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    US Unlikely to Support Multinational Effort to Resolve Palestine-Israel Conflict

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    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for the establishment of conference that will launch a new Mid-East peace process, cementing his position that the US play a lesser role as mediator in future peace talks with Israel. Sputnik spoke with Dr Jacob Eriksson, a lecturer in Post-war Recovery Studies who specialises in Palestine-Israel.

    Sputnik: If honoured, will a multilateral mechanism seriously help to hasten the process of peace between Israelis and Palestinians do you think?

    Dr Jacob Eriksson: I think there are definite strengths to a multilateral mechanism, or a multiparty mediation mechanism. I’ve argued in my book on small state mediation of the conflict that multiple mediators working together and bringing their individual influences and strengths to bear collectively is theoretically, the best approach to working towards a peace agreement.

    Sputnik: Well you mention ‘theory’ there, which ties in nicely with my next question. It’s quite simple, in theory, to talk of a ‘multilateral’ mechanism for achieving peace, but how do you see it actually looking in practice? How could it work and which states might it consist of?

    Dr Jacob Eriksson: I think you’re absolutely right; theoretically it is very sound but it is difficult in practice. I think Israel is unlikely to accept such a multilateral mechanism. The Israelis and the Palestinians have always had different preferences about what any type of mediation structure would look like. The Israelis are very keen on direct bilateral negotiations with only the US as a possible mediator, although the Palestinians have always encouraged other international parties to be involved. I think in terms of the candidates, the existing members of the Quartet on the Middle East – so the US, EU, Russia and the UN – are the obvious possibilities, with the addition of Arab states like, potentially, Saudi Arabia or Egypt as a possibility. France has recently been involved in international efforts to try and kick start the peace process also.

    But whoever you bring in, the key is to try and get everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet and pull in the same direction using their various strengths and influences, which is the difficult part together with the acceptance of the parties themselves.

    Sputnik: The US State Department has said that the US will “consider” supporting the involvement of other countries in future peace talks if they thought it helpful, but do you really see this happening, especially if those other states oppose the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which many UN members do?

    Dr Jacob Eriksson: The US has always been protective of the peace process and fairly reluctant to let other countries in in a meaningful way. In 2002 we had the establishment of the quartet but this has always really been a fig leaf for US control of the process. Given the Trump administration’s attitude thus far it seems unlikely that their approach is going to change. Although having said that, they have been working together with Arab partners like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. So maybe there is a potential, depending on which partners are actually tipped to be involved.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    Mahmoud Abbas, Israel, Palestine, United States
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