Egypt to go to Bahrain to ‘evaluate’ Kushner’s Palestinian development plan: minister

The US’s economy-first approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has prompted a Palestinian boycott of the conference. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2019
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Egypt to go to Bahrain to ‘evaluate’ Kushner’s Palestinian development plan: minister

  • Manama event will discuss a US-led economic vision to be presented by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner

CAIRO: Egypt will take part in a Bahrain conference this week on Palestinian economic development in order to evaluate the proposed $50 billion “Peace to Prosperity” plan, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.
The June 25-26 conference in the Bahraini capital Manama will discuss a US-led economic vision to be presented by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, part of a wider plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
But the lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, has prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but in Arab countries with which Israel would seek normal relations.
“It is important for Egypt to participate to listen to this proposition and evaluate it...but not in terms of approving it,” Shoukry, whose country made peace with Israel in 1979, said in a televised interview with Russia Today.
“We have the right to evaluate it, view it and develop a vision about it, but the final decision about it goes back to the main stakeholder — the Palestinian Authority.”
The economy-first approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in which Palestinians are seeking an independent state, has prompted a Palestinian boycott of the conference.
Kushner’s plan includes 179 infrastructure and business projects. More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
The plan provides for infrastructure projects including power, water and road connections in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to an outline released by the White House. Investments there could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza.
Palestinian officials briefed on Kushner’s plan told Reuters the political aspect envisages an expansion of Gaza, a small coastal strip, into Egypt’s North Sinai region, though Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, said “rumors” about such a redrawing of borders were false.
“There will be no renouncing one bit, one grain of sand from the lands of Sinai, which many honorable Egyptians were martyred defending,” Shoukry said.


Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

Updated 10 min 25 sec ago
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Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region"
  • A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister's remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif's comments meant to challenge Washington and "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif himself on Wednesday backpedaled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defense.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and tweeted that, "For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."
"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the 2015 accord, and Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal.

In her last major speech before stepping down next week, May said the nuclear deal must be protected "whatever its challenges".

"Whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region," May said.

Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.
They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.
This is not the only issue between Iran and Britain.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran following her arrest in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility, her husband said Wednesday.
Her family denies the allegations against her.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in Britain that his wife has been moved to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on," he said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
British officials have urged Iranian officials to let her have contact with her family.