Palestinian chief negotiator urges Arabs to reconsider attending Bahrain workshop

Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s executive committee. (AFP file photo)
Updated 26 May 2019
0

Palestinian chief negotiator urges Arabs to reconsider attending Bahrain workshop

  • The US-Bahraini economic workshop is scheduled in Bahrain on June 25 and 26
  • Palestinian leaders see the workshop as a move to circumvent Palestinian national aspirations

AMMAN: The secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, Saeb Erekat, called on Arab states that have committed to attend the Bahrain economic “workshop” to revisit their decision. 

In an interview with Arab News, Erekat praised Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the cause of Palestine. “In every important decision, Saudi Arabia stood with the people of Palestine,” Erekat said.

The chief Palestinian negotiator noted that all Arabs have made a commitment that they will accept whatever Palestinians accept. “We call on the countries that have agreed to attend the Bahrain workshop to reevaluate their decision,” he said.

Erekat noted that Saudi Arabia has been the most diligent country in supporting the Palestinian government. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia doesn’t miss its monthly support to the Palestinian government. Saudi Arabia doesn’t need an economic conference to financially support Palestinians,” he told Arab news.

Erekat spoke forcefully on this issue in an exclusive interview on the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite TV.

The Palestinian position is that the US-backed economic workshop is aimed at circumventing Palestinian national aspirations. “We started with land for peace and now we are talking about prosperity for peace,” Erekat was quoted as saying by various Qatari owned media outlets.

Despite this, Qatar is confirmed to attend the Bahrain conference according to exclusive information obtained by Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

The US-Bahraini economic workshop is scheduled in Manama, Bahrain June 25 and 26.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have publicly declared that they will attend, along with the Bahraini hosts. Finance ministers from Arab and foreign countries have been invited. Palestinian officials and leading Palestinian business have said they will not attend.

The Trump peace team, headed by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief Middle East advisor Jason Greenblatt, were expected to announce their joint political and economic plans after the holy month of Ramadan but the plan was replaced by an economic workshop in Bahrain.

 

 


Turkish civil society leaders on trial over 2013 protests

Updated 44 min 12 sec ago
0

Turkish civil society leaders on trial over 2013 protests

  • The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring
  • There has been a renewed crackdown on dissidents since a coup attempt in 2016

SILIVRI, Turkey: Sixteen leading Turkish civil society leaders went on trial Monday, accused of seeking to overthrow the government during the “Gezi Park” protests of 2013 — charges dubbed an absurd sham by critics.
The group includes renowned businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose detention since November 2017 has made him a symbol of what his supporters say is a crackdown on civil society.
Kavala rejected the “irrational claims which lack evidence” in his opening statement, shortly after the trial began under high security in the prison and court complex of Silivri on the outskirts of Istanbul.
He is accused of orchestrating and financing the protests which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul.
The rallies snowballed into a nationwide movement that marked the first serious challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s brand of Islamic conservatism and grandiose development projects.
The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring, which, ironically, the Turkish government supported.
“None of these actions were coincidental... they were supported from the outside as an operation to bring the Turkish Republic to its knees,” the indictment says.
Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner said the trial “speaks volumes about the deeply flawed judiciary that has allowed this political witch-hunt to take place.
“It is absurdly attempting to portray routine civil society activities as crimes,” he said.
“The idea that Osman Kavala led the conspiracy is utterly outlandish and unsupported by any credible evidence,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), told AFP.
One of the allegations is the claim that a map on Kavala’s phone showing bee species actually depicted his plans to redraw Turkey’s borders.
There has been a renewed crackdown on dissidents since a coup attempt in 2016, blamed by the government on US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, with thousands arrested and tens of thousands sacked from public sector, media and military jobs.
A respected figure in intellectual circles, Kavala is chairman of the Anatolian Culture Foundation, which seeks to bridge ethnic and regional divides through art, including with neighboring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.
“I was involved in projects contributing to peace and reconciliation. There is not a single piece of evidence or proof in the indictment that I prepared the ground for a military coup,” Kavala told the court.
Think tank researcher Yigit Aksakoglu was also in pre-trial detention — since November — while six of the rest are being tried in absentia after fleeing Turkey, including actor Memet Ali Alabora and dissident journalist Can Dundar.
The case against Alabora focuses on his appearance in a play featuring a revolt against the ruler of a fictional country.
Others, including architect Mucella Yapici, have already been tried and acquitted for their role in the Gezi Park protests in 2015.
“I am on trial for the second time on the same charges. Peaceful protests cannot be banned. They are a right,” Yapici told the court on Monday.
Erdogan has linked Kavala to US billionaire George Soros, whose efforts to promote democracy around the world have made him a target for several authoritarian leaders.
Last year, Erdogan said Kavala was the representative in Turkey of the “famous Hungarian Jew Soros” whom he accused of trying to “divide and tear up nations.”
Soros’s Open Society Foundation, which ceased activities in Turkey last year, called Monday’s trial a “political sham.”
“At some earlier stage in Turkey’s descent into authoritarian rule, one might have described this trial as a test of judicial independence... but such exams have already been held, and the failing grades were handed down long ago,” wrote Freedom House, a US-based rights group, this week.
“The point of the coming show trial is quite simply to intimidate Turkish citizens and deter them from exercising their rights,” it added.
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.