Trump’s Mideast team to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia to push Palestine-Israel peace plan

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, above, and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt would travel to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Trump’s Mideast team to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia to push Palestine-Israel peace plan

WASHINGTON: The White House says President Donald Trump’s Mideast negotiating team will visit the region next week as it finalizes its as-yet unveiled Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and will hold talks on deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip. The trip comes as officials say the Trump administration is near completion of the plan with an eye on a possible release this summer.
The National Security Council said Wednesday that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt would travel to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It said they would discuss “the next stages of the peace effort” and get ideas from regional leaders about “remaining questions the White House peace team has.”
No stop in the Palestinian territories is planned, although the NSC said the itinerary may be expanded. However, the prospect of Palestinian interest in the peace proposal appears dim. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014, and Palestinian leaders have been boycotting high-level talks with US officials for months, complaining that the Trump is biased toward Israel.
US officials had said in late May that the administration was aiming to release the peace plan shortly after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends later this week. However, that timeline appears to have been pushed back to at least August, the same officials said Wednesday.
The Kushner, Greenblatt trip comes at a particularly fraught time in US-Palestinian relations, which have plummeted since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
On Sunday, Greenblatt lashed out at the Palestinians’ veteran chief negotiator, saying his “false claims” and angry rhetoric haven’t brought peace closer. The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, had earlier accused American officials of acting as “spokespeople” for Israel and criticized the US for moving the embassy.
In an op-ed published in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Greenblatt wrote that Erekat’s claims “were in many respects simply inaccurate” and suggested it was time for him to step down.
“Dr. Erekat — we have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement. Other Palestinian perspectives might help us finally achieve a comprehensive peace agreement where Palestinian and Israeli lives can be better,” Greenblatt wrote.


Assad pledges to regain control of northern Syria by force if needed

Updated 24 June 2018
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Assad pledges to regain control of northern Syria by force if needed

  • Damascus said it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij
  • “We will fight with them (rebels) and return control by force," said Assad

MOSCOW: The Syrian army will regain control of the country’s north by force if rebels there refuse to surrender, President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian television channel NTV on Sunday.
Assad’s comments come after Damascus said it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij, a day after soldiers of the two countries began patrolling the area.
“We have chosen two paths: the first and most important one is reconciliation... The second path is to attack terrorists if they don’t surrender and refuse to make peace,” Assad said in the interview.
“We will fight with them (rebels) and return control by force. It is certainly not the best option for us, but it’s the only way to get control of the country,” said Assad, responding to a question about the northern part of Syria where rebel groups backed by Turkey hold some territory.
Assad has previously promised to also squeeze rebels from the country’s south, and the Syrian army this week dropped barrel bombs on opposition areas of the country’s southwest on Friday for the first time in a year.
Assad said in the same interview on Sunday that Syria would not accept any Western money to help rebuild the country, which is shattered after seven years of war.
“We have enough strength to rebuild the country. If we don’t have money — we will borrow from our friends, from Syrians living abroad,” Assad said.