Arab anti-terror quartet extends Qatar boycott as Doha rejects demands

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (L), Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa (2nd-L), Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (2nd-R), and UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (R) meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 5, 2017, to discuss the Gulf diplomatic crisis with Qata. (AFP)
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Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — Adel Al-Jubeir, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Sameh Shoukry and Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa — meet to discuss the Qatari diplomatic crisis in Cairo on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 06 July 2017

Arab anti-terror quartet extends Qatar boycott as Doha rejects demands

CAIRO: Four Arab states calling for combating terrorism vowed Wednesday to maintain their boycott of Qatar, criticizing its “negative” response to their list of demands to end the diplomatic crisis.
Doha’s response, they said, was “not serious” and betrayed Qatar’s “failure” to realize the gravity of the situation.
The announcement followed a meeting by foreign ministers from the four nations — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain — in Cairo, shortly after they said they had received Doha’s reply. 
 “The political and economic boycott will remain until Qatar changes its policies for the better," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said. 
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters Qatar’s response to the Arab states’ 13-point list of demands was “negative on the whole.” It did not “lay the foundations for Qatar’s abandonment of the policies it pursues. It’s a position that does not realize the gravity of the situation,” he added.
The ministers did not say what their next steps would be — that, they explained, would be announced after further consultations. They will meet next in Bahrain, but a date has yet to be set.
“We hope wisdom will prevail and Qatar will eventually make the right decisions,” added Shoukry, who said the four nations were acting against Qatar within the boundaries of international law as well as the interest to safeguard regional and international security.
Shoukry said Qatar’s policies could not be allowed to continue and vowed that Egyptian blood would not be shed in vain, a reference to deadly attacks by militants on Egyptian army and security forces. 
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said Qatar was only interested in “destruction, incitement, extremism and terrorism,” rather than in good neighborly relations.
He added:  “To defeat terrorism, we must confront extremism, we must confront hate speech, we must confront the harboring and sheltering of extremists and terrorists, and funding them… Unfortunately, we in this region see that our sister nation of Qatar has allowed and harbored and encouraged all of this.”
“Today’s meeting on Qatar was for coordination purposes and we will take full studied decisions later,” said Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sent UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman to the Gulf to discuss how the UN might work with regional partners to resolve the crisis.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that Feltman has already been to the UAE and was in Kuwait, which is trying to mediate the conflict.
Dujarric says Feltman will be traveling to Doha.
US President Donald Trump, on Wednesday, discussed the Qatari crisis with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in a call. The US president called on all sides to negotiate constructively and reiterated the need for all countries to follow thorough on their commitments at the Riyadh Summit to stop terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.