Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Fri, 25 Apr 2014 02:31:38 +0000 MEMO en-gb Defining political unity https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/11087-defining-political-unity https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/11087-defining-political-unity Ramona WadiThe announcement that Fatah and Hamas will be embarking upon reconciliation has raised the ire of Israel and the US. As the formation of an interim unity government within five weeks moves towards a possible implementation, rhetoric of peace mingled with renewed Israeli airstrikes upon Gaza, while the US considered terminating funding for the Palestinian Authority.

Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman portray the distorted concept of "peace" according to the settler-colonial state's motives. According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu stated: "Tonight, as talks were still ongoing about the extension of peace negotiations, Abbas chose Hamas and not peace. Whoever chooses Hamas doesn't want peace."

Lieberman also attempted to amalgamate the unity process with the probable dissolution of the US-brokered negotiations. "It's impossible to make peace with both Israel and Hamas, a terror organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel."

If prioritised to reflect and anticipate Palestinian needs, leadership unity may prove to be a formidable obstacle for Israel. Both Netanyahu and Lieberman have misinterpreted peace according to Israel's expansionist agenda and revulsion of Palestinian resistance. The PA's acquiescence to Israel and imperialism has served the settler-colonial state's aspirations well, resulting in a probable irreversible fragmentation of territory. Nevertheless, projecting Israel's definition of peace upon the PA reflects the necessity of retaining a Palestinian negotiator who can serve as both official representation and collaborator.

Should reconciliation be implemented upon the recognised legitimacy of resistance against colonial violence, Israel's duplicitous peace propaganda will diminish as it fails to impose restrictions and demands upon Palestinian resistance and its implementation. The rhetoric of choice between Israel and Hamas would take a natural inclination towards a choice of self-determination and assertion of Palestinian legitimacy.

The ideology behind the reconciliation agreement however remains ambiguous. As a vast concept which necessitates cohesion between a multitude of social and political factors, one major concern would be the foundations upon which such an agreement was reached and the ramifications upon legitimate resistance embodied by Palestinians. In rethinking current political allegiances, the central issue is whether the unity government will be able to embark upon consistency in recognising settler-colonialism; the impediment to establishing a Palestinian state.

Reported only by Haaretz so far, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub has allegedly declared that Hamas "is obliged to uphold Abu Mazen's [Abbas] policy". Speaking about reconciliation with Hamas, Rajoub said: "We wouldn't have been prepared - or able - to sign a reconciliation agreement without it being clear to all the Palestinian factions that we are leading our nation to a two-states-for-two-nations solution."

If the statement represents the essence of the reconciliation agreement, it signals a departure from the politics which shaped the resistance movement since its inception. The two-state solution remains a major compromise which does not recognise the consequences pertaining to the historical process of settler-colonialism in Palestine. A discussion based upon the 1967 borders diminishes the centrality of the Nakba. As an alternative to the PA's enduring compliance with Israel and the US, Hamas represented an embodiment of the struggle that called for liberation and the reclamation of land. If the unity government is based upon a framework divested of liberation, Palestinians risk an additional treachery in the collective struggle for land and memory.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:24:34 +0000
Why the Russian-Iranian front is winning and everyone else is losing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/11086-why-the-russian-iranian-front-is-winning-and-everyone-else-is-losing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/11086-why-the-russian-iranian-front-is-winning-and-everyone-else-is-losing Dr Abdul Wahab Al-EffendiWe can no longer ignore the fact that we are witnessing a new cold war at an international level and that it is being led by the United States on one side and Russia and Putin on the other. The Middle East has become the new regional hot zone in the context of this cold war, one that is affected by Iranian decisions on one hand and Saudi Arabia and its alliances on the other.

But, unlike previous cold wars this one is marked by conflicts of interest and the motives of foreign camps are concerned with the interests of the countries involved. There is no room in this war for a "clash of civilisations".

We find ourselves immersed in a reality that greatly resembles that which preceded World War I in that the clashes between these regimes were all authoritarian in nature as opposed to a clash of ideologies or values.

This is the same reality we find ourselves facing today despite the fact that the West still claims that it is the defender of freedoms and human rights. It has been made painfully clear that western interests are the main catalysts behind international relations.

On the other side of things, Russia and Iran are not only promoting ideologies that clash with Western interests, but they are also blatantly offering support for dictatorial regimes and promoting national chauvinism and sectarian strife. This is the same type of atmosphere that prevailed prior to both world wars.

There are additional complications and confusions arising from international attitudes towards the Middle East which in turn reflects the level of polarisation that exists between Russia (and China to a lesser extent) on the one hand and the United States and the Western camp on the other. For example, we find that Saudi Arabia and its allies (with the exception of Qatar) all supported the US invasion of Iraq and the policies that resulted afterwards despite the fact that Iraq's recent policies tend to favour Iran. Furthermore, some media outlets in the Gulf still stand in support of the Iraqi government and this is most likely do to the fact it mirrors the American position as well.

It appears as though a Sunni versus Shia confrontation with Saudi Arabia leading the Sunni camp and Iran leading the Shia camp determines the regional cold war in the Middle East. However, further reflections on the events of the Middle East reveal how problematic these categorisations can be. It is true that Iran and its allies are motivated by clear sectarian rationales because it would otherwise not be able to justify its support of parties such as Hezbollah, Dawa or even the Assad regime. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime's opposition to religious and political Shia symbols Ayatollah Karroubi, Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami are merely due to a difference in opinions whereas Iranian support for the Assad regime, which does not claim to have a link with Shia Islam, shows that sectarianism is merely being used as a political tool and that the authoritarian system is the compass that guides Iranian policies. By the same token, Iran has expressed its support for Islamists in Egypt, due to the Egyptian regime's affiliation with Saudi Arabia, yet chooses to antagonise moderate Islamists in both Syria and Iraq.

On the other side of things we find that the situation becomes even more complicated when it comes to the leadership in the Sunni camp led by Saudi Arabia. We have seen that Saudi Arabia has antagonised the more "moderate" members of this camp, which is represented by Qatar and Turkey as they are systems that distance themselves from sectarian affiliations in the narrowest sense. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is also antagonising the extreme wing represented by Al-Qaeda and other jihadist organisations. Yet, the Sunni camp also antagonises moderate Islamic organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In this regard, one could argue that the Sunni camp is allegedly more hostile to Sunni Islamic organisations in all of its manifestation (moderate or extreme) than Iran.

The above factors lead us to question what Iran is capable of achieving in the region in comparison to its competitors. Iran is a state that practices ideological and political mobilisation both at home and abroad. It is self-sufficient in producing arms and weapons on the home front and spends generously on organisations and militias that pledge allegiance to its policies such as Hezbollah, the Badr Organisation and Mahdi Army. By contrast, the members of the Sunni camp do not exhibit such ideological enthusiasm and a large portion of the luxurious elite do not care about religion so long as it does not affect them.

The region's politically empowered Sunni elite is experiencing a sense of isolation in their countries and they are battling this on various fronts. Moreover, the Sunni elite's democratic allies do not fully trust them despite the fact that they may share some liberal values; however, the West ultimately views this elite as "backwards", undemocratic and insufficient when it comes to management. The Sunni camp can no longer rely on countries it may have considered an ally at one point and in despite all the political power present in these countries, they are often considered a burden on their allies. This is with the exception of Turkey and Qatar who provide financial support to their allies. No one in this camp is fighting for a principle; they are instead choosing to fight for a price. They are sponsoring their own interests which, at the end of the day, all amount to the same thing.

When it comes to such encounters, countries that function based on enthusiasm for an ideology or choose to practise self-sufficiency are in far stronger positions than those who seek to promote their interests at home and abroad. This is especially true at the point where resources and capabilities converge. This does not apply to Western countries because, contrary to popular belief, they are not free from needing to promote certain values.

Western populations not only fight for the sake of their interests, but also for the precious freedoms that they gained by making the heaviest sacrifices. For this reason, liberal democracies avoid entering into wars due to their peaceful nature and it is for this reason that the United States hesitated to enter both World War I and World War II. Britain also tried to avoid getting involved in World War II and it is for this reason that it allowed Hitler to engulf entire European nations and add them to his territory.

However, non-democratic countries are generally aggressive in nature and they tend to prompt other countries to fight or impose this on them. This is precisely what happened when Japan attacked America and when Hitler was not content with controlling Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland and decided to attack Britain, regardless of the fact that they were allies and that he was warned several times not to do so. Hitler was also foolish enough to attack Russia although it was among Germany's biggest allies.

We see the same power dynamics being manifested today with Putin's Russia and Khameni's Iran. The United States presented Iraq as a gift to Iran and opened the door for negotiation by way of its nuclear programme. Moreover, the West remained silent over Russia's advancements towards central Asia's Muslim countries and its violence towards Chechnya. Russia has also attempted to regain its former colonial possessions by annexing parts of Georgia and attempting to absorb Crimea from Ukraine, consequently disrupting its stability. Not to mention the fact that Russia has also been threatening the majority of the Baltic states.

Iran is guilty of practising the same policies when it sought to swallow Iraq's Shia regions whole. It went on to support Al-Assad in the hope of inheriting Syria and of course, one cannot forget, its interests in Lebanon and Hezbollah, which it uses as a platform from which it can threaten other countries in the region.

Eventually, the point will come when the West cannot avoid entering the war just as it did in the past two World Wars. So far it has made every effort to avoid doing so. It goes without saying that this war will not be hot, at least not with Russia because of the nuclear threat.

What will strengthen the West's position with the Kremlin's new Tsar is the fact that like his predecessors, and unlike Lenin and his successors, he is fascinated by the West and its people and ultimately fears its rejection of him more than he fears its wrath. Russia's new billionaires cannot give up their trips to London, Paris and New York for they view being deprived from London as a far worse punishment than being exiled from Russia.

The question that remains is what is the fate of the Sunni camp in the next battle. It will undoubtedly come out of the next battle as the biggest loser in the dynamics that will emerge from the existing and coming conflicts because it is neither qualified to fight nor does it possess sufficient immunity. A fate similar to the ill fate of the Balkans during and after the World Wars awaits the Sunni camp.

At the current moment, these countries greatly resemble the sectarian strife that plagued Andalusia especially when considering the amount of attention they pay to affording luxurious lifestyles as well as battling unimportant conflicts. The Sunni camp is not paying sufficient attention to the greater dangers to come. The best-case scenario awaiting these countries is a state like that of the Abbasid era after Mutassim, which relied on foreign Turkish and Persian militias to protect it.

