Malawian Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka announced Tuesday his country intends to open an embassy in Israel by the summer of 2021 and that it will be located in Jerusalem. So far, only the American and Guatemalan embassies are in Jerusalem, but Brazil, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Honduras, Moldova, Romania, and the Czech Republic have said they will follow suit. According to a joint statement issued by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Mkaka, Israel will post an Israeli development expert in Malawi's capital and offer courses through MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry's development agency. The Palestinian Authority's ambassador to South Africa Hanan Jarrar delivered Wednesday a letter of protest from PA President Mahmoud Abbas to Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera. It proclaimed, "Any step taken to establish a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem constitutes a violation of relevant United Nations resolutions." Opposition lawmakers in Malawi have also raised concerns about opening an embassy in Jerusalem.
Two senior Palestinian officials told The Media Line the Palestinian Authority has maintained direct channels of communication with Joe Biden's campaign to convey their willingness to restart peace talks, believing Biden will reassert the Obama administration's position on the two-state solution and reopen the PLO office in Washington. In an interview with The Arab American News last week, Kamala Harris promised, "We are committed to a two-state solution, and we will oppose any unilateral steps that undermine that goal. We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion. And we will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington."
UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash Monday slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inflammatory rhetoric, which might have instigated last Thursday's terrorist attack in Nice's Notre Dame basilica. Erdogan initiated his anti-French campaign after President Emmanuel Macron declared at an October 21 "national tribute to the memory of Samuel Paty" – a middle school teacher decapitated by an Islamic terrorist for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo – He "was killed because Islamists want our future... We will strongly proclaim the concept of laïcité [secularism]. We will not disavow the cartoons, the drawings, even if others recoil." In response, Erdogan said Macron "needs some sort of mental treatment" and "made himself the enemy of Islam." When France recalled its ambassador in Ankara for consultations, Erdogan called on Turks to boycott French goods, unleashing a wave of Francophobia through the Muslim world. Gargash, however, defended the French President's remarks, telling Die Welt, "You should listen to what Macron really said in his speech. He doesn't want the ghettoization of Muslims in the West, and he is absolutely right." He further commended France for being one of the few countries to confront Erdogan's attempt to "rebuild the Ottoman Empire" and asserted that "Europe needs a united stance towards Turkey. Wherever Erdogan sees gaps or weaknesses, he uses them to gain power." UAE Federal National Council member Ali al-Nuaimi accused Erdogan of "trying to hijack the hearts and minds of Muslims all over the world and use them as tools to serve his political agenda. He is using Islam as an ideology, not as a religion."
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani announced plans to hold elections in October 2021 for 30 of the Shura Council's 45 members. A 2003 constitutional referendum entitled Qatari subjects to vote for 30 of the Shura Council's members with the Emir appointing the rest. It was also supposed to transform the theretofore advisory body into a quasi-parliamentary one with the power to approve – but not draft – the national budget, monitor ministers' performance through no-confidence votes, and draft laws subject to the Emir's veto. Yet, the Emir has repeatedly postponed the elections.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister told journalists Tuesday that Moscow was "looking carefully at" Iran's peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh, but did not elaborate. Since Tehran has traditionally maintained friendlier ties with Yerevan than Baku, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated during an October 21 interview with Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), "As an important regional stakeholder, Iran has a key role to play" in resolving the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi first announced on October 29 that his country drafted a peace plan for the conflict. Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan later that day welcomed Tehran's input, saying, "Iran is a very important country in our region and unlike Turkey it has a responsible and constructive stance when it comes to regional security and peace." However, Iran's plan, as described by Araghchi Sunday, involves Baku reasserting sovereignty over the de facto independent, ethnic Armenian-run state – the Republic of Artsakh – established in Azerbaijani territory in the 1990s. Araghchi said the plan "includes principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, end of occupation, respect for minorities' rights, repatriation of war refugees, and expulsion of foreign forces from the region." As recapturing Azerbaijani territory held by the Republic of Artsakh is Baku's stated war aim, there appears to be no daylight between Iran's position and Azerbaijan's. The only part of Iran's plan that could be construed as pro-Armenian is demanding the "expulsion of foreign forces" because the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights claims Azerbaijan imported at least 2,050 pro-Turkish Syrian rebels to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei embraced Araghchi's peace plan Tuesday, tweeting: "The war between our neighbors, Azerbaijan & Armenia, is a bitter event & must end ASAP. Of course, Azerbaijani land seized by Armenia should be freed & the safety of its Armenian residents must be secured. If terrorists approach the Iranian border, they'll be dealt with severely."
Sattam Alharbi, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, announced Wednesday that, starting on March 14, foreign workers will no longer need their employer's permission to change jobs or travel abroad, hitherto requirements under the kafala (sponsorship) system. 10.5 million foreign workers constitute approximately one-third of the kingdom's population. Human Rights Watch has documented Saudi employers exploiting the kafala system to withhold workers' wages while subjecting them to physical and sexual abuse. Alharbi said the government has been working on this overhaul of the kafala system for two years and hopes these reforms will "attract talent, improve the working conditions, [and] make Saudi Arabia's labor market more dynamic and productive." Reforming the kafala system is part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plan to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum