Arab Summit Set To Focus on Palestinian Issue
Warn US Against Moving Embassy to Jerusalem
On the eve of the Arab summit in Jordan, Arab foreign ministers endorsed a raft of resolutions meant to send a message to both Jerusalem and Washington. One of the resolutions rejects any unilateral steps that “jeopardize the historic and legal status” of Jerusalem, Jordan’s foreign minister said.
The resolution is one of “about 17” set to be adopted later this week at the annual Arab summit, this time being hosted by Jordan. It does not explicitly mention President Trump but it says that moving diplomatic missions to Jerusalem would be “a serious violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, and relevant Security Council resolutions,” it said.
While campaigning, Trump promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would be a US recognition of Israel’s unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians say that east Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state. While Trump seems to have moved away from this promise in recent weeks, Vice President Mike Pence revived the idea when he told the annual gathering of the pro-Israel AIPAC that “the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv although he did not give any details.
Trump’s Mideast special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who visited the region earlier this month, is expected to attend the Arab summit as an observer.
Palestinians hope the Arab summit will refocus attention on the Palestinian issue, which has taken a back seat to the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq. Palestinian officials say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 in which Israel would get peace with dozens of Arab and Muslim countries in exchange for a withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, and a “just” solution for Palestinian refugees.
“We have to ask the Arab summit to reassure everybody that the only game in town is the two-state solution,” Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub told The Media Line. “The Arab initiative is still alive and all of the Arabs are committed to this initiative.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he is ready for peace with Israel.
“We are hoping the people of Israel will not miss this opportunity to make peace,” Abbas said this week at a joint press conference with European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.
He said he had discussed with Mogherini the best way to advance the peace process under Trump’s leadership. The Palestinians, he said, are “committed to a fair and just solution based on international legitimacy, international security council resolutions and the Arab Initiative.”
Abbas asked the summit to endorse the Arab Peace Initiative “as is”, meaning he would not accept any changes to the plan. Some Israeli officials have said it could be a basis for negotiations but Israel will not accept the plan without any changes.
The Arab summit is being hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah. plays host. Key participants include King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Staffan de Mistura, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, are coming, along with US and Russian envoys.
Syria’s seat will remain empty. President Bashar Assad hasn’t been invited to an Arab summit since his country was suspended from the 22-member Arab League in late 2011, several months after an uprising against him turned into a civil war.
Beyond the Palestinian issue, rapprochement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is also high on the agenda. The two nations have been at odds over the conflict in Syria. Saudi Arabia supports the Syrian opposition, while Egypt has pushed for a solution that could keep Syrian President Bashara al Assad in power. Egypt worries about Islamist extremists that could be part of the rebel groups.
In October, the Saudis abruptly suspended oil aid to Egypt just days after Egypt backed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria drafted by Assad ally Russia. Under the initial oil deal, Saudi Arabia agreed in April 2016 to provide Egypt with 700,000 tons of fuel monthly for five years on easy repayment terms.
The shipments resumed several days ago, signaling possible rapprochement that could perhaps be sealed at the summit.
Amr Adly, a Cairo-based analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the two countries have different priorities, with Saudi Arabia focused on containing its main regional rival, Iran, while Egypt seeks to combat the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that Cairo views as a terrorist group.
In advance of the summit, Jordan’s foreign minister told Arab counterparts that the region must come together and urgently confront crises that have been allowed to fester, including violent conflicts and millions of children deprived of the right to an education.
Ayman Safadi spoke Monday, as foreign ministers prepared resolutions for Arab heads of state meeting Wednesday for their annual summit, this year hosted by Jordan.
Safadi painted a grim picture, saying the “Arab political system has failed to solve the crises and halt the collapse as the trust of Arab citizens in the joint Arab institutions has eroded.” He says more than 12 million Arab children are being denied access to an education, presumably in part because of conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya.