EU vows to make Jerusalem capital for Palestinians too

A protester holds a picture of Al-Aqsa Mosque during a demonstration near the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2017
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EU vows to make Jerusalem capital for Palestinians too

BRUSSELS: The EU’s top diplomat pledged on Thursday to reinvigorate diplomacy with Russia, the US, Jordan and others to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
The EU, a member of the Middle East Quartet along with the US, the UN and Russia, believes it has a duty to make its voice heard as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s top trade partner.
“The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference.
She said she would meet Jordan’s foreign minister on Friday, while she and EU foreign ministers would discuss Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels on Monday.
“The European Union will engage even more with the parties and with our regional and international partners. We will keep working with the Middle East Quartet, possibly in an enlarged format,” said Mogherini, citing Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Norway. “We remain convinced that the role of the United States ... is crucial,” she said.
Mogherini, who also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, threw her weight behind Jordan’s King Abdallah, saying he was “a very wise man” that everyone should listen to as the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Trump’s decision stirred outrage across the Arab and Muslim world and alarm among US allies and Russia because of Jerusalem’s internationally disputed status, and the Palestinian group Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel.
Mogherini stressed all 28 EU governments were united on the issue of Jerusalem and seeking a solution envisaging a Palestinian state on land Israel took in a 1967 war, but policy divisions within the bloc have weakened its influence.
“This is the consolidated European Union position,” she said, saying EU foreign ministers made that clear to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday in Brussels.
Hurdles for the EU include its range of positions, ranging from Germany’s strong support for Israel to Sweden’s 2014 decision to officially recognize the state of Palestine.
The EU is also perceived by some in Israel as being too pro-Palestinian, partly because of the EU’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, diplomats say.
 


UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

Updated 25 June 2018
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UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

RIYADH/ADEN: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement fired missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh late on Sunday, escalating tensions ahead of a visit by the UN envoy to Yemen this week to try to avert a military assault on the country’s main port city.
A Houthi spokesman has threatened more attacks in response to the offensive launched by a Saudi-led coalition on June 12 to seize control of Hodeidah port, long a key target, in an attempt to weaken the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The United Nations fears that an assault on the Red Sea port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the legitimate government’s temporary capital, government officials said.
One official said Griffiths would be there only for a few hours for talks focused on averting an assault on the port.
“There is a proposal on the table,” the foreign minister of Hadi’s government, Khaled Al-Yamani, told reporters in Riyadh.
“We would accept a peace initiative on the condition that militias leave the western coast,” he said at a joint press conference to announce a $40 million project launched by Saudi Arabia for de-mining operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A US official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
The coalition said on Monday that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group had been killed in battles in the mountainous Saada region in Yemen’s northwest, which is held by the Houthis along with the capital Sanaa.
Hezbollah officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but the group has previously denied Saudi accusations that it is helping Houthi rebels.
MISSILES OVER RIYADH
Saudi air defense forces intercepted two rockets over Riyadh late on Sunday, sending debris measuring up to several meters hurtling toward residential areas.
Pieces fell near the US mission in the Saudi capital and at a school in the diplomatic quarter. Debris sparked a fire at a construction site 10 km (six miles) further south and fell on the roof of a private residence, but Saudi officials said there were no casualties.
“Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. “The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities.”
Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said the alliance’s advances on Hodeidah and other fronts were pushing the Houthis to try to project strength through such attacks.
Coalition-backed forces seized Hodeidah airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as more Houthi fighters, many armed with Ak-47 assault rifles, were deployed in the city and around the port.
The United Nations fears heavy fighting will worsen what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.