By Damon Wake
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask the EU to officially recognise the state of Palestine when he meets foreign ministers from the bloc on Monday, a senior official told AFP on Sunday.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said Abbas will tell the EU it should take the step "as a way to respond" to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Abbas will also "reiterate his commitment to the peace process" in the Middle East, Malki said in an interview with AFP in Brussels.
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) January 21, 2018
A week ago, Abbas denounced Trump's efforts to resolve the long-running conflict as the "slap of the century" and caused alarm by saying Israel had sunk the so-called Oslo accords that underpin the stalled peace process.
"Since Trump's decision has altered the rules of the game, he [Abbas] expects the European foreign ministers to come forward and collectively recognise the state of Palestine as a way to respond back to Trump's decision," Malki said.
"If the Europeans want to be a player then they have to be fair in their treatment of both parties and this should start with the recognition of the state of Palestine."
Abbas will meet EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the bloc's 28 foreign ministers on Monday on the sidelines of their monthly meeting, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a similar visit last month.
Diplomats and officials in Brussels say recognition for Palestine is not on the cards on Monday – the EU leaves recognition in the hands of individual members – and the best Abbas can hope for is progress towards an "association agreement" with the bloc.
Agreement and recognition
Malki told AFP that while the Palestinian Authority was "very serious" about such an agreement, they also expected to be formally recognised as a state.
"One does not replace the other. Absolutely not," he said.
Despite Abbas's comments on the Oslo accords and his insistence that the United States can no longer serve as mediator, Malki said he was still committed to the peace process – effectively frozen since 2014.
"He wants to reiterate his commitment to the peace process. He's going to say I'm not going to withdraw from the peace process, I will stay committed," Malki told AFP.
Abbas's talks in Brussels come as US Vice President Mike Pence visits Israel during a tour of the Middle East with Arab anger still smouldering over Washington's hugely contentious decision on Jerusalem.
Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are refusing to meet Pence because of the declaration, making his visit a rare one by a high-ranking US official not to include talks with the Palestinians.