plan must include East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2019. Palestinian President Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Saudi King Salman on Tuesday reiterated the Kingdom’s support for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is on a two-day visit to the kingdom, held talks with King Salman in a bid to gain support to combat a proposed US peace plan, especially as Washington had formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The Kingdom repeats its permanent stand with the Palestinian people and their rights in the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” King Salman said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

King King Salman and Mr Abbas discussed Palestine's current political situation and “the dangers Palestinians are facing, especially regarding Jerusalem,” according to the Palestinian News Agency, Wafa.

Saudi Arabia has previously assured its Arab allies that it will not endorse any Middle East plan that fails to address Jerusalem's status or refugees’ right of return.

Washington’s actions last year on Jerusalem, including the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city, has overturned decades of US policy that promised the city’s status would be decided only through joint Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

It drew universal condemnation from Arab leaders and widespread criticism elsewhere.

US President Donald Trump also declared that his administration would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), reversing a policy of support by every American leader since the organisation was created nearly 70 years ago.

Mr Trump has pledged to seal the “deal of the century” and end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Palestinian officials believe the proposal is one-sided.

Details of the deal’s contents are yet to be made public. And it is still unclear how the US plan would deal with the sensitive issue of Jerusalem.

Reports have indicated that the plan will likely be released after Israel's elections in April.

A White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is expected to travel to at least five Arab countries later this month to brief diplomats on the economic aspect of the long-awaited deal and to seek their support.

The meetings will not discuss Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan or Egypt and will only focus on economic matters.

Mr Kushner, who is Mr Trump’s influential son-in-law, will travel with US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar on their week-long trip, according to White House officials.