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Middle East

Palestinian president: the US is no longer part of the Middle East peace process

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 10:38pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that his people would “no longer accept” any peace plan proposed by the United States following Washington’s decision to unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Trump administration has been preparing a plan in secret which is expected to be presented to the two sides in 2018.

“The United States has proven to be a dishonest mediator in the peace process and we will no longer accept any plan from the United States,” Abbas said after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

He also hit out at efforts by the US to intimidate countries before a vote at the UN on Thursday which saw most member countries condemn Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“I hope that the others will learn the lesson and understand that you cannot impose solutions by using money and trying to buy off countries,” he said.

US ambassador Nikki Haley warned that the vote would affect “how Americans … look at countries who disrespect us in the UN”.

The nonbinding UN resolution declared US action on Jerusalem “null and void” and was approved 128-9 – a victory for the Palestinians, but not as big as they predicted.

Following Washington’s threats, 35 of the 193 UN member nations abstained and 21 were absent.

The resolution reaffirmed what has been the United Nations’ stand on the divided holy city since 1967: that Jerusalem’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump administration made it clear the vote would have no effect on its plan to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterward that he completely rejects the “preposterous” resolution.

The US and Israel had waged an intensive lobbying campaign against the measure, with Haley sending letters to over 180 countries threatening a funding cut-off: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

But in the end, major US aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution. Egypt received roughly US$1.4 billion in US aid this year, and Jordan about US$1.3 billion.

The nine countries voting “no” were the US, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Togo. Among the abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Mexico.

After the vote, Haley tweeted a photo naming the 65 nations that voted no, abstained or were absent, and said: “We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the UN.”

She later sent invitations to the 65 ambassadors inviting them to a reception on January 3 to thank them for their friendship with the US.

But within hours, the Trump administration appeared to be backing away from its funding threats. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said cuts to countries that opposed the US are not definite.

“The president’s foreign policy team has been empowered to explore various options going forward with other nations,” Nauert said. “However, no decisions have been made.”

Trump’s pressure tactics had raised the stakes at Thursday’s emergency meeting and triggered accusations from the Muslim world of US bullying and blackmail.

“It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “We will not be intimidated! You can be strong but this does not make you right!”

The resolution adopted by the assembly has language similar to the defeated measure.

It “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded”.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press