Abbas in Cairo, Istanbul to rally region over holy city

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (2L) meets with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (3L) in the presence of Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (4R) and other Palestinian officials in Cairo on December 11, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Abbas in Cairo, Istanbul to rally region over holy city

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday intensified efforts to rally Middle Eastern countries against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, setting up talks with Arab leaders beginning in Cairo.
Abbas will meet President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, which has been a key broker in past peace talks with Israel and between fighting Palestinian factions, before heading for Istanbul to give a speech, his office said.
El-Sisi, after a separate meeting with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the US moving its Israel Embassy to Jerusalem would have “dangerous effects on peace and security in the region.”
Abbas met the head of the Arab League in Cairo on Monday, local media reported. Arab foreign ministers held an hours-long emergency meeting at the weekend and vowed to seek a UN Security Council resolution rejecting the US move, but gave few details on other measures they would take.
The Palestinians hope for concrete action.
“Daring Palestinian and Arab decisions are required in the coming stage, which is very important,” Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Palestinian official news agency WAFA.
Abbas will not meet Mike Pence during the US Vice President’s visit to the region later this month, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said on Saturday.
Egypt’s top Muslim and Christian religious leaders also said they would not meet Pence.
Abbas is expected to make a statement after his meeting with El-Sisi, the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo said, without giving details.
Egypt, along with Jordan a key US ally in the region which has helped broker past peace deals and has good relations with Israel, has said the Jerusalem move undermines efforts to end the conflict.


It has also brokered reconciliation deals between Abbas’s Fatah party and Gaza-based militant group Hamas, which called for a new uprising against Israel last week.
The planned handover of control of Gaza to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority under the latest deal hit another delay on Sunday, with a Fatah official blaming “obstacles” without elaborating.
Israel launched fresh airstrikes in Gaza on Saturday in response to rocket fire from the enclave, where it fought a war in 2014 which killed more than 2,000 people, most of them civilians.


Trump giving ‘new life’ to Daesh, former envoy says

Updated 55 min 14 sec ago
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Trump giving ‘new life’ to Daesh, former envoy says

  • McGurk warned a US withdrawal would shore up Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran
  • He said Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria was made without deliberation

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria was made without deliberation, left allies “bewildered” and has rejuvenated Daesh, the official formerly in charge of fighting the militants said Friday.
Brett McGurk, who quit as America’s envoy to the anti-Daesh coalition after Trump declared victory over the group last month, warned a US withdrawal would shore up President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.
And “the Islamic State and other extremist groups will fill the void opened by our departure, regenerating their capacity to threaten our friends in Europe — as they did throughout 2016 — and ultimately our own homeland,” McGurk wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post, referring to another name for Daesh.
McGurk, a Barack Obama-era appointee whom Trump kept on, said he was in the US embassy in Baghdad on December 17 when he got an urgent call from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informing him of Trump’s decision.
Two days later, Trump tweeted, “We have defeated Daesh in Syria,” referring to another acronym for Daesh.
“But that was not true, and we have continued to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State,” McGurk said.
The decision came just days after National Security Adviser John Bolton had suggested an indefinite US troop presence in Syria, and as McGurk and then defense secretary Jim Mattis met coalition partners to confirm commitments for at least the next year.
“My counterparts in coalition capitals were bewildered,” McGurk said.
“The president’s decision to leave Syria was made without deliberation, consultation with allies or Congress, assessment of risk, or appreciation of facts.”
Mattis quit after Trump’s decision.
McGurk said Trump had made his decision after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had said Istanbul would lead the fight against Daesh remnants in Syria.
But Turkey has also vowed to take action against US-backed Syrian Kurds who have conducted the fight against Daesh and lost thousands of troops as they slowly wrested territory from the militants.
“The irony is that defeating the Islamic State is what the president said from the beginning was his goal,” McGurk said.
“His recent choices, unfortunately, are already giving the Islamic State — and other American adversaries — new life.”
Just one month after Trump declared victory over Daesh, the militants claimed responsibility for a brutal attack in Syria this week.
Four Americans, including two services personnel, were among those killed when a suicide bomber hit a restaurant in the key city of Manbij in Syria’s north — the deadliest attack against US forces since they first deployed in the war-torn nation four years ago.
The Pentagon on Friday identified three of those killed.
Among them was Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent of New York. Her death marked the first time a female US service member was killed in Syria.

READ MORE: US names Americans killed in Manbij, Syria 'Daesh attack'