Arab League urges 'all parties' to back Egypt's Gaza truce plan

Updated 15 July 2014

Arab League urges 'all parties' to back Egypt's Gaza truce plan

CAIRO: Arab foreign ministers in Cairo early Tuesday called on “all parties” to accept an Egyptian proposal to end the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas, after the Palestinian militant group signalled its rejection of the truce.
The ministers, meeting for an extraordinary Arab League session, also backed a Palestinian demand for “international protection.”
Hours before the meeting, Cairo announced a proposal for a cease-fire that would begin Tuesday, saying it was willing to host high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks after a truce went into effect.
At least 186 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip as the conflict entered its eighth day.
Israel says its air strikes are in response to Hamas rocket fire on its cities, which have mostly been blown out of the sky by Israeli interceptor missiles without causing any deaths.
The Arab foreign ministers “demand all parties concerned accept the Egyptian initiative” and commit to its terms, they said in a statement after the meeting.
The proposal came as Egyptian state media reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Cairo to discuss an end to the hostilities, and after Washington warned Israel against a ground invasion of Gaza.

Hamas’ demands
Hamas appeared to reject the idea, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying the group would not accept a truce without a full-fledged deal to end hostilities.
Hamas officials say they will not accept "calm for calm." The group is demanding an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has ground Gaza's economy to a standstill and that Israel release dozens of prisoners who were arrested in a recent West Bank crackdown following the abductions of the Israeli youths.
With the death toll mounting, both sides have come under increasing international pressure to halt the fighting.
Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said there is "no alternative but return to the truce" of November 2012, and added that Egypt contacted all the parties, including the Palestinian leadership, different Palestinian factions, and Israeli authorities in addition to Arab and international parties. Such contacts led to shaping up the proposal which called for cease-fire.
"Egypt stresses the international responsibility toward what is happening in Palestine," he said.
In a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, confirmed there was "diplomatic movement."
"The problem is not going back to the agreement on calm because we want this aggression to stop," he said. "The siege must stop and Gaza people need to live in dignity."

Israel to weigh proposal
An Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would convene his Security Cabinet on Tuesday morning to discuss the proposal. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Naftali Bennett, a member of the Security Cabinet, said he would oppose the proposal, calling it "good for Hamas and bad for Israel."
"A cease-fire at the present time shows the government's weakness," he said in a statement. "A cease-fire now will create a bigger campaign against the south of the country and more rocket attacks in another year."
Egypt, the first Arab state to reach peace with Israel, often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.
In the 2012 fighting, Egypt's then-President Mohammed Morsi brokered a cease-fire, leveraging the influence his Muslim Brotherhood held with Hamas, its ally.
That deal included pledges to ease the blockade — promises that Hamas says were never kept. The blockade has greatly restricted movement through Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt — the territory's main gateway to the outside world — while Israel has restricted the flow of many goods, particularly much-needed construction materials, into Gaza. Israel says Hamas can use things like metal and concrete for military purposes.
Hamas has seen its position further weakened by last year's military coup in Egypt that ousted Mursi. Egypt's new leaders have cracked down on Hamas by nearly shuttering a network of smuggling tunnels along the border that were Hamas' key economic lifeline — and supply route for its weapons.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the rival forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. With the economy stagnant and Hamas unable to pay the salaries of its thousands of civil servants, the group recently agreed to back a unity government under Abbas' leadership. But Hamas remains in firm control of Gaza.


What next after Turkey’s former PM launches new party?

Updated 21 sec ago

What next after Turkey’s former PM launches new party?

  • Ahmet Davutoglu has previously attached high importance to ties between Turkey and the Arab world

ANKARA: Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held the long-awaited publicity meeting for his new political party, the Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) on Dec. 13 in Ankara, a day after he registered it with the Turkish Interior Ministry.

The press conference was broadcast with English and Arabic simultaneous translations.

Davutoglu has previously attached high importance to ties between Turkey and the Arab world, and has repeatedly called for a reengagement with major Arab countries.

The party is expected to erode support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, diminishing his grip on the Turkish Parliament.

Gelecek Partisi is the first breakaway party from the AKP, which will be followed by a second, formed by Erdogan’s ex-economy tsar, Ali Babacan, with his technocrat and liberal team expected to launch in the first week of January.

Disgruntled voters

Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, said Davutoglu may well have some success in siphoning disgruntled AKP voters away from Erdogan with Babacan.

Davutoglu, once a close ally of Erdogan, gave many references in his address to the bad political management of Turkey. He underlined his support for freedom of religion and belief, liberty, equality, the fight against nepotism and corruption, transparency in party financing, the rule of law, and the return to the parliamentary system.

“Today we establish the party by saying: The future belongs to our people, the future belongs to Turkey,” he said.

According to Levin, unlike the clique that now rules the AKP, Davutoglu does not have the reputation of being mired in corruption and nepotism.

“He has strong Islamist credentials and his outspoken criticisms of the AKP’s authoritarian turn may entice some religious conservatives dissatisfied by the AKP to switch in protest,” he told Arab News.

The council of the party’s founders, which has 155 members, symbolizes different segments of Turkish society, with hijab-wearing women, Christians, Kurds, Alevites and others all represented.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The new party is expected to erode support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

• Davutoglu, 60, resigned from the AKP in September, saying Erdogan’s party was unable to solve Turkey’s immediate problems.

It is the first time in Turkish history that Turkish citizens with Greek, Armenian and Assyrian roots have taken part in a founders’ council. Several associations of Roma, Caucasus and Arab-origin communities were also present.

Ayhan Sefer Ustun, former head of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission, is one of the 18 former deputies from Erdogan’s AKP who initiated the party.

Future Party

He said they launched Future Party because the AKP drifted from its core principles like liberty, pluralism, and participative democracy.

“Our party is a new breath into Turkish politics. The participation of so many members to the council shows that there is a need for such a political move. It is an alternative for the voters,” he told Arab News.

The Future Party has the support of wealthy businesspeople and civil society representatives as well as academics.

Davutoglu, 60, resigned from the AKP in September, saying Erdogan’s party was unable to solve Turkey’s immediate problems because each intra-party criticism was labeled as “treason.”

His rebellion within the AKP was mainly triggered by the party’s critical losses in nationwide local elections in March, especially in Istanbul and Ankara, as well as other normally safe areas.

Levin said Davutoglu lacked the broad popularity of his rival, though, which could hinder him.

The next elections in Turkey are set for 2023, but there is a growing expectation for a snap election next year.

According to Turkish law, a political party is eligible to stand if it completes the establishment of local branches in at least half of the cities throughout the country, and holds its general congress six months before elections.

“Would Davutoglu be able to climb above the single digits in the polls? It would greatly surprise me and most other observers. Granted, the next election is scheduled for 2023, and that is exactly three lifetimes in Turkish politics, so never say never,” Levin said.

On the day of the party’s launch, the newly established nationalist Good Party’s leader, Meral Aksener, announced that it would support the Future Party with deputies to help make it into Parliament at the next election.

It is almost certain that the new breakaway parties will enter an alliance with relatively established political parties to overcome the 10 percent electoral threshold.