Palestinians and Jordan need ‘unified front’ for Biden presidency, say experts

Palestinians and Jordan need ‘unified front’ for Biden presidency, say experts
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on November 29, 2020 shows Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) receiving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) as they meet to discuss developments related to the Palestinian cause, in the capital Amman. (AFP)
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Updated 30 November 2020

Palestinians and Jordan need ‘unified front’ for Biden presidency, say experts

Palestinians and Jordan need ‘unified front’ for Biden presidency, say experts
  • Relations between the US and the Palestinians deteriorated after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, cut funding to a UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets Jordan’s King Abdullah in Aqaba, with the two leaders planning to travel together for a summit with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday met Jordan’s King Abdullah in Aqaba, with the two leaders planning to travel together for a summit with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The region is preparing for the end of US President Donald Trump’s administration and the arrival of President-elect Joe Biden and his team.

Asma Khader, former Jordanian minister and government spokesperson, said a unified position needed to be agreed on in order to face up to Israel.

“It is important to show that there is a strong Jordanian, Palestinian, Egyptian coalition interested in a peaceful resolution and that they are the key to the stability and tranquility of the region,” she told Arab News. “What better day to show that unity than on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Relations between the US and the Palestinians deteriorated after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, cut funding to a UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, and threatened to withhold aid to the Palestinians unless they resumed negotiations with Israel.

He also unveiled a Middle East peace plan that sided with Israel on key contentious issues including borders, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

In September the White House hosted the UAE and Bahrain for the signing of landmark normalization accords with Israel. Trump brokered the agreements, called the Abraham Accords, and hailed the moment as the “dawn of a new Middle East.”

Nabil Shaath, who is a senior political advisor to Abbas, said that the last days of the Trump era had seen “a frenzy of effort to force Arab and Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel, a dangerous increase of Israeli settlements and a financial blockade” on Palestine.

It is important to show that there is a strong Jordanian, Palestinian, Egyptian coalition interested in a peaceful resolution and that they are the key to the stability and tranquility of the region.

Asma Khader, Ex-Jordanian minister

“Our closest neighbors – Jordan and Egypt - must be involved in protecting the peace process from further deterioration,” he told Arab News.

Asaad Abdel Rahman, a former member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, agreed on the need for a united Arab front.

“After the earthquake that we have witnessed in the past four years, we need a strategy that can work with the new US administration to move the process toward serious negotiations on the basis of what Jordan and Palestine have always publicly agreed to,” he told Arab News.

One key issue of agreement to be focused on was the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between Jordan and the PLO regarding the Hashemite custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, he said. In the post-coronavirus period there was also a need for a joint economic plan to deal with the devastation, he added.

Ali Jirbawi, a political science professor at Bir Zeit University, said that the Palestinian leadership and Jordan must work hard on cementing the situation in light of regional and international changes.

“There is a need to support the two-state solution which requires the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” he told Arab News. “The Palestinian leadership must be supported, the so-called Jordan option (that Jordan is Palestine) needs to be regularly rejected and the Hashemite role in protecting the holy places in Jerusalem must be publicly stated.”

Former Jordanian lawmaker Hind Al-Fayez said that all sides must be encouraged to carry out internal reforms.

“This includes Palestinian national unity as well as Jordanian serious structural political reform,” she told Arab News. “One area of priority for both parties is the need to preserve the Hashemite custodianship over the holy places in Jerusalem.”

Audeh Quawas, a newly appointed member of the Jordanian senate, said that Jordan and Palestine should work hand-in-hand.

“There is a clear need for a serious strategy that focuses on the creation of the Palestinian state based on international law,” she told Arab News.


Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 16 January 2021

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
  • Veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis will be secretary-general Antonio Guterres’s representative to the country
  • Glimmers of hope for Libyans as progress reported at first meeting of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s advisory committee

NEW YORK: Security Council members on Friday approved the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN’s special envoy to Libya.

It came as UN officials said significant progress has been made in Geneva this week during the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Kubis to be his envoy, a position that has been vacant since early March last year, when Ghassan Salameh resigned due to stress after less than three years in the job.

A number of replacements were suggested but members of the Security Council failed to agree on one. In December they overcame their differences and approved the choice of Bulgarian diplomat Nikolai Mladenov — only for him to surprise everyone by turning down the offer for “personal and family reasons.”

Kubis is currently the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon. He previously held similar positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described as significant progress during the first meeting of the LPDF’s advisory committee, which began in Geneva on Jan. 13 and concludes on Jan. 16.

“The mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection-mechanism proposals,” Dujarric said.

The formation of the advisory committee was announced on Jan. 3. Its 18 members, including women, young people and cultural figures, were chosen to reflect the country’s wide geographical and political diversity.

The secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, had indicated that the main task for the committee would be to deliberate on the contentious issues that have plagued the selection of a unified executive authority. The aim is to develop solid recommendations the LPDF can consider in line with the political roadmap agreed by its 75 members during their first round of talks in Tunis last year.

This roadmap represents a rights-based process designed to culminate in democratic and inclusive national elections Dec. 24 this year. The date is also that of Libya’s 70th Independence Day. The elections will mark the end of the transitional phase for the country and chart a new way forward.

“This unwavering achievement, this date to return the sovereign decision to its rightful owners, is our top priority,” said Williams in her opening remarks at the advisory committee meeting in Geneva this week.

She also rejected claims that UNSMIL will have any say in the selection of the new executive authority. “This is a Libyan-Libyan decision,” Williams said, adding that the interim authority is intended to “shoulder the responsibility in a participatory manner and not on the basis of power-sharing, as some believed.”

She added: “We want a participatory formula where there is no victor, no vanquished; a formula for coexistence for Libyans of various origins for a specific period of time until we pass on the torch.

UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said the Geneva talks have already overcome some major hurdles. This builds on the political accomplishments since the Tunis meeting at which a consensus was reached on the political roadmap, the eligibility criteria for positions in the unified executive authority, and the authority’s most important prerogative: setting a date for the elections.

He also reported “very encouraging progress” in military matters since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in October by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the members of which include five senior officers selected by the Government of National Accord and five selected by the Libyan National Army.

“This includes the recent exchanges of detainees conducted under the JMC’s supervision, as part of wider confidence-building measures; the resumption of flights to all parts of Libya; the full resumption of oil production and export; as well as the proposed unification and restructuring of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, in addition to the ongoing serious talks on the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, which we hope will take place very soon,” said Alam.

He also hailed “promising developments” relating to the economy, including the recent unification of the exchange rate by the Central Bank of Libya, a step that requires the formation of a new authority for it to be implemented.

“The recent meeting between the ministries of finance was an important effort to unify the budget and allocate sufficient funding to improve services and rebuild Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure, particularly the electrical grid,” Alam said.

“All of these reforms are steps that will bring national institutions together to work in establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement.”

Williams added that without a unified executive authority, it would difficult to implement these steps.