In Addis Ababa, Abbas urges African states to maintain support for Palestinians
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In Addis Ababa, Abbas urges African states to maintain support for Palestinians

PA president tells the African Union his people reject US intervention in Venezuela; speaks to Norwegian PM about Palestinian boycott of US-led conference in Poland

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the 32nd African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa on February 10, 2019. (SIMON MAINA / AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the 32nd African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa on February 10, 2019. (SIMON MAINA / AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged African states on Sunday to maintain their support for the Palestinians.

Abbas made the comments in a short speech at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, amid a recent expansion in relations between Israel and some African nations.

“The states of Africa and its venerable union were and still are supporters and partners,” he said. “We hope our partnership will continue to prosper. In our struggle for liberation and independence today, we are looking to you to continue to hold firm to your positions.”

The PA president made no explicit mention of the recent developments in ties between Israel and African states.

Over the past two years, Prime Minister Netanyahu has traveled to Africa a number of times, visiting Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Liberia and Chad.

In January, Israel and Chad, a Muslim-majority country, renewed diplomatic relations — more than 45 years after they were severed.

Netanyahu has called the restoration of Israel and Chad’s ties “a breakthrough into the heart of the Muslim world.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Chadian President Idriss Deby meet at the presidential palace in N’Djamena, Chad, on January 20, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Abbas added that the Palestinians were turning to African states for “additional support for the Palestinian issue in the coming period in order to achieve full membership for the State of Palestine in the United Nations.”

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have recently said that “the State of Palestine” will apply for full membership at the United Nations, but they have not said on which date they plan to formally undertake such a move.

Any Palestinian move to gain full membership at the UN would probably not succeed, as the US would likely exercise its veto power over a resolution to grant that status.

In his speech, Abbas also said that the Palestinians “reject American intervention in any country’s affairs as is happening now in Venezuela.”

Taking a stand against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s rule, US President Donald Trump late last month recognized Juan Guaido, an opposition leader in Venezuela, as the Latin American country’s head of state. Guaido had earlier declared himself Venezuela’s interim president.

The PA president also called on African states “to support the idea of an international [Israeli-Palestinian peace] conference and to participate in it.”

Since shortly after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and initiated the relocation of the US embassy in the Jewish state to the city, Abbas has called for an international conference in order to establish a multilateral mechanism for the peace process.

He has also declared that the Palestinians would no longer work with an American-dominated peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg meeting in Addis Ababa on February 10, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Before his speech on Sunday, Abbas met Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

He spoke to Solberg about Ramallah’s boycott of a US-led conference in Poland later this week on the Middle East, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Over the weekend, Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official and a confidant of Abbas, wrote on Twitter that the Palestinians would not attend the confab in Warsaw.

When announcing the conference in early January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it would deal mainly with Iran. But the international response has been cool, and a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recently insisted it will touch on various issues related to the Middle East’s “security and prosperity” in general, rather than targeting Iran alone.

Senior White House officials and Netanyahu are slated to attend the summit.

Late last week, the PA Foreign Ministry referred to the conference as “an American conspiracy intended to get the participants to adopt the US’s views on issues of the region, particularly the Palestine question.”

For more than a year, the Palestinians have refused to meet White House officials.

AFP contributed to this article.

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