Posts Tagged ‘Jordan’

Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey given permission to search Saudi consulate

October 15, 2018

Saudi Arabia has given Turkey permission to search its Istanbul consulate Monday afternoon, nearly two weeks after journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing there, a Turkish diplomatic source told CNN.

The news comes as international pressure mounts on Riyadh to explain the journalist’s disappearance. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a Saudi royal insider-turned-critic, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2 and has not been seen since.
.
Khashoggi’s disappearance has created a diplomatic rift between Saudi and the West, with the UK, France and Germany demanding a “credible investigation” into the events and US President Donald Trump warning of serious retribution if the Saudis are found to be behind his possible death.
.
Image result for Jamil Khashoggi, photos
.
Saudi authorities maintain Khashoggi left the consulate the same afternoon but have provided no evidence of that.
A joint Turkish-Saudi working group into the case has been proposed, but the results of a separate, internal Saudi investigation should be made public soon, a Saudi official with knowledge of the probe told CNN on Monday.
.
The Saudi official said that a royal decree was issued Friday directing the public prosecutor to conduct an internal investigation into the Khashoggi case, based on intelligence shared with Saudi Arabia by Turkey.
.
While a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation team is still cooperating on the ground, “the leadership had felt that an internal investigation was needed to make sure no stone is left unturned to unfold the truth,” the official said.
.
On Sunday, Washington and Riyadh traded a series of threats, with Trump warning of the potential for “severe punishment” and Saudi officials threatening to retaliate if the US imposed sanctions. Riyadh later softened its tone.
.
“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case. So we’re going to have to see,” Trump said in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
.
Saudi Arabia’s stock market fell as much as 7% on Sunday amid fears of sanctions. The index recovered some ground later to close 3.5% down. The market’s drop of as much as 9% since Khashoggi vanished has wiped out all the market’s gains in 2018, although it is still up 8% from a year ago.
.
A security officer looks through a partially open door of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 12, 2018.

International companies pull out

.

Amid the diplomatic fallout over Khashoggi’s disappearance, international firms are pulling out of a high-profile investment summit, the Future Investment Initiative conference, dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” due to take place later this month in Riyadh and to be hosted by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
.
The latest high profile invitee to say they would not attend the conference was the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, a spokesperson confirmed Sunday.
.
Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.
.
On Friday, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
.
His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate, says she did not see him re-emerge.
.
Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and says he left the consulate that afternoon. Turkey has called on Saudi officials to provide evidence that he left the consulate.
.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany said “light must be shed” on Khashoggi’s disappearance and demanded a “credible investigation.”
.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Sunday urged Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, saying, “if they have got nothing to hide, then they will and should cooperate.”
.
“If, as they say, this terrible murder didn’t happen, then where is Jamal Khashoggi? That’s what the world wants to know,” said Hunt.
.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday declined to confirm whether US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would still be attending the conference in Riyadh.
.
“I think we need to continue to evaluate the facts and we’ll make that decision — I talked to Secretary Mnuchin about it last night, we’ll be taking a look at it through the rest of the week,” Pompeo, alongside President Trump, told reporters in the Oval Office on Saturday.
.
Doubts are also growing over whether British Trade Secretary Liam Fox will attend the Riyadh conference, the BBC reported Sunday citing diplomatic sources.
.
Saudi Arabia softens tone awaiting Trump call

