RAMALLAH, West Bank/GAZA (Reuters) – Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal relations with Israel.
Palestinians see the accords that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn member nations breaking ranks and normalising ties with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council (of foreign ministers) at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
After initial remarks, Maliki read from a letter he said he sent to Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit informing him of the Palestinian move and criticising the UAE and Bahrain, both Gulf Arab nations that share Israeli concerns about Iran.
The UAE’s deal with Israel “created a deep crisis in the Arab League” and the accord was followed “by a similar collapse by the Kingdom of Bahrain”, Maliki said, quoting from the letter.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)