Kuwait has challenged the US at the United Nations over its stance on Palestinian statehood and its declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.It has invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to address the UN Security Council at a February 20 meeting and former US president Jimmy Carter to address an informal council gathering known as an Arria Formula meeting on February 22.Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi, who holds the rotating position of Security Council president this month, announced these steps at a press conference on Thursday afternoon in New York.Abbas has confirmed his attendance but Carter has yet to accept the invitation.UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland and former UNRWA chief Karen AbuZayd are also expected to speak at the Arria Formula meeting, the third such gathering on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the last three years.Carter’s position against Israeli settlements and their presence in the West Bank is well known as is the important role he has to play in the peace process, Otaibi said.“There is an Arab movement to push forward the peace process and to oppose Israeli violations, particularly those pertaining to Jerusalem and the settlements,” Otaibi said. Abbas’s planned address to the Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East is part of that push, Otaibi said. “He [Abbas] is a man with a cause; he will come to the council and he will speak before the council.”While Abbas annually addresses the UN General Assembly, he rarely speaks to other UN bodies in New York.
At January’s Security Council meeting on the Middle East, US Ambassador Nikki Haley issued a scathing attack against Abbas for not negotiating with Israel and for refusing to meet with US officials in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.In reaction to a speech the PA leader gave in opposition to the Jerusalem decision, Haley charged that Abbas had indulged in “outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories” and that his words were not those of “a person with the courage and the will to seek peace.”OTAIBI TOLD reporters on Thursday that none of the 15 council members, which includes the US, had rejected the idea of an Abbas address to the Security Council.Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon denounced Abbas’s planned speech.“After disseminating antisemitic messages in recent speeches, Mahmoud Abbas is now seeking to put an end to any possibility of negotiations with Israel,” Danon said.“By continuing to act against the United States and seeking unilateral action against Israel, Abbas is completely misreading today’s reality and harming the prospects for a better future for his people,” Danon continued. Kuwait became one of 10 rotating Security Council members in January. It last held council membership in 1978-1979, when Carter was in office. During that time, Carter brokered the peace deal between Israel and Egypt.On Thursday, foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League met in Cairo to discuss the need to come up with a multilateral process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Since Trump’s announcement, calls have increased by the Palestinians, the Arab League and the European Union for the US not to act as the sole broker to resolve the conflict.Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters in Cairo, “We are discussing the possibility of establishing an international multilateral committee, as the previous mechanism no longer exists.”At the meeting, he urged Arab League action against the US decision on Jerusalem.“The shape and level of the Arab [countries’] response will determine the future of peace and stability, based on an end of Israeli colonization of all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, especially east Jerusalem,” he said, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.“There is no peace without Jerusalem,” Maliki said.According to Wafa, Maliki said that Trump’s Jerusalem decision had “ended the US administration’s sole sponsorship of the peace process and constituted a sharp breakdown of the credibility of the United States in terms of its role in the international community.”The Arab League ministers said they would mobilize support for a renewed Palestinian bid to become a member state at the UN, according to Wafa.Such a step would need Security Council approval and it’s expected that the US, which is one of five member states with veto power at the council, would block such a bid.THE EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has also warned the US that it could not be the sole broker for a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.“If I can put it in a headline: Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone,” Mogherini told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players,” she continued, adding that “a process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic.“Any plan that has a possibility to become a realistic road map, out of experience, cannot but be based on the Oslo Accords and the two-state perspective,” Mogherini said.Under that scenario, she said, Jerusalem would be the future capital of both states, Israel and Palestine.The EU has offered the PA a new financial assistance package of €42.5 million, which includes activities in east Jerusalem and support for state building and strengthening civil society, she said.Mogherini spoke to the media on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that included Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Maliki.The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers were also present.The forum, which deals with financial assistance to the PA, meets twice a year, even though such direct dialogue is frozen in other venues.Wednesday’s meeting was a special additional meeting to deal with the PA’s funding crisis in light of US budgetary cuts, and to focus on aid to the Gaza Strip.It is the first time the Israelis, Palestinians and Americans have met since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6.The Palestinians have refused to talk with the US since that announcement, including when Vice President Mike Pence visited the region in January.Representatives of the 15-member forum spoke to Greenblatt against the Jerusalem statement and underscored the importance of the two-state solution.In a statement from the meeting published on his Twitter page, Greenblatt reminded the forum that Trump’s approach “to peace negotiations would depart from some of the orthodoxy held by our predecessors.“President Trump believes that fresh thinking and bold decisions are needed to advance the cause of peace, and we have acted in accordance with that vision,” Greenblatt said.Jerusalem has been “the cultural and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years,” and the president has not rewritten history by recognizing this reality, he said.“The president was absolutely clear that the United States has not prejudged any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. We have not taken a position on borders,” Greenblatt said.He urged the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, stating: “Peace will not be achieved by walking away from negotiations. Peace only has a chance of success through respectful, continuous dialogue and through negotiations.”A planned meeting for Sunday in Jerusalem between Hamdallah and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been postponed due to scheduling issues.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting speaks about Abbas quitting the peace process, December 24, 2017. (Video credit: GPO)