Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Mahmoud Abbas rival given Serbian citizenship, documents reveal

Serbia’s government has quietly granted citizenship to Mohammed Dahlan, a key rival of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and adviser to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Dahlan, his family and five key political supporters were all granted citizenship between February 2013 and June 2014, according to documents from the state’s official gazette analysed by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN)

Dahlan is credited with facilitating Abu Dhabi’s promised investment of billions of euros in Serbia. However, the government in Belgrade has refused to explain whether this is the reason for granting citizenship to him and 11 other Palestinians in the past two years. Seasoned Middle East observers have suggested that Dahlan could be planning to use Serbia as a base to launch his leadership challenge against Abbas, the current Palestinian Authority (PA) leader.

BIRN reveals that Dahlan is renting a luxurious villa in an exclusive Belgrade neighbourhood favoured by diplomats. Until recently the home of former Serbian president Boris Tadić, the villa’s security was beefed up before Dahlan’s arrival in Belgrade. The Serbian government has refused to respond to requests from BIRN for an explanation of why it has granted citizenship to Dahlan, his family and supporters. However, Dusan Simeonovic, former ambassador to Egypt and Palestine, told BIRN the move was “clearly a sign of gratitude for Dahlan’s role in implementing investments from the UAE”.

Bypassing the standard naturalisation process, the government can grant citizenship to an individual if it is deemed that doing so is in Serbia’s national interest, according to the country’s citizenship law. Under this system, a minister puts forward a name, which is then voted on in a closed government session. The decision is signed off by the prime minister or his deputy and published in the official gazette.

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