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article imageEgypt agrees to UN Israel vote delay in call with Trump

By Samer Al-Atrush with Carole Landry at the United Nations (AFP)     Dec 23, 2016 in Politics

Egypt said Friday it agreed to delay a vote on a UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements during a phone call between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and US President-elect Donald Trump.

Egypt on Thursday requested that the vote be postponed a day after it submitted the draft text to the council, which prompted Israel to reach out to Trump to block a resolution.

Israel had asked Trump to intervene after learning that Washington, in a reversal of its policy under President Barack Obama, would not veto the resolution, an Israeli official said.

Trump, who issued a statement demanding that Washington exercise a veto, called Sisi.

In a statement on Friday, the Egyptian presidency said the phone call "touched on the draft resolution... on Israeli settlements".

Egypt said US president-elect Donald Trump and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi agreed to allow Trump&...
Egypt said US president-elect Donald Trump and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi agreed to allow Trump's incoming administration a chance to tackle the Israeli settlement issue
SAUL LOEB, AFP/File

"The two leaders agreed on the importance of giving the new administration a chance to deal comprehensively with all the aspects of the Palestinian cause to achieve a comprehensive settlement," it said.

The Egyptian turnaround surprised many but follows repeated expressions of admiration for Trump from Sisi, a former military chief who overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013 leading Obama to temporarily suspend military aid.

Israel had launched a frantic lobbying effort to pressure Egypt to drop the bid and reached out to its supporters in the United States and at the Security Council for support.

"After becoming aware that the (US) would not veto the anti-Israel resolution, Israeli officials reached out to Trump's transition team to ask for the president-elect's help to avert the resolution," an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.

- Buried indefinitely -

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New Yor...
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20, 2016
JOHN MOORE, Getty/AFP/File

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Washington to block the draft, pointing to years of US willingness "to stand up in the UN and veto anti-Israel resolutions."

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon described the draft as "disgraceful" and said his government was deploying "diplomatic efforts on all fronts."

Trump's intervention and the Egyptian decision to postpone the vote appeared to have caught Washington offguard, with US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelling plans for a speech laying out a vision for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

A poster reading "Trump  Make Israel Great Again!" photographed in Tel Aviv on November 15...
A poster reading "Trump, Make Israel Great Again!" photographed in Tel Aviv on November 15, 2016
JACK GUEZ, AFP/File

Kerry spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Wednesday and then, after the Egyptian decision, to Netanyahu on Thursday.

Obama's administration has expressed mounting anger over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and speculation has grown that he could launch another initiative before leaving office next month.

A senior Security Council diplomat suggested the motion could be buried indefinitely.

"There was a window of opportunity. Whether that window is still there is really not clear," said a Western diplomat.

- Stalled peace efforts -

Trump, who campaigned on a promise to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, had bluntly said Washington should use its veto to block the resolution.

"The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed," he said in a statement.

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations."

Jewish protestors are starting to leave the symbolic outpost of Amona  after agreeing a deal with Pr...
Jewish protestors are starting to leave the symbolic outpost of Amona after agreeing a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
MENAHEM KAHANA, AFP

Trump has chosen as ambassador to Israel the hardliner David Friedman, who has said Washington will not pressure Israel to curtail settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Arab ambassadors held an emergency meeting at the United Nations to press Egypt to move ahead with a vote but an Arab League committee decided after meeting in Cairo to continue talks on the motion.

Palestinian envoy Jamal al-Shobaki told reporters in Cairo that Egypt asked for more time and that there would be discussions over the next two days on the next step.

Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

The draft resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution" that would see an independent Palestine co-exist alongside Israel.

The Middle East peace process has been comatose since a US initiative to re-launch peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

France has announced plans to host an international conference on January 15 to try to restart talks based on the two-state solution.

More about Israel, Palestinian, Un, Settlements, Egypt
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