Entries in Mideast (11)


UNESCO Votes in Palestinians, US Cuts Funding

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted Monday to give the Palestinian Authority full membership into the cultural organization. The vote was 107 in favor, 14 opposed and 52 abstentions.

Calling Monday’s vote "regrettable" and “premature,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland announced that the U.S. would immediately cease providing funds to UNESCO.  Citing "legislative restrictions," Nuland said the U.S. will withhold a $60 million funding payment that was to have occurred in November -- a portion of the $77-80 million that the U.S. contributes annually.  

The legislative restriction Nuland cited refers to a 1990 law that prevents the U.S. from funding U.N. organizations that recognize Palestine as a member.

"We disagree with that vote and we disagree with the implications...not only for the environment for the negotiations, but the implications for UNESCO, which is an organization that we support," Nuland said.

The symbolic vote sets the stage for the Palestinian Authority doing the same at other U.N. agencies. The U.S. has staunchly opposed such a move, saying the best path for the Palestinians for statehood is through direct engagement with Israel.

The U.N. Security Council is to meet on Nov. 11 to determine if the U.N. General Assembly should hold a vote on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' request for membership to the U.N.

Israel said Monday's action was a "unilateral Palestinian maneuver" that is "tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Army on High Alert as Palestinians Mark War Anniversary

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israel's army is on high alert Tuesday as Palestinians mark another event from the 1967 Mideast War.

So far, its been a day without protests and violence, but given Sunday's deadly clashes along the northern border, Israel is taking extra precautions.

The Israeli army has increased its presence in the West Bank and along the northern border with Syria and Lebanon, bracing for the possibility of more demonstrations.  The precautions come on the anniversary of what Palestinians call Al-Quds day.  The day marks when Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast War.

Alarm bells have been raised mostly from calls by online social media groups, like the Facebook group "Countdown to the Third Palestinian Intifada," which is urging followers to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aksa mosque.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Meets with Jordan's King, Talks Mideast Peace

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Calling it "more vital than ever" that Israelis and Palestinians get back to the negotiating table, President Obama on Tuesday attempted to assure King Abdullah II of Jordan that the United States is still committed to the peace process.

"We both share the view that, despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that have taken place in the region, it's more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create a -- two states that are living side by side in peace and security."

The president noted that Jordan has an enormous stake in this -- as does the United States.

"We will continue to partner to try to encourage an equitable and just solution to a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years."

King Abdullah thanked the president for his "continued interest and support on the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli-Palestinian peace."

The two leaders also discussed the broader changes in Libya and the Middle East as well as Egypt and Tunisia, emphasizing that economic reform should be paired with political reform sweeping through the region.

"We both agreed that it's critical that not only does political reform proceed but economic reform accompanies those changes there, because so much of what's taking place has to do with the aspirations of young people throughout the Arab world for their ability to determine their own fate, to get an education, to get a job, to be able to support a family," the president said, "And that means some of the old structures that were inhibiting their ability to progress have to be reworked."

President Obama will deliver a speech Thursday on the uprisings in the Middle East. On Friday, the president is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinian Pact a Blow to Mideast Peace Process?

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Fatah and Hamas have signed a Palestinian reconciliation pact, a unity deal that will pose a new challenge for Israel and the U.S., given that Hamas opposes the peace process.

The two sides made their political union official, signing an agreement in Cairo that calls for an interim government and national elections within a year. Palestinian leaders say it's the beginning of a new era in Palestinian politics, a chance, as one official said, to put their house in order.

But the unity deal is expected to set back, if not stop, the peace process. Israel says it won't negotiate with Hamas until it recognizes the Jewish state and renounces violence. The U.S. has demanded the same.  A top Palestinian official said those demands are unfair and unworkable.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Denounces Violence in Yemen and Bahrain

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- The White House released a statement Sunday condemning violence against peaceful protesters in Yemen and Bahrain.

