Criticism of US Mideast plan softened in UN draft resolution

AFP , Sunday 9 Feb 2020

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gestures as he delivers a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the announcement by US President Donald Trump of the Mideast peace plan, January 28, 2020 AFP

A reworked Palestinian resolution has dropped its initial condemnation of President Donald Trump's Mideast peace plan, opting for less confrontational language ahead of a UN Security Council vote, a copy obtained by AFP shows.

The latest draft also no longer mentions the United States by name as the plan's author, and couches its criticism in milder language than in the original.

The changes come as diplomatic pressure mounts ahead of Tuesday's Security Council vote, which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is expected to be on hand for.

In one sign of the pressure, Tunisia earlier in the week abruptly fired its ambassador to the United Nations, Moncef Baati, citing his failure to consult with his foreign ministry on matters said to include the peace plan.

Diplomatic sources said Tunisia's President Kais Saied was worried that Baati's expressions of support for the Palestinians would damage Tunis' relations with the United States.

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, briefed the Security Council on the US plan on Thursday.

The plan would put the Palestinian capital in a suburb of Jerusalem rather than East Jerusalem, and allow Israel to annex more than 130 Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as well as the Jordan Valley.

It has been roundly rejected by the Palestinians, the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organization. On Sunday, the African Union followed suit, with its chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat telling a summit of African leaders in Addis Ababa that it "trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people."

The initial draft of the Palestinian resolution, which was presented by Tunisia and Indonesia last Tuesday, charged that the US plan "breaches international law and the internationally-endorsed terms of reference for the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The latest version says the US initiative "departs from the internationally-endorsed terms of reference and parameters for the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to this conflict, as enshrined in the relevant United Nations resolutions."

The draft no longer calls for an international conference on the Middle East "at the earliest possible date," instead replacing that language with a reminder that such a call was made in a 2008 UN resolution.

It also adds a line "condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction."

Despite the softer tone, however, it was unclear if the latest version would be enough to avoid a US veto when it comes to a vote on Tuesday.

It still condemns Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and reaffirms the need to preserve the boundary lines from 1967.

Abbas is scheduled to hold a news conference in New York with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Ohlmert after the vote, according a statement from the Palestinian mission to the UN.

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