On Monday, the leader of the Arab League expressed hope that the Biden administration will reform the policies of President Donald Trump and begin a diplomatic process to gain independence for the Palestinians, backed by regional and international parties.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the 22-member organisation, told the United Nations Security Council that a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian crisis, a nod to the United States, “has been marginalised by the principal mediator in the peace process.”
“This has encouraged the Israeli government to step up its settlement activities and to threaten to take dangerous and destructive measures, such as the annexation of occupied land,” he said.
In a broad-based briefing on the problems and disputes in the Middle East, the Arab League leader addressed the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
He also referred without name to Iran, arguing that “some regional powers interfere with the Arab region’s affairs” by adversely affecting the relation to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf to “the security of international maritime navigation routes which are a lifeline for international trade.”
It has also become clear that such intervention perpetuates and further complicates ongoing conflicts,’ he added, without directly mentioning Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Gaza Strip-controlled Hamas.
The Covid-19 pandemic and current wars and crises have created “a dangerous mix that has taken a heavy toll on the peoples of the region,” Aboul Gheit said, referring to ten years of civil war in Syria, the seventh year of Yemen’s war and “firm divisions in Libya.”
In a last-minute wave of approvals before US President Donald Trump leaves office on Wednesday and Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th US president, he spoke a day after Israeli authorities advanced proposals to build nearly 800 homes in West Bank settlements. The Israeli intervention was condemned by Palestinian officials.
As part of a potential sovereign state, the Palestinians claim much of the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the Middle East War of 1967. They claim the rising population of settlers, reaching some 500,000 inhabitants, makes realising their dream of independence more impossible.
Aboul Gheit said that in the coming months, both sides ought to make “significant efforts” to reaffirm the two-state solution.
We look forward to the rectification of policies and procedures by the current American administration that are not useful and that are engaged in a constructive diplomatic phase with the help of powerful regional and foreign groups,” he said.” “This would give the Palestinian people renewed hope that, in its noble aspiration for freedom and independence, the international community would stand by its side.”
Five countries are intervening militarily in Syria, Aboul Gheit said, and the “security situation remains tumultuous and precarious, particularly in the northwest, northeast and south.” This not only threatens the chances for a diplomatic solution, but also has similarly significant humanitarian repercussions, he said, with 90% of Syrians living in poverty.
I am persuaded that a genuine solution must start with a minimum degree of international unity that is still missing,” said Aboul Gheit, “which would enable some regional parties to minimise their presence in Syria. “Those regional parties continue to see or use Syria’s land as spoils of war to settle scores.”
In Yemen, the leader of the Arab League said, the situation “is just as dangerous, particularly the humanitarian situation,” with some Yemenis starving themselves.
He fully endorsed attempts by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to find consensus on a joint statement calling for a cease-fire and confidence-building action between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government. He said the Saudi-negotiated New Cabinet Deal “is a positive sign that fragmentation and division are coming to an end,” which “paved the way for a comprehensive solution to be negotiated.”
With regard to Libya, Aboul Gheit said that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the split in this important Arab country.”
Following the overthrow and assassination of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, oil-rich Libya was split into competing governments in its east and west, each supported by a number of militias and international powers. In October, the warring parties agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire, an arrangement that included the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries within three months and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections
Aboul Gheit recommended that the cease-fire deal be enforced, as well as that the recruiting of foreign fighters be stopped and exports of arms and military supplies to Libya be suspended.