Prince Charles calls for ‘freedom, justice, equality’ for Palestinians during Bethlehem visit

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Britain's Prince Charles arrives to visit Omar mosque in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
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Britain's Prince Charles visits Omar mosque in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
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Britain's Prince Charles visits Omar mosque in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
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Charles signed the Mosque of Omar visitor book in English and in Arabic. (Twitter: @ClarenceHouse)
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Prince Charles also met with President Mahmoud Abbas, who thanked the UK for its support of the Palestinian people. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 January 2020

Prince Charles calls for ‘freedom, justice, equality’ for Palestinians during Bethlehem visit

  • ‘Dearest wish’ expressed during first visit to Israeli-occupied territories
  • Charles visited Mosque of Omar and Church of the Nativity

LONDON: The UK’s Prince of Wales on Friday said it is his “dearest wish” that the Palestinian people receive “freedom, justice and equality.”

Prince Charles, speaking in the city of Bethlehem during a historic first trip to the occupied Palestinian territories, added that he will “pray for a just and lasting peace” in the Middle East.

He said he had been “struck by the energy, warmth and remarkable generosity of the Palestinian people.”

His words of hope for Palestinians come at a time when US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which is heavily tipped to favor Israel.

“It breaks my heart, therefore, that we should continue to see so much suffering and division,” Prince Charles said.

“No-one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face, and I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace,” he added.

“We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.”

The prince visited the Mosque of Omar, named after the caliph who conquered Jerusalem in 637 AD but ensured that Christians would be allowed to continue to worship. Charles signed the visitor book in English and in Arabic.

 

 

He also toured the Church of the Nativity, built on the site reported to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Having visited both places of worship, Prince Charles said Bethlehem encapsulates the “vital co-existence between Christians and Muslims.”

The city’s governor said after the prince’s visit: “The strongest message from Bethlehem is that we are proud as Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, to live here together.”

He added that the prince was “very interested” in every detail of the mosque and “asked about the poor people, how we can help them.”

Prince Charles also met with President Mahmoud Abbas, who thanked the UK for its help in building state institutions, and its assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Abbas also thanked the UK for accepting the two-state solution.

“Our hope in the near future is that Britain recognizes the State of Palestine, because we’ve heard that the British Parliament recommended this to the government. So we hope that this will happen,” he said.

 


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 43 min 37 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.