Trump threatens to cut aid to Palestinian territories

A boy eats his fruit during a rally against the US move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at Putra Mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Trump threatens to cut aid to Palestinian territories

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump admitted the Middle East peace process was in difficulty and threatened to cut aid to Palestinians worth more than $300 million a year, drawing a rebuke that they would not be “blackmailed.”
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted.
“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures.
“We will not be blackmailed,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Wednesday after Trump’s tweet.
“President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice. Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!“
The US has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for the UN’s programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Unless Trump follows through on his customary tough talk, the message is likely to be seen as primarily political.
Trump came to office boasting that he could achieve the “ultimate deal” that secures peace in the Middle East, something that has eluded presidents since the late 1960s.
For most the last half century the United States has been seen as indispensable — if sometimes imperfect — arbiter of the peace process.
Trump’s actions are likely to cast that further in doubt.
He has heaped pressure on Palestinians to do a deal, threatening to close the de facto “embassy” in Washington, recognizing Israel’s contested claim on Jerusalem and now threatening aid.
Efforts to harness improved Arab-Israel relations to push a peace deal have been at least temporarily derailed by his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of American policy.
The decision sparked almost universal diplomatic condemnation and deadly protests in the Palestinian territories.
It also prompted Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas — 82-years-old and facing the prospect of entering the history books as the leader who “lost Jerusalem” — to cancel a planned meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
Christian and Muslim leaders in Egypt took similar steps.
Pence was forced to delay his December visit to the Middle East until later this month, and aides were on Tuesday forced to reject rumors of further delays.
“As we’ve said all along, the vice president is going to the Middle East in January,” said Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. “We’re finalizing details and will announce specifics of the full trip in the coming days.”


Tunisia reopens consulate in Libyan capital Tripoli

Updated 21 April 2018
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Tunisia reopens consulate in Libyan capital Tripoli

  • Most embassies left Tripoli in 2014 when heavy fighting broke out between rival factions.
  • Only a few embassies came back when a UN-backed administration took office in 2016.

Tripoli: Tunisia has reopened its consulate in the Libyan capital, the Libya foreign ministry said on Saturday, the latest mission to return to Tripoli.
Most embassies left Tripoli in 2014 when heavy fighting broke out between rival factions and few came back when a UN-backed administration took office in 2016.
The Tunisian consulate resumed work after talks between the two countries, the Libyan foreign ministry said. The Tunisian foreign ministry declined to comment, but a diplomatic source confirmed the move.
Tunisian had closed its mission 2015 after ten staff were kidnapped.
In recent weeks some Western embassies have sent diplomats for longer stays to Tripoli as security has improved, although few stay full time on the ground.
The Italian and Turkish embassies as well as the UN mission are among the few open.
Tripoli is formally run by a Government of National Accord backed by the UN but in reality controlled by a patchwork of armed groups.
Big street clashes between rival groups have ended, but several rockets which hit Tripoli airport this week were a reminder that security remains shaky.
The UN has been trying to meditate to produce a national government and end the rift between the administration in Tripoli and a rival one in the east, part of a conflict gripping the oil producer since the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.