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Tunisia fires UN envoy for being overly critical of Trump's plan: Report

Diplomatic sources said Moncef Baati went further than President Kais Saied wanted in his criticism of Trump's 'deal of the century'
Diplomatic sources said Moncef Baati criticised Trump's plan far more than President Kais Saied desired (Twitter)

Tunisia fired its ambassador to the UN on Friday, citing his "poor performance and lack of coordination" with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but according to diplomatic sources, his dismissal followed his public support for the Palestinians which threatened to damage relations between Tunisia and the United States.

In a strongly worded statement, Tunisia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that Moncef Baati was relieved from his post "for purely professional reasons" concerning his "weak performance and lack of coordination with the ministry on important matters under discussion at the UN".

Still, diplomatic sources told AFP that Baati, who had sat on the UN Security Council since the beginning of the year, had gone further than President Kais Saied wanted in his criticism of US President Donald Trump's plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The Trump administration unveiled its long-awaited "deal of the century" document on 28 January, which contained conceptual maps showing how Israel and a future Palestinian state would appear if the Palestinians agreed.

The Palestinians rejected the US plan, with thousands taking to the streets in towns and villages across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The points laid out in the 181-page document allow for Israel to annex illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including the strategic Jordan Valley, refer to Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and deny Palestinians the right to return to their ancestral homes in Israel.

Before the plan was even released, rival Palestinian factions came out in unison against it. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave it "a thousand no's", adding that Palestinians remained committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Saied, a political outsider who took office in November, was concerned that Baati's expressions of support for the Palestinians risked damaging Tunisia's relations with the United States, the sources told AFP. 

'Everybody was in shock'

Foreign Policy reported that Baati was fired for leading diplomatic negotiations on a Palestinian draft Security Council resolution declaring Trump's plan in breach of international law.

Two diplomats told Foreign Policy that Baati was dismissed following complaints from the United States. 

"Everybody was in shock," one UN-based ambassador said. 

"[Baati] was among the most respected ambassadors at the United Nations and the government said he was fired because he was unprofessional? It's a joke."

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

Since the deal was unveiled, Tunisians from all walks of political life have rejected the controversial document.

Earlier this week, Tunisia's fractured parliament unanimously condemned the plan, with Noureddine Bhiri, the head of Ennahdha's parliamentary bloc, calling it "the scandal of the century".

On Wednesday, hundreds mobilised in the Tunisian capital to protest against the plan, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against normalisation with Israel.