Palestinians welcome Japan offer to mediate in Palestine-Israeli conflict

Palestinians welcomed the initiative made by Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono in the exclusive interview he gave to Arab News, seen here speaking with editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas. (AN Photo/Alexis Willaume)
Updated 05 July 2019

Palestinians welcome Japan offer to mediate in Palestine-Israeli conflict

  • Saeb Erekat, PLO official, tells Arab News Japan is a country that has shown ‘tremendous commitment’ to the cause
  • Malki said that the initiative of the CEAPAD conference gives hope to the Palestinian people

AMMAN: Palestinians welcomed the initiative made by Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono in the exclusive interview he gave to Arab News about his country’s interest playing the role of an “honest broker” in helping to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the executive committee of the PLO, told Arab News that Japan is a country that has shown a ‘tremendous commitment’ to peace and the two-state solution.

“They have invested in the development of institutions in Palestine and have kept a position against Israeli settlements,” Erekat said. “We welcome their position which is consistent with the peace plan presented by President Abbas before the Security Council in February 2018, calling for a group of countries to facilitate the peace process as we are not going to accept the United States to play this role.”

Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman of the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, noted that the premier met a Japanese delegation that included the Middle East peace envoy Masahiro Kono and Japan’s head of diplomatic mission in Ramallah Takeshi Okubo. In a statement after the meeting on Wednesday the Palestinian prime minister noted his appreciation of the bilateral relations between both sides. “Shtayyeh praised the continuous political and economic support from Japan, especially their support in the building of the institutions of the state of Palestine,” the statement concluded.

Ahmad Deek, political affairs advisor of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said that the ministry “welcomes” the calls made by the Japanese foreign minister. In answer to a question by Arab News, Deek said, “we welcome the suggestion made by the foreign minister because we believe that any movement is helpful.” Deek noted that Palestinians yearn for peace and welcome support from “our international friends so long as it is not limited to only the Americans.”

Hanna Issa, director of Islamic-Christian Commission for Support of Jerusalem, said that Japan’s position is the correct one. “Both the Israeli and American positions are constantly changing and therefore it is important to have a country that is neutral like Japan, which supports the two-state solution and has shown its backing on projects in support of Palestinian statehood.”

The Japanese delegation to Palestine has met a number of senior Palestinian officials and observed Japanese funded projects. Japan is a major supporter of Palestinian agriculture through its efforts to help agricultural exports, especially from the Jordan valley area. They also attended the first conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian development (CEAPAD) held in Palestine.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Malki opened the conference, stressing that CEAPAD is an effective model for building bridges of communication and transferring successful experiences in East Asia to Palestine to support the two-state solution.

Malki said that the initiative of the CEAPAD conference gives hope to the Palestinian people, especially in light of Israel's control over the Palestinian economy.He added that with the help of the countries participating in the conference they hope to move from a state under occupation to a developed country achieving development freely and with dignity.

The first CEAPAD conference was first held in the Japanese capital Tokyo in 2013; the second was in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in 2014, and the third in the Thai capital Bangkok in 2018.

CEAPAD member states include: Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, the Sultanate of Brunei and Palestine. The observer countries and organizations are: South Korea, Egypt, Jordan, the International Quartet, UNRWA and the Islamic Development Bank.

Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

Updated 40 sec ago

Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab has been hailed by tourism chiefs for staging his son’s lavish wedding reception on home turf.
The influential Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon saluted Saab “for holding the wedding party of his son, Elie Jr., and the Lebanese bride, Christina Mourad, in Lebanon instead of abroad, as do tens of Lebanese leaders and lords.
“Holding wedding parties abroad has deprived the tourism sector as well as other sectors in Lebanon of important revenues that can revive the national economy,” the syndicate said.
The nonprofit body that represents restaurateurs, added that the glittering event had “turned the country into a huge wedding attended by more than 3,000 guests from inside and outside Lebanon.
“People shared their joy on social media, communicating Lebanon’s image of civilization and tourism to the world. This wedding filled Lebanese hotels, restaurants and nightclubs and stirred the economic cycle for more than 10 days before and after the wedding. We salute the man who loves peace and Lebanon a thousand times.”
Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon (ATTAL), told Arab News: “The syndicate’s stance comes in response to a phenomenon that emerged a few years ago. Distinguished people have been holding lavish weddings for their children abroad, where they spend millions of dollars. This has not only been done by politicians, but also businessmen and senior employees, as if it has become a trend or an added value.”
The tourism leader said the situation was to do with Lebanese ego, but he emphasized that wedding parties held in Lebanon could be better than those staged abroad on all levels. “We have outstanding wedding planners who get employed to plan weddings abroad,” he added.
Abboud pointed out that the tourist season in Lebanon this year had so far been promising with the number of visitors from GCC countries, and especially Saudi Arabia, up on 2018 figures. He added that the 2019 draft budget approved by Parliament last week had not put “any burdens on the tourism sector.”
Chairman of the Hotel Owners Association in Lebanon, Pierre Al-Ashkar, estimated the cost of wedding parties held by Lebanese people abroad to be around $400 million, including hotel accommodation, purchases and transportation, in addition to the expenses of the wedding itself.
He said: “There is no longer a difference between politicians and businessmen who choose to hold their children’s wedding parties abroad. It is true that these weddings are no more than a few hundred, but their expenses are huge and, therefore, deprive Lebanon of this money.”
Al-Ashkar pointed out that the number of tourists choosing Lebanon this summer had risen, highlighting a significant 30 percent increase in the proportion of visitors from Europe.
“However, the number of tourists from GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia, has not been as we had wished,” he added.
“Maybe this is because these tourists, who have not been visiting Lebanon for five to seven years, now have business in other countries or investments in tourist places outside of Lebanon, especially as some countries now offer incentives to attract tourists carrying certain passports and residence permits.”