Donald Trump: We have a pretty good shot at peace in Middle East

Donald Trump has said a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians may be the toughest he has ever tried to negotiate - but the US president reckons he has a "pretty good shot" at achieving it.

As he opened a meeting with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Trump said: "We are looking seriously at peace and maybe ultimately peace for the whole of the Middle East, and I think we have a pretty good shot, maybe the best shot ever.

"It's a complex subject, always been considered the toughest deal of all: peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the toughest of all.

"I think we have a very, very good chance. I will certainly devote everything in my heart and within my soul to get a deal made."

Since taking office, the president has talked confidently about using the skills he sharpened as a real estate developer to help broker an agreement which has eluded several of his predecessors, but there are few tangible signs that progress toward a deal has been achieved.

He has given the Middle East portfolio to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a White House adviser.

Mr Kushner and other officials, including the US ambassador to Israel and Mr Trump's deputy national security adviser, recently returned from a trip to the region.

Mr Trump has spent this week powering through a series of one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts in New York for the annual UN General Assembly session.

He addressed the gathering for the first time on Tuesday, but made only passing references to the Middle East when talking about terrorism.

He offered no detail on prospects for a peace agreement.

White House officials played down the prospects for a breakthrough on the Middle East as they headed into the New York meetings.

Mr Abbas, meanwhile, expressed confidence that diplomats are "on the verge" of a deal, possibly before the end of the year.

"This meeting attests to the seriousness of your efforts to achieve the deal of the century during the year or in the coming months," Mr Abbas said, ahead of closed-door talks with the US leader.

Behind the scenes, the Palestinians, in particular, have grown restless with Mr Trump's lack of specifics.

Neither he nor his negotiators have sketched out the contours of what they think a final agreement should look like, or outlined any strategy designed to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

And top Palestinian officials said Mr Trump's envoys recently relayed that they will need another three or four months to devise a plan.

In the meantime, Mr Trump's declarations about Middle East peace appear to have moved the Palestinians further away from their goal of an independent country alongside Israel.

Mr Trump has not explicitly supported an independent Palestine and has raised the possibility of looking beyond a two-state solution, the preferred outcome of Democratic and Republican presidents for decades.

Mr Trump met in New York earlier this week with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Trump said at that meeting that a peace deal would be a "fantastic achievement" and that "we are giving it an absolute go".

AP


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