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Mon 20 May 2019 01:01 PM

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Palestinians reject US focus on economy as peace drive begins

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said his government was 'not consulted on such a conference'

Palestinians reject US focus on economy as peace drive begins
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh

Phase I of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan got off to a rocky start, with the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister faulting it for prioritizing economic strategies over the political issues at the heart of the conflict with Israel.

The White House announced late Sunday that it will hold a conference in Bahrain to promote economic development in the Palestinian territories as part of efforts to seek a Middle East peace agreement.

The June 25-26 “economic workshop” in Manama will “convene government, civil society, and business leaders to share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement,” the White House said in a statement.

The meeting will focus on an economic framework for the Palestinian people and the region, including the potential for private-sector growth, the administration said.

A political proposal being crafted by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US special representative Jason Greenblatt is expected to be unveiled at a later time, a senior administration official told reporters Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official declined to say what commitments any countries had made to the investment initiative, or who planned to attend. The event is expected to attract business leaders and officials from the US, Arab countries and Asia, the official said, declining to say who had been invited.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said his government was “not consulted on such a conference.”

The conflict “will only be resolved through a political solution,” and “any economic solution will be a result of a political solution,” he told the weekly cabinet meeting. “We will not be blackmailed through a financial war launched against us.”

The Palestinians cut off contacts with the Trump administration following its December 2017 recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A spokesman for Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said the minister hasn’t yet received a formal invitation to the summit. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment.

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