Saudi Arabia softens tone awaiting Trump call 02:44

Arab countries express solidarity

In what appeared to be a coordinated response, a number of Arab countries gave their support to Saudi Arabia. Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all put out statements on Sunday saying they express solidarity with Saudi Arabia. The Palestinian Authority also put out a statement of support.
.
In a strongly worded op-ed published later on Sunday, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, warned that if the US imposed sanctions on Riyadh “it will stab its own economy to death,” cause oil prices to reach as high as $200 a barrel, lead Riyadh to permit a Russian military base in the city of Tabuk and drive the Middle East into the arms of Iran.
.
Faisal bin Farhan, a senior adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, said on his official Twitter account Sunday that the op-ed “did not reflect the thinking of the Saudi leadership.”
.
Riyadh later tried to soften its confrontational tone, with King Salman speaking on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
.
The Saudi Press Agency and the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu reported the countries are considering establishing a “working group” to discuss the Khashoggi case.
.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington offered a milder statement in a tweet on Sunday.
“To help clarify recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the US administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation,” the statement said.
A delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey for the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday.
But last week a senior Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity told CNN that the Saudis were not cooperating with the investigation: “They are not open to cooperating.”
Saudi Arabia softens tone awaiting Trump call

Saudi Arabia softens tone awaiting Trump call 02:44
.

‘Working assumption’ is murder

.

A US official familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US had intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.
.
Washington’s “working assumption” is that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence. “We are pretty clear eyed it is likely to have happened and it didn’t end well,” the official said. The source did caution that this was the latest assessment and no conclusions had been made.
.
However, last week Trump said he was reluctant to take action, particularly on the issue of arms sales. “There are other things we can do,” he told reporters at the White House.
.
The US signed a nearly $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia in May 2017, when Trump made Saudi Arabia a stop on his first foreign trip as president. The stop was seen, in part, as an endorsement of the strong relationship between Trump, Jared Kushner — his son-in-law and senior adviser — and bin Salman.
.
Over the weekend a US senior administration official said that the US hasn’t really dealt much with the Turks on the Khashoggi investigation yet because US officials, including the embassy staff, mostly focused last week on repatriating American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was accused of plotting a coup attempt against Erdogan.
.
Now that Brunson is back in the US, the official said Washington is expecting some information from the Turks. The US also still hasn’t heard anything from the Saudis, and are waiting for some information about what happened, the official said.
.
The US President said Friday he had not yet spoken with King Salman — bin Salman’s father — in the wake of Khashoggi’s reported killing, but that he planned to “pretty soon.”
.
Includes videos:
.
Advertisements

UAE mogul Khalaf Al-Habtoor calls for a boycott of US firms, execs. who pulled out of Saudi investment summit

October 15, 2018

In an Op-Ed column written exclusively for Arab News, UAE business tycoon Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor has called for an Arab boycott of US companies and executives who have pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s upcoming Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit, or decided to freeze ongoing dealings with the Kingdom.

.
A number of media companies, including Bloomberg, New York Times, CNN and CNBC have announced pulling out of the partnerships with the FII summit happening on Oct. 28 in Riyadh. This was in the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, more than 10 days ago, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

.
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement with his disappearance, and has sent a team to assist Turkish investigators to find out what happened to the Saudi.

.
Khashoggi’s vanishing has caused many to blame Riyadh, given he had recently become a vocal critic of its leadership in a number of columns for The Washington Post, while living in the  US.

.
Pulling out of the FII media partnerships, or executives, such as Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi  cancelling their attendance, is unjustified, argued Habtoor, considering the investigation into the journalist’s whereabouts is ongoing.

.
The Emirati businessman also takes on London-based Virgin Group founder Richard Branson who suspended his negotiations on tourism projects in Saudi Arabia as well as discussions with the country’s Public Investment Fund.

.
“The Saudis’ Gulf Cooperation Council allies, as well as Egypt and Jordan, must stand shoulder to shoulder with Riyadh to show those companies they are not welcome to operate within our borders. They should be boycotted. Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the Kingdom, we will be next in line. Now is the time to prove our loyalty and transparency toward each other,” the businessman said.

.
Al-Habtoor said he was “shocked” that the US Congress is pressurizing President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East when the truth has not even been determined. He also condemned US media, government officials and lawmakers for rushing to judgement on an active investigation.

.
“Last week, Saudi basked in America’s friendship. A single individual goes off the radar and Riyadh is targeted with warnings and threats from America’s political, financial and business sectors. Considering that the investigation is not yet over, if this is not gross overkill, then what is?” He said.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1387796/saudi-arabia

 

UNRWA concerned over plan to shut its East Jerusalem operation

October 5, 2018

The UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees expressed concern on Friday over moves by the mayor of Jerusalem to close down its operations in the city.

.
Mayor Nir Barkat said on Thursday he had developed a plan to end the Jerusalem operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war of Israel’s founding and to millions of their descendants, and to replace them with Israeli services.

In this file photo,a Palestinian man carries a bag of wheat flour distributed at an aid distribution centre of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)

.
UNRWA has faced a financial crisis since the United States in August announced it was cutting aid to the body, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation” with an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

.
Barkat, on Twitter, said the US decision created an opportunity to change the current situation, which he said would otherwise “perpetuate the ‘refugee problem’ and encourage incitement.”

.
UNRWA, in a statement, said it “expresses its concern about recent statements made by the mayor of Jerusalem on its operations and installations in East Jerusalem.”

.
“UNRWA has continuously maintained operations in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem since 1967 with the cooperation and on the basis of a formal agreement with the State of Israel, which remains in force,” it said.

.
It said it provided education, health, relief and social services in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a capital of a future state.

.
Barkat said that under his plan the municipality would take over education, welfare and health services. “We provide services for all residents alike — there are no refugees in our city,” he said.

.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. The government’s Central Bureau of Statistics says it has a population of 900,000, including about 340,000 Arabs.

.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past called for UNRWA to be dismantled.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1383136/middle-east

Related:

Israel to remove UN Palestinian agency from Jerusalem

October 5, 2018

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday expressed concern after Jerusalem’s Israeli mayor said he would remove it from the city.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced in a statement Thursday a “detailed plan to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem and replace its services with municipal services”.

UNRWA said such a move would affect its humanitarian operations and installations in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The agency runs schools and health centres particularly in the Shuafat refugee camp where it says 24,000 Palestinians are estimated to live.

UNRWA has come under pressure from Israel and the United States.

© AFP/File | Palestinian girls outside a school run by UNRWA in the Askar refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on September 2, 2018

The two countries object to the fact that Palestinians can pass refugee status to their children, and want the number of refugees covered by the agency to be sharply reduced.

The US administration ending its funding to UNRWA in August, the latest in a series of controversial moves applauded by the Israeli government but criticised by the Palestinians and the international community.

“The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” Barkat said.

“We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty,” he added.

The issue of Palestinian refugees — along with the status of Jerusalem — has long been a major sticking point in peace efforts.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

They and their descendants are now classified as refugees who fall under UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinian leaders continue to call for at least some of them to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel under any peace deal.

Israel says Palestinians must give up the so-called right of return and that allowing descendants of refugees to inherit their status only perpetuates the problem instead of solving it.

Israel also considers all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the predominantly Arab eastern area as the capital of their future state.

Some five million registered Palestinians refugees are eligible for UNRWA services in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in east Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centres will likewise be shut down.

The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their “authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel’s sovereign territory” in Jerusalem.

“In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes,” he said.

But on Friday UNRWA said it was “determined to continue to carrying out” its services in east Jerusalem and criticised Barkat’s plan.

“Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained,” the agency said.

AFP

Related:

.

    
A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Related:

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

.
.
.

On Iran, White House Criticism Grows, But U.S. Military Forces in Middle East Moved to Face China

October 1, 2018

Even as Trump warns of the Islamic Republic’s threat, America shifts air and sea power away from region

.

U.S. military realignment of capabilities away from the Middle East and toward China

.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sails through the Strait of Malacca on April 1. It left the Persian Gulf the previous month, the first time in 20 years no U.S. carrier was in those waters.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sails through the Strait of Malacca on April 1. It left the Persian Gulf the previous month, the first time in 20 years no U.S. carrier was in those waters. PHOTO: HANDOUT/REUTERS
.

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration has been steadily ramping up its rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran this year. But the U.S. military has scaled back its presence in the Persian Gulf region, say officials and military experts, removing ships, planes and missiles that would be needed in a major confrontation.

