Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

UAE and Saudi Arabia to attend Bahrain conference on Palestine

Palestinians said they would boycott the event meant to promote investment

A Palestinian man sits outside his house in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip May 21, 2019. Reuters
A Palestinian man sits outside his house in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip May 21, 2019. Reuters

The UAE and Saudi Arabia said they welcomed the coming Bahrain conference on economic development in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza led by the United States, and that both states would attend.

The June 25 to 26 "Peace to Prosperity" economic workshop was announced at the weekend but Palestinian officials said they were neither briefed about the plan nor did they plan to attend, complicating the proposal.

The Trump administration has cast the conference as an overture to its own plan for peace between the Palestinians and Israel. Palestinian officials dismissed it as an attempt to achieve a de-facto peace deal through economic means without having to address thorny political issues such as the fate of East Jerusalem or the right of return for refugees.

The UAE announced its support for the workshop and that it would send a delegation to participate, state news agency Wam said.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said in a statement that the workshop "aims to lift the Palestinian people out of misery and to enable them for a stable and prosperous future".

The statement also reiterated the UAE’s “support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital".

Saudi Arabia will send Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Al Tuwaijri, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The minister's participation in this event is a continuation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's firm positions supportive to the sisterly Palestinian people in a way that achieves their stability, growth, and good living, and achieves their hopes and aspirations and yields security, stability and prosperity for the region in general,” SPA reported.

The US is expected to release the long-delayed “deal of the century” peace plan in the coming months. Although few details are known about the proposal, experts believe that the promise of large economic development will be central. To pay for this, the White House is believed to be hoping for strong support from the Gulf.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said last week that Abu Dhabi would engage with the US on its proposal as the Emirates had done with all American peace plans over the years.

But there are concerns that the US proposal is unlikely to go anywhere as the Palestinian Authority is refusing to speak to or co-operate with the administration of President Donald Trump given his unilateral concessions to Israel.

Ramallah cut ties after Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv – ending decades of US policy that the final status of the city would be agreed through peace talks.

Mr Trump also closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and stopped funding the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees, slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza and for Palestinians displaced across the region, and cut funding to hospitals in Jerusalem that serve Palestinians.

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Saeb Erekat, said officials had not been contacted by anyone before the announcement of the conference.

Updated: May 22, 2019 12:58 PM

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