Arab League calls for UN peacekeeping mission in Palestinian territories

Arab states ratify and endorse Bahrain Declaration that calls for revival of two-state solution

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, gathers with other Arab leaders at the summit in Manama. AFP
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Arab leaders called for an international peacekeeping mission in the occupied Palestinian territories as the Arab League summit came to a close in Bahrain.

The 22-member Arab League ratified and endorsed the Bahrain Declaration at the end of the 33rd annual summit, held in Manama.

The declaration called for the “deployment of United Nations international protection and peacekeeping forces in the occupied Palestinian territory until the two-state solution is implemented".

It did not clarify which countries the peacekeepers would be drawn from, or when the mission would be expected to begin. Israel occupies the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and has been fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza since October.

A Bahraini diplomat who worked closely on the declaration told The National that the Arab League was calling for UN peacekeepers to be sent to Palestine, rather than Arab troops "as called for by the western world".

"Such a deployment would be based on the mandate of the UN’s Department of Peace Operations, which oversees all aspects and deployment of the peacekeeping forces," the diplomat said.

In recent weeks, Arab leaders have resisted western pressure to agree to send troops into Gaza after the conflict ends.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the country “refuses to be drawn into any plan aimed at providing cover for the Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip".

Last month, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Arab states would not send troops to Gaza, and would not allow themselves to be tied to the “misery this war has created”.

Bahrain declaration

The final communique issued in Bahrain included a plan for joint Arab action for the coming year. It called for an international peace conference to revive the two-state solution and resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.

It also emphasised that the UN Security Council has a responsibility to “take clear measures to implement the two-state solution", and set out a timetable for the political process and negotiations over a two-state solution, which will include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking after the final declaration, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the body rejected any attempt to "forcibly displace the Palestinian people from Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem".

He called on all Palestinian groups to "unite under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation".

Mr Aboul Gheit described the talks in Bahrain as "a consequential Arab League summit ... and the first in a long time where there was unanimous Arab consensus at the highest level of leadership, where the draft communique was ratified without any disagreements".

Earlier on Thursday, Bahrain’s King Hamad said Manama was hosting the Arab League summit amid “painful and unprecedented” circumstances, saying the Palestinians have been denied their freedom and right to “define their future”.

Arab leaders from across the region attended the summit at Sakhir Palace, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Syria's President Bashar Al Assad and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also attended.

Focus on Gaza

Alongside the Bahrain Declaration, the Arab League also announced a special communique regarding the latest developments in Gaza. It decried Israeli attacks on aid lorries.

It also condemned violence against humanitarian and international organisations and aid convoys in the enclave, including attacks by "Israeli extremists on Jordanian aid convoys, and the failure of the Israeli authorities to fulfil their legal responsibilities to provide protection for these convoys". The communique demanded "an immediate international investigation into these attacks".

We call on the international community to put aside political calculations and double standards in dealing with international crises and to carry out their assigned moral and legal responsibilities in confronting aggressive Israeli practices
The Arab League summit declaration

Arab leaders urged the international community to put aside "political calculations and double standards in dealing with international crises, and to carry out their assigned moral and legal responsibilities in confronting aggressive Israeli practices", which they described as a blatant breach of international law.

The Arab League also called on countries around the world to "hold accountable those responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people since the beginning of the Israeli aggression" in Gaza.

The Bahrain Declaration also directs the foreign ministers of Arab states to urge their counterparts in the West to recognise a Palestinian state.

There was consensus at the summit to push for global support for a two-state solution. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who attended the summit, used his speech on Thursday to call on the international community to “immediately begin implementing the two-state solution”.

Mr Abbas rejected any efforts that would repeat “the tragedy of the Nakba” of 1948, when Palestinians were displaced from their homes following the creation of Israel, and accused the US of enabling “war crimes and genocide in Gaza".

The Palestinian leader also accused Hamas of providing "the pretext for Israel to attack and destroy the Gaza Strip” by carrying out its attack on October 7.

The final communique also covered the conflicts in Sudan, Yemen and Syria. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad attended the summit for the second year in a row, after his country returned to the fold after years of exile due to the civil war.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 5:32 PM