UAE, Saudi Arabia to Join U.S.-Led Economic Peace Workshop in Bahrain

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on November 19, 2018, shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending a speech given by his father, King Salman

TEL AVIV – The UAE and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced that they will attend the U.S.-led economic workshop in Bahrain next month in what is being billed as a precursor to President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

Israel too will participate in the Manama forum, with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon set to attend.

The UAE said it welcomed the move and will lend support by sending its own delegation, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported, making it the first country to officially join the international summit.

Saudi Arabia announced its intention to participate later on Tuesday, with Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed bin Mazid Al-Tuwaijri, Reuters reported.

“His Excellency’s participation is in continuation of Saudi Arabia’s firm and supportive positions for the Palestinian people,” the Saudi Press Agency published on Wednesday. “Achieving [for them] stability, growth and decent living. And achieving general security, stability and prosperity in the region.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that the summit “aims to lift the Palestinian people out of misery and to enable them for a stable and prosperous future,” WAM reported.

“The UAE reiterates its support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the statement added.

On Sunday, the U.S. announced it would unroll the first phase of the long-anticipated proposal at the forum, saying it would outline the economic rewards if a peace deal were to be struck.

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said in a statement.

“Economic progress can only be achieved with a solid economic vision and if the core political issues are resolved.”

Speaking at a Time magazine conference in New York last month, Kushner said that the plan would use a “bottom up” approach.

“Our focus is really on the bottom up, which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better? What can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable? We deal with all the core status issues because you have to do it, but we’ve also built a robust business plan for the whole region,” Kushner said, adding the idea was to have a solution first “and then we’ll work on a process to try to get there.”

The plan would see massive investment in infrastructure and public institutions in the Palestinian territories — mostly funded by Arab allies of the U.S.

However, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinians would not attend the Bahrain workshop.

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation,” he said. “The current financial crisis is a result of a financial war waged against us and we will not succumb to blackmailing and extortion and will not trade our national rights for money.”

Ahmed Majdalani, the social development minister and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, reiterated Shtayyeh’s comments, saying: “There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop.”

“Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel,” he said.

Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, shot back that it is “difficult to understand why the Palestinian Authority would reject a workshop designed to discuss a vision with the potential to radically transform lives and put people on a path toward a brighter future.”

“History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today,” Greenblatt said.


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