One could also argue that it may require foreign intervention like that of the Mamelukes who later took everything for themselves. As we have seen in Kuwait, one cannot expect foreigners to come to a country's defence when an invader comes to attack if its own people are not capable of defending it. Thus, the Sunni camp should think twice before submitting to great powers, verbalise its distaste for Iran's nuclear programme and run counter to Turkey's interventions in Syria. It should not act as a spoilt child who throws a tantrum until it gets what it wants. It should think before it screams: Come bomb Syria! Come contain Iran! Come help us root out the Muslim Brotherhood!

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Abdul Wahab Al-Effendi) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:22:13 +0000
Egypt's Addameer National Front refutes claims Al-Qaradawi will be deported from Qatar https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11085-egypts-addameer-national-front-refutes-claims-al-qaradawi-will-be-deported-from-qatar https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11085-egypts-addameer-national-front-refutes-claims-al-qaradawi-will-be-deported-from-qatar Yusuf Al-QaradawiEgypt's Addameer National Front spokesperson Amr Abdel Hadi refuted media claims that the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has been banned from speaking in Qatar and will be deported. Abdel Hadi said Al-Qaradwi will give the Friday sermons in a mosque in the Qatari capital Doha.

Italian news agency AKI quoted Abdel Hadi as saying a delegation, including member of Christians against the coup, Michael Seidhom, Al-Azhar Sheikh Essam Talimh, journalist Mohammed Bakous and the secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party youth division Ali Khafaji, visited Al-Qaradawi in Doha.

Abdel Hadi pointed out that the purpose of the visit was to "challenge the Egyptian media which claimed that Al-Qaradawi had been forbidden from public speaking and will be deported from Qatar."

He noted that Al-Qaradawi's age and health conditions were the only reason he has been unable to attend sermons recently.

He refuted media claims that Doha intends to deport leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood after reconciling differences with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

"Our visit is the biggest response is all these lies," he said. Adding that Qatar's foreign minister stressed that the reconciliation came without any party having to compromise.

The military-backed government in Egypt accuses the Qatari authorities of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood which has strained relations between the two countries since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in July.

Source: Al-Mesryoon

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:54:48 +0000
Mauritanian president to run for new term https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11084-mauritanian-president-to-run-for-new-term https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11084-mauritanian-president-to-run-for-new-term Mohamed Ould Abdel AzizMauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced yesterday his intention to run in the presidential elections scheduled for this summer.

Abdel Aziz said in a press statement: "A decree was issued to call the Elections Committee on April 20 and open candidacy for those interested to run. As president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, I will run for a new term."

Speaking in the capital Nouakchott, the president said: "If anyone intends to boycott the elections, I am not interested in their plans."

Abdel Aziz is a former general who came to power in a coup in August 2008; he was elected for a five year term a year later, amidst protests from opposition groups.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:51:09 +0000
Syria accuses the UN of obstructing peace talks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11083-syria-accuses-the-un-of-obstructing-peace-talks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11083-syria-accuses-the-un-of-obstructing-peace-talks Lakhdar BrahimiThe Syrian Foreign Ministry yesterday accused the United Nations envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi of obstructing the Geneva II peace talks between the regime and opposition forces.

Syria's state news agency SANA reported a Foreign Ministry statement saying that the Syrian regime refuses to allow any third party to interfere in its plans to hold presidential elections citing the resolution a "sovereign decision".

"If these countries, led by Western countries claim to respect democracy, freedom and transparency, they should respect the Syrian people's choice through ballot boxes," the statement said.

Brahimi told the Security Council in March that if the presidential elections were to take place in Syria they would stop negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the three year conflict. He explained the opposition parties would refuse to return to the negotiating table if President Bashar Al-Assad were to be chosen for a new term.

The UN slammed the Syrian regime's plans to hold presidential elections in Syria this summer during which Al-Assad is expected to win a new term saying the move hinders peace efforts in Syria.

The European Union expressed deep regret following the Syrian regime's decision and said that the elections will lack credibility as the bloodshed continues.

The United States said on Monday that the elections were "a parody of democracy" stressing that they "lack credibility and legitimacy both inside and outside Syria".

Source: Al-Ghad

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:49:25 +0000
Netanyahu: Abbas has to choose between peace with Hamas or Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11082-netanyahu-abbas-has-to-choose-between-peace-with-hamas-or-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11082-netanyahu-abbas-has-to-choose-between-peace-with-hamas-or-israel Benjamin Netanyahu with Avigdor LiebermanIsraeli officials have strongly rejected the Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has to choose between either peace with Israel or with Hamas, while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted that executing the reconciliation agreement would mean the end of the negotiations.

In remarks to reporters at a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurtz, Netanyahu asked: "Does (Abbas) want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?" He added that the two options cannot be met at the same time: "You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace. So far he hasn't done so."

On his part, Lieberman said that signing an agreement to form a unity government between Fatah and Hamas is the same as "signing the termination of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority".

Meanwhile, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett noted that: "Hamas will keep murdering Jews and Abbas will keep wanting prisoner releases," adding "Whoever thought of Abbas as a partner should rethink that idea."

During a meeting with Israeli journalists on Tuesday Abbas said that in order to continue the negotiations, Israel must first commit to freezing settlement activity in the occupied territories and to focus on demarcating the borders of a future Palestinian state. He also threatened that Israel will have to bear the burden of ruling the Palestinian territories, administratively and financially, if the peace talks between the two sides collapse.

In response to these comments, Netanyahu accused Abbas of making unacceptable demands. "We're trying to re-launch the negotiations with the Palestinians. Every time we get to that point (Abbas) stacks on additional conditions which he knows that Israel cannot give," Netanyahu said.

