The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday formally rejected an invitation to a US-led peace conference in Bahrain next month, where Washington is expected to unveil the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan.
The meeting is planned for June 25-26 in the capital city of Manama. 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, 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,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
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.
The White House has 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 Palestinian Authority 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 Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
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.
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.
UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov also addressed the UN Security Council, 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.