Indian PM, Jordan king discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

PM Modi was received by Jordan Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki on his arrival in Amman on Friday. (Image tweeted by PMO India)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Indian PM, Jordan king discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II has discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his role as custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines in contested Jerusalem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A palace statement says the two met on Friday, a day before Modi’s first-ever visit to the West Bank.
After a public embrace of Israel as a strategic partner, the Indian prime minister is visiting the Palestinian territories and the Gulf countries on Friday to bolster long-standing political and economic ties.
Modi tweeted on Friday that he is looking forward to talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and “reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine.”
His visit comes at a time of tensions over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The step angered Palestinians who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as a future capital.
India was one of the earliest champions of the Palestinian cause but in recent years turned to Israel for high-tech military equipment and anti-terrorism cooperation.
Under Modi, whose nationalist party sees Israel as a natural ally against extremism, ties have flourished. Modi made the first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister last year followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last month.
But Indian officials said India continued to support the Palestinian cause and that Modi’s visit is aimed at helping build up the Palestinians’ capacity in the health, information technology and education areas.
“We have de-hyphenated our relations with Palestine and Israel and now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy the prime minister is undertaking this visit,” B. Bala Bhaskar, a joint secretary in the Indian Foreign Ministry, said.
The two sides are building an Indian-Palestinian technology park in Ramallah, the Palestinians’ seat of government, which will develop IT expertise and generate employment.
Modi arrived in Jordan later on Friday and travels to Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday. During his visit to Israel last year, he did not travel to the Palestinian headquarters as is usually the case with visiting leaders.
“Looking forward to my discussions with President Mahmoud Abbas and reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine,” Modi said in a Twitter post.
India was among more than 120 countries to vote in favor of a resolution in December calling for the US to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But the scale of India’s security and commercial ties with Israel dwarfs the engagement with the Palestinians. Israel is among India’s top three arms suppliers, doing business worth millions of dollars each year.
Modi and Netanyahu are now pushing for cooperation in agriculture, energy and cybersecurity in addition to defense.
Modi will also travel to the UAE, from where India gets half of its oil, and to Oman, with which India’s navy has built close security ties.
The Gulf is home to 9 million Indians who remit $35 billion home each year, sustaining millions of families. The UAE committed an investment of $75 billion in India when Modi visited in 2015 and the two sides will be looking to advance that goal, the Foreign Ministry said


Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

Updated 16 August 2018
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Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

  • Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha
  • “We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides..." the source said

CAIRO: Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said on Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live.
Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha feast which starts next week.
“We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides, and we expect to announce the terms next week if Fatah helps us to do so,” the source said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s mainstream party which dominates the occupied West Bank.
Officials from Fatah have not joined those of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and other Palestinian factions for the talks in Cairo on the long-term truce.
But Fatah’s backing is crucial for any deal as the party retains a large presence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has overall control in areas under Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
“The period of calm will be for one year, during which contacts will be held to extend it for another four years,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A long-term truce could pave the way for talks on other issues, including the easing of a blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and allowing a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
The source said Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was expected to meet Abbas in Ramallah after similar talks in Israel, and a deal could be announced by next week. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Kamel had met with Netanyahu in Israel this week, but gave no details.
A Palestinian source in Ramallah said Kamel has left without seeing Abbas, who had been preoccupied with a Palestinian leadership conference. But the source said Abbas had informed Egypt that Fatah representatives would join the Cairo talks later this week or next week.
Apart from the opening of its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into Gaza, Israel also expanded the enclave’s fishing zone, in waters under Israeli naval blockade, from three to nine nautical miles off the southern coast and to six nautical miles in the north, according to the head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.
The Egyptian security source said the extended truce would also include opening a sea lane from Gaza to Cyprus under Israeli supervision.
A Palestinian official in Gaza familiar with the talks said Palestinian factions were demanding a “total lifting of the blockade on Gaza, opening all crossings with Israel and Egypt and a water corridor.”
Israel says its blockade is a self-defense measure against Hamas, a group that has called for its destruction.
Israel’s security cabinet, a forum of senior ministers headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed the Gaza situation on Wednesday and an Israeli “diplomatic official” said Hamas would have to prove its commitment to the truce.
As well as wanting calm along the border, Israel has said Hamas must return the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war and release two civilians whose fate is unknown. It says they are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“That’s the only way,” Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Thursday when asked if a broad arrangement depended on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
“Nothing will be done to enable (Gaza’s) significant rehabilitation and the improvement of infrastructure and ports and other such fantasies, unless they release the bodies and the two Israeli captives,” he told Israel radio.
The Egyptian security source said the long-term truce would also envisage Israel freeing hundreds of detained Palestinians in a prisoner swap.
However, the Palestinian official denied any talks were taking place on a swap, saying Hamas opposed mixing the issues.
Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation agreement that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. A dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation of the deal, but the Egyptian source said Cairo was still seeking progress on the issue.