Source: Arabs 48

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:50:09 +0000
Lebanese parliament fails to elect a new president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11081-lebanese-parliament-fails-to-elect-a-new-president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11081-lebanese-parliament-fails-to-elect-a-new-president Dr Samir GeageaThe Lebanese Parliament failed on Wednesday to elect a new president to succeed the current president, Michel Sleiman, whose term ends on 25 May. The first round of voting was held under the auspices of Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri and in the presence of 124 out of the 128 members who form the current Lebanese parliament.

During the first round of voting, a candidate needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority in order to win the presidency and according to the unwritten pact agreed in 1943, he or she must always be a Maronite Christian.

The first round saw Dr Samir Geagea, who heads the Lebanese Forces Party and is the candidate for the 14 March coalition, win 48 votes. MP Henry Helou, who is the candidate of the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, won 16 votes. The Kataeb Party head Amin Gemayel won only one vote.

52 MPs cast blank ballots, in addition to seven void ballots.

After announcing the results, Berri said that the next session for electing the president would be held on Wednesday.

According to the Lebanese constitution, during the second round of voting a candidate only needs 51 per cent, or 65 votes, to win the presidency.

Source: alamatonline.net

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:11:55 +0000
Qatari Foreign Minister: Doha ended Gulf dispute https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11080-qatari-foreign-minister-doha-ended-gulf-dispute https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11080-qatari-foreign-minister-doha-ended-gulf-dispute Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-AttiyahQatar has resolved its differences with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE and it is up to its fellow Gulf countries to send their ambassadors back to Doha, Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said yesterday.

The resolution came during a meeting in Riyadh on April 17, Al-Attiyah told reporters following a Kuwaiti-Qatari Joint Higher Committee meeting.

Al-Attiyah praised Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah who worked to resolve the differences of opinion and reach the understandings that "are not considered concessions by any party".

Remarking on the Qatari evaluation of the situation in Egypt and future relations, the minister said that "Qatar emphasised its commitment to achieving stability and prosperity in Egypt during the last Arab League summit in Kuwait. I cannot evaluate the situation, but all I wish for is to see Egypt prosper on all levels."

In response to a question about his country's future relations with Egypt in case presidential candidate Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi wins the elections, Al-Attiyah said his country will continue to support the choice of the Egyptian people.

Al-Attiyah remarked on a proposal to form a union between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries saying: "Qatar is committed to any proposal that brings the GCC countries together and strengthen their ties."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:10:00 +0000
Abbas defends reconciliation agreement with Hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11079-abbas-defends-reconciliation-agreement-with-hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11079-abbas-defends-reconciliation-agreement-with-hamas Benjamin NetanyahuThe Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defended the reconciliation agreement signed with Hamas saying the agreement does not contradict peace talks with Israel.

The agreement drew sharp criticism from Israeli officials who said the move reveals the Palestinians' lack of desire to achieve peace.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Abbas as saying: "The Palestinian people's interest to preserve the unity of their land and people will contribute to strengthening and promoting the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem."

Abbas pointed out that such a move backed by international and Arab bodies will enhance the Palestinian negotiators' ability to complete the two-state solution. This, he said, is fully consistent with the Arab peace initiative and the accords of Mecca, Doha and Cairo as well as with international legitimacy and the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 2012 to recognise the State of Palestine as a an observer state based on the 1967 borders.

The president noted that there is no contradiction between signing the Palestinian reconciliation agreement and the peace negotiations with Israel saying "we are committed to establishing a just peace based on the two-state solution in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy".

In response to the agreement Israel's prime minister's office announced its decision to cancel the Israeli negotiating session, scheduled for today, between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams under the auspices of the US envoy Martin Indyk in Jerusalem.

Several Israeli officials have sharply criticised the reconciliation agreement including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said Abbas should choose between peace with Israel or with Hamas.

Netanyahu told reporters during his meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz: "Does he [Abbas] want peace with Hamas or with Israel? Abbas cannot make peace with Hamas and with Israel. I hope he chooses peace which has not done until now."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the agreement saying: "You cannot make peace with Israel and also with Hamas - the terrorist organisation that calls to eliminate Israel."

Lieberman said: "Signing a unity government agreement of Fatah and Hamas means signing the end of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."

Meanwhile, Israel's Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett said: "Hamas will continue to kill Jews and Abu Mazen [Abbas] will continue to demand the liberalisation of the murderers. Those who believe that Abu Mazen is a partner should reconsider their positions."

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said that what happened today is "uniting forces between Abu Mazen and Hamas. The common denominator between them is hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. This is a slap in the face of the United States and its Secretary of State. Abu Mazen said no to peace, no to real negotiations."

Source: Arabs48

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:07:03 +0000
Israeli newspaper: France withholds funds to settler association in Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/11078-israeli-newspaper-france-withholds-funds-to-settler-association-in-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/11078-israeli-newspaper-france-withholds-funds-to-settler-association-in-jerusalem Benjamin Netanyahu with French MP Meyer HabibThe Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday that the French government has halted the transfer of donations worth €3,000 to an Israeli association operating in the Gilo settlement in occupied Jerusalem.

According to the newspaper, French parliamentarian Meyer Habib, who was elected to a seat representing French citizens living in several foreign countries, including Israel, said that he had previously received permission from the French government to support the Israeli association; therefore, he was surprised at the latest decision to prevent the transfer of funds on the grounds that the association in Gilo is located beyond the 1967 borders.

