Qatar welcomes US Mideast peace plan, urges changes

DOHA  – Qatar responded cautiously on Wednesday (Jan 29) to US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, saying it welcomed efforts to broker “longstanding peace”, but warned that was unattainable without concessions to the Palestinians.

The plan grants Israel much of what it has sought in decades of international diplomacy, namely control over Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, rather than a city to share with the Palestinians. The plan also lets Israel annex West Bank settlements.

Qatar is a supporter of the Palestinian cause and has previously hosted leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

The gas-rich Gulf state has provided millions of dollars in aid to Gaza to fund fuel deliveries to the territory’s sole power station and cash handouts to needy families.

But Qatar is also a strong ally of the United States. It hosts Washington’s largest airbase in the region, claiming to have spent US$8 billion (S$10.9 billion) supporting US operations and pledges to invest US$1.8 billion more to upgrade the facility.

“Qatar welcomes all efforts aiming towards a longstanding peace in the occupied Palestinian territories, appreciating the endeavours of the current US administration to find solutions for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the state-run Qatar News Agency reported.

“Qatar reaffirms its commitment for supporting the Palestinian institutions, noting that peace cannot be sustainable if Palestinians’ rights in their sovereign state… including east Jerusalem, and the right of return are not preserved.”

On the flashpoint issue of Jerusalem, Trump said Israel should retain control over the city as its “undivided capital” – effectively ruling out the possibility it could be split between Israel and the Palestinians.

The plan would also end the so-called “right of return”. Millions of Palestinians or their descendants who fled or were forced out when the Jewish state was created in 1948 would no longer have a case to go back.

Criticising previous US diplomatic efforts as overly vague, Trump said his version was 80 pages long and contained a map depicting the proposed future neighbouring states.

However, the Palestinians angrily rejected the entire plan.

“This conspiracy deal will not pass. Our people will take it to the dustbin of history,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said after Trump unveiled the plan on Tuesday.

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