Donald Trump to unveil Middle East peace plan that ‘makes sense for everybody’

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday. (AP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Donald Trump to unveil Middle East peace plan that ‘makes sense for everybody’

  • Trump says plan unlikely to be welcomed by the Palestinians, but he believed they would come round
  • Palestinians say Trump’s plan will favor Israel, and undermine their right to statehood

WASHINGTON/AMMAN: Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan “makes a lot of sense for everybody,” the US president said on the eve of its historic unveiling today in Washington.

Trump conceded that his plan was unlikely to be welcomed by the Palestinians, but he believed they would come round.

“They probably won’t want it initially,” he said. “But I think in the end they will ... it’s very good for them. In fact it’s overly good to them. So we'll see what happens. Without them, we don’t do the deal and that’s OK.”
“But we think there’s a very good chance that they’re going to want this."

An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was crucial to achieve overall peace in the Middle East, Trump said.

“They say it’s probably the most difficult deal anywhere and of any kind to make,” he said. “When I was back in the business world, when a deal was tough, people would jokingly refer to it as ‘tougher than Israel and the Palestinians getting together.’ This is what I heard all my life. We have something that makes a lot of sense for everybody.”

Trump spoke after talks in the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and before a meeting with Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz. The two men face off in a parliamentary election in March, and Netanyahu is also seeking immunity from prosecution for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The Palestinians say Trump’s plan will favor Israel, and undermine their right to statehood.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestine Liberation Organization reserved the right to withdraw from the Oslo Accords if Trump went ahead with his plan, which would “turn Israel’s temporary occupation into a permanent occupation.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the plan “doesn't constitute a basis for resolving the conflict,” violates international law and “comes from a party that has lost its credibility to be an honest broker.”

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee, told Arab News that Trump’s optimism was “delusional,” and “shows a warped understanding of reality.”

She said the plan was “clearly as good for the Palestinians as the theft of Jerusalem, the assault on refugee rights and the defunding of Palestinian infrastructure.”


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.