Arab leaders in united front on Palestine, fight against terror

(Picture by Bandar al Jaloud)
Updated 30 March 2017

Arab leaders in united front on Palestine, fight against terror

THE DEAD SEA, Jordan: Arab leaders on Wednesday showed consensus on a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, as well as the need to fight terrorism by all possible means. 

Gathered for the Arab Summit, heads of state urged moves to overcome divisions on regional crises including the devastating wars in Syria and Yemen. 

Terror threat

In his address to the summit of the 22-member Arab League, King Salman said terrorism is the biggest threat facing the Arab world, adding that efforts must be exerted to counter the epidemic. He added that intervention in Arab affairs represents a stark violation of international law, the sovereignty of countries, and good neighborliness. 

The king said Yemen’s unity and security must be preserved. He said the Yemeni crisis must be addressed in accordance with the GCC Initiative, UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and the outcomes of the Yemeni dialogue. He called for facilitating humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. 

King Salman underlined the importance of ensuring security and stability in Libya. He called on Libyan rivals to resort to reason in ending violence and countering terrorism, and reaching a political settlement to end the crisis that has been ravaging the country. 

He also expressed support for a political settlement to the bloody six-year conflict in Syria based on UN Security Council resolutions, adding that the Syrian people had been subjected to “killing and displacement.” 

Call to join ranks

Jordan’s King Abdallah suggested that failing to rally efforts and join ranks would leave the region open to outside influence.

In his speech Abdallah underlined the threat of terrorism and extremism, which has set out to tarnish the image of Islam and hijack young Arabs’ future. “It is therefore our duty to protect them from distortions to their religion and ideological beliefs, since terrorism poses a greater threat to Arabs and Muslims, who make up the majority of its victims,” he said.

Arab leaders said the international community must act immediately to end the suffering and injustice toward the Palestinian people, and curb the Israeli arrogance and its rejection of all international and Arab calls to embark on peace negotiations on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions and Arab Peace Initiative.

King Abdallah pointed to “Israel’s continued settlement expansion and its work to undermine chances for peace.”

He added: “There can be no peace, no stability in the region without a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause, the core issue of the Middle East, based on the two-state solution.”

Israel must end occupation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said if Israel wants to be a genuine peace partner it must end its occupation of the Palestinian lands and end its intimidation of the Palestinian people, warning that Israel is trying to change the political conflict to a religious one. 

“Since 2009, the Israeli government has been undermining the two-state solution by expediting the settlement construction and the confiscation of Palestinian lands, changing the living conditions of the Palestinians into an apartheid system,” said Abbas, adding that the Israelis continue to implement their plans to change the demographic status of Jerusalem, which shows their disrespect toward the historic status of the holy city. 

“The two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines is the only path to make peace. We reject any attempt by the Israelis to amend the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said.

Abbas called on the Arab leaders to support the Palestinian request for the UK to stop all plans to celebrate the Balfour declaration, which was made 100 years ago. He asked the UK government to apologize for this historic mistake, which caused the Palestinian catastrophe.

Iranian plot against Yemen

Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called for Arab leaders’ support in the face of the Iranian plot against his country. He said Iran has been, and is still supporting Houthi militias to destabilize Yemeni security and undermine its unity.

“Iran is using the Houthi militias as a toll to implement their expansionist plans in the region. They have taken the country into a dark path of violence and sabotaged its stability and destroyed its economy,” Hadi said, adding that the Yemeni crisis has affected all citizens, and hit living conditions. 

“There will be no peace unless the Houthis comply with the UN Resolution 2216 and the regional efforts on the basis of the GCC initiative and the outcomes of our national dialogue... to end the crisis in Yemen and surrender their arms to the legitimate government,” he said. 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said the summit is being held in the wake of serious challenges facing the Arab world, topped by terrorism and the foreign intervention in Arab affairs due to the absence of a leading and effective Arab role. 

“Terrorism has become an international phenomenon, which needs to be countered by all nations. Some political powers have taken advantage of the unprecedented circumstances overwhelming our region and started implementing their agendas under different pretexts,” he said. 

