x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Support of Polisario 'aborts all solutions'

Algeria blamed for adopting a rigid attitude towards the Western Sahara conflict, instead of finding a diplomatic solution.

The London-based newspaper Al Hayat quoted the Moroccan premier, Abbas al Fassi, saying that Algeria was more interested in buying weapons for Polisario in Morocco, to Algiers's detriment. In a press conference with the French prime minister Francois Fillion in Paris, Mr al Fassi blamed the Algerians for adopting a rigid attitude towards the Western Sahara conflict, reiterating Moroccan demands to find a diplomatic solution that preserves good neighbour relations for the sake of reviving the Maghreb Arab Union. He added that such a regional forum would be impossible in the light of continuing closed borders between the two countries.

"Al Fassi accused Algiers of purchasing arms for Polisario, which seeks the independence of Western Sahara, while he expressed regret that oil and gas revenues are wasted in supporting the Front at the expense of Algeria's development and the needs of population." Mr Fillion also decried the status quo, stressing France's support of Morocco's proposal to enlarge the autonomy system in Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. He stated that this plan would help solving the Western Sahara current impasse, and his country would continue supporting any of the UN's efforts in this direction. Elsewhere, during the meeting, France and Morocco signed a number of cooperation agreements, including a protocol on the development of nuclear energy for civil use.

"That the president of the Palestinian Authority expressed his dismay over negotiations pointed to more than a psychological state or a political stance, but rather to the beginning of an end to a personal political experience ? without achieving gains to be remembered in history," wrote Satea Nourredine in a comment piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

Mr Abbas's remarks were unusual. He is not supposed to reveal his frustration in public, nor should he reveal his weaknesses during talks. "Mr Abbas must know that the most important tactic of the Israelis is to cause Palestinians to feel disinterested in the peace process, since they have failed so far to make them despair." It is true that Mr Abbas is a leader of a population under embargo, distress, and in exile, and he has no means to change the course of negotiations. But to appear bored of the whole process is like a desperate cry that may cause more humiliation to the Palestinian people as a whole. The only justification for approaching Israelis as well Americans by Mr Abbas is possibly to initiate a decision to step down from the presidency and conclude his political career.

"There is increasing evidence that Israel is seriously moving to meet the conditions set by Turkey to restore bilateral relations. Tel Aviv is aware that its interests require satisfying Ankara's demands after the deadly attack on the Freedom Flotilla," argued Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

We saw Israel, through American mediation, hold a secret meeting in Europe that suggested Israel would respond positively to the Turkish demands in order to absorb Ankara's anger and prevent the crisis from worsening further. According to news reports from Israeli and Turkish newspapers, Israel would be ready to compensate the Turkish victims' families. The compensation, wrote the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, would be accompanied by a formal public apology.

The third condition would be to launch an international investigation. Although Israel has not yet shown it willingness to succumb to this requirement, it was noticed that Tel Aviv no longer reiterates its objection to an independent inquiry after concluding its own. Finally, Israel is required to lift the embargo on Gaza. Recently it has loosened the blockade by increasing the number of lorries allowed to enter the Strip from 100 to 250 a day. In this context, an Israeli senior military official met the Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al Sheikh, to discuss the possibility of handing over the responsibility of some exit points to the Palestinian Authority.

In its lead article, the UAE newspaper Al Bayan considers the offer of the Israel to trade the soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners as a small step which does not meet the demands of the Palestinian people, who aspire to freedom. Official statistics indicate that 19,000 Palestinians have been administratively detained since 2002, while more than 7,000 are still in detention.

Overall, between 1967 and last March, Israel arrested more than 760,000 Palestinians. Many have spent more than 20 years in jail. On top of that, international reports highlight that Palestinian prisoners are badly treated and forced to live in inhuman conditions. Thousands face humiliation and are put in solitary confinement. "This frightening reality cannot be redressed by Mr Netanyahu's offer ... He should instead free all prisoners if he wants the peace process to proceed. There can be no peace without releasing all Palestinian prisoners," the article says.

For this sake, Arab countries together with the international community need to unite efforts to put pressure on Israel to meet this demand. * Digest compiled by Moustapha El Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae