Merkel briefs Palestinian leader on her talks in Israel

By Qais Abu Samra

RAMALLAH (AA) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a phone call on Tuesday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to brief him on her talks in Israel last week, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Merkel met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem last week for talks on bilateral relations. She, however, did not visit Ramallah during her two-day visit.

During the phone contact, the German Chancellor reiterated the support of Germany and the EU for the two-state solution and voiced her concern over the situation in the Gaza Strip, Wafa said.

Merkel said the EU was continuing its financial support to UN refugee agency UNRWA to maintain its role in helping Palestinian refugees.

In September, the U.S. State Department announced that Washington would “no longer commit funding” to UNRWA.

The U.S. had been UNRWA's largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually — roughly one quarter of the agency's overall budget.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Abbas, for his part, underlined his commitment to peace negotiations based on the two-state solution and UN resolutions, according to Wafa.

U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed in 2014 over the latter’s refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering world outcry.

Ever since, the Palestinian Authority has rejected any U.S. mediation in peace talks with Israel.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.