Come back to an independent Palestine, Abbas tells Prince William

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Prince William gestures during a visit at the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. (Reuters)
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Prince William (R) speaks with Palestinian students at a school operated by the UNRWA inside the Jalazoun refugee camp. (AFP)
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Britain's Prince William walks to meet the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 27, 2018. (AFP)
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Prince William receives a Palestinian national team football shirt.
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Prince William meets the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
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Prince William showing off his skills with the ball in Ramallah. (AFP)
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Head of the Palestinian Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub and Britain's Prince William pose for a picture with young Palestinian football players in Ramallah. AFP
Updated 27 June 2018

Come back to an independent Palestine, Abbas tells Prince William

  • Second in line to British throne visits West Bank refugee camp  
  • President says Palestinians need the support of British people

AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Britain’s Prince William to Palestine and affirmed his full commitment to achieving a just and lasting peace with Israel. 

The Duke of Cambridge visited a refugee camp, inaugurated a musical fountain, and enjoyed music and Palestinian cuisine.

Abbas told the visiting prince that Palestinians are serious about making peace with Israel. “We want to reach peace through negotiations. This is our position which has not changed in a long time,” he told the Duke of Cambridge, who is on his first official visit to Palestine, during their meeting at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

“I hope that your next visit will be in the state of Palestine when we have our full independence,” Abbas added.

He said the prince’s visit will deepen and strengthen the friendly ties between the Palestinian and British people. 

“We are always in need of the support of the British people for our just Palestinian cause,” he said.

Abbas also mentioned the recent financial aid provided by the British government to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), saying it was an important gesture.

Scott Anderson, director of UNRWA field operations in the West Bank, told Arab News that he was happy to take the British prince to the Jalazoun refugee camp outside Ramallah. “He visited a health center and a girls school, and he interacted with mothers and children.”

Anderson called it a “positive visit” and said that the prince was engaged throughout, asking many of the teenagers “what they wanted to do when they grow up.”

Ahmad Abu Laban, the Ramallah city manager, said that the prince met with city’s mayor and council and other Palestinian leaders. 

“We were proud to host the prince after his meeting with President Abbas,” the added.

Prince William took part in a ceremony to open Ramallah’s first musical fountain. Abu Laban said that after the official meetings, speeches and musical presentation, the British royal enjoyed Palestinian cuisine. 

“He walked around our food fair enjoying falafel and kenafeh sweets, and engaging with the local community. He seemed excited and happy with the visit.”

The Duke of Cambridge visited the local Friends school and met Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, and members of the Palestinian national team as well as young footballers.

“It was the first time since 1800 for such a royal British visit,” Abu Laban said. 

“Even though the royal palace doesn’t deal with politics, we are happy he referred to our future capital as the occupied city of Jerusalem.” 

While the British prince steered away from politics, David Stansbury, from the British Consulate General in Jerusalem, told a Palestinian radio station that the UK supports the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as capital to both countries.

Stansbury was adamant that the UK had no plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The UK Consulate in Jerusalem was busy on social media. @UKinJerusalem tweeted that this is “the first official visit by a senior member from the Royal Family to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” It called the visit “a historic moment and a model of strong ties of friendship and respect between the British & Palestinian peoples.”

The prince will visit Jerusalem on Thursday.

Lebanese army veterans block highways to protest budget cuts

Updated 16 min 4 sec ago

Lebanese army veterans block highways to protest budget cuts

  • The cabinet finalized the state budget last month
  • The draft budget includes a 3% cut in army veterans’ pensions

BEIRUT: Hundreds of retired army officers burned tires blocking main highways into Lebanon’s capital on Thursday to protest cuts to their benefits as part of the 2019 draft budget.
Lawmakers are debating the state budget in parliament this week after cabinet finalized it last month, a critical test of the government’s will to launch reforms it has put off for years and start tackling the nation’s huge debt burden.
The protests point to the land mine the government faces in trying to push spending cuts, even after Lebanon’s key parties agreed the budget in a bid to stave off financial crisis.
Fears of salary and pension cuts sparked protests and strikes in recent months, but the budget did not end up including cuts to the public sector wage bill.
Lebanese veterans burned tires, sparking fires along the highway in Naameh, south of Beirut, early on Thursday.
The road was blocked for a few hours before the army arrived to partly open it up. Long lines of cars waited on either side of the main artery into the capital.
The veterans carried photos of killed army officers, whose families will also be affected by the new cuts.
“There will be closures in all of Lebanon ... The political class pushed us to this stage,” said Abbas Ammar, a first sergeant who retired in 2001. “All our lives we preserved the security of our country. These are our rights that we earned.”
The draft budget includes a 3% cut in their pensions to go to supporting health care and social services, a pension tax and a freeze on early retirement.
Lebanon has among the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at around 150% of gross domestic product (GDP). State finances are strained by a bloated public sector, high debt servicing costs and hefty subsidies on the power sector.
The main steps to cut the projected deficit to 7.6% GDP include a tax on interest, an import tax and the government’s plan to issue low-interest treasury bonds.