Fired PA envoy: Palestinians 'deserve a better leadership'

Afif Safieh's criticism of Palestinian leadership to Abbas is unprecedented for a senior diplomat still in office.

Abbas worried sad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas worried sad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinians deserve a better leadership and they don't have the type of opposition that they need, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Russia, Afif Safieh, wrote over the weekend in a letter to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Safieh's remarks came in response to Abbas's surprise decision to fire him from his job. Safieh's criticism of the PA leadership is unprecedented for a senior Palestinian diplomat who is still in office. Just last week Safieh, who is due to leave his post at the end of the month, attended a meeting between Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during the PA president's visit to Moscow. The PA said the decision to fire Safieh was taken at the request of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which was allegedly unhappy with Safieh's presence in Moscow. However, Safieh, a veteran diplomat who once served as PA ambassador to Washington, said the decision to dismiss him was taken by Abbas on the basis of false accusations made by some of his aides at the PA embassy staff in Moscow. The aides, Safieh added, reported to Abbas's office in Ramallah that the ambassador had recently attended a "pro-Hamas" rally in Russia that was organized by Iranian political groups. The aides also accused Safieh of spending much of his time at theaters, cultural events and social parties instead of defending the interests of the Palestinian community. In his letter to Abbas, Safieh admitted that he had participated in an event that was organized by the Iranian embassy in Moscow in solidarity with the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and not in support of Hamas. "I was invited by the Coordinating Committee for Supporting Gaza to the inauguration of a photo exhibition documenting the civilian casualties of the last war [in the Gaza Strip]," the ambassador said. "The event was attended by the Iranian ambassador and a number of Arab ambassadors." Safieh said that during a speech that he delivered at the ceremony, he warned against the serious repercussions of failing to achieve Palestinian unity. "I said that the Palestinians deserve a better leadership and that the Palestinians also don't have the type of opposition they need," he explained in his letter to Abbas. "I have been saying the same thing since the mid-90's. I even said this to Yasser Arafat and he found it to be justified criticism." In response to the charges that he had been spending much of his time at cultural events and parties, Safieh wrote in his letter: "You have been told that I came to Moscow just to go to theaters and museums. I used to report to work every day at 9:30 a.m. and would stay in the office at least until 5 p.m. As you know, Mr. President, Moscow is the cultural capital of Russia and is always buzzing with life. You have accused me of loving music and art. To this I say, 'Yes, I'm guilty, guilty and guilty.'"