Palestinian President Abbas refuses to work with US on peace efforts

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after a press conference at the Elysee Palace on Friday, December 22. Abbas met Macron a day after the UN General Assembly resolution denouncing President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. (AP)
Updated 22 December 2017
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Palestinian President Abbas refuses to work with US on peace efforts

PARIS: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday urged France and Europe to play a stronger role in peace efforts, insisting he’ll no longer accept any US plans for Mideast peace because of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Abbas met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris a day after the UN General Assembly resolution denouncing President Donald Trump’s decision.
During a news conference, Macron was careful not to take sides, saying “the American mistake was to want to unilaterally manage from afar a situation whose solution is in the hands of the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Abbas said the United States is “no longer an honest mediator in the peace process.”
“We will not accept any plan from the United States of America because of its bias and violation of the international law,” he said.
Abbas also denounced the US threat to cut financial aid for countries who voted to back the UN resolution. “We call upon countries that did not recognize Palestine yet to do so to preserve the two-state solution before it’s too late,” he added.
Macron reaffirmed his disapproval of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The French president recalled he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month in Paris and urged him to make “courageous gestures” to help revive peace talks, including freezing Israel’s construction of settlements on occupied lands.
EU leaders, including Macron, have reiterated support for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
On Thursday, the UN General Assembly voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions in favor of the non-binding resolution countering the US recognition of Jerusalem.


Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

Updated 23 October 2018
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Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

  • The author and the publisher are accused of spreading “fake news”
  • Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed

CAIRO: Egypt has arrested an economist and his publisher over a book that challenged President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s economic policies, a lawyer said Tuesday, the latest in a wave of detentions in recent years targeting all forms of dissent.
Prize-winning economist Abdel-Khaleq Farouq and his publisher, Ibrahim el-Khateib, were detained Sunday. Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, a lawyer for the author, said the two are accused of spreading “fake news,” which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The book — entitled “Is Egypt Really a Poor Country?” — was posted online by activists. Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed.
The book contains scathing criticism of El-Sisi’s economic policies, accusing the general-turned-president of lacking the vision needed to remedy Egypt’s economic woes.
Farouq blames the country’s poor economy on what he calls the military’s monopoly of power since 1952, when officers toppled the monarchy.
The book’s thesis is primarily a repudiation of an assertion made by El-Sisi that Egypt was a poor country that could no longer afford costly state subsidies on key commodities and services, for decades a cornerstone of state policy to help the poor make ends meet.
In the book’s introduction, the author claims that El-Sisi’s assertion on Egypt’s poverty “exposed blatant ignorance of the realistic and untapped capabilities in Egypt’s economy and society and the lack of vision capable of exploiting these abilities and potential.”
Egypt has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since El-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. Thousands of people have been jailed, mainly Islamists but also several prominent secular activists.
The government has banned all unauthorized street protests and has blocked hundreds of websites, including some run by independent media and human rights groups.
First elected to office in 2014 and now serving a second, four-year term, El-Sisi has made the economy the focus of his rule, with a hands-on drive for fiscal reform, improving infrastructure and the construction of new cities. In exchange for a $12 billion IMF loan secured in 2016, he ordered steep hikes in the price of fuel, government services and utilities. The measures fed popular discontent but did not spark significant unrest.
Egypt’s parliament is packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, and his Cabinet is entirely made up of loyalists, which means that the president’s policies are never effectively challenged. He has on occasion bristled at criticism of his policies, once angrily yelling at a lawmaker who suggested postponing the lifting of state subsidies and on another occasion telling Egyptians to only listen to him.
In a televised address earlier this month, the 63-year-old El-Sisi boasted that he has for 55 years been closely monitoring “every detail, every part and every circumstance” in Egypt. His accumulated knowledge of the country, he said, has given him the will to take difficult decisions.
In the same address, he said Egypt would never realize its aspirations if the state continues to subsidize goods and services. If the rapid growth of the population — which has doubled to 100 million over the last 30 years — is not checked, then there will be no “realistic hope” for economic improvement, El-Sisi warned. “Can a nation prosper while facing such a challenge? How?“
Farouq’s book, according to the text published online, offers suggestions for improving the economy based in large part on fighting graft and waste as well as tax and administrative reforms.