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
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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.


EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

Updated 19 October 2018
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EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

BRUSSELS: European Union and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, officials said Thursday.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.
“The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019,” the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.
The Cairo-based Arab League includes North African countries Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as those in the Middle East and Gulf.
EU officials insisted the summit was about more than just migration, but part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.
“It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers,” an EU official told reporters.
Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new alliance” with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.
Brussels has previously struck cooperation deals with both Turkey and Libya, whose coast guard officers are trained by the Europeans to stop migrant sea crossings — despite concerns about conditions in Libyan detention centers.
The deals with the two gateway countries have helped to cut migration to Europe sharply since a 2015 peak, but the bloc wants to expand work with all north African countries.
The leaders called for “strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa,” according to the summit’s published conclusions.
“Work with third countries on investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should be intensified,” it said.
EU officials say Egypt has set a high bar in fighting traffickers and smugglers, which could be emulated by other North African countries.
The EU is increasingly focused on bolstering its external borders amid longstanding divisions over redistributing asylum-seekers who make it to Italian and other European shores.
But it is still confronted with the refusal of Hungary and other former communist eastern countries to admit migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
And Italy’s populist government has this year turned away migrant rescue ships in a bid to force fellow EU countries to share responsibility for them.
The United Nations refugee and migration agencies, the UNHCR and IOM, had this week urged EU leaders to take steps to ensure responsiblities are shared.
They said the debate was so “dangerously toxic” in some countries that it was harder to find common solutions.
Even though fewer people were arriving in Europe, the two agencies said, the rate of people dying in the Mediterranean was increasing. More than 1,700 lives have been lost since January.