New Saudi ambassador to Lebanon formally takes charge

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Yaacoub presents his credentials to Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut on Wednesday. (AN photo)
Updated 03 January 2018
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New Saudi ambassador to Lebanon formally takes charge

BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Yaacoub presented his credentials to Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday.
The ceremony took place less than two weeks after the Lebanese Foreign Ministry informed the relevant authorities in the Kingdom of their decision to approve the designation of Fawzi Kabbara as Lebanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Future Movement MP Ammar Houri told Arab News that this step “is clear proof that Lebanese-Saudi relations are solid and the two sides insist on maintaining the best relations.”
He also said that the Kingdom’s commitment to a permanent ambassador with full powers in Beirut “amid the current conditions in the region is a positive step in promoting relations with Lebanon.”
On arrival of Ambassador Al-Yaacoub at the Presidential Palace, the requisite ceremonies were held and the Saudi flag was raised alongside the Lebanese flag. Al-Yaacoub was one of five ambassadors who presented their credentials to President Aoun.
The Lebanese president’s press office said that the ambassadors who presented their credentials have assured Aoun that “they are working to promote relations between Lebanon and their countries” and stressed “Lebanon’s concern to promote bilateral relations in different fields.”
The new Saudi ambassador was born in Hail in 1975 and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from King Saud University in Riyadh. He then joined the Foreign Ministry and received a higher education diploma from the ministry’s Institute of Diplomatic Studies. He later joined the diplomatic service and became an adviser. He worked in the Saudi Embassy in Beirut between 2010 and 2014 and in the Saudi Embassy in Paris between 2014 and 2017. He has also worked with the minister of state for Arab Gulf affairs and was responsible for the Lebanese desk.
The Saudi diplomat paid a visit to Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and said afterward that the visit was “according to protocol.” He added: “Things are good. Think positive and you will get positive.”
He also made a protocol visit to Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Al-Yaacoub on Tuesday presented his credentials to Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
In late August 2016, the adviser Walid Al-Bukhari was appointed charge d’affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Beirut, after the retirement of Ali bin Saeed Al-Awwad Al-Asiri. Since then, no new ambassador had been appointed until the beginning of February 2017 when Al-Yaacoub was appointed. He had not, however, presented his credentials to the Lebanese government. At the end of 2017, the Kingdom sent the Lebanese Foreign Ministry an official letter announcing its approval of Kabbara as Lebanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia.


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.