Donald Trump is set to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders almost back-to-back on his first foreign trip as US President.
Trump is widely expected to use the trip to give fresh impetus to Middle East peace talks.
Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization officials have told CNN that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will attend an “Arab, Islamic, and American Conference” in Saudi Arabia next Sunday, an event Trump is also expected to attend.
Over a dozen heads of state from Arab and Islamic nations have been invited to attend the conference, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. It says leaders from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan and all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been invited.
The following day, Trump is set to travel to Jerusalem, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among other Israeli leaders.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas have visited the White House since Trump’s inauguration, with the US President vowing to work as a “mediator” for Mideast peace.
US embassy relocation
Trump’s visit to Israel will take place close to the deadline for him to decide whether to sign a waiver preventing the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Israel has long pressed nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem; Palestinians, and much of the international community, view east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The US passed a law in 1995 mandating the relocation of its embassy, but since then every US president has signed a six-month waiver delaying the move – citing concerns over national security.
The most recent waiver signed by President Barack Obama expires June 1.
‘Being very measured’
Trump pledged during his presidential campaign to relocate the embassy, telling the pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee that in March 2016 that he wanted to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” In a subsequent TV interview, he said the move would happen “fairly quickly.”
The Israeli Prime Minister ‘s Office issued a statement Sunday urging Trump to move the embassy after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US president was “being very measured” about the decision.
Tillerson, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, said Trump is taking a very “deliberative approach” to the issue. “The President is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process,” he said.
The statement from Israel’s Prime Minister’s office said the impact of relocation would be positive:
“The transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem does not only not harm the peace process, but the opposite. It will advance the process because of the correction of the historic injustice and the smashing of the Palestinian fantasy of Jerusalem not being the capital of Israel,” it said.
Abbas has said such a move could shatter chances for peace talks. The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in January that the PLO would revoke its recognition of Israel if Trump moved the embassy.
European and Arab allies of the United States have also advised against moving the embassy, saying it could lead to unrest.
The United States’ official position has been to leave the status of Jerusalem to final-stage talks between the two sides, and only move the embassy after an agreement is reached.
Ahead of the presidential visit
In late March, Israeli and US officials held talks in Washington, building on another round of meetings in the Middle East earlier that month.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative on peace negotiations, led the US delegation of National Security Council and State Department officials in both Washington and overseas.
In addition to two meetings with Netanyahu while in the Middle East, Greenblatt met with Abbas, Palestinian civil society groups and visited with Palestinian children in a West Bank Refugee camp. He also traveled to Amman to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has also been meeting with Israeli and Arab leaders in recent months to better understand the climate in the region. Trump has said he wants Kushner to lead the peace process.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Elise Labott contributed to this report.