PA top negotiator urges ‘all countries’ to snub US peace summit in Bahrain
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PA top negotiator urges ‘all countries’ to snub US peace summit in Bahrain

Saeb Erekat says June conference where Washington expected to unveil economic aspects of Trump Mideast plan is sure to fail without Palestinians

PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, on Saturday urged “all countries” not to participate in a US-led economic peace conference in Bahrain next month.

The White House announced Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 meeting in the capital city of Manama and is expected to unveil the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

“The conference will surely fail without Palestinian participation,” Erekat said.

Intimating that participating Arab nations were doing so only because they were beholden to the US, he said countries should not pay their debts to Washington “at the expense of the Palestinian people,” and urged them to reconsider their stances.

Erekat called the Trump administration “a cornerstone of the extreme right-wing Israeli ideology,” charging that the US was “sowing fear in the region.”

US President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers remarks on immigration at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on May 16, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

The PA had on Wednesday formally rejected an invitation to the June conference. The PA had previously indicated that it would not participate in the event, but had not officially refused.

“This is an official announcement that Palestine will not attend the Manama meeting,” Erekat said in a statement. “This is a collective Palestinian position, from President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO Executive Committee to all Palestinian political movements and factions, national figures, private sector and civil society.”

Erekat added that the PA was not sending a representative of any kind to negotiate on its behalf.

“Those concerned and [who] want to serve the interest of the Palestinian people should respect this collective position,” he said.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, said the conference “serves no other purpose” than to help the Palestinian people “through developing their abilities and enhancing their resources.”

The kingdom “remains supportive of the brotherly Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate rights on their land as well as establishing an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Bahrain’s top diplomat said in a statement on Wednesday.

Jason Greenblatt attends the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards gala at Carnegie Hall in New York, March 28, 2019. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The White House previously announced that it will roll out the first phase of its peace proposal at a summit focusing on economic aspects that US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said has the “potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians.”

In his statement, Erekat rejected Greenblatt’s assertion, saying, “Palestine’s full economic potential can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation, respecting international law and UN resolutions.”

The PA has also criticized organizers for excluding the core political issues from the conference agenda.

In remarks to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Greenblatt said “it would be a mistake for the Palestinians not to join us.”

“They have nothing to lose and much to gain if they do join us. But it is, of course, their choice,” said Greenblatt, who is drafting the proposal with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Ashraf Jabari, left, attends a Jerusalem conference on Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank on February 12, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

So far the only Palestinian businessman to have said he may attend the summit is Ashraf Jabari, a Hebron industrialist who has close ties to the Trump administration and Israeli settlers and is largely seen as outside the Palestinian mainstream.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have also said they will send delegations to the event. Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also intends to attend.

Abbas cut ties with the Trump administration in 2017 after it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump’s White House responded with a series of punitive measures, including severing assistance to the PA and defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA provides education, health and food services to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov addresses a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, on March 24, 2016, at United Nations headquarters in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov also addressed the UN Security Council Wednesday, urging member states not to withdraw support for Palestinian refugees.

Though he did not mention the Trump peace plan, Mladenov warned that efforts to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza without a framework for a political solution in place were doomed to fail.

“Humanitarian and economic support is very important for people, and it is also critical as for creating an environment conducive for viable negotiations,” he said according to a statement from his office. “However, the solution to the conflict remains fundamentally political.

“There are no shortcuts to sustainable peace,” he said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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