There has been no U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf since the Theodore Roosevelt left for the Pacific in March, the longest period of time in two decades that a carrier hasn’t traveled those waters, according to officials familiar with carrier deployments.

U.S. aircraft carriers until recently have maintained a continuous presence in the Persian Gulf region, carrying thousands of personnel and dozens of planes, missiles and other firepower. But the U.S. has not filled the absence with the same level of air power, officials acknowledged.

In addition, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pulling four Patriot missile-defense systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain in October, in a realignment of capabilities away from the Middle East and toward China and Russia, senior military officials told The Wall Street Journal last week.

Newsletter Sign-up

The apparent mismatch between estimates of the Iranian threat and the military’s posture in the region stems from factors that include U.S. strategic shifts and equipment limitations. The 2018 U.S. national security strategy deems big powers like China and Russia—not Iran—to be the greatest threats. At the same time, schedules for maintenance and upkeep have affected the availability of U.S. aircraft carriers, and the military lacks the ships and other equipment to thoroughly address every security threat.

U.S. officials said that they have enough military resources to counter Iran or others. But they acknowledged the aircraft carriers and the Patriot missile batteries also served as a show of force. Defense analysts cautioned against removing too many of these assets.

“The concern is the president looks a Twitter tiger,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based group critical of Iran. “If the rhetoric is not backed by a credible threat and a credible presence of American military power, then there is a danger that Iran will assess there is American mush, not American steel, behind the president’s tough rhetoric.”

The administration’s defenders said U.S. rhetorical and sanctions pressure are forms of deterrence that could push Iran toward talks, much like the president’s strategy toward North Korea. White House national security adviser John Bolton said last week that Washington expects “massive changes” in Iran’s behavior.

The White House has described Iran as a main U.S. national security threat. President Trump devoted a portion of his 35-minute speech before the United Nations on Tuesday to harshly criticizing Iran.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations,” he said.

The State Department on Friday announced it was closing the U.S. consulate in Basra, Iraq, citing threats from Iran-backed groups, among others. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran that the U.S. “will respond promptly and appropriately” if attacked.

Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in television interviews Sunday that Iran did not control Iraqi groups and denounced Trump administration threats.

Last week, the White House suggested that the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in eastern Syria, sent to help in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, could shift their attention toward Iran.

That same day, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that U.S. troops are in Syria to guard against a return of Islamic State, not as a bulwark against Iran, while asserting there was no disagreement between the Pentagon and White House.

The presence of U.S. forces in Syria also blocks a potential land bridge that Iran could use to extend influence over the region, Mr. Dubowitz said.

For the Pentagon, the war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is entering its final months, allowing it to move resources toward Russia and China, in line with the annual strategy report. As a result, carriers this year increasingly have patrolled the Atlantic and Pacific.

President Trump addressed the U.N. last Tuesday, charging that ‘Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction.’
President Trump addressed the U.N. last Tuesday, charging that ‘Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction.’ PHOTO: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS
.

“Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department, and require both increased and sustained investment,” the strategy report concluded.

Both Russia and China have denounced the U.S. strategy, with Russia saying it had “an imperial nature.”

Iran’s influence in the Middle East stretches from Syria, where its forces support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; to Yemen, where it backs the Shiite-dominated Houthis in the ongoing civil war; to Iraq, where Iran is competing with the U.S. for political influence.

The Pentagon has said it doesn’t have enough available carriers to assign them simultaneously to the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Because of a backlog of repairs, there have been fewer carriers available this year, and those in service are moving toward the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who monitors deployments.

Of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carrier strike groups, only two—the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Harry S. Truman—have been available throughout the year. At one point this year, there were no aircraft carriers deployed.

 The concern is the president looks a Twitter tiger. 

—Mark Dubowitz, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Navy officials acknowledged they face shifting strategic goals, equipment maintenance and force-level issues. “Our global security environment has changed; we are in an era of great-power competition,” said Capt. Greg Hicks, Navy chief of information.

