Several options to kick-start Mideast peace talks: Palestinian UN envoy

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Several options to kick-start Mideast peace talks: Palestinian UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS: A collective Middle East peace process could be led by the UN Security Council, a “Quartet” expanded to include China and Arab states or an international conference, the Palestinian UN envoy said on Thursday, all options involving the United States.
Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour laid out the possibilities after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month said he would only accept a broad, internationally backed panel to broker peace talks with Israel.
“We’re saying a collective approach involving several players at minimum would have a better chance of succeeding than the approach of only one country that is so close to Israel,” Mansour told reporters.
The Palestinians are furious at US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and cut to US funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Mansour said a collective peace process could “be in the format of the (UN) Security Council, that would be something that we will look at seriously.”
“The Quartet plus China plus the League of Arab States plus maybe others ... we could also look at that. Or the collective process might be of the nature of the French Paris conference or international conference,” he said.
The so-called Quartet sponsoring the stalled peace process comprises the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, while in January last year France invited dozens of countries to Paris to show support for a peace process.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abbas plan to discuss a possible new mediation mechanism to replace the Middle East Quartet when they meet next week, the Interfax news agency said on Wednesday, citing a Palestinian diplomat in Russia.
Abbas is due to address the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 20 during the body’s monthly meeting on the Middle East.
Trump has said his administration had a peace proposal in the works. Mansour said the United States had given no indication of what the peace plan might be.
“But of course if they started with Jerusalem is off the table and punishing UNRWA ... what is left on the table?” Mansour said. “They lost the neutrality that is required of any broker that helps two parties to reach a peace treaty.”
“The old approach failed, and we’re looking for a new approach,” he said.


Turkey to lift state of emergency after two-year purge

Updated 55 min 47 sec ago
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Turkey to lift state of emergency after two-year purge

  • The state of emergency, which normally lasts three months, was extended seven times
  • During last month’s presidential election campaign, which he won, Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that the state of emergency would end

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s state of emergency which was imposed after the failed 2016 coup is to end Wednesday but the opposition fears it will be replaced by even more repressive legislative measures.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the state of emergency on July 20, 2016, five days after warplanes bombed Ankara and bloody clashes broke out in Istanbul in a doomed putsch bid that claimed 249 lives.
The measure, which normally lasts three months but was extended seven times, has seen the detention of some 80,000 people and about double that number sacked from jobs in public institutions.
The biggest purge of Turkey’s modern history has targeted not just alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed for the coup, but also Kurdish activists and leftists.
The former leaders of the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas — are still languishing in jail following their arrest in November 2016 on charges of links to Kurdish militants.
During last month’s presidential election campaign, which he won, Erdogan pledged that the state of emergency would end.
And it will — at 1:00 am on Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday), simply by virtue of the government not asking that it be extended.
But the opposition has been angered by the government’s submission of new legislation to parliament that apparently seeks to formalize some of the harshest aspects of the emergency.
The bill, dubbed “anti-terror” legislation by pro-government media, will be discussed at commission level on Thursday and then in plenary session on Monday.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said the new measures would amount to a state of emergency on their own.
“With this bill, with the measures in this text, the state of emergency will not be extended for three months, but for three years,” said the head of the CHP’s parliamentary faction, Ozgur Ozel.
“They make it look like they are lifting the emergency but in fact they are continuing it,” he added.
Under the proposed legislation, the authorities will retain for three more years the power to sack civil servants deemed linked to “terror” groups, retaining a key power of the state of emergency.
Protests and gatherings will be banned in open public areas after sunset, although they can be authorized until midnight if they do not disturb the public order.
Local authorities will be able to prohibit individuals from entering or leaving a defined area for 15 days on security grounds.
And suspect can be held without charge for 48 hours or up to four days in the case of multiple offenses.
This period can be extended up to twice if there is difficulty in collecting evidence or if the case is deemed to be particularly voluminous.
The authorities have also shown no hesitation in using the special powers of the emergency — right up to its final days.
Following a decree issued on July 8, 18,632 people were sacked — 8,998 of them police officers — over suspected links to terror organizations and groups that “act against national security.”
The move came just two weeks after Erdogan was reelected under a new system that gives him greater powers than any Turkish leader since the aftermath of World War II.
The new executive presidency means government ministries and public institutions are now centralized under the direct control of the presidency.
Erdogan says it is necessary to have a more efficient government but the opposition claims it has placed Turkey squarely under one-man rule.
“The end of the state of emergency does not mean our fight against terror is going to come to an end,” said Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul.