NATO seeks closer ties with Gulf, opens new center

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C-R) and Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah (C-L) attend the meeting between members of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and the Islamic Cooperation Initiative (ICI) at the NATO Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Centre in Kuwait City on January 24, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2017
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NATO seeks closer ties with Gulf, opens new center

KUWAIT CITY: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called for boosting security cooperation with the Gulf states as the Western military alliance opened its first office in the region.
“It will be a vital hub for cooperation between the alliance and our Gulf partners,” Stoltenberg said at the inauguration of the center in Kuwait in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah.
The center is based on the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which was launched by the NATO leaders in 2004 and aims to boost security links with the Middle East, in particular Gulf Arab states.
Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are members of ICI while the remaining two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — Saudi Arabia and Oman — plan to join.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said the region is facing serious challenges that require cooperation with international organizations.
“We face common security threats like terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cybertattacks. And we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability,” Stoltenberg said.
“So it is essential that we work more closely together than ever before. We have now developed individual cooperation programs with all our Gulf partners,” he said.
Stoltenberg said that over the past year, NATO has trained hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan to better fight the Islamic State jihadist group.
“We are now extending our training and capacity-building efforts into Iraq itself,” he said.
NATO continues to fight terrorism in other ways, including with direct support to the anti-IS coalition, he said.
The center will strengthen the military-to-military cooperation and the fight against terrorism and extremism, Stoltenberg said.
The center will help the Gulf states by providing advanced training courses on cyber security, energy security, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.


Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

The confidence vote is likely to give Prime Minister Omar Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. (Reuters)
Updated 33 min 1 sec ago
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Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

  • Reformist leader Razzaz proves parliamentary majority after a week of intense debate
  • Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals

AMMAN: Jordan Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s comfortable victory in a parliamentary confidence vote has given the reformist leader some breathing space — for the time being at least.
Razzaz survived the vote by a 79-49 margin after a week of intense debate in the 130-member Parliament.
However, the embattled leader, who has been in office for only six weeks, knows the victory cannot be taken for granted.
The confidence vote is likely to give Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. Jordan’s Parliament will return from recess in October and, short of an emergency, another vote of confidence is unlikely.
After the vote, Razzaz told his supporters: “The weight on our shoulders is heavy, the road is long, and we need stamina for the long run. I know you have high expectations and this is a big responsibility. May God help us to live up to this confidence.”
Riyad Alsubuh, a human rights lawyer, said that the vote was unique because it was not based on compromises.
“The Razzaz government didn’t make any deals with MPs in return for their votes, which has given the government unprecedented power. Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals.”
Voting was temporarily interrupted when an unemployed worker jumped from a balcony into the main hall. Razzaz left his seat and was later seen on video talking to the protesting worker and taking his personal information.
Before the vote Razzaz reassured the Parliament that although the country’s situation is difficult, “we can overcome if we work together.”
The premier’s s failure to make any special promises angered some MPs, who were hoping to trade their vote for something tangible to their communities.
Assem Rababa, director of the Adaleh Center, told Arab News that some government supporters believed they were losing their influence in reforming election law.
“Key people close to the government felt that this new government competes with them. The speaker of the Parliament had a role in helping Razzaz win the vote.”
Saed Karajeh, a lawyer and political observer, said that some MPs voted out of confusion.
“The prime minister had a month to prepare and can’t be expected to come up with fully developed plans. If he did, it would have been rushed. I am surprised by many of the MPs who have been preaching reform and then voted against the Razzaz government.”
Sinan Sweiss, a Jordan publisher, said that security issues are harming the country.
“Having a strong security system is essential, but allowing security to overrule all other areas in the governance and society is harming our country. We are losing our best people, those who are able to change or improve things here.”
Sweiss, who is active in the civil state movement, said that while Razzaz is a reformer, he has been attacked much more than other prime ministers.
“MPs from the civil coalition voted against him, while those with money and ego voted for him.”
One issue that dominated the discussion was the fact that seven members of the Razzaz government are women.
Members of the Islamic ActionFront criticized Razzaz because all seven fail to wear the head cover (hijab).
Obaida Abdo, a television presenter who focuses on women’s issues, said that Razzaz showed his humanity throughout the discussions, while the MPs were hypocrites.
“Many of those who support the policies and person of Razzaz voted against him, which reflects the chaos that has become a hallmark of consecutive governments in Jordan,” she said.