WASHINGTON – The United States accused the Palestinian Authority Sunday of “walking away” from a chance to discuss peace in the Middle East by snubbing Vice President Mike Pence on an upcoming visit.
A top official in Pence’s office said the vice president was looking forward to meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he travels to region later this month.
But he appeared to confirm that Pence would not be meeting anyone from Palestinian Authority, which has reacted angrily to last week’s U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The President (Donald Trump) has asked Vice President Pence to go to the region to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations,” Jarrod Agen, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement.
“The vice president very much looks forward to traveling to the region to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President al-Sisi.
“It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region.”
Agen said that the Trump administration nevertheless “remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan.
Speaking earlier Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.S. decision on Jerusalem could hinder the Trump administration’s own push for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Speaking on CNN, Guterres said he was pleased that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, had been meeting with Israelis and Palestinians on a new peace plan after years of stalemate in the process.
“I think that the decision that was taken on Wednesday risks to compromise this effort,” he added.