Emaar boss sparks Palestine row

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has been accused of over stepping “the boundaries of the negotiating mandate granted to him by the UAE authorities to contact Israeli officials”.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  February 27, 2005

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has been accused of over stepping “the boundaries of the negotiating mandate granted to him by the UAE authorities to contact Israeli officials”. The claims, by senior UAE officials, come after Alabbar met with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon two weeks ago. According to the Israeli media, Alabbar said he would pay US$56 million for 21 Jewish settlements to be evacuated in the Gaza strip. The meeting was also the highest-level official contact between the UAE and Israel in recent years. Israel says it might demolish the homes but spare other infrastructure. The country is planning to pull all of its 8000 settlers from Gaza and the troops that protect them as part of the disengagement plan. It will maintain control of Gaza’s borders, coastline and airspace. However, a senior UAE official told the daily pan Arab Asharq Al Awsat “Alabbar has no official authority that allows him to conduct negotiations … and he had no mandate from either the local authority in Dubai or from the federal government to conduct such talks.” The official added that what Alabbar did “violates the rights of shareholders in Emaar Properties who have a right and say as to the policies related to issues and strategic initiatives like the purchasing of settlements which put financial or moral obligations on the company”. When asked if the UAE government would sanction Alabbar, the official said: “We have to wait and to see what were the reasons and rationale that were behind this individual behaviour that violated the official policies and positions [of the UAE].” He added: “The right of first inquiry and sanctioning Alabbar is Emaar Properties because he spoke in Israel in his capacity as the head of this company.” The comments of the UAE official to Asharq Al Awsat coincided with comments carried by the semi-official Al Ittihad newspaper, which launched a direct and hard-hitting criticism of “Alabbar’s Israeli adventure” adding that his behaviour is “not acceptable at all”. The chairman of Emaar is believed to have also discussed his offer to buy the properties with Israeli deputy prime minister Shimon Peres. After the meeting, Alabbar said it was “premature” to talk about buying the settlements, adding the idea was “just at a starting point”. However, Emaar later confirmed that it was forming a new company, Emaar Palestine. It added: “Emaar Palestine’s priority is to plan and construct well-designed communities with all amenities, providing quality modern homes with comprehensive community services, while using local materials and expertise.” Shimon Peres proposed in an interview that Israel should sell the Jewish settlements it would be evacuating in the Gaza Strip this summer rather than destroy them. Arabian Business attempted to contact Alabbar for comment, but was told he was unavailable and outside the UAE. For full story, buy Arabian Business, on sale from February 27. See news section for story on the Alabbar/Kanoo clash.

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