World leaders voice hope UAE-Israel deal could kickstart Middle East peace talks

World leaders voice hope UAE-Israel deal could kickstart Middle East peace talks
Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations on Thursday in a landmark US-brokered deal under which the Jewish state agreed to halt further annexation of Palestinian territory. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 16 August 2020

World leaders voice hope UAE-Israel deal could kickstart Middle East peace talks

World leaders voice hope UAE-Israel deal could kickstart Middle East peace talks
  • As a sovereign state we don’t feel we have obligation to consult anybody, says Emirati minister

JERUSALEM: World leaders on Friday voiced hope that a historic deal between the UAE and Israel could kick-start moribund Middle East peace talks, even as the Palestinians and some of their allies denounced the move to normalize ties as a betrayal of their cause.

Announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, it is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raised the prospect of similar deals with other states.

The deal sees Israel pledge to suspend its planned annexation of Palestinian lands, a concession welcomed by European and some pro-Western Arab governments as a boost for hopes of peace.

Bahrain and Oman welcomed the deal, and Egypt, which signed 1979 peace treaty with Israel, praised a deal that would scrap annexation.

Thanking them, Netanyahu said the “peace treaty” with the UAE was “expanding the circle of peace.”

Jordan, which borders the West Bank and Israel, said the outcome of the agreement would depend on Israel's actions, including its stance on a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

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Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said: "The impact of the deal on peace efforts is linked to the actions Israel will take".

"I appreciate the efforts of the architects of this agreement for the prosperity and stability of our region," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tweeted.

He added he hoped the deal to halt Israel's annexation of Palestinian land, would help bring "peace" to the Middle East.Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE assistant minister for culture and public diplomacy, said the deal was designed to “shake up” the Middle East impasse and serve his country’s interests.

“We didn’t consult with anybody, we didn’t inform anybody, and as a sovereign state we don’t feel that we have the obligation to do that,” Ghobash said.

“It’s to be expected that not everybody will ... applaud or comment,” he added.

The EU said normalization would benefit both Israel and the UAE, but foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali stressed the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution.

“We are, of course, ready to work on the resumption of the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” she said.France welcomed the deal, stressing the suspension of Israel's plans to annex swathes of the occupied West Bank.

"The decision... by the Israeli authorities to suspend the annexation of Palestinian territories is a positive step, which must become a definitive measure," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "I hail the courageous decision by the United Arab Emirates and its desire to contribute the establishment of a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians."

"China is happy to see measures that are helping to ease tensions between countries in the Middle East and promoting regional peace and stability," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

"We hope relevant parties will take concrete actions to bring the Palestinian issue back to the track of dialogue and negotiation on an equal footing at an early date," Zhao said, reiterating Beijing's support for an independent Palestinian state.

Germany welcomed the "historic" deal, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying normalization of ties between the two countries was "an important contribution to peace in the region."

UN chief Antonio Guterres said he hoped the deal would help realise a two-state solution.

"The secretary general (hopes) it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realize a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements," his spokesman said.

 


UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 55 min 45 sec ago

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”