Arab FMs affirm Jerusalem as future Palestinian capital

Arab foreign ministers are insisting that Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state, even as the US prepares to move its embassy there in a step that has angered the Arab world. (AFP)
Updated 07 March 2018
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Arab FMs affirm Jerusalem as future Palestinian capital

CAIRO: Arab foreign ministers insisted on Wednesday that Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state, even as the US prepares to move its embassy there in a step that has angered the Arab world.
A ministerial meeting held in the Egyptian capital Cairo brought together foreign ministers from the Arab League member-states. It came amid a wave of anger at US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there, sparking protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the time.
In their final statement, the ministers endorsed a peace plan presented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nation Security Council in February and his call for an international peace conference by mid-2018 with the key goals of full UN membership for the state of Palestine and a timeframe for a two-state solution.
The plan calls for mutual recognition by the states of Israel and Palestine based on 1967 borders, and formation of “an international multilateral mechanism” to assist the two parties in resolving all final status issues and implementing them within a set time frame.
“The Arab league has already decided to stand against the negative consequences of the American dangerous and illegal decision of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing the occupied city as a capital of Israel,” said Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in a televised press conference.
Trump’s declaration departed from decades of US policy and upended longstanding international assurances that the fate of the city would be determined in negotiations.
Most countries around the world have not recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. Under long-standing international consensus, the fate of the city is to be determined in negotiations.
Jerusalem’s status is at the core of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement was widely perceived as siding with Israel. It also raised fears of more bloodshed as past crises over Jerusalem have triggered violence.
Israel has considered Jerusalem its capital since the state’s establishment in 1948 and sees the city as the ancient capital of the Jewish people. The Palestinians equally lay claim to Jerusalem and want the eastern part of the city as capital of their future state.


Russia, Iran, Turkey seeking deal on new Syria constitution body

Updated 29 min 23 sec ago
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Russia, Iran, Turkey seeking deal on new Syria constitution body

  • Foreign ministers near agreement on the composition of a Syrian constitutional committee
  • UN Special Envoy has tried since January to clinch agreement on the identity of 150 members

GENEVA: Russia, Iran and Turkey are nearing agreement on the composition of a Syria committee that could pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution and for elections after a devastating civil war, diplomats said on Tuesday.
The foreign ministers of the three nations, who support opposing sides in Syria’s nearly eight-year-old conflict, began talks in Geneva to seal their joint proposal and seek the United Nations’ blessing for it, they added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, asked on arrival whether he expected to reach an agreement with counterparts Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, told reporters: “I hope so.”
Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria who steps down on Dec. 31, has tried since January to clinch agreement on the identity of 150 members of a new constitutional committee to revitalize a stalled peace process.
President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition fighting to topple him have each submitted a list of 50 names. But Russia, Iran and Turkey have haggled over the final 50 members from civil society and “independent” backgrounds, diplomats say.
“The three countries are coming with a proposal for the third list, which has been the heart of the problem,” one diplomat following the negotiations closely told Reuters.
Turkey and other nations would consider working with Assad if he won a democratic election, Cavusoglu said on Sunday.
Turkey supports rebels who control part of northwest Syria. A year ago, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described Assad as a terrorist and said it was impossible for Syrian peacemaking efforts to continue with him.
Assad, whose forces have reclaimed most of Syria with Russian and Iranian support apart from Idlib, a northwestern province, has clung to power throughout the conflict and is widely seen as being loath to yield power after it ends.
The Damascus government has previously brushed off UN-led efforts to set up a constitutional committee.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem, in comments reported by state media on Monday, said it was “early to talk about” the constitutional committee starting work. He blamed attempts at “interference” by Western states for the hold-up in its formation, in addituon to “obstacles” laid by Turkey.
Syrian authorities have only ever signalled a readiness for “amendments” to the existing constitution and also said these must be put to a referendum.
De Mistura said at the weekend that the constitutional committee could be a starting point for political progress.
“It does touch, for instance, on presidential powers, it could and should be touching on how elections are done, on division of power, in other words a big issue,” he said.