According to a Palestinian official, American President Donald Trump warned Mahmoud Abbas of upcoming cuts in aid to the Palestinian Authority through a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of their meeting in Moscow last week.
Abbas’s meeting with Putin came two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Moscow.
At the start of the talks, Putin said he had discussed the Middle East conflict with his US counterpart Donald Trump shortly before receiving him in Moscow.
“I just spoke with American President Trump,” Putin told Abbas before continuing the talks behind closed doors. “Obviously we spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Now it turns out, as claimed by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, that Putin had been informed by Trump he would cut funds to the Palestinian Authority unless Palestinians returned to the “negotiating table”.
During their talks behind closed doors, Putin has likely informed Abbas of the threat coming from Trump.
According to Palestinian official, the US would slash all financial aid except funds going to the PA Security, which provides precious coordination with Israel despite the costs this implies in terms of popularity with the Palestinian public
In two recent instances of overt cooperation between PA security forces and the Israeli Army, Palestinian police have extracted two officers who had accidentally driven into central Jenin and risked being lynched, and they also provided crucial intel for the capture of the killer of Israeli settler Raziel Shevach.
The Palestinian leader was visiting Moscow in a bid to secure Putin’s support after Trump outraged the Palestinians and their allies by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The “situation is far from what we want to see,” Putin told his guest, adding that he has “always supported the Palestinian people”.
“It is very important for us to know your personal opinion in order to set the record straight and put in place a common approach to solve this problem,” Putin said.
Abbas has refused any contact with Trump’s administration since Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the end of last year.
“Given the atmosphere created by the United States’ actions, we… refuse any cooperation with the United States as a mediator,” Abbas said.
“In case of an international meeting, we ask that the United States be not the only mediator, but just one of the mediators.”
Trump’s threats to cut funds to the PA come after the United States slashed their contribution to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) which takes care of Palestinian refugees throughout the Arab world.
The US announced the $65 million cut to its planned contribution to UNRWA in January, with State Department officials insisting the decision was taken not to pressure Palestinian leaders but to encourage other countries to help pay for and reform UNRWA.
“We would like to see some reforms be made,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “This is not aimed at punishing anyone.”
“We don’t believe that taking care of other nations and other people have to be solely the United States’ responsibility,” she added, echoing one of Trump’s most common complaints about “burden sharing”.
In the letter, however, the 102 Democratic Congressmen argued that the cuts “deliberately exacerbate the hardship of the Palestinian people and reduce the ability of their government to function which would “only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement”.