Britain, France will back UN draft rejecting US Jerusalem move

Riyad H. Mansour, Palestine's Ambassador to the United Nations (L) speaks with France's Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre (R) after a UN Security Council meeting over the situation in the Middle East on December 18, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. The UN Security Council is to vote on a draft resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Britain, France will back UN draft rejecting US Jerusalem move

UNITED NATIONS: Britain and France, Washington’s closest allies, said Monday they will back a UN draft resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Security Council is set to vote on the proposed measure put forward by Egypt that would reaffirm that any decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”
Diplomats said they expected the United States to use its veto power to block the measure but that most, if not all, of the 14 other members are expected to back the draft resolution.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre praised the Egyptian draft resolution as a “good text” that is “completely in line” with current UN resolutions that reflect the international consensus on Jerusalem.
Delattre said France will support it and that he expected the “overwhelming majority” of council members to do the same.
Breaking with international consensus, Trump this month announced that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, sparking protests and strong condemnation.
The Security Council text expresses “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem” — without specifically mentioning Trump’s announcement.
Aside from the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia can veto any resolution presented at the council, which requires nine votes for adoption.
US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Jerusalem on Wednesday, wading into the crisis over one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the proposed text was in line with London’s position on Jerusalem as an issue that must be resolved through negotiations.
Despite a likely US veto, Rycroft said the United States “will continue to play an extremely important role in the search for peace in the Middle East.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley signalled during a council meeting held ahead of the vote that the United States was ready to use its veto by recalling that the former US administration had abstained in a vote condemning Israeli settlements last year.
The council put Israeli-Palestinian peace “further out of reach by injecting itself” in the process, Haley said, recalling last year’s vote.
“We will not make that mistake again,” she warned.
After a brief open session, the council went into a closed meeting requested by Ukraine, a close US ally, to discuss the measure.
The draft resolution calls on all countries to refrain from opening embassies in Jerusalem, reflecting concerns that other governments could follow the US lead.
It demands that all member-states not recognize any actions that are contrary to UN resolutions on the status of the city.
Several UN resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from territory seized during the 1967 war and have reaffirmed the need to end the occupation of that land.
The Palestinians had sought a toughly-worded draft resolution that would have directly called on the US administration to scrap its decision, but the final version was softened to draw maximum support.
Backed by Muslim countries, the Palestinians are expected to turn to the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution rejecting the US decision, if, as expected, the measure is vetoed by the United States at the council.


Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

Updated 58 min 11 sec ago
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Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

  • The event will focus on ‘harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict’
  • Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend a critical four-way summit on Syria in Istanbul next Saturday. 

They will discuss recent developments in the war-torn country as well as projections for a political settlement.

Experts have underlined the importance of this summit in providing a strong push for key EU countries to work together with regional players to end the years-long conflict in Syria as it will gather the four countries’ leaders at the highest level.

The summit will focus on the recent developments in the opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, and the parameters of a possible political settlement.

The ways for preventing a new refugee inflow from Idlib into Europe via Turkey, which is home to about 3.5 million Syrian residents, following a possible offensive by the Assad regime will also be raised as a topic that mainly concerns France and Germany and pushes them to work more closely with Turkey and Russia.

The summit will also aim at “harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced on Friday.

Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province. Although the withdrawal of some opposition groups from the zone has not been accomplished in due time, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to extend the deadline for Idlib, which is still a strategic area where the opposition holds out.

“Turkey and Russia want the status quo for Idlib. Although the jihadists have not withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, Russia is turning a blind eye,” said Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon II.

“Turkey will make some efforts to save face. Turkish proxies have withdrawn because Turkey pays wages, so they must obey, but for the jihadists it is more complicated,” he told Arab News.

According to Balanche, without the complicity of Turkey, the Syrian regime cannot take over the north of the country.

“In exchange, Turkey wants a buffer zone in the north, all along its border. The main objective is, of course, to eliminate the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the border as it has already done in Afrin. A secondary objective is to protect its opposition allies and the Turkmen minorities, many in the province of Idlib but also between Azaz and Jarablus,” he said.

But the summit also shows that these four countries need each other in the Syrian theater as each of them has stakes regarding the settlement of the crisis.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said the main goal of the summit is to provide a major diplomatic boost to the ongoing Astana and Sochi peace processes, which have so far been led mainly by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

“A second and maybe even more important goal is to include France and Germany in the reconstruction efforts in Syria once the civil war is over,” he told Arab News.

Considering the cost of the reconstruction, estimated at about $400 billion, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are not ready to take this enormous financial burden without the financial support of the West, Ersen said.

“Both Paris and Berlin hope that Ankara’s ongoing efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib can be successful. If the settlement in Idlib does not work, everybody is aware that this may lead to a big refugee crisis for both Turkey and Europe once again,” he added.

Martina Fietz, deputy spokeswoman for the German government, told a news conference in Berlin that her country is also hopeful about the forthcoming summit’s potential contribution to the stabilization of Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

“Progress in the UN-led political process, in particular the commencement of the work of the constitutional commission, will be discussed,” she said.

The chief foreign policy advisers of the quartet have met in Istanbul in recent weeks to discuss the agenda of the summit.