Arab leaders seek common ground on Palestinian state

Jordan’s King Abdallah and Lebanese President Michel Aoun listen to their national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the airport in Amman on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2017

Arab leaders seek common ground on Palestinian state

DEAD SEA, Jordan: Arab leaders arriving in Jordan for a summit on Wednesday are seeking common ground to reaffirm their commitment to a Palestinian state, a longstanding goal that US President Donald Trump last month put into doubt.
The Dead Sea meeting is expected to have a bigger turnout than recent Arab summits, Jordanian officials said, and security forces cast a high profile in the capital Amman with armored vehicles standing at traffic junctions as leaders flew in.
While they are highly unlikely to bridge rifts over the regional role of Iran or intractable wars in Syria and Yemen, Arab leaders remain united in supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are concerned that there should be an Arab consensus on the Palestinian file so that this reflects clearly in the discussions of Arab states and their leaders with the new American administration,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki told Reuters.
Before taking office in January, Trump promised to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — something adamantly opposed by Arabs as tantamount, in their view, to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want Arab East Jerusalem — which Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally — as the capital of a future state encompassing the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been frozen since 2014.
Trump also, indicated he was open to a one-state solution to the conflict during a White House news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.
That would be deeply problematic for both sides, as it would mean either two systems for two peoples — something Palestinians would see as apartheid and endless occupation — or equal rights for all, which would compromise Israel’s Jewish character.
The Arab monarchs and presidents attending Wednesday’s summit will meet at the Dead Sea, only a few kilometers from the West Bank and with Israeli settlements visible to the naked eye.
The US is sending a representative to the summit, Al-Maliki said. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdallah are both scheduled to meet Trump soon.
A draft resolution on Jerusalem and seen by Reuters will require all Arab states to respond to any move by any country to move its embassy there, without specifying the US.
“The Palestinian issue is the central issue. It is the root cause of conflict in the region and its resolution is the key to peace and stability. We hope we will be able to again relaunch efforts that would get serious negotiations restarted again,” said Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
“We meet in a difficult Arab era dominated by crisis and conflicts that deprive our region of the security and stability they need to attain our people’s rights,” Safadi said in a meeting with fellow foreign ministers before the summit.
A Jordanian official told Reuters that the final statement from the summit was expected to include a condemnation of Iran for what it called meddling in internal Arab affairs, and to call on it to refrain from using force or threats. Iran denies any such interference.
A summit meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation included a similar line in its final statement last year.
“There could actually be a product of the Arab summit — a unified attitude toward Washington’s policy in Palestine. They might disagree on all other issues, but I think this is the unifying one,” said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi security expert.


Saudi Arabia offers condolences to UAE president on passing of brother Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed

Updated 13 min 50 sec ago

Saudi Arabia offers condolences to UAE president on passing of brother Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed

DUBAI: The UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced the death of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, representative of the UAE president.
A statement issued by the presidency declared three days of official mourning in the UAE.
Sheikh Sultan is the brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the president of the UAE, who is also the supreme commander of the Union Defense Force and the chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council. 
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent cables of condolences to Sheikh Khalifa and his family, as well as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.