MIDDLE EAST

Palestinian President Abbas flies to Germany for medical check-up

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Germany on Monday for a medical check-up, Palestinian officials have said.

Abbas, 85, had attended public events in recent days and there was no indication he was ill. He received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine last month.

The leader has long been in poor health and was admitted to hospital with pneumonia in 2018. A heavy smoker, he was also treated in a United States hospital the same year during a trip to address the United Nations Security Council.

Abbas flew by Jordanian helicopter from the presidential compound al-Muqata’a in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah to the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Upon arrival, he made a brief comment on the recent events that have rocked Jordan’s political arena and affirmed his support for King Abdullah II.

“When these events occurred, we saw the whole world, without exception, standing by Jordan and by His Majesty, and this is evidence of the great respect and great interest in this peaceful and secure country,” Abbas said in televised remarks, referring to the placing of the king’s half-brother under house arrest.

Elections upcoming

Abbas’s visit to Germany comes less than two months before the first Palestinian polls in 15 years are set to take place. Legislative elections are scheduled for May 22, with a presidential vote set for July 31.

Abbas, who was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in the last vote in 2005 following the death of Yasser Arafat, has not yet declared whether he intends to run again.

His official mandate ran out in 2009 but he has been ruling by decree since then. He has never chosen a successor and several senior members of his Fatah party are believed to be eyeing the position

The secular Fatah party, which controls the occupied West Bank, is facing internal challenges from dissident factions, including the Freedom List, led by Nasser al-Qudwa, a nephew of the late Arafat.

Freedom has been endorsed by Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader who is serving multiple life sentences in Israel for allegedly organising deadly attacks during the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) from 2000-2005.

Abbas’s former Gaza security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in Abu Dhabi, is also backing a list of challengers.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an ex-World Bank official with a track record of fighting corruption, is supporting his own group.

The Palestinian election followed an agreement on vote procedures between Fatah and Hamas, which controls the Israeli-blockaded Gaza strip.

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