Leaders welcome meeting of Palestine Central Council

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas sits in front of a photo of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in this December 18, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 26 December 2017
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Leaders welcome meeting of Palestine Central Council

AMMAN: Senior Palestinian leaders have welcomed a call for the reconvening of the Palestine Central Council (PCC).
Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO’s executive committee and a senior leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Arab News that it was time that the PLO’s top bodies met to assess the current situation.
“The last time that the PCC met was in March 2015 and at that time it was decided to hold a meeting every three months,” he said. Khaled said that a number of decisions made at the last meeting had yet to be carried out. “It was decided to end our connection with the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel but this has not happened.”
Senior Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad said Monday the central council will discuss the declaration of Palestine as a “state under occupation.” Ahmad said that the PCC will convene in the middle of January 2018 in Ramalah.
Tayseer Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a member of the Palestine National Council, also welcomed the call for the central council, although he also wants the more important Palestine National Council (PNC) to meet as soon as possible.
“We need the PNC to meet now because of the extremely difficult situation we are in and in order to have a high level discussion of our priorities, and to launch a new national liberation strategy that is in sync with our people’s wishes of having an independent state and enacting the right of return,” he said.
Nasrallah, a Fatah leader in Nablus who spent many years in Israeli jails, told Arab News that it was important to reassess relations with the Israeli occupiers and the Americans. “We need a serious review of the entire Oslo process, what is positive and negative about it, so that we can rid ourselves of these shackles and return to proper relations between an occupied people and the occupation. We also need to seriously review our relations with the United states,” Nasrallah said.
Tayseer Khaled also believes that the time has come for the state of Palestine to join all remaining international organizations and agencies.
“This is an opportune time for the PLO to decide on joining some 22 international agencies we have been prevented from joining due to the US conditions,” he said.
He believes that a new strategy for Palestine should include the need to agree on a new multinational mechanism for sponsoring any future talks.
It is still not clear whether Hamas and Islamic Jihad will attend the upcoming Palestine Central Council and where exactly it will take place. A senior source in the Popular Front said it preferred that the meeting would take place outside the Occupied Territories to ensure that all members attended.
However, Nasrallah told Arab News that it was best to hold the meeting in Palestine and those who could not come could join via video conferencing.


Syria’s Idlib spared attack, Turkey to send in more troops

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago
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Syria’s Idlib spared attack, Turkey to send in more troops

  • Damascus also welcomed the agreement but vowed to continue its efforts to recover “every inch” of Syria
  • The Idlib region and adjoining territory north of Aleppo represent the opposition’s last big foothold in Syria

ANKARA/AMMAN: Turkey will send more troops into Syria’s Idlib province after striking a deal with Russia that has averted a government offensive and delighted rebels who said it kept the area out of President Bashar Assad’s hands.
The deal unveiled on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s most powerful ally, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will create a demilitarised zone from which “radical” rebels must withdraw by the middle of next month.
Damascus also welcomed the agreement but vowed to continue its efforts to recover “every inch” of Syria. Iran, Assad’s other main ally, said that “responsible diplomacy” had averted a war in Idlib “with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror.”
The agreement halted a threatened Syrian government offensive. The United Nations had warned such an attack would create a humanitarian catastrophe in the Idlib region, home to about 3 million people.
The Idlib region and adjoining territory north of Aleppo represent the opposition’s last big foothold in Syria. Assad has recovered most of the areas once held by the rebels, with decisive military support from Iran and Russia.
But his plans to recover the northwest have been complicated by Turkey’s role on the ground. It has soldiers at 12 locations in Idlib and supplies weapons to some of the rebels.
Erdogan had feared another exodus of refugees to join the 3.5 million already in Turkey, and warned against any attack.
In striking the deal, Russia appears — at least for now — to have put its ties with Turkey ahead of advancing the goal of bringing all Syria back under Assad’s rule.
That goal is also obstructed by the presence of US forces in the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates that is held by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, and at a base near the borders with Jordan and Iraq.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis played down any notion the Turkey-Russia agreement had resolved the situation in Idlib.
“Idlib is one of the most complex problems in a complex theater (of conflict) right now. So I’m quite sure it’s not all sorted,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.
Analysts cautioned that implementation of the deal faced big challenges, notably how to separate extremists from other rebels — a goal Ankara has been struggling to achieve.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the “moderate opposition” would keep its weapons and the “region will be cleared of radicals.” Turkey would “make additional troop deployments” and its 12 observation posts would remain.
The deal was “very important for the political resolution in Syria.” “If this (Idlib) had been lost too, there would be no opposition anymore,” he said.
Mustafa Sejari, a Free Syria Army (FSA) official, said the deal “buries Assad’s dreams of imposing his full control over Syria.”
Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission, expressed hope a government offensive was now off the table for good.
The Syrian government, in a statement published by state media, said it welcomed any agreement that spared blood. It also said the deal had a specific time frame, which it did not detail.
“I see it as a test of the extent of Turkey’s ability to implement this decision,” Ali Abdul Karim, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, said in an interview with Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV. “We do not trust Turkey ... but it’s useful for Turkey to be able to carry out this fight to rid these groups from their weapons.”
’Catastrophe averted’
Moscow said the deal “confirmed the ability of both Moscow and Ankara to compromise ... in the interests of the ultimate goal of a Syrian settlement by political and diplomatic means.”
“Is this merely a stay of execution? Or is it the beginning of a reprieve?” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock asked during a monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria.
The demilitarised zone will be monitored by Russian and Turkish forces, the countries’ leaders said.
Neither Russia nor Turkey has explained how it plans to differentiate “radically minded” rebels from other anti-Assad groups. It was also not immediately clear how much of the city of Idlib fell within the zone.
Putin said the decision was to establish by Oct. 15 a demilitarised area 15 to 20 km (10-12 miles) deep along the contact line between rebel and government fighters.
Naji Abu Hufaiza, spokesman for the National Front for Liberation, said he did not have details of the agreement, but added that while he saw it as a success for Turkish diplomacy, his group did not trust Russia to uphold it.
Idlib is held by an array of rebels. The most powerful is Tahrir Al-Sham, an amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra Front — an Al-Qaeda affiliate until 2016.
Other Islamists, and groups fighting as the Free Syrian Army banner, are now gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”
The area is also the last major haven for foreign extremists who came to Syria to fight the Alawite-led Assad government.
Putin said that, at Erdogan’s suggestion, by Oct. 10, all opposition heavy weapons, mortars, tanks, rocket systems would also be removed from the demilitarised zone.
Earlier this month, Putin publicly rebuffed a proposal from Erdogan for a truce when the two met along with Iran’s president at a summit in Tehran.