US Middle East peace plan to take advantage of technology — Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a Security Council meeting on the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 20 December 2018
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US Middle East peace plan to take advantage of technology — Haley

  • British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce welcomed Haley’s remarks as confirmation that a US peace plan is ready
  • Haley will step down at the end of the year. Trump has nominated US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace her

UNITED NATIONS: Outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that an American plan to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians “brings new elements to the discussion, taking advantage of the new world of technology that we live in.”
However, during a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East Haley gave no details of exactly what was in the long-awaited, unpublished plan, which has been prepared by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“It is much longer. It contains much more thoughtful detail,” Haley told the council of the plan, which she said she has read. “It recognizes that realities on the ground in the Middle East have changed in powerful and important ways.”
The Palestinians are skeptical and have accused the Trump administration of siding with Israel on the core issues relating to the decades-old conflict. They have refused to participate in the US effort since December 2017 when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy there.
“The Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations,” Haley said. “This plan will be different from all previous ones. The critical question is whether the response to it will be any different.”
She also accused Arab countries of not making the Palestinian people a priority: “Because if they were, you would all be in a room helping bring both sides to the table.”
British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce welcomed Haley’s remarks as confirmation that a US peace plan is ready.
European countries have been long been pushing Washington to release its peace plan. Swedish UN Ambassador Olof Skoog lamented to the council on Tuesday that “hopes are evaporating with no peace process in sight.”
Washington has spoken with Israel about presenting the plan at the start of next year, Israel’s UN envoy has said.
More than four years after the last round of US-sponsored peace talks broke down, the sides remain as divided as ever, with frequent flare-ups of violence in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
A poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Tuesday found that 74 percent of Palestinians believe their leadership should reject Trump’s peace plan, if offered, while 21 percent want it accepted.
Israelis’ views on Trump are far warmer, but there has been skepticism about peace prospects even within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government.
“I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a Jerusalem conference last month. “I think personally it (a Trump peace plan) is a waste of time.”
It was Haley’s last appearance at the monthly Security Council meeting on the Middle East. For the past two years she has generally used the meeting to target Iran over US accusations that it is meddling in the region.
Haley will step down at the end of the year. Trump has nominated US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace her.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 55 sec ago
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."