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US leader calls Netanyahu, Abbas 'problematic': Haaretz

US LEADER CALLS NETANYAHU, ABBAS PROBLEMATIC: HAARETZ

U.S. President Donald Trump has described both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as "problematic", Israeli daily Haaretz has quoted several diplomatic sources as saying.

"Trump said both leaders are problematic," Haaretz quoted both western and Israeli sources -- all of them unnamed -- as saying in its Wednesday online edition.

The U.S. president reportedly made the assertion at a Sept. 19 meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

According to diplomats and officials who attended the meeting, at least half of the discussion dealt with the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict.

"But the general context was that, from the two of them, Netanyahu is the bigger problem," the paper quoted one western diplomat -- who had been briefed on the meeting -- as saying.

Haaretz went on to report: "Western diplomats said Trump reiterated to Guterres that he's determined to try to advance a historic peace deal."

"He told Guterres that over the years, he had made many difficult deals, but he'd always heard that the hardest deal of all was Israeli-Palestinian peace," the newspaper added.

According to one western diplomat who had been briefed on the meeting, Trump "wanted to try to meet this challenge", Haaretz wrote.

The newspaper went on to quote several western diplomats as saying that Trump had told Guterres that, despite Abbas's advanced age -- 82 -- and numerous political problems, "he needs a legacy to leave behind".

Netanyahu, by contrast, Trump reportedly said, "understands that he'll never have a [U.S.] president more understanding of Israel's security needs, and therefore there's a chance that he'll agree to steps he hasn't agreed to in the past".

The same diplomats also reportedly said that Guterres had "encouraged Trump to continue pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace and stressed that he, too, thinks there's an opportunity to reach a historic deal".

Trump met Netanyahu in New York one day before the Sept. 19 meeting and two days before he had met with Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.

At the meeting between the U.S. and Palestinian presidents, the latter had voiced optimism about the prospects for reaching a Palestine-Israel settlement this year.

Trump's apparent commitment to forging a viable peace deal, Abbas had said at the time, could lead to what he described as the "deal of the century".

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