Timing of Trump peace plan depends on Palestinians: Pence

Mike Pence. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Timing of Trump peace plan depends on Palestinians: Pence

JERUSALEM: US Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday the timing of a long-awaited US Middle East peace initiative depends on the return of Palestinians to negotiations.
President Donald Trump’s advisers have been working on the outlines of a plan for some time. But Palestinians ruled out Washington as a peace broker after the US leader’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The White House has been working with our partners in the region to see if we can develop a framework for peace,” Pence told Reuters in an interview in Jerusalem on the last leg of his three-day Middle East trip.
“It all just depends now on when the Palestinians are going to come back to the table.”
Trump’s Jerusalem move angered the Palestinians, sparked protests in the Middle East and raised concern among Western countries that it could further destabilize the region.
Pence said he and the president believed the decision, under which the US also plans to move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, would improve peacemaking prospects.
Pence discussed the Jerusalem issue during talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday. He said the two leaders had agreed to convey to the Palestinians that the US was eager to resume peace talks.
“We want them (the Palestinians) to know the door is open. We understand they’re unhappy with that decision but the president wanted me to convey our willingness and desire to be a part of the peace process going forward,” Pence said.
Pence said the US State Department would spell out details in the coming weeks about a plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.
Israeli media have speculated that a 2019 embassy move could help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win reelection in a vote scheduled for November of that year.
Asked if he hoped for Netanyahu’s reelection, Pence said: “I'm a strong supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, but I don’t get a vote here.”


Tributes pour in for UN chief who strove for Mideast peace

Updated 17 min 23 sec ago
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Tributes pour in for UN chief who strove for Mideast peace

  • The Ghana=born Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN

JEDDAH: Former UN chief and Nobel peace laureate Kofi Annan died on Saturday, triggering a flood of tributes from around the world for the “diplomatic rock star.” He was 80.

Annan served two terms as head of the UN from 1997 to 2006, strove tirelessly for peace in the Middle East and led the organization through the divisive years of the Iraq war.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres described his predecessor as “a guiding force for good. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations.”

Born in Kumasi in Ghana, Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN and was the first chief to rise from within the organization’s ranks.

After his second term as UN chief, he took high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria, and more recently leading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis.

Current and former world leaders voiced their admiration on Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Annan’s “wisdom and courage,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated an “exceptional statesman in the service of the global community.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Annan “worked tirelessly to unite us and never stopped fighting for the dignity of every person.”

Former US President Barack Obama said Annan “embodied the mission of the United Nations like few others.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said “Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time.

“The UN and the world have lost one of their giants.”