In December, Habib reportedly received an approval to make a financial contribution to the Daat Menachem association that supports French-Israeli students studying in Jerusalem.

In a letter that he sent to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Habib described the French decision to withhold the transfer as "shocking" and "unfair", saying that it "works to ostracize residents of Jerusalem and Gilo in particular," failing to acknowledge that the settlement is actually illegal under international law.

He added, "Everybody knows that no matter what agreement is reached [with the Palestinians], the neighbourhood of Gilo will remain a part of the State of Israel."

Source: Safa

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:02:39 +0000
US: Egypt qualifies for military support to protect US and Israeli interests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11077-us-egypt-qualifies-for-military-support-to-protect-us-and-israeli-interests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11077-us-egypt-qualifies-for-military-support-to-protect-us-and-israeli-interests US Apache HelicoptersEgypt has proven its support for US and Israeli interests in the Middle East so it is qualified to receive US military support, American media reported the US administration as saying on Tuesday.

Spokeswoman of the US Department of State Jen Psaki said that the Secretary of State John Kerry told his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmi about the decision in a telephone call. He said the Egyptian government had "sustaining its strategic relationship with the United States and fulfilling its obligations to Israel".

Media reports noted that the decision had cleared the way for the delivery of 10 Apache attack helicopters.

The Washington Post described this incident saying: "The Pentagon is backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the country's military coup and its violent aftermath." It added that Washington carried out this move despite being unable to meet congressional criteria for the full resumption of aid to Egypt.

The Pentagon said that the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel informed his Egyptian counterpart Colonel General Sedki Sobhi of President Barack Obama's decision to deliver the Apache helicopters in support of Egypt's counterterrorism operations in Sinai.

"The secretary noted that we believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian and Israeli security," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

"This is one element of the president's broader efforts to work with partners across the region to build their capacity to counter terrorist threats and is in the United States' national security interest," Kirby added.

Chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign aid Kay Granger said, in a statement on Tuesday, that she was encouraged by the decision to deliver the helicopters, saying it was a critical time to support Egypt as it moves towards elections and deals with security challenges.

"As Egypt continues its transition towards a new democratic government," Granger said, "the United States must work with the government of Egypt and support the Egyptian people."

Fox news said that this move allows the US to release some of its annual $1.3 billion military assistance package to Egypt which was frozen last summer.

Israeli Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that Egypt is to sign a deal with Russia to buy 24 advanced MiG-35 fighter jets. Channel 2 cited official sources in Moscow and Cairo. The deal to purchase the aircrafts is worth $3 billion.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:59:08 +0000
UN calls for investigation into Syria chemical attack https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11076-un-calls-for-investigation-into-syria-chemical-attack https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11076-un-calls-for-investigation-into-syria-chemical-attack Bashar Al-JaafariThe United Nations Security Council yesterday called for an investigation into reports that chlorine gas was used to bomb Syrian towns, leaving many dead and wounded.

Nigeria's Ambassador to the UN U. Joy Ogwu, president of the Security Council for April, told reporters that the allegations were raised during a closed-door council meeting and supported by video recordings introduced by the head of the mission charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag.

Ogwu said the council members called for an investigation into the alleged attack but did not discuss who must carry it out.

She proposed handling the task to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which Syria joined last year.

The Syrian UN envoy, Bashar Jaafari denied allegations that the regime's army used chlorine gas to carry out attacks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the UN Security Council to take action against violations of international law in Syria.

The UN chief said in a report to the Council that "neither opposition forces nor the regime comply with UN demands regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid." He demanded greater freedom of movement for humanitarian aid in Syria. "It is a shame that 250,000 Syrians are living under siege today," he said.

The Secretary-General said the council should take action to deal with these flagrant violations of the fundamental principles of international law and noted that 3.5 million Syrian civilians are now deprived of humanitarian assistance and die every day as violence and extremism continue to rise.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:57:33 +0000
Ghadames: Libya's Saharan Secret https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/11075-ghadames-libyas-saharan-secret https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/11075-ghadames-libyas-saharan-secret Adela SulimanGhadames, an oasis town in the heart of the Sahara desert is on the edge of Libya, close to both the Algerian and Tunisian borders. It is an extremely special place and a source of pride for many Libyans, having been dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

The predominant reason for this recognition is the unique "old town." A labyrinth of interconnected rooftops and narrow dark tunnels, contrasting the brilliant white-washed walls which make the old town an architectural spectacle.

Local guide Mohammed tells me, "growing up in the old town as a child you quickly have to commit to memory the numerous tunnels and passages, determining which are true and which are dead ends. It stimulates a healthy memory!" 50 years on, Mohammed can still navigate the old town maze by heart as I blunder around behind him, barely able to see my hand in front of me. The stark contrast of dark and light, as well as the bright white buildings play tricks on the eyes and it's easy to become quickly bedazzled by this unique walled town.

Moving into one of the traditional dwellings, one is immediately hit with a burst of colour which starkly contrasts the white outer walls. Traditional Ghadamesy colours are utilised, predominantly red with complimentary yellow, green and orange. Some front doors are also decorated with these colours to denote that its inhabitants have undertaken the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Each of the rooms within the uniform 4 story houses has a designated purpose, whether it's wheat storage or rooms for washing the dead before burial. The high roofs and light colours make the houses intensely cool as a relief to the outside Saharan heat. As light is rare within the old town, mirrors are strategically hung on the walls throughout the houses to cleverly reflect light into each room. As one moves up the house to the rooftop you are greeted by a silent city. The roofs of all of the houses in the old town are connected by narrow walkways. Traditionally only women could roam the rooftops, acting as lookouts for Saharan caravans and news as well as being the primary location for them to socialise with one another.

