Middle East Insider, October 13, 2020

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister endorsed Joe Biden in remarks before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee

Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister endorsed Joe Biden for President in remarks, delivered remotely, before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Monday: “The election is very important. God help us, the EU, and the whole world if there are four more years of Trump.” Shtayyeh asked the EU to recognize Palestine and pressure Israel to accept the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Unanimously accepted by Arab League members at the 2002 Beirut Summit, the Arab Peace Initiative called for Arab states to normalize relations with Israel if it withdrew from all territory captured in the 1967 war, negotiated a “just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees,” and accepted the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. Reactions to Shtayyeh’s speech by committee members ranged from Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers accusing the PA of funneling EU funds to EU-listed terror organizations to Irish MEP Mick Wallace blasting the PA for engaging in security cooperation with Israel: “You have cooperated with Israel. Have you not acted like a security force in the West Bank for Israel? Have you not ever handed Palestinians over to the Israelis?” The Palestinian premier doubled down Tuesday, repeating Monday’s comments about Trump and posting them on his Facebook page.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia failed to win a three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). General Assembly members vote by secret ballot to fill the UNHRC’s 47 seats, which are distributed among the UN’s regional groups and states may only serve two consecutive terms. The Asia-Pacific States group gets 13 seats and Tuesday’s voting was to fill four of them. China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia ran for the seats and Saudi Arabia won the fewest votes. Saudi Arabia served on the UNHRC from 2006 to 2012 and again from 2014 to 2019. Middle Eastern countries that will sit on the UNHRC in 2021 include Bahrain, Sudan, and Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. The UNHRC replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

Turkey

Two days after Turkey’s issued a maritime notice saying seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis will resume its work on Greece’s continental shelf, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus released a statement condemning the move: “The United States deplores Turkey’s October 11 announcement of renewed Turkish survey activity in areas over which Greece asserts jurisdiction… Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece.”

During a joint press conference in Ankara Tuesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde relayed to her Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, the EU’s disapproval of Turkey resuming surveying in Greek waters and keeping troops in Syria. Cavusoglu then accused Linde of telling “Turkey to withdraw from Syria to support the PKK, which wants to divide Syria.” Linde stressed that Sweden supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS, not the PKK. Ankara has a long history of conflating the SDF with the PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is on the EU’s terrorism blacklist.

Sudan

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok dismissed Tuesday Kassala state’s civilian governor Saleh Ammar to placate Beja tribesmen who have violently objected to a governor from the rival Beni Amer tribe. Hamdok appointed civilian governors for each of Sudan’s 18 states last July, but Ammar never even entered Kassala province as Beja militants blocked the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway in late July to protest his appointment. Subsequent clashes between the tribes left at least 8 dead while Beja chiefs threatened secession if Hamdok did not sack Ammar. Beni Amer greeted Tuesday’s announcement by blocking roads and burning tires.

Yemen

As fighting between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi-supported government forces continues to escalate across the country, President rejected a ceasefire proposal unveiled Monday by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths. Noting that the Houthis have violated past truces, Hadi’s government now insists the rebels must disarm and abandon territory under their control. Griffiths did not consult with the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) before unveiling his proposal and STC President Aidroos al-Zubaidi said his group is not bound by any of its provisions. Although Hadi’s government and the STC are officially allies in the war against the Houthis, they have been fighting each other intermittently since the STC seized Aden, the Hadi government’s interim capital, in August 2019.

Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum

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