Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr visited Ramallah for official meetings Saturday. Their visit was billed as the “first of its kind” by the League’s ministers, according to Palestinian news source Ma’an.
Elaraby and Amr met with the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Secretary Tayeb Abdul Rahim and Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. The foreign leaders visited the grave of former PA president and PLO chief Yasser Arafat, and laid a wreath at his tombstone before entering into a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians news agency WAFA reported.
In their meetings with Abbas, Elaraby and Amr were discussing the Palestinians’ million-dollar debt crisis, which has ballooned following Israel’s decision not to hand over PA tax revenues and other related payments in the wake of the successful Palestinian UN bid in November. An idea being floated by the Arab League is the creation of a financial safety net of some $100 million to help the PA with its cash flow issues.
The leaders were also going to explore the possibility of renewing the Arab Peace Initiative.
Elaraby’s visit was touted as a solidarity tour after the Palestinians’ newly upgraded status, to that of nonmember observer state, at the UN.
Via his foreign envoy, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi passed on to Abbas a formal invitation to visit Cairo.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who was reportedly planning to attend, did not join for the visit. Other League member countries’ foreign ministers were reportedly thwarted from coming by the United States, according to Arabic-language media source Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
“Saturday’s trip was originally scheduled for a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, but the secretariat had only received approval by Israel for the League chief and the ministers from Jordan and Egypt,” claimed a Jordanian media statement issued on Thursday.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, however, told Haaretz that rumors of foreign ministers being denied entry were false.
Elaraby’s visit to the Muqata’a (the presidential compound in Ramallah) was the first high-profile tour in recent months. An unnamed Palestinian official told Haaretz that Elaraby’s visit was important because of the current, sensitive crossroads in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — namely the PA’s new UN status, Israeli settlement expansion plans, and the Palestinians’ looming fiscal crisis.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, was also reportedly planning to come to the West Bank seat of power in the coming month. He made a historic visit to the Gaza Strip in October. During that trip, he urged Abbas’s Fatah and the Islamist Hamas to put aside their differences and reunite.