Palestinian chief negotiator urges Arabs to reconsider attending Bahrain workshop

Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s executive committee. (AFP file photo)
Updated 26 May 2019

Palestinian chief negotiator urges Arabs to reconsider attending Bahrain workshop

  • The US-Bahraini economic workshop is scheduled in Bahrain on June 25 and 26
  • Palestinian leaders see the workshop as a move to circumvent Palestinian national aspirations

AMMAN: The secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, Saeb Erekat, called on Arab states that have committed to attend the Bahrain economic “workshop” to revisit their decision. 

In an interview with Arab News, Erekat praised Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the cause of Palestine. “In every important decision, Saudi Arabia stood with the people of Palestine,” Erekat said.

The chief Palestinian negotiator noted that all Arabs have made a commitment that they will accept whatever Palestinians accept. “We call on the countries that have agreed to attend the Bahrain workshop to reevaluate their decision,” he said.

Erekat noted that Saudi Arabia has been the most diligent country in supporting the Palestinian government. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia doesn’t miss its monthly support to the Palestinian government. Saudi Arabia doesn’t need an economic conference to financially support Palestinians,” he told Arab news.

Erekat spoke forcefully on this issue in an exclusive interview on the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite TV.

The Palestinian position is that the US-backed economic workshop is aimed at circumventing Palestinian national aspirations. “We started with land for peace and now we are talking about prosperity for peace,” Erekat was quoted as saying by various Qatari owned media outlets.

Despite this, Qatar is confirmed to attend the Bahrain conference according to exclusive information obtained by Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

The US-Bahraini economic workshop is scheduled in Manama, Bahrain June 25 and 26.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have publicly declared that they will attend, along with the Bahraini hosts. Finance ministers from Arab and foreign countries have been invited. Palestinian officials and leading Palestinian business have said they will not attend.

The Trump peace team, headed by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief Middle East advisor Jason Greenblatt, were expected to announce their joint political and economic plans after the holy month of Ramadan but the plan was replaced by an economic workshop in Bahrain.

 

 


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 46 sec ago

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.