‘Ridiculous’ if Trump does not back two-state solution: Palestinian official

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stands during a reception ceremony for Jordan's King Abdullah II in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in this August 7, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 September 2017

‘Ridiculous’ if Trump does not back two-state solution: Palestinian official

RAMALLAH: A senior Palestinian official said on Monday it would be “utterly ridiculous” if Donald Trump did not commit to the two-state solution, ahead of a meeting between the US president and Mahmoud Abbas.
Trump is due to meet Abbas on Wednesday before the Palestinian president’s address to the UN General Assembly the same day.
The US leader has been seeking to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, in search of what he has labelled the “ultimate deal.”
But Palestinian officials have grown increasingly frustrated at the failure of Trump’s team to commit to the two-state solution, the focus of international diplomacy since at least the early 1990s.
Members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government openly oppose a two-state solution, while the premier himself has indicated in recent months that he plans no “uprooting” of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“It would be utterly ridiculous if Mr. Trump doesn’t eventually say that,” Nabil Shaath, a senior Abbas adviser, told journalists in Ramallah when asked about the two-state solution.
“What the hell are we negotiating? We are negotiating a diplomatic accord between Abu Mazen and Mr. Netanyahu where they can meet each other? No,” he added, referring to Abbas by his Arabic nickname.
Trump’s aides — led by his Middle East envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior international negotiations aide Jason Greenblatt — have been ferrying between leaders from the two sides in recent months.
But Shaath said he was not optimistic that the meeting between Abbas and Trump would lead to significant shifts.
“I don’t know if Mr. Trump has much to say. Already his delegation that was here, Mr.Kushner and Mr.Greenblatt, has requested a waiting period of three to four months before Mr.Trump is ready with a formulation to get the peace process started.”
“So it is a courtesy meeting of political importance.”


Turkish earthquake triggers many unanswered questions

Search and rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building, after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 in Elazig, Turkey, on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

Turkish earthquake triggers many unanswered questions

  • Special taxes following the 1999 earthquake became a permanent tax in 2004

JEDDAH: Rescue operations continue amidst mountains of debris in eastern Turkey, following the deadly earthquake that hit the region on Friday with a magnitude of 6.8.

The quake, which followed two others in the western city of Manisa and the capital Ankara, has killed 33 people so far in Elazig province, and four in the neighboring Malatya province, with over 1,600 injured.
The country remains poised for further trouble, with a large quake in or around Istanbul feared possible in the coming days. “We’re expecting a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Istanbul,” Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu warned in a live broadcast.
Turkey, which has a history of powerful earthquakes, faced a 7.6 magnitude quake in August 1999 in the western city of Izmit, which killed over 17,000 people, while another in 2011 in eastern city of Van killed more than 500.
However, not all lessons have been learned. Now, as then, authorities have been quick to criticize people who have questioned spending of funds raised by special earthquake taxes, meant to make vulnerable areas more resistant.
Turkish prosecutors were quick to launch an investigation against Turkish actress Berna Lacin, after she shared her views on earthquake taxes on social media platform Twitter, asking: “Where are they spending all the quake taxes that have been collected so far?”
About 63 billion lira ($10.598 billion) was collected in special taxes following the 1999 earthquake, which became a permanent tax in 2004.
Turkish politician Mahmut Tanal criticized the lack of transparency over the collection and allocation of funds, saying: “The taxes are not used as promised, but they are still being collected although humanitarian assistance … is not conducted anymore.”
He suggested that funds meant for earthquake relief and damage mitigation were being channeled toward other government budgets.
Burak Bilgehan Ozpek, a political scientist at TOBB University in Ankara, was also critical of the use of earthquake funds.

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33 - people killed so far by the earthquake that rocked Elazig province and four in the neighboring Malatya province, with over 1,600 injured.

“Elazig’s reconstruction … has not been planned well by the municipality, and the result has been a disorganized city. That is the real danger. The fight against earthquakes should start first by the construction policies of municipalities,” he said.
Award-winning scientist Naci Gorur criticized Turkey’s lack of policies concerning preparation for potential earthquakes.
Gorur, who has conducted extensive research on fault lines in the country, had alerted authorities of the possibility of an earthquake in Elazig, where he is from, three months before the Jan. 24 quake struck.
Meanwhile, the natural disaster has served as a point of contention in ongoing political hostilities between the Turkish government and separatist Kurdish factions.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, claiming it had attempted to send aid to the region to assist beleaguered residents, released an official statement on Sunday, saying: “Delivery of two aid trucks … for Elazig earthquake victims has been obstructed by the Interior Ministry.
“There can be no explanation for blocking humanitarian aid to people in need. We call on the government to stop such practices at once.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, visited Malatya in the aftermath of the earthquake on Saturday.