Palestinians urge Egypt, Jordan not to attend US-led Manama event

Officials say Arab countries' presence in Bahrain would 'carry wrong message', announce parallel conference in Beirut.

    Palestinians urge Egypt, Jordan not to attend US-led Manama event
    The Palestinian leadership is boycotting the event in Bahrain's capital [File: Anadolu Agency]

    Palestinians have urged Egypt and Jordan to reconsider their reported attendance at an upcoming United States-led conference in Bahrain, saying it would weaken any Arab opposition to Washington's plan to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The appeal on Wednesday came after unnamed White House officials were quoted by news agencies as saying that the two countries - along with Morocco - had agreed to join the event in the Bahraini capital, Manama, later this month.

    Egypt and Jordan are yet to officially confirm their participation. 

    The Palestinians are boycotting the meeting and on Wednesday announced an alternative conference in the Lebanese capital to voice the objection to the US initiative.

    The Beirut event will coincide with the June 25-26 gathering in Manama. 

    'Wrong messages'

    The administration of US President Donald Trump has billed the Bahrain meeting as a workshop to boost the Palestinian economy. 

    Washington considers the participation of Egypt and Jordan - the only Arab states to have a peace treaty with Israel - especially important because the two countries have historically been key players in Middle East peace efforts.

    But Palestinians say Trump's peace plan - which he has branded the "deal of the century" - is likely to be heavily weighed in favour of Israel and quash their aspirations for statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    While the precise outlines of Washington's draft plan have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed about it say it has abandoned the two-state solution. 

    "The Palestinian Authority urges Egypt and Jordan not to attend the Bahrain conference," Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government said on Facebook.

    Melhem urged "all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw", adding that their participation "would carry wrong messages about the unity of the Arab position" on rejecting Trump's plan.

    'Significant disappointment'

    A spokeswoman for Jordan's government on Wednesday reiterated any peace plan must be based on a two-state solution. 

    "Any economic proposal cannot be a substitute for a political solution that will end the [Israeli] occupation and achieve a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of a two-state solution," said Jumana Ghneimat. 

    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said earlier this month that Cairo would not accept anything the Palestinians did not support.

    Tareq Baconi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group who is based in Jerusalem, said both Egypt and Jordan faced heavy US pressure to attend the conference in Bahrain.

    190529174901809

    "This is a significant disappointment for the Palestinians because it is a breaking of the ranks in the Arab region," Baconi told Reuters News Agency.

    After Israel, Egypt is the largest beneficiary of US military aid, receiving $1.3bn in 2018. Jordan meanwhile was allocated $443m in US military assistance last year. Both countries border Palestinian areas and Israel.

    Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Tuesday that Lebanon would not attend because "the Palestinians will not participate, and we prefer to have a clear idea of the proposed peace plan, as we have not been consulted or informed about it."

    Israeli and US officials say Israel has yet to be formally invited, given discussions between the US and Bahrain over what might be an appropriate makeup of an Israeli delegation.

    The White House said Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have confirmed their attendance, but none of these countries has commented publicly on the issue. 

    'Financial war'

    Meanwhile, Palestinian media reports said Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the central committee of the Fatah movement, arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to begin preparations for the conference.

    Speaking on the Voice of Palestine radio, al-Ahmad said Egypt and Jordan's participation in the Bahrain workshop would be "unjustified" as the two countries had previously rejected the upcoming US plan. 

    The meeting in Bahrain "is of no value and will not have any political impact", he added. 

    The Palestinians' parallel conference in Beirut will bring together factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, other Palestinian political representatives and Arab individuals who "reject any economic bribe in exchange for the sale of Palestinian rights", according to another official. 

    Maher Tahir, a leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who is based in Syria, called for a popular movement in the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora to derail the deal and undermine the Bahrain workshop.

    190611194521022

    "There is no force in the world to impose on us something we reject," he was quoted as saying by Ma'an news agency. 

    In a letter on Monday to diplomatic missions, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian economic crisis, which the conference is to address, was actually the result of what he called a "financial war waged by the Trump administration", as well as the Israeli occupation.

    Washington ceased its aid to the Palestinians early this year, dealing President Mahmoud Abbas another blow after its controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in late 2017 and the relocation of the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

    "If anyone is interested in the economic development of Palestine, they should tackle the root causes that prevented Palestinians from reaching their full potential in our country," Erekat said.

    The US plan faces possible delays due to political upheaval in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fight another election after failing to form a government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies