Arab League backs Palestinian president’s call to restart Mideast peace talks

The Arab League Council holds its 149th session at the level of foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2018
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Arab League backs Palestinian president’s call to restart Mideast peace talks

CAIRO: The Arab League Council has supported the Palestinian president’s call to hold an international conference to relaunch the
Middle East peace process.
The resolution came at the end of its 149th session at the level of foreign ministers held on
Wednesday in Cairo.
The council confirmed its support for the peace plan presented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Security Council on Feb. 20, and working to establish a multilateral international mechanism under the auspices of the UN to sponsor the process.
The council affirmed its rejection of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer its embassy there.
Arab foreign ministers also stressed their continued support for the constitutional legitimacy of the government in Yemen headed by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. It supported measures taken by the government aimed at normalizing the situation, ending the coup and restoring security and stability to all Yemeni governorates.
The council stressed its commitment to preserving Yemen’s unity and sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the rejection of any interference in its internal affairs.
The session was held under the chairmanship of Minister of State for African Countries Affairs Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Qattan, and in the presence of the Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Speaker of the Arab Parliament Dr. Mishal Al-Salami.
At a press conference, Qattan said that Saudi Arabia supported the continuation of the league’s role, pointing out that Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been seeking, since his appointment, to reform the league’s system. He said that the upcoming Arab summit in Riyadh would be an important and historic summit.
Qattan said that Iranian interference in Arab affairs had become a source of anger, and some Arab countries did not condemn Iran adequately and did not see the harm being done to Arab national security and the security of GCC.
“We heard blame for the decision for military intervention in Yemen,” he said. “We explained at length that it came at the request of the Yemeni government, stressing that the legitimate government must return to its place.”
Qattan said that Houthi missiles targeted the Kingdom’s cities and the two holy cities, and this was a red line. The Kingdom would defend its territory, even if this need continued for years and whatever the effort and cost, until its citizens felt safe.
He said that before the league’s council session, a meeting of the quartet involving Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain had issued a statement on Iranian interventions. This included a reference to the Iranian nuclear program.
“We in Saudi Arabia and the GCC and all Arab countries that have the same position will not be silent on what is happening,” he said, pointing out that the Iranians were fighting a proxy war that had succeeded in breaking up some Arab countries and but had not succeeded in GCC states.
Qattan said that “we have no objection to dialogue with Iran as a state, not with a militia, but it must first stop interfering in our internal affairs.”
On the Syrian issue, he said that it had not abided by the Security Council’s decision, resulting in the displacement of millions and the deaths of thousands.
Secretary-General Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League was the backbone of the Arab security system, and its role in defending Arab national security was provoking some neighboring countries.


UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

Updated 11 December 2018
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UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

LONDON: United Nations Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said on Monday that agreement on the de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah are ‘not there yet’.
Speaking at a press conference in Stockholm, during the first round of the UN sponsored peace talks between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, Griffiths told reporters that they will continue to discuss Hodeidah and Taiz, which he described as “two major population zones in Yemen caught in war.”
The warring parties are in Sweden for weeklong talks expected to last until Dec. 13, the first since more than three months of negotiations collapsed in 2016.
“I’m hopeful that we can reach agreements on the de-escalation to reduce the fighting in both places. I’m hoping that we can. We’re not there yet.”
“If we are able to achieve progress on those two places and lift the threat of war to the people in those two places, I think we’ll have done a great service to Yemen,” Griffiths said.
Initial drafts of the proposals on the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah and Taiz call for a mutual cease-fire between the two parties.
The Hodeidah draft stipulated that the Arab coalition supporting the legitimate Yemeni government would cease an offensive on the rebel-held city in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal.
The area would then be put under the control of a joint committee and supervised by the United Nations. The document does not propose the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops.
Griffiths said the UN had simplified the Hodeidah draft, which is still under study by the Yemeni delegations.
“We are always redrafting, so some of those documents that you’ve seen” have changed, Griffiths told reporters.
“We’re working on simpler draft,” he added. “The details of that are in deep discussion.”
The two sides are also looking at a draft UN proposal on the southwestern city of Taiz, under the control of pro-government forces but besieged by the rebels.
The initial draft stipulated an unconditional cease-fire, a joint working group that includes the UN to monitor the cease-fire, and the reopening of all roads and Taiz airport for humanitarian operations.
The Yemeni government, which is backed by the Arab coalition, has been battling the Iran-backed Houthi militia for control of Yemen for nearly four years, pushing the impoverished country to the brink of famine.
He also said they are still working to find a common ground for the reopening of Sanaa airport.
During the talks, the two sides discussed a broad prisoner swap, which Griffiths said had proved the least contentious issue, adding that he hoped it “will be very very considerable in terms of the numbers that we hope to get released within a few weeks.” He said the numbers of prisoners to be released by the warring parties will be announced soon.
The UN envoy said he expects to present a detailed plan for the next round of talks and hopes for an agreement from warring factions to hold the next round of talks early next year.

(With AFP)