“To compete in this new environment, we require increased naval capability and capacity—the Navy the nation needs,” he added, using a phrase describing the Navy’s goal of expanding from about 300 ships to 355 in coming years.

The Navy, Mr. Clark said, is putting carriers in shipyards now to reduce backlog time. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found it could take 23 years for the Navy to catch up with needed repairs.

Mr. Clark said he believed the shortage would last for another two years. Navy officials are privately aware of the problem, he said, but haven’t addressed it publicly, in part to avoid advertising the current carrier shortfalls.

While the impact is clear in the short term, Mr. Clark said it was better to fix the repair backlog now, given that China has telegraphed that it seeks to expand its military capabilities by 2020.

“They want to be ready for China,” Mr. Clark said.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com and Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/on-iran-white-house-criticism-grows-but-u-s-military-posture-recedes-1538386200

King Abdullah II tells Pompeo the international community must support UNRWA

September 24, 2018

Meeting with the secretary of state on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York, the Jordanian royal says Palestinian refugee agency’s work must continue despite US cuts to funding

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, talks to Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, right, during a meeting at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in New York, Sept. 23, 2018, in New York. (Andres Kudacki via AP, Pool)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, talks to Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, right, during a meeting at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in New York, Sept. 23, 2018, in New York. (Andres Kudacki via AP, Pool)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday that the kingdom believes a two state solution is the only path to peace and that the international community must continue to support the Palestinian refugee agency recently defunded by the Trump administration.

“The international community must bear its responsibility to provide the support required by UNRWA in order to continue to provide services to more than five million Palestinian refugees in the fields of education, health and relief,” said the Jordanian king.

Meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the two also discussed the strategic partnership between their two countries and the royal reaffirmed his position that a future Palestinian state should have East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to use his speech to the UN tomorrow to urge the international community to either save the two-state solution or take responsibility for its demise and “burial,” unnamed Palestinian sources told London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat Friday.

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

Always enjoy meeting with @KingAbdullahII. We reaffirmed the strong bond and strategic partnership between the United States and , and recommitted to making progress on key regional issues.

The sources said Abbas’s appeal for an international peace conference will be his final effort to save the peace process before he is forced to make “difficult decisions.”

However relatives of victims of Palestinian terror attacks have called on US President Donald Trump to bar Abbas from attending the UNGA.

“Abbas is the one person who is personally responsible for the monthly reward payments by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and the families of terrorists who murdered our loved ones,” the group, American Victims of Palestinian Terrorism, said in a letter.

The victims’ relatives said the decision to allow Abbas entry into the US was not only a “slap in the face” to those who have suffered from Palestinian terror, but also “in clear violation of the spirit and the letter of American law.”

Over the past few weeks the United States has cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and canceled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

The US has also halted $25 million in aid to East Jerusalem hospitals, leading to warnings of the “collapse” of medical centers that provide crucial care to Palestinians.

The network, which is made up of six hospitals in East Jerusalem, provides healthcare such as cancer treatment and surgeries for Palestinians to whom such medical assistance is unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the World Health Organization.

Palestinian school children chant slogans and raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the West Bank on September 5, 2018. The United States, the biggest contributor to the UNRWA, announced on August 31 that it was halting all funding to the organization, which it labelled “irredeemably flawed” (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

Trump said earlier this month that aid to the Palestinians will remain withheld until the Palestinians “make a deal with Israel.”

None of the cuts, however, directly targeted aid meant for the internationally recognized PA, which last month received some $42 million in frozen funds for security cooperation with Israel.

Though hailed by Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the cuts are said to be opposed by defense officials, who fear they could fuel Palestinian unrest and in turn jeopardize Israel’s security.

Furthermore, the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington ceased operations last week following a demand by the United States to shut down in a bid to pressure the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel.

The move to not grant the mission its normal six-month renewal came after Palestinian leaders allegedly breached the arrangement by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The PA has boycotted the Trump administration and rebuffed its peace efforts since the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of last year. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem — which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed — as the capital of their future state.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/jordans-king-tells-pompeo-the-international-community-must-support-unrwa/

READ MORE:

Iran hosts Russia, Turkey for ‘crunch’ Syria summit

September 7, 2018

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey meet Friday in Tehran for a summit set to decide the future of Idlib province amid fears of a humanitarian disaster in Syria’s last major rebel bastion.

