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Arab League Hopes Biden Changes Policy 01/19 06:20


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The head of the Arab League expressed hope Monday 
that the Biden administration will change President Donald Trump's policies and 
launch a political process supported by regional and international parties to 
achieve independence for the Palestinians.

   Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the 22-member organization, told the 
U.N. Security Council that a two-state solution to the decades-old 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict "has been marginalized by the main mediator in the 
peace process," a reference to the United States.

   "This encouraged the Israeli government to intensify its settlement 
activities and to threaten to take dangerous and destructive steps such as 
annexing occupied land," he said.

   The Arab League chief addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a 
wide-ranging briefing on the crises and conflicts in the Middle East.

   He also referred without name to Iran, saying that "some regional powers are 
interfering in the affairs of the Arab region" by adversely affecting "the 
security of international maritime navigation routes which are a lifeline for 
international trade," a reference to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

   "It has also become apparent that this interference perpetuates existing 
conflicts and further complicates them," he said, without directly citing 
Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, for Yemen's Houthi Shiite 
rebels and for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

   Aboul Gheit said the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts and crises have 
created "a dangerous mix that has taken a heavy toll on the peoples of the 
region," pointing to 10 years of civil war in Syria, Yemen's war entering its 
seventh year and "entrenched divisions in Libya."

   He spoke a day after Israeli authorities advanced plans to build nearly 800 
homes in West Bank settlements, in a last-minute surge of approvals before U.S. 
President Donald Trump leaves office Wednesday and Joe Biden is inaugurated as 
the 46th president of the United States. Palestinian leaders denounced the 
Israeli action.

   The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 
Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. They say the growing 
settler population, approaching some 500,000 people, makes it increasingly 
difficult to achieve their dream of independence.

   Aboul Gheit said that "significant efforts" need to be made by all parties 
in coming months to reaffirm the two-state solution.

   "We look forward to the new American administration rectifying policies and 
processes that are not useful and engage in a fruitful political process with 
the support of influential regional and international parties," he said. "This 
would give the Palestinian people renewed hope that the international community 
would stand by its side in its noble aspiration to achieve freedom and 

   On Syria, Aboul Gheit said five countries are interfering militarily and the 
"security situation remains tumultuous and precarious, especially in the 
northwest, northeast and south." This not only undermines prospects of a 
political settlement but also has equally serious humanitarian repercussions, 
with 90% of Syrians living in poverty, he said.

   "I am convinced that a genuine solution would start with a minimal level of 
international consensus, which is still lacking," and would require some 
regional parties to reduce their involvement in Syria, Aboul Gheit said. "Those 
regional parties continue to view Syria land as spoils of war or use it to 
settle scores,.

   In Yemen, the Arab League chief said the situation "is as dangerous, 
especially the humanitarian situation," with some Yemenis on the bring of 

   He strongly backed efforts by U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths to get 
agreement between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government on 
a joint declaration calling for a cease-fire and confidence-building measures. 
He said the Saudi-negotiated agreement on a new Cabinet "is a positive sign 
that the fragmentation and division are coming to an end," which "paves the way 
for negotiations on a comprehensive solution."

   As for Libya, Aboul Gheit said recent events "could bring us closer to 
ending the division in this important Arab country."

   After the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, oil-rich 
Libya was split between rival administrations in its east and west, each backed 
by an array of militias and foreign powers. The warring sides agreed to a 
U.N.-brokered cease-fire in October, a deal that included the departure of 
foreign forces and mercenaries within three months and holding presidential and 
parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021.

   Aboul Gheit urged implementation of the cease-fire agreement as well as 
ending recruitment of foreign fighters and stopping shipments of weapons and 
military equipment to Libya.

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