The people of Ghadames are largely Amazigh Berbers and the old town of Ghadames has been inhabited since Roman times. The last family voluntarily withdrew from the old town in the late 1990s, due to a lack of water and electricity. The old town now stands as a monument to what was a feat of architectural engineering for a Saharan oasis town.

The new town, although very different, has its own charm. Unlike the capital, Tripoli, it has a distinct lack of high-rise buildings. Instead, a large central mosque dominates the skyline and a few bustling shopping thoroughfares bring the small community together. The new buildings are, however, in line with the old town style subtly mimicking the triangular rooftop motifs.

At the weekends there is a mass exodus of locals from the town into the Sahara desert. The majestic sand dunes stand like soft mountains as 4x4's expertly glide through them. Amongst the dune bashing youngsters, families and children can be observed picnicking and catching up with friends as the heat of the desert sun wanes.

Another short journey into the eastern desert leads you to the "Ayn Dubaan" or "Flies Eyes" lakes. Two huge naturally occurring lakes sit side-by-side and can be vividly seen when flying over Ghadames. One of the lakes is now fairly shallow but the other is still very deep and locals often venture out there to cool off. The sight of the two lakes is no doubt enough to make any Saharan trekker believe themselves to be perceiving a mirage.

Whilst watching the sunset in the desert, my friends and I were witness to the traditional baking of bread underneath the heat of the sand, to be enjoyed with sweet mint tea. As we sipped our drinks a local wistfully told me, "I remember when tourists from all corners of the earth used to come here. It was wonderful." Ghadames has always been a thoroughfare for travellers, be it trans-Saharan trade caravans to modern day backpackers. She is right, there is something in the air here which puts the intrepid explorer at ease. As a single, female in Libya travel is not always a pleasure, but here, breathing in the Saharan air, my friends and I feel extremely comfortable. There is a distinct absence of fireworks, shooting echoes, litter or cars hooting. The town is peaceful and as we meander around the streets, we are greeted with shy smiles from locals.

Ghadames feels as though it's a million miles away from the capital. Its inhabitants participated in the revolution that led to the downfall of Mu'ammar Ghadaffi in 2011 and remnants of unfinished business still remain. The most poignant of which is the ongoing tension with the semi-nomadic Tuareg. The Tuareg were viewed by locals as siding with Gaddaffi forces during the revolution. In return the Tuareg feel discriminated against and collectively punished for the actions of a few. Tensions remain high and a trip to Ghadames cannot be blind to this serious ongoing issue. The Tuareg who fled Ghadames during the revolution are now effectively treated as internally displaced people within Libya. The large Awal Valley camp just 60km from Ghadames has housed them for the last 3 years. Although talks have been initiated by the central government to resolve the dispute and encourage reconciliation, progress remains slow.

Normally a tourist town sends "bona-fide" travellers in the other direction, in search of paths less trodden. But in Ghadames where so much of their life blood relies on a prospering tourism sector and to an extent, on the good PR of the wider country, I can't help but hope that the pretty postcards that are gathering dust in the local supermarket get sold.

The author is a British-Sudanese lawyer and journalist. She has been based in Tripoli, Libya since 2012. Follow her on Twitter

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Adela Suliman) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:55:24 +0000
Egyptian children - so young yet locked-up as 'terrorists' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/11074-egyptian-children-so-young-yet-locked-up-as-terrorists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/11074-egyptian-children-so-young-yet-locked-up-as-terrorists PrisonersVery young children have been put in prison in Egypt; their rights granted by international conventions have been lost since the coup last year. You can see the marks of torture on their bodies, while the mental scars are embedded deep in their psyche, like the books they used to read about freedom and a positive future.

Kareem's story is told by his mother from Alzohoor Prosecution Centre in Port Said governorate; she was there to attend the 14 year-old's hearing: "At exactly two and a half hours after midnight, a huge force of masked policemen attacked the house and destroyed all our belongings," she told Alarabi Aljadid. "I was surprised to see that they were asking about my child, Kareem, and they interrogated him for an entire hour at the house regarding events and demonstrations with which he had no link. He said that he had no information about such things so they abducted him and took him to the police station."

When she went to the police station later that night, Kareem's mother saw torture marks on his body including, she claims, those inflicted by electric shocks. She cried when she recounted the details of her son's treatment at the hands of the Egyptian authorities.

"I asked the prosecutor to let him go because the end of year exams were in two weeks. Kareem is taking part in an American University scholarship, and if he is absent he'll be expelled, but the prosecutor did not care about any of that at all."

Kareem was not the first member of his family to be abducted by the security forces; his father was arrested on September 15 last year in a similar operation. Kareem's mother told the police, "You've arrested his father and tortured him, so what do you want from his 8th grade son now?"

In the city of Al-Mansoura, Abdulla, or "Boody" as the family likes to call him, is also 14 years-old. He was arrested in the street during an anti-coup demonstration. He is in the tenth grade and was heading for a 3pm tutorial on January 8th when he was detained by the police. His brother Dia'a was told by his classmates that he had been taken to the police station.

"When we went there," said Dia'a, "we were surprised to find out that a statement was made and he was accused of a number of crimes that no one could believe a child could commit, such as burning a police car, the attempted murder of a security officer, inciting riots and terrorising pedestrians in the street." The prosecutors decided to hold Abdulla for a minimum of 15 days.