Hundreds of civilians fled the northwestern province Thursday as government forces and their allies readied for what could be the last — and bloodiest — major battle of Syria‘s devastating seven-year civil war.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and adjacent areas form the final major chunk of Syrian territory still under opposition control, which is home to some three million people — around half of them displaced from other parts of the country, according to the UN.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Dung Dang, people smiling, people standing

Neighbouring Turkey, which has long backed Syrian rebels, fears the assault could prompt an influx of desperate Syrians attempting to find safety on its territory.

But regime backers Russia and Iran have sworn to wipe out “terrorists” and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has declared his determination to retake control of the entire country.

Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are also guarantors of the Astana process, a track of negotiations that has eclipsed the UN-led Geneva process and helped Assad re-assert his authority over the country.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani hosts his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Friday’s summit.

© Tolga Bozoglu, AFP archive | Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and at a tripartite summit in Ankara, Turkey in April 2018.

While Turkey has backed rebels opposed to the Syrian regime, Moscow has been Assad’s most militarily powerful ally since the start of the uprising.

Friday’s meeting in Tehran is a “crunch summit,” said Nick Holdsworth, reporting from Moscow for FRANCE 24.

“Russia has a very sophisticated foreign policy on Syria. They won’t make war if they don’t have to make war, they will if they need to. They don’t want to see a massive humanitarian crisis, they don’t want to see a massive refugee situation,” explained Holdsworth. “They’ve got very complex relations with Turkey, they don’t want to see tens, hundreds of thousands of people flooding into Turkey. They want to see stability in Syria. They also want to have a big foreign policy win. They would like to see this war resolved, they would like to see Assad fully in-charge of his country again and they’d like to see that done without massive bloodshed and a massive refugee crisis. So it all hinges on today’s summit in Tehran and what comes out of that.”

UN Security Council meeting on Syria

The UN Security Council is also meeting Friday, at Washington’s request, to discuss the situation in Idlib.

Both the US and Russia say they are fighting jihadist groups in Syria and there was periodic cooperation between the two countries against the same jihadist groups operating in Idlib until mid-2017.

Idlib is dominated by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, led by the former al Qaeda branch in Syria.

Neighbouring Turkey has limited sway over the jihadists who control an estimated 60 percent of the province but it backs rebel groups there and has 12 military “observation points” across the province.

On Thursday, the new US envoy for Syria said there was “lots of evidence” that the Syrian government was preparing to use chemical weapons in Idlib.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Jim Jeffrey, who was named Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s special adviser on Syria  cautioned that, “any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation”.

While US President Donald Trump had signaled that he wanted US forces out of Syria, in April he agreed to keep troops there a little longer.

Trump will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Iran during an annual gathering of world leaders in New York later this month, which is expected to focus on Tehran’s nuclear programme and its involvement in the Syrian war.

France has invited the US, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Britain for talks on the sidelines of the UN meeting to discuss Syria.

Healthcare workers in Idlib prepare to cope

Idlib’s population has swelled as the regime chalked up a series of victories in other parts of the country, reaching evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of people bussed to the northwestern province.

Russia has conducted a massive naval build-up in the Mediterranean near Syria as Assad’s regime forces are amassing around the northeastern province for a likely ground assault.

The timing and scope of any attack remain unclear, but healthcare and aid workers are preparing to cope for the worst.

