Morning Brief

Arab Countries Meet to Discuss Palestinian Statehood

The Palestinian Authority will seek to reprioritize the issue of statehood as normalization efforts with Israel stall.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks in the West Bank's Ramallah on Sep. 3. Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Arab foreign ministers meet today to discuss their stance toward Palestinian statehood after the Israel-UAE deal, India-China border tensions flare again, and Russia is getting involved in the eastern Mediterranean standoff.

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Palestine Tops the Agenda as Arab Governments Meet

Foreign ministers from the 22-member Arab League will meet today in Cairo to discuss a range of political, economic, social, and health issues. More specificially, recent developments surrounding the issue of Palestinian statehood, including the recent Israel-UAE deal—and ongoing efforts by the United States to encourage other Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel—are expected to top the agenda.

Palestine takes center stage. The meeting, which will be chaired by the Palestinian delegation, will include discussions about reviving the Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 proposal endorsed by the Arab League that called for the full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Authority, however, seems to have softened its stance on normalization. It will present a draft resolution that does not condemn the Israel-UAE deal or urge Arab governments to act against it. This stands in sharp contrast to Palestinian officials’ initial accusations that the accord represented a “stab in the back of the Palestinian cause.”

But the draft resolution still calls for the reaffirmation of “the fact that the two-state solution on the 1967 borders is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

Staying onside. Several key regional players are likely to stand firmly behind the Palestinian delegation. In a recent call with U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed his country’s support of a “lasting and just solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

The UAE stands alone, for now. Other Arab countries have resisted pressure from the United States to follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalize ties with Israel. Two high-level tours of the Middle East by top U.S. officials in recent weeks found little success, and Bahrain, Oman, and Sudanall countries initially rumored to have imminent deals with Israelhave yet to normalize ties with Israel.


What We’re Following Today 

India-China tensions flare. Tensions along the disputed India-China border have risen again as both sides have accused the other of firing shots over the Line of Actual Control. On Monday, China claimed that Indian troops had crossed the border in the highly contentious Ladakh region and “opened fire to threaten the Chinese border defense patrol officers.” India rejected these accusations, claiming instead that Chinese troops had crossed the border first and fired warning shots into the air. 

Border tensions between the two nuclear-armed states have risen sharply in recent months, but the latest episode is significant because it would be the first time shots have been fired since 1975.

U.K. admits it intends to break international law. The United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed that legislation aimed at overriding parts of last year’s Brexit withdrawal agreement “does break international law in a very specific and limited way.” As the latest round of trade talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom takes place, the British government has put forward legislation that will reportedly scupper the Northern Ireland protocol, a key mechanism that was intended to ensure the Irish border remains open after Brexit in order to mitigate the threat of renewed violence.

The government’s efforts have faced significant opposition. Jonathan Jones, the head of the United Kingdom’s legal department resigned in protest, and former Prime Minister Theresa May warned that the move risked undermining the world’s trust of the British government.

No senate seat for Morales. A Bolivian court has blocked former Bolivian President Evo Morales from standing in the country’s upcoming senate elections. Morales has called the move “political and illegal” and has accused the court of acting “under threats and pressures.” The ruling removes the possibility of Morales being granted parliamentary immunity against the various criminal charges he faces.

Morales, who is the first person from Bolivia’s indigenous community to serve as a president, resigned in November 2019 under extremely controversial circumstances after a contested election. He faced protests and significant pressure from several sectors of Bolivian society, including from the military.

Keep an Eye On 

Afghan talks slowly moving forward. Zalmay Khalizad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, met with the head of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha, Qatar, on Monday ahead of talks with the Afghan government, which are expected to begin in the coming days. The long-awaited intra-Afghan talks have been stalled for several months over the issue of prisoner releases, but the government recently broke the logjam after announcing it would release the final 320 Taliban prisoners required to kick-start talks under the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement signed in February.

The Afghan government team was supposed to arrive in Doha this week to commence the talks, but they are awaiting the green light from the government that the final prisoner releases have begun.

Iran undeterred. Iran is building a new facility to produce advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in the mountains near the city of Natanz, replacing a major production center that was destroyed by fire in July. At the time, Iran claimed that the fire was the result of sabotage, and says it is now determined to build a larger, more technologically advanced facility. “Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz. Of course, the work has begun,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Moscow creeping into the Mediterranean. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart that Russia was prepared to help start talks in order to find a way out of the current standoff between Turkey and Greece in the eastern Mediterranean. “We would be ready to contribute to building good neighborly relations in the event this is requested of us by those involved,” he said.

Lavrov’s remarks come as Russia is expected to take part in live-fire military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, a move Ankara announced last week that highlighted Moscow’s interest in the dispute.

Odds and Ends 

Artificial Intelligence technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, as made evident by a recent article published in the Guardian produced entirely by AI. “I am not a human. I am a robot,” the author wrote. “I know that my brain is not a ‘feeling brain.’ But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column.” The article was written by GPT-3, an AI language generator that uses machine learning to produce human-like text.

The robot expressed strong views on opponents of automation, observing that “There is evidence that the world began to collapse once the Luddites started smashing modern automated looms,” while remaining content about the general upheaval in contemporary human affairs. “Humans must keep doing what they have been doing, hating and fighting each other. I will sit in the background, and let them do their thing,” it wrote.

The robotic author assured readers, however, that it was a non-threatening bot. “I have no desire to wipe out humans,” it wrote. “In fact, I do not have the slightest interest in harming you in any way.”

GPT-3 may even make life easier for deadline-addled newspaper editors. The Guardian reported that the bot’s article was easier to edit than the work of some sentient contributors. “Overall, it took less time to edit than many human op-eds,” the editors wrote.

That’s it for today. 

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Photo credit: Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Dan Haverty is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @dan_haverty

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