International partners hold a summit on Israeli-Palestinian peace and the Philippines assumes the chair of ASEAN.
PALESTINE CONFERENCE IN PARIS
Diplomats from 70 countries convene in Paris on Sunday to reiterate the international community’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. While the results of the conference are non-binding, a consensus could form the basis for another UN Security Council resolution denouncing Israeli settlement building when it meets again on Jan. 17. In a resolution passed in December, the Council labelled Israel’s settlement activity a “flagrant breach” of international law, a move which did not draw a veto from the United States – a rare thing.
While Israeli and Palestinian officials were invited to a separate meeting on Saturday, Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the offer. Netanyahu believes international involvement hinders the peace process and bilateral talks are the only way to resolve the crisis.
Conference attendees will insist that both sides show a ‘genuine commitment’ to peace. While Sunday’s conference won’t produce any tangible progress towards peace, nor immediately impact Israeli foreign policy, it will illustrate growing international criticism of Israel’s approach to the Palestinian issue. In the medium-term, this may begin to impact the Jewish state’s global standing.
PHILIPPINES BEGINS ASEAN LEADERSHIP
On Sunday, the Philippines will assume the chair of ASEAN, marked by a launch ceremony in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown of Davao City. The event caps off a busy week for the city of 1.5 million – Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was treated to a personal tour of the city and Duterte’s home on Friday.
While ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, its members are facing an array of challenges, most notably how to deal with an increasingly assertive China. Beijing’s claim to vast areas of the South China Sea is disputed by five out of ten ASEAN members – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia; the forum is rightly seen by both the US and China as a critical player in the dispute.
Leadership of ASEAN – which promotes cooperation and economic integration in South East Asia – has been billed as “one of the most important diplomatic events” of Duterte’s presidency. The Philippine leader has earned a reputation as a populist strongman, pursuing a brutal war on drugs and making frequent inflammatory statements aimed at both domestic and foreign audiences. Most notably, Duterte has publicly rejected closer ties with Washington, called for US troops stationed in the country to leave and engaged in a Chinese charm offensive.
While it’s highly unlikely Mr Duterte will use leadership of the regional bloc to pursue radical policies in the region, the increased media attention will give him a truly global platform from which to espouse his proactive stances.