Dia'a is surprised at the state of the Egyptian judiciary system. "My brother's detention order was renewed twice, for another 15 days each time, but what hurts us the most are the torture marks on his body." He has called on human rights organisations, especially those concerned with children's rights, to intervene for his brother's release along with 5 other children arrested at the same time; one of them is younger than Abdulla and they are all being held in Dkrans public prison in Al-Dhaklia. "The final exams are coming and we hope that everyone will help to save the future of these children who are imprisoned unjustly in violation of all norms and constitutional rights."

Mostafa Jamal Ahmad, an eleventh grade student at Al-Huda Al-Nour Secondary School in Al-Mansoura, is 15 years-old. His mother says that he was arrested when he was going to a tutorial on the 20th January; a group of "thugs" kidnapped and assaulted him and injured his head seriously before handing him over to the police. Officers were trying to prevent anti-coup demonstrations on that day.

Mostafa was taken to Al-Mansoura police station; he was given no treatment for the wound to his head. Instead, the police officers, it is alleged by his mother, "assaulted him with a huge wooden stick before putting him in a detention cell in the station".

After checking the police report which was used to detain Mostafa for more than three months, we found that he was accused of taking part in a demonstration and owning a t-shirt that had the words "Ultras Nahdawi" on it.

Mostafa's mother speaks with great sadness about the miserable conditions where her son is being kept: ''He is in a room of about 5 square metres along with 34 other children. The room is dark and there is no natural light. Many of the children have developed infectious skin ailments which spread amongst them."

She is distraught that while her son is locked up many symbols of corruption from the Hosni Mubarak era are released from prison. "The future of my son and the other children is so uncertain now," she complains. "They are not guilty of any crime but are being held in prison even though exam time is fast-approaching." She added that they have asked the public prosecutor to let the children take their exams so that they won't lose the whole academic year but they have virtually given up on any hope that they will be released in time for the end-of-year tests.

Mohamed Walid's family home is in Al-Giza governorate, around several kilometres from the capital, Cairo; he is a freshman at commerce college, just 17 years-old. He was arrested while he was returning from a demonstration against the military coup on 8th January at the seven buildings area in Heliopolis as he was getting on a bus. At the police station he too was assaulted by officers before he was charged with belonging to a "terrorist group" and robbery. According to his father, Walid Abu Alsuud, he was unable to take two exams in his first semester because of his arrest. His son, he insists, is innocent of the charges against him.

An association of the families of detainees in Port Said governorate issued a statement recently condemning the actions of the police officers, headed by Chief of Police at Alzohoor police station, Mohamed Suliman. The accusations against Suliman include the abduction of three students from a minibus in front of a local mosque. Mohamed Almasri, Mohamed Abdo Garbo'a and Ma'ath Hesham Algayar, said the association, were all assaulted repeatedly inside the police station, which is a centre for national security officials in the area. There, it is claimed, "the most brutal forms of torture" were used against them, including electric shocks for 16 hours. At least 40 children aged 16 or under have been tortured in the station.

The director of the Egyptian centre for Human Rights, Hani Helal, listed the crimes against children in Egypt, all of which are illegal. This, he claims, is because the prosecutors have a long list of charges which they apply, regardless of the age of the detainee and without any proper investigation. "The law is clear in that it prohibits criminal charges against children younger than 15," insisted Helal, "and yet there are hundreds of children within this age group who have a list of felony charges against them."

The general prosecution is doing "unbelievable" things, he pointed it. "Even when a child is innocent and being released, the prosecution moves quickly to appeal and stop the release taking place. This is never done with hardened criminals, never mind children." Some children are released on bail, he added, but there is no provision for bail conditions for children, so such moves are against the law.

"The only place in Egypt which is equipped to receive children is the juvenile detention centre in Almarg area in Cairo,"said Helal. "The disaster is that the capacity of this institute is 70 inmates but it now has 1,225 children crammed in there, so the Ministry of the Interior is holding some of the children alongside adult criminals, which is also a violation of the law." The human rights worker noted that the Cairo governorate alone has 500 children detained for political reasons.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ayman Almasri) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:58:14 +0000
Morsi's lawyer: trial deadline and verdicts already determined by coup leaders https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11073-morsis-lawyer-trial-deadline-and-verdicts-already-determined-by-coup-leaders https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11073-morsis-lawyer-trial-deadline-and-verdicts-already-determined-by-coup-leaders Mohamed Al DamatyOn the sixth session of the "Jailbreaks" trial, ousted president Mohamed Morsi reiterated that the "coup will fail" and that "the coup authorities have turned against the judiciary itself."

Morsi along with 130 defendants are standing trial on charges of "jailbreaks" during the January 25 revolution that brought down Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak.

The trial was held at the Police Academy in New Cairo.

Morsi's lawyer Mohamed Al Damaty complained during the session that the defendants and their defence are "exhausted" due to the speedy trials, and that "a third party" is responsible for that. He requested adjourning the trial to a specified date due to their "severe exhaustion".

Damaty claimed that the speedy nature of the trials is intentional and aimed at issuing verdicts at a specified deadline determined by the coup leaders.

According to Anadolu news agency, the defendants flashed the Rabaa signs and chanted "down with military rule" while entering court.

