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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 March 2019

Palestinian foreign minister mocks progress of Jared Kushner's peace plan

Jared Kushner? Never heard of him, says Riyad Al Maliki as he says Palestinian officials have no idea about the details of the peace plan

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed greets Riyad Al Maliki, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the OIC Ministerial Meeting. March 1, 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The National
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed greets Riyad Al Maliki, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the OIC Ministerial Meeting. March 1, 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The National

Palestinian officials still “have no idea” about the proposed peace plan the US says it will roll out in the coming months with the aim of resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the country’s foreign minister told The National on Friday.

“I don’t know anything about it, I have no idea, no-one has said anything about it to me,” Riyad Al Maliki told The National on the sidelines of the 46th Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation conference in Abu Dhabi.

US President Donald Trump promised to strike “the ultimate deal” to end the bitter and protracted struggle over land, but details of the plan worked on over the past two years have yet to be made public.

“I’m not really interested to hear about their deal,” Mr Al Maliki said.

He then took aim at Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who this week embarked on a regional tour that included the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to build support for Washington’s plan.

But Mr Al Maliki, in a swipe at the US official, said he is unaware of who he is.

“Who is Jared Kushner? I don’t know him, I have never heard of him,” he said.

“This is a name that I don’t care about”.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to the Trump administration since Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017 and relocated the American embassy to the city five months later — a move in direct violation of UN law and the 1967 borders Arab states consider the bare minimum when discussing Palestinian statehood. It drew condemnation across the Arab world and internationally.

The Trump administration has since dealt a series of blows to the Palestinian Authority, including cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and funding for hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem that serve sick Palestinians.

Mr Al Maliki welcomed a UN-backed independent panel report released on Thursday that said it had "reasonable grounds" to believe Israeli soldiers shot at journalists, health workers and children during protests in Gaza in 2018 and may have committed war crimes.

“The international community and the UN Security Council must take on this matter seriously,” he said. “Israel should not be treated above the law and there needs to be certain accountability to what Israel does.”

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Kushner: We've been working hard on the peace initiative for two years now

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The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry into the protests said it conducted 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and sources, gathered more than 8,000 documents, and examined social media and drone footage.

“According to the report Israel is committing crimes against the Palestinian people. These crimes often amount to crimes against humanity and that’s why we should take them seriously,” Mr Al Maliki said.

The Palestinian minister called on members of the OIC to ensure their full political and economic support towards the Palestinian cause especially as tensions with Israel have heightened during the last few weeks over contested religious areas in Jerusalem, such as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

“The OIC was created to support the Palestinian cause and to protect Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Mosque, lately the mosque has been violated by the settlers and no-one is doing anything about it,” Mr Al Maliki said.

Last month, clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinians over a contested religious site of Bab Al Rahma, a large structure at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israeli police last week arrested and later released a senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdel Azeem Salhab, two days after he re-opened the mosque sealed by Israel during a Palestinian uprising in 2003.

Mr Al Maliki called on the OIC to take full responsibility on how to deal with this issue.

“They must present their full political, economic and financial support. And we are here to remind the international community about the origin of this organisation and how it was established purely for the Palestinian cause,” Mr Al Maliki said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and annexed it in a move not recognised internationally. It also occupied the West Bank. Israel has steadily built a network of settlements across both territories, an enterprise deemed illegal under international law.

The United Nations as well as Arab states regard East Jerusalem as occupied, and the city’s status as disputed until it is resolved in bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Updated: March 2, 2019 08:52 AM

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