Palestine National Council to meet for first time in 22 years

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, March 1, 2018. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2018

Palestine National Council to meet for first time in 22 years

AMMAN: Hundreds of Palestinian political leaders and exiles will hold a rare summit next month as they seek to come up with a new strategy designed to counter Washington’s close ties with Israel.
Members of the Palestine National Council (PNC) will hold a full leadership meeting for the first time in 22 years on April 30 in reaction to the US decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and the deepening malaise hanging over the Middle East peace process.
However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not expected to attend the summit as their long-running dispute with Fatah rumbles on. This has caused participants and analysts to warn that the gathering may only widen divisions among the feuding Palestinian factions, which have proved unable to weaken Israel’s grip on the occupied West Bank either through armed struggle or political negotiations.
Hamadeh Faraneh, an Amman-based member of the PNC, told Arab News that the summit was unlikely to achieve anything significant. He said the decision to hold the meeting for the first time since 1996, when it convened in Gaza, arose from a collective realization that many members were entering old age and needed to begin planning for a new generation of leaders to succeed them. 
Although an extraordinary meeting of the PNC was held in 2009, this is the first time in more than two decades that a full leadership meeting has been convened.
The PNC is made up of 723 Palestinians drawn from all the major political groups and the Palestinian diaspora. It first met in East Jerusalem on April 28, 1964, three years before Israel began its occupation of that half of the city.
This year’s summit — in a location yet to be decided — will be particularly poignant now that Jerusalem’s fate is yet again under the spotlight. Last December the US announced it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, overturning decades of diplomatic protocol and provoking condemnation from a majority of UN General Assembly members.
In a recent column for the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, Hani Al-Masri, a Ramallah-based analyst, wrote that the absence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad at next month’s summit could exacerbate divisions between the various Palestinian factions.

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 17 August 2019

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final agreement for a transitional government.
The agreement was signed in the presence of regional and international dignitaries including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. 
During a ceremony that was held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir led Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony in Khartoum, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Jubeir is being accompanied by the Saudi Minister of State for African affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar.

Saudi Arabia has and will continue to support everything that guarantees Sudan’s security and stability, Al-Jubeir said at the ceremony.

“We look forward to the Sudanese fortifying the partnership agreement and combatting foreign interference.”

Al-Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia actively participated in supporting efforts to reach the agreement in Sudan.

After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.