PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas received the Governor General of Australia, David Hurley, and his accompanying delegation at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Wednesday, during which he briefed the delegation on the latest developments in Palestine.
After welcoming his Australian guest who is visiting Palestine for the first time, President Abbas affirmed Palestine’s aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with Australia for the benefit of the two peoples, thanking Australia for its economic and development support, including support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
The President reaffirmed the official Palestinian position rejecting any attempts to resolve the Palestinian issue away from the relevant United Nations resolutions, noting that the decisions taken by the US administration, which are biased and supportive of the Israeli occupation and contrary to international law, demand the presence of a multilateral international mechanism to sponsor any future negotiations that aim at ending the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine, with its capital East Jerusalem, on the 1967 borders, so that everyone in this region can live in security, peace and good neighbourly relations.
At the beginning of the meeting, the President extended his and the Palestinian people’s condolences to the Australian Governor-General for the victims and the big losses in the Australian forest fires.
The President briefed his guest on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and what the political process is facing due to lack of commitment by the Israeli side to the agreements signed with international sponsorship, the Israeli government’s continuation of settlement activities and the seizure of Palestinian land, and its efforts to change the character of the city of Jerusalem, which effectively undermines the two-state solution supported by the international community.
He pointed out that the international community should intervene to pressure the Israeli government to allow legislative and presidential elections to take place inside occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so that they can be held in the nearest time possible.
For his part, the Governor-General of Australia expressed his country’s support for peace and stability in the Middle East.
He pointed to Australia looking forward to enhance friendship and cooperation between the two sides in many areas of common interest in the interest of both countries.
- Israeli forces on Wednesday detained at least three Palestinians in raids across the West Bank, local sources said.
Israeli forces detained a Palestinian and ransacked several houses in a pre-dawn raid in Sebastia town, located to the north of Nablus city.
In Nablus district, Israeli soldiers manning Zaatara checkpoint, south of Nablus, detained a Palestinian as he attempted to cross the checkpoint. The man was identified as a journalist from Arraba town, south of Jenin city.
In Hebron district, director of the Ibrahimi Mosque, Hafthi Abu Sneinah, said Israeli troops manning Abu al-Reesh checkpoint in the vicinity of the holy site detained a Palestinian young man.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces assaulted a 15-year-old Palestinian child hours after his release from Israeli custody.
Director of the Association of Detainees and Ex-Detainees in Bethlehem Mohammad Hamida confirmed that soldiers manning the Container checkpoint, north east of Bethlehem, assaulted the 15-year-old minor, inflicting bruises across his body.
The minor was heading back to his family’s house following his release after serving an eight-month sentence in an Israeli detention centre.
- Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, on Wednesday expressed concern regarding Israeli plans to annex the occupied Jordan Valley, stressing that such a step would have devastating effects on the region.
‘The annexation of some, or all of Area C in the West Bank, if implemented, would deal a devastating blow to the potential of reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, advancing regional peace, and the essence of the two-state solution,’ said Mladenov in a tweet.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his rival in the Blue-White Party, Benny Gantz, have promised annexation of the Jordan Valley, northern Dead Sea and the illegal settlements located in Area C of the occupied West Bank if they win the upcoming Israeli elections.
Their call was also strongly condemned by the Palestinian presidency which said in a statement that Netanyahu and Gantz’s statements threaten peace and stability in the region.
‘Such statements are a blow to the foundations of the peace process that would take the region to a dangerous new phase of conflict and instability,’ said presidential spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, in a statement on Wednesday.
‘The presidency warns all the Israeli parties that to make these statements has implications on the overall Palestinian-Israeli relations, including the signed agreements and mutual obligations between the two parties,’ he added, calling on the international community to stand firm against these Israeli positions ‘that threaten security, stability and world peace’.
The Palestinian government also condemned the Netanyahu and Gantz statements on the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, warning that they would take the region into ‘a new cycle of conflict that will threaten world peace and security’.
Government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said in a statement on Tuesday that the government has called on world countries, particularly those participating in the 50th session of the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, ‘to take preventive measures against the expected Israeli move by recognising the independent State of Palestine on the June 4th, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to follow the example of Sweden, whose recognition of the State of Palestine was a model for turning political positions and convictions into actions.
- Meanwhile, in Syria, US military forces present in areas controlled by militants of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s north eastern province of Hasakah have reportedly stopped a Russian military convoy from reaching oil fields there.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday that the Russian convoy, which consisted of five armoured personnel carriers and a pick-up truck, turned back and returned to their home base the previous day, after US troopers stopped them and did not allow them to reach their targeted oil fields.
The report added that the stand-off ended without any significant clashes or any real risk of violence between the two sides.
The US military has reportedly dispatched 75 truckloads of military and logistical equipment to its positions in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor and the north eastern province of Hasakah.
The development took place amid an ongoing dispute between the US and Russia over Rumeylan oil field, which lies in the northeastern flank of Hasakah province.
On January 16th, the United States dispatched dozens of truckloads of military and logistical equipment to oil-rich areas under its control in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor and Hasakah province.
Local sources from the Kurdish-majority north eastern city of Qamishli, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA at the time that a convoy of 75 trucks crossed the Semalka border crossing, which is a pontoon bridge across the Tigris, and headed towards US positions in the two provinces.
In late October last year, Washington reversed an earlier decision to pull out all of its troops from north eastern Syria, announcing the deployment of about 500 soldiers to the oil fields controlled by Kurdish forces in the Arab country.
The US claimed that the move was aimed at protecting the fields and facilities from possible attacks by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. That claim came although US President Donald Trump had earlier suggested that Washington sought economic interests in controlling the oil fields.
Pentagon chief Mark Esper then threatened that the US forces deployed to the oil fields would use ‘military force’ against any party that might seek to challenge control of the sites, even if it were Syrian government forces or their Russian allies.
The Russian foreign minister says the US attempts to establish control over Syria’s facilities amount to ‘robbery’.
Syria, which has not authorised American military presence in its territory, has said the US is ‘plundering’ the country’s oil.
On December 18th, 2019, China’s special envoy for Syria said the United States’ pretext for extending its military presence in the Arab country, namely to protect Syrian oil fields, was untenable.
‘Who has given the Americans the right to do this? And, at whose invitation is the US protecting Syria’s oil fields?’ Xie Xiaoyan said at a press conference in Moscow.
‘Let’s think the other way around: Will the US allow Syria to send troops to US territory to protect oil fields there?’ he said.