RAMALLAH, July 16 — United States President Joe Biden voiced support for the two-state solution to the entrenched Israeli-Palestinian conflict and vowed to provide US$300 million aid to the Palestinians during a short stay in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday as part of his first diplomatic tour in the Middle East.
“As President of the United States, my commitment to the goal of a two-state solution has not changed,” Xinhua quoted Biden as saying in a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
“The goal of the two states seems so far away while indignities like restrictions on movement and travel or the daily worry of your children’s safety are real and they are immediate,” he noted.
Before leaving for Saudi Arabia in the afternoon, Biden was received by Abbas at his presidential palace in Bethlehem.
As to the situation in Jerusalem, Biden said the city is central to “the national visions” of both Palestinians and Israelis, with Jordan continuing to serve as the custodian of its holy sites.
Biden told the press conference that the US will provide US$200 million dollars in funds to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for its critical role in the region.
During a trip to a local hospital, he also pledged to provide US$100 million to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which includes six health institutions and works to serve the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
For his part, Abbas called on Biden to create a political atmosphere to achieve a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the region.
Reiterating the international resolutions and the two-state solution along the 1967 borders as the foundations of the peace process, Abbas urged Biden to help restore such foundations.
“After 74 years of the Nakba displacement and occupation, isn’t it the time for this (Israeli) occupation to end and for our steadfast people, again, to gain their freedom and independence?” he asked Biden during the press conference.
“In this regard, we say that the key to peace and security in our region begins with recognizing the State of Palestine, enabling the Palestinian people to obtain their legitimate rights in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions,” Abbas said.
“We look forward to steps from the US government to strengthen bilateral relations by reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem, removing the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organisation) from the US terrorist list,” the Palestinian president added.
Before arriving in Bethlehem, Biden visited Israel on Wednesday as the first stop of his Middle East tour, during which thousands of Palestinians staged demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, slamming his biased stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Meanwhile, Hamas, ruling faction of the Gaza Strip, slammed Biden’s visit as “not carrying anything new on the Palestinian issue other than consolidating his bias towards the Israeli vision.”
“Biden keeps selling illusions to public opinion through some loose terminology,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.