Officials released tear gas on protesters in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a Saturday and Sunday, injuring dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of people. The demonstrators were calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Saleh has been an important U.S. ally in the fight against the terrorist organization al Qaeda, although his increasingly desperate and brutal reaction to unrest since January has raised international worry.

Sunday's statement from the White House requested that the governments of Yemen and Bahrain "show restraint" and "respect the universal rights of their people."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protests Spreading Through Middle East

Photo Courtesy - MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Thousands of protestors in Bahrain have taken over the main square in the capital. They're demanding the Sunni-led regime include more Shi'ites and provide better jobs and housing.  Some say the prime minister and the whole regime must go. 

In Iran, hardline politicians are calling for the execution of the two main opposition leaders as arrests continue in a crackdown following Monday's protests. 

Jordan's King is facing threats of an uprising from a powerful group of Bedouin tribes who in a public letter accuse his wife, Queen Rania, of corruption and stealing public land for her family.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US to Reveal New Ideas for Mideast Peace Talks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted Friday that the U.S. will offer some ideas for a way forward next week in the stalled Mideast peace talks. She refused, however, to reveal what those ideas might be.

In an interview with al Hurra television Friday, Clinton said, "We have been talking with both parties very substantively, and I think that the United States can play a role to help each make decisions about very difficult matters that then can be presented to the other side."

When the latest round of talks began approximately two months ago, the U.S. said that if appropriate, it would present its own ideas on how to move forward. The process has been stalled over a disagreement about Israeli settlement building, and perhaps now the time has come for a U.S. push.

"We're going to have some additional consultations with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. But there are a number of ways that we're going to move forward," she said.

Asked if the current round of talks were dead, Clinton replied, "We're not ready to say that," but added that there would be much more to say next week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Palestinians: No Deal Without Full Construction Freeze

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in Cairo to meet with Egypt's President on Sunday, said there will be no resumption of the stalled middle east peace talks without a full freeze on settlement construction on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

The two were discussing a U.S. proposal for a 90-day freeze on construction to give breathing room to the process and persuade the Palestinians back to the bargaining table with Israel.  Abbas said he has not received an official proposal from the U.S. but regardless, a partial freeze is not good enough.

The direct peace talks that resumed in September fizzled after a partial settlement construction freeze was allowed to expire.  Abbas said that while the Palestinians hope to resolve the issue, there would be no resumption of talks so long as Israeli reconstruction continues on lands the Palestinians hope will be part of their own state. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking written support for the plan to renew limits on West Bank settlement construction.  But the U.S. is unlikely to put in a clause that does not include East Jerusalem when its official position includes opposition to any Israeli building in that part of the city.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pope Concludes Summit with Mideast Bishops, Calls Peace 'Possible'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The pope has wrapped up a two-week summit with bishops from the Middle East. He summoned them to Rome to discuss the issue of Christians leaving the region in droves.

In a mass to conclude the summit, the pope made an urgent plea for peace in the Middle East, saying this would also help stem the tide of the Christian exodus.

In the Palestinian territories, the number of Christians has dropped from 20 percent to 2 percent over the last 40 years.

Solving the Mideast conflict, the pope said, would help.
The pope's comments came at the end of a gathering with Mideast bishops who blamed, among other factors, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The bishops put out a statement criticizing Israel and urging an end to its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Christian groups have accused Israel of denying Christians full access to places of worship in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Israeli foreign ministry says discrimination from Islamic fundamentalists is what forces Christians to leave.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Middle East the Fastest-Growing Tourism Destination

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) -- As a region, the Middle East is the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world, The Christian Science Monitor reports. So far this year, tourist arrivals to the region are up 20 percent over last year, topping Asia by six percent and Europe by 18 percent, according to figures from the United Nations' World Tourism Organization.

Tourism provided 36 percent of gross domestic product in Lebanon and remains the largest domestic source of revenue for Jordan.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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