Middle East

Tillerson claims Mideast peace plan ‘well advanced’

"I have seen the plan, the elements of the plan," Tillerson said in Jordan during a Wednesday news conference. "It's been under development for a number of months," he said. "I will say it's fairly well advanced, is what I would say."The top US diplomat said he had been consulting with President Donald Trump's team on the plan and elements "that we feel need further work." "I think it'll be up to the President to decide when he feels it's time and he's ready to put that plan forward," Tillerson said during a trip to several Middle East countries. He is not stopping in Israel or the Palestinian territories.Chances of a peace agreement have seemed particularly dim since Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the administration's decision to move the US embassy there. There is broad international consensus that the issue of Jerusalem's status should be resolved mutually toward the very end of negotiations. Many saw the US move as potentially prejudicing the outcome, though the administration has insisted that should not be the case. A US decision to cut funding for a UN agency that provides education and health services to Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East has further soured relations, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and others openly declaring that the US has forfeited its traditional role as a mediator in the peace process. Abbas has gone so far as to say he will not cooperate in any form with the US.

Two states

On Wednesday, Tillerson was asked whether the US decision on Jerusalem complicated his work and, in fact, made the pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace even more difficult. He did not answer the question, but earlier in the news conference, he had said that, "the decision taken on Jerusalem was about the United States and our recognition of Jerusalem and where we choose to place our embassy, but the President was clear also on his statement … that the final status, the final borders in Jerusalem, are up to the parties to decide. So it does not preclude a two-state solution." In a February 13 interview in Kuwait with Al Hurra television, Tillerson called on Abbas to continue talks. "I understand President Abbas, his concern about certain steps and decisions taken by the United States," Tillerson said. "My message to President Abbas is the United States is still committed to seeing a successful Middle East peace process, and are prepared to assist in that effort going forward. We hope that President Abbas will find his way back to the table."

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