Libya seeks help

The head of Libya’s UN-backed government called for a dialogue between political rivals in the North African country to reach a political settlement to the country’s crisis.

Fayez Serraj told the summit “everyone knows that no party can achieve a military solution.”

Libya descended into chaos with its 2011 civil war. In recent months, rival power centers have been sliding closer to open conflict, with breakaway militias backed by western Libyan factions seizing oil terminals from the east’s strongman general, whose forces have vowed to take them back. Serraj renewed a call to the Arab League to oversee a unified force tasked with the protection of oil terminals.


Ankara accuses Tehran of betrayal: Is the alliance of convenience collapsing? 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold talks on Syrian crisis at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 17 min ago

Ankara accuses Tehran of betrayal: Is the alliance of convenience collapsing? 

  • Erdogan says Iran betraying the consensus between the two countries

ANKARA: Recent developments on the ground in Syria may be proof of the demise of the already fragile partnership between Turkey and Iran, the two guarantor states of the Astana process alongside with Russia. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi announced that Iran rejected any move from Turkey to establish military posts inside Syria, and emphasized that the integrity of Tehran’s key regional ally should be respected.
Prior to departing for Sochi, to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I condemn Iran’s stance on Operation Peace Spring. Unfortunately, there are splintering voices rising from Iran. This situation disturbs my colleagues and myself.”
Erdogan also accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries, after Tehran condemned Turkey’s ongoing operation in northern Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces and demanded “an immediate stop to the attacks and the exit of the Turkish military from Syrian territory.”
The statements are considered by experts another sign that the alliance of convenience between the two regional competitors is ending, with their regional interests beginning to conflict.
Iran has always been a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has been keen to engage Syrian Kurds, Assad’s government and Turkey in dialogue following Ankara’s offensive into northern Syria, within the framework of the Adana Agreement as a legal framework to establish security along the border.
Tehran also held surprise military drills near the Turkish border on the same day Turkey launched its operation into northern Syria.
Dr. Michael Tanchum, senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies, said: “With the removal of US troops in northern Syria, which both Ankara and Tehran opposed for different reasons, Turkey and Iran’s conflicting strategic interests are now naturally coming to the forefront.”
Moreover, according to Tanchum, Iran has already fought elements of the paramilitary forces now that are now partnering with Turkey.
“Tehran is distressed that such elements are being empowered. While Iran needs Turkish cooperation in the face crippling US sanctions, Iran needs Russia’s cooperation much more,” he told Arab News.


• Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi says Iran rejected any move from Turkey to establish military posts inside Syria, and emphasized that the integrity of Tehran’s key regional ally should be respected.

• Iran has already fought the elements of the paramilitary forces that are now partnering with Turkey.

However, Tanchum thinks that the idea Tehran would triangulate between Ankara and Moscow as a way of preserving its own position in Syria seems quite unlikely.
“If Iran has to choose between Turkey and Russia in Syria, it will choose Russia. In this sense, the previous dynamics of the Astana process are no longer in place,” he said.
However, Dr. Bilgehan Alagoz, lecturer at Istanbul Marmara University’s Institute for Middle East Studies, said that rumors about the death of the Iranian-Turkish alliance in Syria may be a bit exaggerated, at least for now.
For Alagoz, Iran is hesitant about cooperation between Turkey and the US, which has the possibility of creating a confrontation against Iran’s interests in Syria.
“On the other hand, Iran is uncomfortable with the US military presence in Syria. Therefore, Iran is facing a dilemma,” she told Arab News.
According to Alagoz, at this point Iran needs to pursue diplomacy with both Turkey and Russia.
“Thus, I do not think that the Iranian statements against Turkey will continue for a long time,” she added.
With the civil war now in its eighth year in Syria, Assad’s forces have gradually gained control of strategic cities in northwestern Idlib province, like Khan Sheikhoun, with Russian and Iranian support. The Syrian regime also attacked Turkish military observation posts in the region over the summer.
In the meantime, in a surprise decision on Monday evening, Turkey appointed former Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla, who was sentenced to prison in the US over Iranian sanctions breaches, as the new CEO of the Istanbul Stock Exchange.