Bringing you a step closer to the various facets of the region
News Roundup: 13th January – 19th January
Suspending Recognition of Israel
Last Sunday, 14 January, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed Israel “killed the Oslo Accords”. The following day, leaders of the Palestinian Central Council voted to call for the suspension of PLO’s recognition of and security cooperation with the Jewish state, until Israel “recognises the state of Palestine”, ceases its annexation of East Jerusalem, and stops the expansion of settlements.
During an interview with Channel NewsAsia, MEI Senior Research Fellow Victor Kattan mentioned that the vote was non-binding and only the PLO’s Executive Committee could make binding decisions. Moreover, the Executive Committee has in the past refused to authorise such requests from the Central Committee. Kattan expects the move to be mostly symbolic – if implemented, however, the suspension could lead to escalating unilateral actions on both sides.
The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 between former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Abbas, then Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) negotiator, and set a timetable for the Middle East peace process. Importantly, the Oslo Accords reaffirmed PLO’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the latter’s recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
China and the Middle East: Obstacles and Opportunities
Last weekend, a forum, sponsored by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and the Brookings Doha Center, was held to facilitate discussions about the opportunities and challenges in the new chapter of economic relations between China and the Middle East amidst the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In his keynote address, Yang Fuchang, former vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited 3 key reasons that endeared the BRI to middle eastern economies. He credited China’s focus on development, the BRI’s emphasis on openness and equality, and the benefits of the Silk Road Fund. The Silk Road Fund was established in 2014, and acts as an investment fund to finance development in partner countries in the BRI. The BRI’s emphasis on openness and equality is an expression of China’s foreign economic policy. China has promoted itself as a benign power that is committed to global development based on the equality of states ever since it started gaining economic prominence during the Deng administration. Chinese president Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s commitment to mutually beneficial economic outcomes during the B20 summit.
Professor Engseng Ho, Director of the Middle East Institute, commented on how Quanzhou in Fujian Province was a “preeminent predecessor” of today’s Maritime Silk Road, where Muslims, Christians and Buddhists coexisted. He also observed that “the next stage of China’s Belt and Road Initiative should contribute to building and extending a legal infrastructure of arbitration, harmonizing procedures across China with the Islamic world and the rest of the world, and extending legal structure into the financial and infrastructural building,”
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