Palestinians call on world to reject Trump peace plan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Palestinians call on world to reject Trump peace plan

  • The US proposal may also seek to give Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley, a key territory that constitutes around 30 percent of the West Bank

RAMALLAH: The Palestinians on Monday urged world powers to reject Donald Trump’s peace plan, which they said President Mahmud Abbas had refused to discuss with his US counterpart despite several outreaches.
Trump is due to unveil his proposal for Middle East peace this week in Washington, where he is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz.
Palestinian leaders, who have not been invited to the White House, have already rejected the US initiative and insist that Trump’s administration has forfeited its role as an honest broker in the conflict due to what they say is the president’s pro-Israel bias.
“We call on the international community to not be partners in this (plan) because it contravenes international law,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told journalists ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting.
The details of Trump’s initiative, which has been in the works since 2017, are not yet public.
But his administration has already recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and stopped referring to the West Bank as “occupied” territory.
It also no longer considers Israeli settlements there as inconsistent with international law and most analysts expect his proposal to reaffirm his administration’s positions.
Trump also broke with decades of international consensus that the fate of Jerusalem should be negotiated between the parties when he recognized the disputed city as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
He is releasing the plan as he faces impeachment hearings over abuse of office and while Netanyahu battles serious corruption charges during a neck-and-neck election against Gantz.
“This a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison. It is not a Middle East peace plan,” Shtayyeh told a Cabinet meeting.
Previously released parts of the Trump initiative purport to offer the Palestinians substantial economic incentives.

FASTFACT

US President Donald Trump is due to unveil his proposal for Middle East peace this week in Washington, where he is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz.

“The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale,” Shtayyeh said. “This plan gives Israel sovereignty over Palestinian territory.”
Three Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Monday that Trump had made several attempts to discuss the plan with Abbas in recent weeks, but the Palestinian president had rejected those outreaches.
“There will be no discussion with the Americans until they recognize the two-state solution,” one senior official said.
A spokesperson for the American Embassy in Jerusalem was not immediately available for comment.
Some have speculated that the US proposal could pull back from supporting the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, the common definition of the two-state solution.
The US proposal may also seek to give Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley, a key territory that constitutes around 30 percent of the West Bank.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri toured the Jordan Valley Monday, saying they were taking steps toward the move — a central election promise of right winger Netanyahu.
“As interior minister I’d like to tell you, we’ve started to prepare for an annexation — we are getting the paper-work ready,” Deri said in a statement.
In Gaza on Monday a few hundred Palestinians protested against the Trump plan, which Palestinians ironically call the “Deal of the Century.”
Further protests were expected on Wednesday, when the plan is expected to be public.


Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

Updated 29 February 2020

Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

  • Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib region on Thursday
  • Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks

PAZARKULE: Turkey vowed the Syrian regime will “pay a price” for dozens of dead Turkish soldiers and raised pressure on the EU over the conflict by threatening to let thousands of migrants enter the bloc.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing forces in the Syria conflict, held high-level talks to try to defuse tensions that have sparked fears of a broader war and a new migration crisis for Europe.
Greek police clashed on Saturday with thousands of migrants who were already gathering on the border to try to enter Europe.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to allow refugees to travel on to Europe from Turkey which he said can no longer handle new waves of people fleeing war-torn Syria. It already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
The comments were his first after Turkish 34 troops were killed since Thursday in the northern Syria province of Idlib where Moscow-backed Syrian regime forces are battling to retake the last rebel holdout area.
“What did we do yesterday (Friday)? We opened the doors,” Erdogan said in Istanbul. “We will not close those doors ...Why? Because the European Union should keep its promises.”
He was referring to a 2016 deal with the European Union to stop refugee flows in exchange for billions of euros in aid.
In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency meeting to discuss tensions on the border with Turkey.
The Turkish leader said 18,000 migrants have amassed on the Turkish borders with Europe since Friday, adding that the number could reach as many as 30,000 on Saturday.
Thousands of migrants who remained stuck on the Turkish-Greek border were in skirmishes with Greek police on Saturday who fired tear gas to push them back, according to AFP photographer in the western province of Edirne.
The migrants massed at the Pazarkule border crossing responded by hurling stones at the police.
In 2015, Greece became the main EU entry point for one million migrants, most of them refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The pressure to cope with the influx split the European Union.
“Greece yesterday came under an organized, mass, illegal attack... a violation of our borders and endured it,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Saturday after the emergency meeting with Mitsotakis.
“We averted more than 4,000 attempts of illegal entrance to our land borders.”
A Greek police source said security forces fired tear gas Saturday morning against migrants massing on the Turkish side because the migrants had set fires and opened holes in the border fences.
Armed policemen and soldiers are patrolling the Evros river shores — a common crossing point — and are warning with loudspeakers not to enter Greek territory.
Greek authorities were also using drones to monitor the migrants moves.
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai television the situation was under control
“I believe that the borders have been protected,” he said.
According to Hellenic Coast Guard, from early Friday to early Saturday 180 migrants reached the islands of Eastern Aegean, Lesbos and Samos in sea crossings.
The UN said nearly a million people — half of them children — have been displaced in the bitter cold by the fighting in northwest Syria since December.
Turkey said that Turkish forces destroyed a “chemical warfare facility,” just south of Aleppo, in retaliation its soldiers were killed by Syrian regime fire in Idlib.
“As of last night, we blew up a depot housing seven chemical products,” Erdogan said. “We would not want things to reach this point but as they force us to do this, they will pay a price.”
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources inside the war-torn country, said that Turkey instead hit a military airport in eastern Aleppo, where the monitoring group says there are no chemical weapons.
Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib on Thursday, the biggest Turkish military loss on the battlefield in recent years. A 34th Turkish soldier has since died.
The latest incident has raised further tensions between Ankara and Moscow, whose relationship has been tested by violations of a 2018 deal to prevent a regime offensive on Idlib.
As part of the agreement, Ankara set up 12 observation posts in the province but Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces — backed by Russian air power — have pressed on with a relentless campaign to take back the remaining chunks of the territory.
On Friday, Erdogan spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a bid to scale down the tensions, with the Kremlin saying the two expressed “serious concern” about the situation.
Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks, according to the Kremlin.
Despite being on opposite ends of the war, Turkey, which backs several rebel groups in Syria, and key regime ally Russia are trying to find a political solution.
The United States and the United Nations have called for an end to the Syrian offensive in Idlib and the deadly flare-up raising fresh concerns for civilians caught up in the escalation of the eight-year civil war.