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Tunisia fires UN envoy for being overtly critical of controversial US Mideast peace plan -reports

Moncef Baati was sacked by the Tunisian foreign ministry [Twitter]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2020

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Tunisia has fired its ambassador to the United Nations, with diplomatic sources saying that this was because he was excessively critical of President Donald Trump’s much-condemned plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Tunisia fired its ambassador to the UN on Friday accusing him of failing to consult the foreign ministry on key issues that diplomatic sources said included the United States’ much criticised "Deal of the Century" plan for Middle East peace.

"Tunisia's ambassador to the United Nations has been dismissed for purely professional reasons concerning his weak performance and lack of coordination with the ministry on important matters under discussion at the UN," a foreign ministry statement said.

Diplomatic sources said that ambassador, Moncef Baati, who has occupied a seat at the UN Security Council since the start of the year, had gone further than President Kais Saied wanted in his criticism of US President Donald Trump's peace plan, which Palestinians have outspokenly condemned.

On Tuesday, Tunisia and Indonesia tabled a draft UN security council resolution condemning the US plan and Israel’s moves to annex parts of the West Bank.

Saied, a political outsider who only took office in November after a surprise election victory, was concerned that Baati's expressions of support for the Palestinians risked damaging Tunisia's relations with the United States, the sources said.

"It was quite a shock to hear that. I don't know all the details, the reason behind this," Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve of Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said of the sacking.

Read more: The five most outrageous proposals in Trump's bizarre 'Deal of the Century'

"He was a very good colleague and I really very much regret to see him leave," he added.

Another diplomat and member of the Security Council, who did not wish to be identified, said that Baati was "the right person" to negotiate a resolution wanted by the Palestinians.

Baati's swift recall to Tunis meant that he missed a closed doors briefing of the Security Council on Thursday by the US plan's architect, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

After the briefing, Kushner blamed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for a spike in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories since the plan was unveiled on January 28.

Abbas "calls for days of rage in response and he said that even before he saw the plan," Kushner told reporters in New York.

The plan, which has been condemned by human rights organizations and members of the US’s Democratic Party as well as the Palestinians, hands Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley area, and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Israel, leaving Palestinians with only 16 per cent of historic Palestine.

Five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since it was announced by the US last week.

Abbas is due at the UN next week to oppose the plan and demand adherence to international law.

The Palestinians hope to push for a Security Council resolution condemning the Trump plan, but any text will almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.

A veteran diplomat, Baati was in retirement last year when he was asked to return to active duty and represent Tunisia at the United Nations.

The US plan has been widely condemned in Tunisia. The Tunisian parliament unanimously denounced it and on Wednesday hundreds of people took part in a protest in Tunis, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against normalized relations with Israel.

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