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Biden meets Palestinian leader ahead of Saudi visit

BETHLEHEM: US President Joe Biden met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Friday for talks focusing on economic measures without striking any major diplomatic breakthrough. The meeting took place in Bethlehem ahead of Biden’s scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia.

Biden visited a hospital in east Jerusalem on Friday where he announced a $100 million aid package for medical institutions in the area. “These hospitals are the backbone of the Palestinian healthcare system,” he said, after talking extensively about his own family’s experience of emergency care.

With Middle East peace negotiations moribund since 2014, a US official said the delegation would be taking economic measures. They include an “additional $201 million” for the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), a senior administration official said.

Funding for the agency was cut by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. But Biden made clear on Thursday he had no plans to reverse the controversial move to recognise Jerusalem as the Zionist entity’s capital by Trump, which infuriated Palestinians who see its eastern sector as the seat of their future state.

The US delegation will also unveil plans to roll out infrastructure for 4G internet across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank by the end of next year.

With Palestinians banned by the Zionist entity’s regime from political activity in Jerusalem, the US president travelled to Bethlehem to meet Abbas. A muted welcome awaited him from Palestinians there.

“He cannot buy us off,” said Tamer Mustafa, a 20-year-old Palestinian in downtown Bethlehem. “The visit is not about peace, it is about [the Zionist entity]. Many people are angry because he said he was a Zionist.”

The Palestinian president has been in office since 2005 and last year scrapped elections, accusing officials at the Zionist entity of refusing to guarantee voting in east Jerusalem.

Biden on Thursday reiterated Washington’s support for “a two-state solution for two people, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land.”

While Yair Lapid, Prime Minister in the Zionist entity’s government, said he ultimately backs a two-state solution, the caretaker leader is not expected to take any steps towards a peace agreement ahead of elections in November.

The World Bank put the poverty rate in the Palestinian territories at 27 percent last year, saying in April that the outlook “remains precarious and subject to additional political and security risks”.

Following the visit to the West Bank, Biden will visit Saudi Arabia where he is expected to meet Arab leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council, who are gathering in the Saudi city of Jeddah, to discuss volatile oil prices.

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