February 16, 2017 / 8:48 AM / a year ago

Saudi foreign minister optimistic about overcoming Mideast challenges

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday he was optimistic about overcoming the many challenges facing the Middle East and looked forward to working with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Trump dropped Washington’s commitment to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, a key pillar of U.S. Middle East policy through successive administrations.

After meeting his U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson, Jubeir declined to comment directly on that decision, which added to European concerns about how Trump’s “America First” message might reshape U.S. foreign policy.

A senior French diplomat said Trump’s remarks, made alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “made no sense.”

“We look forward to working with the Trump administration on all issues in the region,” Jubeir said.

“We are very, very optimistic about our ability to overcome the many challenges we face in the region.”

Tillerson and Jubeir are in Bonn to attend a meeting of the G20 top industrialised countries.

Trump also promised to work towards a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians and said it would require compromise on both sides.

Last week the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ choice of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the U.N. envoy to Libya showed the organisation was biased against Israel.

“We thought that what happened with regard to Fayyad was already deplorable,” the French diplomat said “...But all this makes it difficult for us to understand the decision processes at the heart of the American administration.”

Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil CEO, is due to meet separately on Thursday with the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Britain.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and John Irish; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Joseph Nasr and John Stonestreet

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