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MID-EAST

THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2018,

SAUDI GAZETTE

5

Abbas calls

for global

peace meet

by mid-year

UNITED NATIONS —

Pales-

tinian President Mahmoud Ab-

bas ruled out the United States

as a broker for peace with Israel

on Tuesday, calling for an interna-

tional peace conference by mid-

2018 with the key goals of full UN

membership for the state of Pal-

estine and a timeframe for a two-

state solution.

Abbas spoke as the Trump

administration’s two key Mideast

negotiators who are working on

a US peace proposal — the presi-

dent’s son-in-law Jared Kushner

and special representative Jason

Greenblatt — sat in the Security

Council chamber listening.

But he left without speaking

to them or listening to US Am-

bassador Nikki Haley say that

“the United States stands ready

to work with the Palestinian lead-

ership,” and the two envoys are

“ready to talk.”

The Palestinians are furious

at President Donald Trump for

overturning decades of US policy

and recognizing occupied Jeru-

salem as Israel’s capital, ignoring

that East Jerusalem is Palestinian

territory occupied by Israel since

the 1967 war that the Palestin-

ians want as the capital of their

independent state. Abbas called

Trump’s pro-Israeli action “dan-

gerous” and has said the presi-

dent’s action destroyed his cred-

ibility as a Mideast peace broker.

“It has become impossible to-

day for one country alone to solve

a regional or international con-

flict without the participation of

other international partners,” the

Palestinian leader said.

Abbas presented the Palestin-

ians “peace plan” to the council.

It calls for mutual recognition by

the states of Israel and Palestine

based on 1967 borders, and forma-

tion of “an international multilat-

eral mechanism” to assist the two

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters

in New York, Tuesday.

— Reuters

Row between

Lebanon and

Israel: US envoy

visits Beirut

BEIRUT —

A senior US diplo-

mat met Lebanon’s foreign min-

ister on Wednesday in Beirut as

part of a US shuttle diplomacy

effort to resolve a worsening dis-

pute between Israel and Lebanon

over a border wall and energy

drilling in disputed waters.

Disputes over Israeli con-

struction of the border wall,

Lebanon’s start of oil and gas ex-

ploration at sea and the growing

arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed

Shiite group Hezbollah have

caused a spike in tensions be-

tween Lebanon and Israel, both

friends of the United States that

regard each other as enemies.

Lebanon this month signed

its first offshore energy explora-

tion and production agreements

with a consortium of France’s

Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s No-

vatek. One of two blocks given to

the consortium, Block 9, contains

waters claimed by Israel.

David Satterfield, the acting

US assistant secretary of state for

Near Eastern Affairs, has been

shuttling back and forth between

Israel and Lebanon in a bid to

resolve the disputes. He met For-

eign Minister Gebran Bassil.

The US Embassy in Lebanon

said Satterfield “continues to en-

gage” on regional issues and on

helping Lebanon develop its re-

sources.

— Reuters

Snow isolates Moroccan mountain villages more used to the sun

By Mosa’ab Elshamy

TIGHANIMINE, Morocco —

Bit-

ter cold and exceptionally heavy snow-

fall have beleaguered parts of Morocco

this winter, disrupting schools, closing

national highways — and delighting resi-

dents in cities where it hadn’t snowed for

decades.

The effects are starkest in the north

African nation’s Middle Atlas mountains,

home to many hard-to-reach villages with

poor infrastructure. The range that once

protected local Amazigh tribes from at-

tacks now isolates remote hillside villag-

es, often for months on end.

Getting in or out of the hill towns hid-

den among dense forests and peaks over

3,000 meters (9,800 feet) high is never

easy — many of the narrow, treacher-

ous lanes can only be traversed by four-

wheel-drive vehicles, donkeys or more

typically, on foot.

This year, the 150 families living in

Tighanimin, a village 311 miles (500 km)

south of the Moroccan capital, Rabat,

were marooned when the rocky moun-

tain paths disappeared under three feet

of snow. Temperatures routinely plum-

met below zero degrees Celcius after

sundown, and the homes aren’t equipped

with electricity or running water.

“The children gather in one corner of

the house to avoid the snowfall,” Mustafa

Oulhassan, 68, said.

Children of the village attend school

throughout the winter, walking some 1.2

miles to the nearest primary school.

The majority of Tighanimnin’s resi-

dents are shepherds, the only source of

income in the village, according to Saeed

Ahmad, a 39-year-old father-of-five.

“We can’t harvest plants due to the

weather. Since there are no jobs here we

have to go to Agadir or Marrakech to find

work,” he explained, an impossible pros-

pect while the roads are covered in snow.

Most residents spend their days graz-

ing their cattle and collecting water from

the nearby river. “We have to take the

cattle very far to find land suitable for

grazing and we have to wait for the sun to

come out,” said Saeed.

Another resident, a 38-year-old wom-

an who only gave her name as Fatima,

chops and loads firewood onto a donkey

to create a fire for baking bread, and for

warmth through the night.

It’s a tough winter but the heavy

snowfall also brought joy, at least for

the children of Tighanimin. Youngsters

scaled steep mountainsides with plastic

bags and sledded down the slopes.

In the evenings, families reunite by

the fireside for meals of bread, olive oil,

soup, tea, and occasionally meat.

During winter, the Middle Atlas are

far from the burnt orange landscape and

warm blue skies familiar to Morocco’s

visitors. But the blanket of white shows

no signs of receding just yet.

“Sometimes the snow lasts until June

or July,” Saeed said. “Sometimes it starts

snowing as early as October, but this year

it didn’t start until January.”

—AP

parties in resolving all final status

issues and implementing them

“within a set time frame.”

He said the peace conference

should include the Israelis and

Palestinians, the five permanent

Security Council members and

key regional and international

governments, noting that 74 coun-

tries attended a Mideast peace

conference in Paris in January

2017.

The Palestinians want to set

up a state in the West Bank, Gaza

Strip and East Jerusalem, lands Is-

rael captured in the 1967 war. But

there have been no serious nego-

tiations since gaps widened fol-

lowing the 2009 election of Ben-

jamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime

minister. He rejects the 1967 fron-

tier as a baseline for border talks,

has expanded settlements which

the UN call illegal, and rules out

a partition of Jerusalem.

Abbas accused Israel of “act-

ing as a State above the law.”

“It has transformed the occu-

pation from a temporary situation

... into a situation of permanent

settlement colonization,” he said.

“How can this happen? Israel shut

the door on the two-state solution

on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

The Palestinian leader added

into his prepared remarks: “We

are employees for the occupa-

tion.”

Abbas said the principle of

two-states living side-by-side

with full sovereignty must be pre-

served, but he said the US has not

clarified whether it is for a two-

state or a one-state solution.

UN Secretary General Anto-

nio Guterres stressed that “there

is no Plan B” to a two-state solu-

tion. But he warned that “after

decades of support, the global

consensus for a two-state solution

could be eroding.”

—AFP