Abbas to Africa: Put Palestinian plight ahead of forging ties with Israel
Speaking at summit in Ethiopia, PA leader accuses Israel of doing all it can to undermine two-state solution
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday urged African nations not to bolster their ties with Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, and accused “Israel of doing all that it can to undermine” Palestinian statehood.
Israel has embarked on a diplomatic push over the past year to bolster ties with several African countries, but Abbas told African leaders at the 28th summit of the African Union that they should look beyond whatever interest they have in forging ties with Israel.
“We urge you that this should not be done at the expense of the just cause of our Palestinian people, which still needs your help to get rid of the abhorrent Israeli occupation,” Abbas said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, according to a report in the official PA news outlet Wafa.
Improving ties with Africa has been one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key foreign policy priorities, which led to his July visit to four countries in Eastern Africa, where he met with seven heads of state. Two months later he held a meeting with more than 15 African leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Abbas told the crowd in Addis Ababa that he looks forward to the “developing role and status of Africa in international forums…and we hope we can count on their brotherly support in those forums.”
The Palestinian leader said he supports Africa having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
He also thanked the African nations who voted in favor of the recent of UNSC resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building. These states were Senegal, Angola, and Egypt.
But he said the prospects of realizing a two-state solution were being imperiled by moves made by Israel, apparently referring to announcements last week of approval for some 3,000 homes in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.
“The achievement of a just and comprehensive peace through a two-state solution is in danger,” he said. “Israel is doing all that it can to undermine the chances of establishing an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem through the continuation of the occupation and the continuation of settlement building, creating a one-state reality with an apartheid system imposed on our people.”
During his speech, the Palestinian leader emphasized the need to implement the agreement of the International Peace Conference held in Paris earlier this month, in which 70 countries reaffirmed that a two-state solution is the only one acceptable, and set up an international monitoring group to help the two sides to make peace in a specific timeframe.
Abbas also said he was still willing to accept the offer of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a trilateral meeting in Moscow.
Back in September, a trilateral meeting in Moscow fell apart after the Palestinian and Israeli leaders each said the other had refused to go.
“We reaffirm that our hands are still outstretched in peace toward our Israeli neighbors,” Abbas said.
Abbas also restated that he is “looking forward to working with US President Donald Trump and his new administration in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the region.”
Earlier on Monday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the PA and the Commission of the African Union.
In the deal, according to the report in Wafa, the parties agreed to work together in various areas of development, including health, agriculture, energy, environment, water, the promotion of women’s participation in civil society, and human rights.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.