Qatar calls Quartet ‘failure,’ seeks Arab peace offer rethink

Updated 15 December 2012
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Qatar calls Quartet ‘failure,’ seeks Arab peace offer rethink

DOHA: Qatar called at an Arab League ministerial meeting yesterday for a rethink of an Arab offer of normal ties with Israel in return for its pullout from occupied land and branded the international Quartet a failure.
“It is logical after 10 years to objectively reconsider the peace process, including the Arab initiative,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, the country’s prime minister.
He called for a “thorough look into developments in the region and the world, and to decide carefully on our future steps and roadmap.” The League has proposed a normalization with the Jewish state in return for its pullout from occupied lands, notably the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, told the meeting in Doha that he was opposed to a withdrawal of the offer, warning that it could lead to regional conflict.
“It is not permissible to talk about sidelining the Arab peace initiative. It should stay,” he said. “It is a very important initiative, and I hope that we would not every time talk about shelving it, because that would mean war.
“Are we ready for war? Personally, I say I am not,” he added.
The Qatari premier also criticized the diplomatic Quartet for Middle East peace comprising Washington, Moscow, Brussels and the UN, which he said had “proven to be a failure and unable to make any achievements.” He called for a “reevaluation of its performance.” The ministerial committee agreed to form a delegation to the UN Security Council to negotiate an Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 1967 borders, in light of the UN General Assembly vote to admit Palestine as a non-member state.
“Palestine’s admission as an observer state at the United Nations and the significance of this international recognition of Palestine as a state under occupation obliges the international community to end occupation,” it said in a final statement.
The committee endorsed a call by Abbas for Arab countries to activate a monthly $100-million safety net for the Palestinian Authority agreed this year at an Arab League summit in Baghdad.
Abbas asked for the aid package to be dispersed as Israel withholds customs revenues due to his Palestinian Authority in retaliation for last month’s UN upgrade of the Palestinians.

Call for unity 
Meanwhile, leaders of the feuding Palestinian factions, the Hamas in Gaza and the secular Fatah government in the West Bank, urged reconciliation between the two former foes yesterday despite diverging policies on Israel.
The two groups are hoping to boost ties on the heels of an eight-day war with Israel last month, which buoyed Hamas, and a Fatah-led initiative at the United Nations General Assembly, that recognized a de facto Palestinian state.
But Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, visiting the Gaza Strip for the first time, struck a hard line against recognizing Israel or negotiating with it for a state on the lines pre-dating the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, just as Fatah’s Abbas pledged himself to diplomacy and non-violence.
“Let bygones be bygones,” Meshaal told an audience at Gaza’s Islamic University. “Responsibility for Palestine is bigger than one faction alone ... Hamas cannot do without Fatah and Fatah cannot do without Hamas,” he added.
Hamas and Fatah have sought unity before, but a succession of Arab-brokered plans have repeatedly run aground over issues such as the holding of new elections, releasing prisoners and the make-up of Palestinian security forces.
In the days before Meshaal’s homecoming, Hamas eased curbs on Fatah partisans in Gaza.
However, the Hamas leader made no concrete proposals for reconciliation and stuck to the party line on Israel, saying he would never recognize the Jewish State even in its original 1948 borders, telling Fatah that “resistance” was the way forward. Their fundamental differences aside, top Fatah leader Azzam Al-Ahmed praised Meshaal’s reconciliation push as “positive,” but cautioned his remarks contained nothing new.
Meshaal and other top Hamas leaders have earlier mooted a long-term truce with Israel based on the 1967 lines, but say this does not mean they are ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist in the rest of the territory.
Israel says it will only accept a demilitarized Palestinian state, and says Hamas’s history of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli towns makes it a terrorist group — a stance the United States and European Union endorse.
Israel criticized Abbas for not condemning Meshaal’s comments and for seeking unity with the Islamist group.
“What is interesting is that (Abbas), of all people, did not condemn the (Hamas) words calling for Israel’s destruction, just as previously he did not condemn the rockets fired at Israel (from Gaza),” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.


Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential election

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters as he leaves his residence in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 min 58 sec ago
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Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential election

  • Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count
  • The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber

ANKARA: Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party claimed victory in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary polls on Sunday, overcoming the biggest electoral challenge to their rule in a decade and a half.
However, the main opposition party said it was too early to concede defeat and said it believed Erdogan could still fall short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a presidential runoff on July 8.
“Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts,” Erdogan said in a short national address, even as votes were still being counted.
“I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure,” he added, clearly aiming to preempt opposition complaints of foul play.
Erdogan, 64, the most popular but also the most divisive politician in modern Turkish history, later waved to cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in Istanbul.
Sunday’s vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.
Erdogan’s victory paves the way for another five-year term, and under the new constitution he could serve a further term from 2023, taking him to 2028.
An unexpectedly strong showing by the AK Party’s alliance partner, the nationalist MHP, could translate into the stable parliamentary majority that Erdogan seeks to govern freely.
“This sets the stage for speeding up reforms,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek tweeted of the results.
In early trading in Asia the lira currency firmed modestly versus the dollar on hopes of a stable working relationship between president and parliament.

OPPOSITION DOUBTS
Erdogan’s main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) urged election monitors to remain at polling stations to help ensure against possible election fraud, as final results came in from large cities where his party typically performs strongly.
With 99 percent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 52.5 percent, well ahead of Ince on 31 percent, broadcasters said.
The opposition raised doubts about the accuracy and reliability of the figures released by state-run Anadolu news agency, the sole distributor of the official vote tally.
However, an opposition platform collating its own vote tally from monitors based at polling stations around the country broadly confirmed the Anadolu figures.
Opposition parties and NGOs had deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against possible electoral fraud. They said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raised fears about the fairness of Sunday’s elections.
Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.
In Sunday’s parliamentary contest, the Islamist-rooted AK Party won 42 percent and its MHP ally 11 percent, based on 99 percent of votes counted, broadcasters said.
In the opposition camp, the CHP had 23 percent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) 11 percent — above the threshold it needs to reach to enter parliament. The opposition nationalist Iyi (Good) party received 10 percent.
Election turnout nationwide was very high at around 87 percent for both contests, the state broadcaster said.
Erdogan argues that his new powers will better enable him to tackle the nation’s economic problems — the lira has lost 20 percent against the dollar this year — and crush Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
Investors would welcome the prospect of a stable working relationship between the president and the new parliament, although they also have concerns about Erdogan’s recent comments suggesting he wants to take greater control of monetary policy.
Erdogan has declared himself an “enemy of interest rates,” raising fears he will pressure the central bank to cut borrowing costs after the election despite double-digit inflation.
He brought forward the elections from November 2019, but he faced an unexpectedly feisty challenge from Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, who galvanized Turkey’s long-demoralized and divided opposition.
Turkey held Sunday’s elections under a state of emergency declared after a failed military coup in July 2016 Erdogan blamed on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
It limits some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees, though Erdogan says he will soon lift the measure
Since the coup attempt Erdogan has waged a sweeping crackdown on Gulen’s followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.
Critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent. He says his tough measures are needed to safeguard national security.