WASHINGTON: US Vice-President Mike Pence will next week leave on a high-stakes trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel, a US official said Monday, moving ahead with a Middle East tour delayed amid anger over Washington’s policy shift on occupied Jerusalem.
Initially set for late December, the trip was pushed back as the region reeled from deadly protests triggered by President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to declare the Holy City as the Israeli regime’s capital - in a break with decades of US policy.
Pence will arrive in Cairo on January 20 for a meeting with President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, heading the following day to Amman for a one-on-one with King Abdullah II.
His trip will conclude on January 22-23 with a two-day visit to Israel, where he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, deliver a speech to the Knesset, visit Al Buraq Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Trump’s controversial decision sparked protests in Arab and Muslim countries and was rejected in a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution.
Tensions ratcheted up a notch this month after Trump threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians — whose leaders responded by saying they will not be “blackmailed” and that occupied Jerusalem “is not for sale.”
Trump came to office boasting that he could achieve the “ultimate deal” that secures peace in the Middle East, something that has eluded US presidents for decades.
But efforts to harness improved Arab-Israel relations to push a peace deal have been at least temporarily derailed by Trump’s controversial decision, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warning last month he would “no longer accept” any peace plan proposed by the US.