The UN has warned of a “bloodbath” in the province, fearing that an offensive will cause a humanitarian catastrophe unprecedented since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, which has left more than 350,000 people dead since 2011.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Thursday of the risk of humanitarian disaster in Idlib, describing the province as a “ticking time bomb, both in humanitarian and security terms”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel: We’ve thrown $10b. at Palestinians; peace isn’t a millimeter closer

September 5, 2018

Explaining why Trump defunded UNRWA, Ambassador to Israel complains that US taxpayers’ funds were used to perpetuate refugee problem; also slams PA stipends to terrorists

US Ambassador David Friedman speaking during a reception to mark the Jewish New Year on September 5, 2018. (Screencapture/US Embassy video)

US Ambassador David Friedman speaking during a reception to mark the Jewish New Year on September 5, 2018. (Screencapture/US Embassy video)

The United States has “thrown more than $10 billion” in aid to the Palestinians, but that spending has brought the region no closer to peace or stability, the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman charged Tuesday, in an address explaining why US President Donald Trump thought it was important to halt US funding to UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

Friedman lamented that US taxpayer funds, rather than be used positively, had been partly spent on Palestinian Authority stipends to terrorists, to fund inciteful education, and to finance an agency — UNRWA — that, by extending refugee status to descendants of Palestinian refugees, was perpetuating rather than helping solve the refugee problem.

“Since 1994, the United States has thrown more than $10 billion in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians,” Friedman said in a Rosh Hashanah speech. “Without minimizing the importance of medical treatment and quality education for children — and we don’t minimize that, not even for a minute — we found that these expenditures were bringing the region no closer to peace or stability, not even by a millimeter,” he said.

“To spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund stipends to terrorists and their families, to expend funds to perpetuate rather than to mitigate refugee status, and to finance hate-filled textbooks — I ask you, how does that provide value to the United States or the region?”

Friedman added that the US would continue to seek other ways of supporting Palestinians.

“Make no mistake, the USA is a generous nation and we would love, truly love, to invest in this region for the return on investment of peace and stability in Israel and a better quality of life for the Palestinians,” he said. “Indeed, we continue to provide funding, 40 percent of the funding for the UN High Commission on Refugees. UNHCR, in contrast to UNRWA, seeks to end statelessness, not deploy it as a political weapon.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (with his wife Tammy) makes a Rosh Hashanah toast for peace, September 4, 2018 (Courtesy)

In a Rosh Hashanah toast, Friedman also issued a call for peace: “Let us dedicate ourselves to building upon our great accomplishments, to making the US-Israel relationship even stronger, and to bringing peace, prosperity and security to the region.”

Last Friday, the State Department said in a written statement on UNRWA that the United States “will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.”

The US had supplied nearly 30 percent of the total UNRWA budget, which provides health care, education, and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Announcing the end to all its funding for UNRWA, the State Department castigated the agency for failed practices, and indicated that it rejected the criteria by which UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees, whereby the UN agency confers refugee status not only on original refugees but on their millions of descendants.

“The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” the statement said, a reference to the fact that the agency grants refugee status to descendants of the original Palestinian refugees, something not granted by the UN to refugees from any other place.

The Palestinians claim that five million “refugees” — tens of thousands of original refugees from what is today’s Israel, and their millions of descendants — have a “right of return” to Israel. Israel rejects the demand, saying that it represents a bid by the Palestinians to destroy Israel by weight of numbers.

It says there is no justification for UNRWA’s unique criteria, by which all subsequent generations of descendants of the original refugees are also designated as having refugee status, including those born elsewhere and/or holding citizenship elsewhere; such a designation does not apply to the world’s other refugee populations.

Israel’s population is almost nine million, some three-quarters of whom are Jewish. An influx of millions would mean Israel could no longer be a Jewish-majority state.

On Tuesday, the White House also announced that it planned to slash more than $200 million in overall aid to Ramallah.

That same day, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley questioned Palestinian claims to a “right of return” to modern Israel, saying she believed that the hot button issue should be taken “off the table.”

Haley suggested the Trump administration would consider an official rejection of the Palestinian demand that all refugees who were displaced between 1947 and 1948 — as well as all of their descendants — be allowed to return to modern-day Israel following a final peace accord.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/friedman-weve-thrown-10b-at-palestinians-peace-isnt-a-millimeter-closer/

Related:

.

    
A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Related:

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

.
.
.