Essam El-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and defendant in the case, asked to leave court for a surgery he had to undergo. The judge replied that the prison hospital is the one which should make that decision.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:52:35 +0000
Jailed Al-Jazeera journalist: I hope to be released by my birthday https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11072-jailed-al-jazeera-journalist-i-hope-to-be-released-by-my-birthday https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11072-jailed-al-jazeera-journalist-i-hope-to-be-released-by-my-birthday #FreeAJStaffAbdullah AlShamy, one of the jailed Al-Jazeera reporters, wrote from his prison that he wishes to be reunited with family by his birthday on the 5th of May.

Alshamy is entering the 95th day of his hunger strike, and the 260th day of detention.

In his letter, Alshamy shed light on his life in prison, saying that he spends most of his time in his cell or with some fellow prisoners.

Alshamy said that prison life is no different from life outside in Egypt where injustice prevails. The prison authorities discriminate between criminal and political prisoners, he said. "There is no equality in treating prisoners," he pointed out.

However, "there is equality in one thing: injustice" he said.

"I am persistent by nature, and I insist to achieve my goals. I will continue to be so until I gain my freedom," Alshamy said.

He added that sometimes prison officials show sympathy towards him and try to convince him that they are not responsible for his fate.

"I am neither a number in your records, nor a fabricated story you publish to conceal truth... I have a will... and I will overcome the obstacles," he stressed.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:46:09 +0000
Erdogan says to announce presidency bid in May https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/11071-erdogan-says-to-announce-presidency-bid-in-may https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/11071-erdogan-says-to-announce-presidency-bid-in-may Tayyip ErdoganTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan said that a presidential system in Turkey would be more efficient than a parliamentary one.

Following a special parliamentary session held Wednesday on the anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Parliament, Erdogan told reporters that he is scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gul on Thursday evening to discuss the upcoming presidential elections.

Regarding his potential presidency bid, Erdogan said it will be announced in May.

"I have always believed that Turkey should have a presidential system. If you look at developed countries, you will find that they all transitioned to either a presidential or semi-presidential system," Erdogan said.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:36:20 +0000
Egypt presidential candidate Sabbahi criticises raising prices of household gas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11070-egypt-presidential-candidate-sabbahi-criticises-raising-prices-of-household-gas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/11070-egypt-presidential-candidate-sabbahi-criticises-raising-prices-of-household-gas Hamdeen SabahiEgyptian leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi lashed out at the latest court decision to raise household gas prices, dismissing it as unjust towards the poor.

On his Twitter account, Sabahi said that the solution lies in the abolition of subsidy to the rich.

He pointed out that the decision is "a continuation of placing burden of past corrupt policies and social injustice on the poor."

According to his spokesperson, Sabahi will announce a statement via Egyptian television within days. The statement will include his vision and the highlights of his presidential platform.

Al-Dustour party representatives have met with the Sabahi campaign and announced their support. According to Dustour Party spokesman Khalid Dawoud, the meeting with Sabahi's campaign "led to positive results regarding joint work and coordination between committees."

The spokesman of Al-Sisi for President Campaign said in press statements that Sabahi campaign received "strict instructions" to abide by "a code of electoral ethics" by not issuing any insulting statements against Al-Sisi.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:33:35 +0000
Palestinian Authority accuses Egyptian businessman of seizing $1.4 billion in funds https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11069-palestinian-authority-accuses-egyptian-businessman-of-seizing-14-billion-in-funds https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/11069-palestinian-authority-accuses-egyptian-businessman-of-seizing-14-billion-in-funds Naguib SawirisThe head of the anti-corruption agency at the Palestinian Authority Rafik Al-Natsha demanded Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris to reveal the destiny of $1.4 billion he seized from the Palestinian Investment Fund.

In a press conference Wednesday, Al-Natsha said "Sawiris should inform the Palestinian Authority about the entity to which he transferred $1.4 billion due to the PA's, since we have not received this money yet."

Sawiris said in a recent interview that the Palestinian Investment Fund invested with him $240 million in cash, and that the amount increased after two and a half years to $4.1 billion.

"If what he said was true, where did he deliver that amount?" Al-Natsha asked.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:30:19 +0000
US 'disappointed' by Fatah-Hamas reconciliation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11068-us-disappointed-by-fatah-hamas-reconciliation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/11068-us-disappointed-by-fatah-hamas-reconciliation Jennifer PsakiSpokesperson of the US Department of State Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the Obama administration is "disappointed" by the reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions.

Speaking shortly after Israel cancelled its latest meeting with the Palestinians in the effort to save the faltering peace talks, Psaki told reporters that news of the political reconciliation was "disappointing in terms of the content as well as the timing".

She suggested that the pact could "certainly complicate" the peace process, because: "It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to sit down and negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist."

Hamas refuses to normalise the occupation of Palestine by recognising the Israeli government. The peace talks, which resumed last summer under US auspices, stalled after Israel balked at releasing Palestinian prisoners while continuing to expand illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Fatah and Hamas announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have agreed on a reconciliation pact, including the formation of a national unity government within five weeks.

The reconciliation pact was revealed during a press conference held by Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh and the head of Fatah's parliamentary bloc, Azzam Al-Ahmad. A numbers of Palestinian faction leaders also attended the event.

According to the press statement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) along with Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are to start discussions on the formation of a national unity government immediately, based on the previous Doha and Cairo agreements.

The statement also reiterated that elections for the legislative council, PA presidency and the Palestinian National Council must be held simultaneously and in coordination with other national factions. The elections are to take place six months after the unity government is formed.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:27:32 +0000