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
0

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.


Rebels set to leave new area outside Damascus

Updated 56 min 42 sec ago
0

Rebels set to leave new area outside Damascus

DAMASCUS: Rebels were expected to leave a new area outside the Syrian capital Saturday, state media said, after a new deal was reached between opposition fighters and the Russia-backed regime.
The agreement is the latest in a string of deals that have seen opposition fighters and civilians bussed out of former opposition strongholds near Damascus.
“An agreement has been reached in the area of Eastern Qalamun providing for terrorists to exit Al-Ruhayba, Jayrud and Al-Nasiriya starting from” Saturday, state news agency SANA said late Friday, using its usual term for rebels.
The town of Al-Ruhayba lies some 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Damascus.
Under the deal, fighters would hand over heavy and medium-size weapons as well as ammunition depositories, before heading to northern Syria, SANA said.
They would be transferred to the rebel-held northern town of Jarabulus in Aleppo province and to the neighboring province of Idlib, which is the last in Syria to remain largely outside regime control.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor relying on sources inside Syria, said buses had entered the East Qalamun area after the deal was reached between the rebels and the Russia-backed regime.
The regime is pushing to secure the capital after it announced its full reconquest last week of what was the last major rebel bastion outside Damascus.
Eastern Ghouta was emptied of rebels after a nearly two-month deadly assault on the enclave and several Russia-brokered deals that saw tens of thousands of people transported on buses to Syria’s north.
Earlier this week, a deal was inked that saw around 5,000 people including 1,500 fighters exit Dumayr, a town just to the south of Al-Ruhayba.
After retaking Eastern Ghouta, the regime has also turned its sights on the southern districts of the capital where Daesh has a presence.
Regime forces have bombarded the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern edge of Damascus in recent days in a bid to dislodge Daesh fighters.
Syria’s conflict has killed 350,000 people and displaced millions more since it broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.