UAE, Saudi Arabia to attend US economic peace confab in Bahrain
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UAE, Saudi Arabia to attend US economic peace confab in Bahrain

Abu Dhabi ‘welcomes’ announcement of summit, highlighting potential benefits to Palestinians — who are staying away; Riyadh to send its economic minister

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, left, gives a joint press conference with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, center, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, right, and their Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in Cairo, Egypt, July 5, 2017. (Khaled Elfiqi, Pool, via AP)
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, left, gives a joint press conference with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, center, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, right, and their Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in Cairo, Egypt, July 5, 2017. (Khaled Elfiqi, Pool, via AP)

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia said they would send delegations to an economic summit in Bahrain next month, during which the Trump administration will roll out the first phase of its long-awaited peace plan.

The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “welcomed” the announcement of the confab and confirmed its participation in a statement carried overnight Tuesday-Wednesday by the state-run WAM news agency, which highlighted potential benefits to the Palestinians.

“The UAE supports all international efforts aimed at supporting economic progress and increasing opportunities in the region, and alleviating the suffering of people in the region, particularly our brothers in Palestine,” the statement said.

“It aims to lift the Palestinian people out of misery and to enable them for a stable and prosperous future,” the ministry said. “The UAE reiterates its support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

President Donald Trump welcomes Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia’s economic minister would attend the summit.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms that His Excellency Minister of Economy & Planning Mohammad bin Mazid Al-Tuwaijri will participate in the Peace for Prosperity workshop organized by the Kingdom of Bahrain in partnership with the USA,” Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday, Bahrain and the US jointly announced that they will host the economic “workshop” for international government, civil society and business leaders to “share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.”

During the summit, set to take place on June 25-26, the US is expected to present the first part of its peace proposal. Its second part, which will deal with the political issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be revealed at a later stage, according to the White House.

The Palestinian leadership has pushed back on plans for the Manama conference, saying it was not consulted and no party was entitled to negotiate on its behalf.

Palestinian Authority Minister Ahmed Majdalani told Reuters that Palestinians would not send a representative, while prominent businessman Bashar al-Masri said he had been invited to the conference but would not attend.

“There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop,” Majdalani said. “Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”

The plan envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work, much of it funded by wealthy Arab countries, in the Palestinian territories.

But officials say the gathering will not address the core political issues at the center of the conflict: final borders, the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees or Israeli security demands.

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a Monday cabinet meeting. “The current financial crisis is a result of a financial war waged against us and we will not succumb to blackmailing and extortion and will not trade our national rights for money.”

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh talks during an interview with The Associated Press, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the US over a year ago, have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House will try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They believe the US is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to bully them into accepting a plan they see as unacceptable.

Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable as concerns the political aspects of the plan.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon intends to attend the conference, a spokesman told The Times of Israel on Monday.

After facing criticism, Bahrain on Tuesday defended its hosting of the conference. Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Gulf kingdom’s foreign minister, denied there was any hidden motive behind the meeting and said Bahrain’s decision to host it was a reflection of its support for the Palestinian cause.

“Khalifa affirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain’s official and popular position 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,” a statement from Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

The Bahraini foreign minister stressed that Manama was committed to boosting the Palestinian economy “in bilateral and international forums” and that the conference was designed “to empower the Palestinian people through developing their abilities and enhancing their resources.”

“The hosting of the workshop serves no other purpose,” the statement said.

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