Tunisia fires envoy to UN; he was apparently too critical of Trump peace plan
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Tunisia fires envoy to UN; he was apparently too critical of Trump peace plan

Tunisian President Kais Saied said to dismiss Moncef Baati because he feared ambassador’s support for Palestinians would harm relations with the US

Moncef Baati, the Tunisian ambassador to the United Nations, at UN headquarters in New York on January 30, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Moncef Baati, the Tunisian ambassador to the United Nations, at UN headquarters in New York on January 30, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia fired its ambassador to the UN on Friday, accusing him of failing to consult the foreign ministry on key issues that diplomatic sources said included Washington’s controversial Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

“Tunisia’s ambassador to the United Nations has been dismissed for purely professional reasons concerning his weak performance and lack of coordination with the ministry on important matters under discussion at the UN,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Diplomatic sources said the ambassador, Moncef Baati, who has occupied a seat at the UN Security Council since the start of the year, had gone further than Tunisian President Kais Saied wanted in his criticism of US President Donald Trump’s long-delayed peace plan.

Saied, a political outsider who only took office in November after a surprise election victory, was concerned that Baati’s expressions of support for the Palestinians risked damaging Tunisia’s relations with the United States, the sources said.

Tunisian demonstrators hold up placards against US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan during a protest on February 5, 2020, in Tunis. (Fethi Belaid/AFP)

“It was quite a shock to hear that. I don’t know all the details, the reason behind this,” Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve of Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said of the sacking.

“He was a very good colleague and I really very much regret to see him leave,” he added.

Another diplomat and member of the Security Council, who did not wish to be identified, said that Baati was “the right person” to negotiate a resolution wanted by the Palestinians.

Baati’s swift recall to Tunis meant that he missed a closed doors briefing of the Security Council on Thursday by the US plan’s architect, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

After the briefing, Kushner blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a spike in violence in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the plan was unveiled on January 28.

Abbas “calls for days of rage in response and he said that even before he saw the plan,” Kushner told reporters in New York.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Abbas is due at the UN next week to oppose the plan, which he says violates international law.

The Palestinians hope to push for a Security Council resolution condemning the Trump plan, but any text will almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.

Tunisia and Indonesia were sharing a draft of the resolution with council members, Reuters reported Thursday.

A veteran diplomat, Baati was in retirement last year when he was asked to return to active duty and represent Tunisia at the United Nations.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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