UN chief 'regrets' opposition to former PA leader as Libya envoy

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres "deeply" regrets U.S. opposition to the appointment of Salam Fayyad as envoy to Libya.

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Ben Ariel,

UN Secretary-General elect António Guterres
UN Secretary-General elect António Guterres
Reuters

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday said he "deeply" regretted the opposition to the appointment of former Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya.

"I deeply regret this opposition and I do not see any reason for it," Guterres said at the annual World Government Summit hosted by Dubai, according to AFP.

On Saturday, Guterres nominated Fayyad to the post on Wednesday and the Security Council had been expected to approve his appointment without objections.

But late on Friday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced she was blocking the appointment, explaining that "for too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel."

Guterres described Fayyad, a former World Bank official, as "the right person for the right job at the right moment".

"It's a loss for the Libyan peace process and the Libyan people," he said, adding that the United Nations "needs to be able to act with impartiality."

The UN leader on Wednesday had informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Fayyad as a replacement for German Martin Kobler to conflict-torn Libya.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed the U.S. veto of Fayyad as counter to the "free gifts constantly given to the Palestinian side".

Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, welcomed the move to block Fayyad’s nomination, saying on Saturday, "The new Administration proved once again that it stands firmly alongside the State of Israel in the international arena and in the UN in particular. The new administration is working towards the joint interest of the United States, Israel and the special alliance between our two nations.”

"This is the beginning of a new era at the UN, an era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State," Danon concluded.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), however, condemned Washington’s move as "blatant discrimination".

"Blocking the appointment of Dr. Salam Fayyad is a case of blatant discrimination on the basis of national identity," claimed the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi.

Fayyad, 64, headed the PA government from 2007 to 2013 before being forced to resign after months of tension with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Fayyad was often touted as a moderate and was hailed as a “strong partner” by the U.S. and Canada, even though he had called to free all PA Arabs imprisoned in Israel, despite the fact that many are serving time for terror-related offenses, including murder and attempted murder.