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Abbas snubs US Vice President Pence over Jerusalem move

Palestinian president will not meet Vice President Pence during his upcoming Middle East visit, PA official says.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet US Vice President Mike Pence during the latter's visit to the region this month, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki has said.

The snub over the US' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital came after Egypt's Coptic Church on Saturday also cancelled an upcoming meeting with Pence in protest against Washington's move on Jerusalem.

The policy change will also see the US embassy to Israel move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a decision that has sparked anger and protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, and drawn condemnation from world leaders.

On Thursday, a day after US President Donald Trump formally made the announcement, Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah politician, said, "we will not receive him [Pence] in the Palestinian territories".

Pence's visit to the region involves stops in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, the White House said in October. The vice president was scheduled to meet Abbas in Bethlehem on December 19.

"In the name of Fatah, I say that we will not welcome Trump's deputy in the Palestinian territories. He asked to meet (Abbas) on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, such a meeting will not take place," Rajoub said.

On Wednesday, as Trump made his announcement, he spoke about Pence's visit in his speech, with the vice president at his side.

"Vice President Pence will travel to the region in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations," Trump said.


A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday that Pence still "intends" to meet Abbas, noting it "would be counterproductive" for the Palestinian leader to cancel the meeting.

Separately, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said on Friday that Palestinians will not talk to the US until Trump has reversed his decision.

He said the Palestinian leadership was considering all options in response to Trump's announcement.

Trump's embassy move has inflamed the Israel-Palestine conflict, in which the status of Jerusalem is a key issue. The Palestinians see occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

In announcing the embassy move, Trump said he remained "deeply committed" to finding a peace agreement, noting that the US "would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides".

Abbas recently met Jordan's King Abdullah II, after which they issued a joint statement noting that "any measure tampering with the legal and historical status of Jerusalem is invalid" and warning of the "dangerous" repercussions of the embassy move.

READ MORE: Tense scenes as unrest over US Jerusalem move continues

On Sunday, violence erupted for a fourth day in the occupied Palestinian territories in response to Trump's announcement. Witnesses said Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at groups of rallying youth in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

The protests came after Israeli air raids killed two Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday after fighters reportedly fired rockets from Gaza into Israel on Friday.

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