Trump is pushing the Middle East to face reality in Palestine

September 4, 2018

In a blow to decades of myth-based policy, Team Trump last week cut all US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — a special body that does as much to distort the peace process as to help Palestinian refugees.

Since its founding in 1949 to take care of, as The Post’s Benny Avni put it, the roughly “750,000 Arab refugees from the war Israel’s neighbors launched to erase it off the map,” UNRWA has worked not to end that refugee crisis but to prolong it.

Key to that perverse mission has been the decision to grant refugee status to the descendants of the original ones — a rule applied for no other refugees in all the decades since World War II and the founding of the United Nations.

New York Post
Editorial

Where a normal accounting would have the population down to a few tens of thousands, UNRWA recognizes some 5 million Palestinian “refugees,” including even great-great-grandchildren whose families have been citizens of Jordan and other nations for decades.

Trump is pushing the Middle East to face reality in Palestine

And Palestinian leaders continue to claim that any final peace deal must grant a “right of return” to Israel to all 5 million. Worse, UNRWA-overseen schools, media and so on work to keep those grievances fresh. UNRWA staff are also regularly caught enabling terrorists in attacks on Israelis.

The UNRWA cutoff needn’t, and shouldn’t, mean an end to US aid to Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, but the State Department will have to find partners who can provide the help without the ideology.

This is the latest step in the administration’s broad reordering of Mideast policy to recognize reality, including the cutoff of $200 million-plus a year in grants to the Palestinian Authority because it refuses to stop paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families as well as the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

As Trump warned the Palestinian leadership in January: The “hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support” from America is “on the table and the money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Getting to a deal just won’t be possible until all sides face the truth.

.
https://nypost.com/2018/09/03/trump-is-pushing-the-middle-east-to-face-reality-in-palestine/
.
Related:
.
.

.

    
A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Related:

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

.
.
.

UNRWA chief defends refugee criteria for millions of Palestinians

September 3, 2018

Millions of Palestinian refugees “cannot simply be wished away”, the head of a U.N. support agency said on Monday, hitting back at a U.S. aid cutoff and allegations its work only perpetuates their plight.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.

The growing refugee count was cited by Washington, UNRWA’s biggest donor, in its decision last week to withhold funding, and has potential ramifications for the Palestinians’ pursuit of a right of return to land now in Israel.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, child and outdoor

A Palestinian carries bags of flour at an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Successive Israeli governments have ruled out such an influx, fearing the country would lose its Jewish majority.

“I express deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the U.S. decision,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said in an open letter to Palestinian refugees and the agency’s staff in which he pledged its operations would continue.

Appearing to echo Israel’s view that descendants of the 1948 refugees should not share that status, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert criticized UNRWA on Friday over its “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described UNRWA on Sunday as “the refugee perpetuation agency” whose money “should be taken and be used to really help rehabilitate the refugees, whose real number is a sliver of that reported by UNRWA”.

But Krahenbuhl said “the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee crisis” was not unique. He said the children and grandchildren of long-displaced refugees in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and elsewhere are also recognized as refugees and assisted by the United Nations.

SCHOOLS OPEN

“No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away,” he said.

The United States paid out $60 million to UNRWA in January, withholding another $65 million, from a promised $365 million for the year. Krahenbuhl said Gulf states had injected funds but UNRWA still needed more than $200 million.

In Lebanon on Monday, UNRWA opened its school year as scheduled. Studies in UNRWA-run schools in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip got under way on Wednesday.

Claudio Cordone, director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, told Reuters that funds would last only until the end of the month but the agency would continue to raise money to ensure the schools remain open.

Washington’s move against UNRWA was the latest in a series of U.S. and Israeli policy decisions that have angered Palestinians and raised international concern.

They include Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, the moving of the U.S. Embassy to the contested city in May and Israel’s adoption of a “nation-state” law in July that says only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington and Issam Abdallah in Beirut, Editing by William Maclean)

Reuters

Related:

.

    
A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Related:

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

.
.
.