Palestinians call for emergency UN meeting on Jerusalem

Members of the UN Security Council raise their hands as they vote on a draft resolution that would reject US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a meeting on the situation in the Middle East including Palestine on December 18, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2017
0

Palestinians call for emergency UN meeting on Jerusalem

AMMAN/NEW YORK: Palestinian leaders will call for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly after the US on Monday vetoed a Security Council resolution on the status of Jerusalem.

The veto was “unacceptable and threatens the stability of the international community because it disrespects it,” said Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Palestinians would continue to insist on the rule of international law no matter how many times the US cast its veto, Anees Sweidan, head of the Palestinian international affairs department, told Arab News.

“We will be back in the UN Security Council and we will also go to the General Assembly, where the US has no veto power, in order to insist that no solution can be imposed on Palestinians in regard to our capital, Jerusalem.”

Ziad Khalil AbuZayyad, spokesman for international affairs in the Fatah movement, told Arab News: “The American vision for a peace process doesn’t give Palestinians their rights because it doesn’t include justice or equality. We condemn such actions coming from a world power that considers itself a democracy.”

The resolution followed this month’s decision by the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

It stated that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

It called on “all states to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the holy city of Jerusalem,” under the terms of a 1980 Security Council resolution. Without naming any country, it expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”

The resolution was sponsored by Egypt, and the other 14 members of the Security Council voted for it, including US allies Britain and France. The depth of support illustrated America’s isolation, Abu Rudein said. “The international community must work now to protect the Palestinian people.”

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, called the resolution “an insult” that would not be forgotten, and said the UN had forced the US to cast a veto simply because of its right to decide where to put its embassy.

“The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council,” she said.

After the vote, Palestinian leaders held a closed meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas. They are expected to defy the US and apply for the state of Palestine to join about 22 international agencies.


US, allies set to evacuate Syrian aid workers from southwest

Updated 20 July 2018
0

US, allies set to evacuate Syrian aid workers from southwest

  • US officials say the United States is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria
  • Two officials familiar with the plans said Thursday that the US, Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps

WASHINGTON: US officials say the United States is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces close in on the area.
Two officials familiar with the plans said Thursday that the US, Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps in neighboring countries. From there, they will be sent to third countries, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and possibly Canada, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
The officials, and a member of the White Helmets who is due to be evacuated from Quneitra province, said the operation appears to be imminent as the Syrian army continues to gain ground in its latest offensive. The White Helmets, who have enjoyed backing from the US and other Western nations for years, are likely to be targeted by Syrian forces as they retake control of the southwest, according to the officials.
The officials said planning for the evacuation has been taking place for some time but accelerated after last week’s NATO summit in Brussels.
“These are hard hours and minutes,” the White Helmets volunteer in Quneitra said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear for his life. “This is the worst day of my life. I hope they rescue us before it is too late.”
The evacuation is expected to take place from Quneitra, which straddles the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and where the civil defense team is trapped. It is the last sliver of land still outside government control in the region.
Since the government offensive began in June, the area along the frontier with the Golan Heights has been the safest in the southwestern region, attracting hundreds of displaced people because is along the disengagement line with Israel demarcated in 1974 after a war. The Syrian government is unlikely to fire there or carry out airstrikes.
Negotiations are also ongoing to evacuate armed rebels and their families who don’t want to accept the return of the rule of Bashar Assad’s government to Quneitra, which the rebels have controlled for years. The fighters will be evacuated to the northern part of Syria, where the opposition still holds sway.
Except for that sliver of land, the southern tip of the southwestern region lies along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights and is occupied by a Daesh-affiliated group. The area is expected to be the target of the next government advances and the civil defense teams don’t operate there.
The White Helmets are not without controversy. They only operate in opposition-held areas, where government services are almost non-existent and aerial bombings are recurrent. Syrian government supporters accuse them of being politically affiliated with the rebel groups. Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly accused them of staging chemical attacks in opposition areas, a charge that has never been proven.
They have continued to receive US support even as President Donald Trump presses ahead with his plans to withdraw all American forces from Syria as soon as Islamic State forces are routed.
In June, the State Department freed up a small portion — $6.6 million out of some $200 million — in frozen funding for Syria stabilization programs to keep the White Helmets operating through the end of this year.
In other parts of Syria, where government control has been restored, civil defense volunteers have almost always evacuated to other opposition-controlled areas. It is not clear why this time they will be evacuated out of the country.