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.


Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.

(AFP)