Abbas arrives for Obama talks amid Gaza raid tensions
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Washington seeking "bold decisions" from President Barack Obama on the Middle East despite tensions after Israel's deadly raid on aid ships.world Updated: Jun 09, 2010 09:54 IST
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Washington seeking "bold decisions" from President Barack Obama on the Middle East despite tensions after Israel's deadly raid on aid ships.
The Palestinian leader's first stop in Washington will be the White House today, for talks with Obama that are certain to touch on the May 31 raid on a group of boats seeking to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The raid left nine civilians dead, and Obama will be eager to tamp down regional fury and ensure the incident does not doom indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that Washington spent months setting up.
The United States has joined other foreign governments and the United Nations in calling for an inquiry into the raid to have an international component, saying it was key to any investigation's credibility.
Obama will discuss American efforts to break through a "status-quo" on the blockaded Gaza Strip, which his administration described as "untenable" following the deadly Israeli raid.
"The president looks forward to receiving president Abbas to review progress in the proximity talks and discuss our common efforts to achieve Middle East peace," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.
The visit comes a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his own White House trip to deal with the fallout from the Gaza crisis.
But tensions have barely eased since then. Abbas arrived in Washington from Turkey, which condemned as "state terrorism" the maritime raid, in which nine of its citizens were killed, including one who also held US citizenship.
Abbas last week set a clear rhetorical framework for his long-awaited summit with the US president.
"My message to Obama during our meeting in Washington next week will be that we need bold decisions to change the face of the region," he said at an investment conference in the West Bank.
But it remains unclear exactly what Obama can offer Abbas, other than a public embrace, a vow not to give up navigating the treacherous diplomatic thicket of the Middle East and some hope of future humanitarian gestures to Gaza.
Privately, Obama may commit to continue pressing Netanyahu and to seek a commitment from the Israelis to enter eventual direct talks, but relations between the White House and Netanyahu have been testy, leaving the US leader little room to manoeuvre.
In addition to White House talks, Abbas is scheduled to meet with US national security advisor Jim Jones, and with US lawmakers.