US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

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Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchange a memorandum of understanding in Doha, Qatar, July 11, 2017. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2017
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US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

JEDDAH: The US and Qatar on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at combating the financing of terrorism.
The signing of the pact, during a visit to Doha by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, comes after the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt — last month imposed sanctions on Qatar for financing extremist groups.
Tillerson said the agreement signed with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani followed intensive discussions.
“The agreement which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Sheikh Mohammed.
“The memorandum lays out a series of steps that each country will take in coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally,” said Tillerson.
Tillerson said the agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable through their commitments.
“Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information and will do more to keep the region ... safe,” Tillerson said.
Fahad Nazer, a political analyst based in Washington, wondered why it took so long for Qatar to agree to stop financing terror.
He told Arab News: “The memorandum of understanding between the US and Qatar could potentially be a positive development, but it really begs a legitimate question: What took Qatar so long? Saudi Arabia and most other (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have long resolved to take similar measures, and have indeed taken concrete steps to cut off financing of extremist groups and organizations. Some of these measures were implemented 10 years ago and even earlier. In some ways, the agreement raises more questions than it answers.”
Perry Cammack, fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the symbolism of the US-Qatar memorandum of understanding on terrorist financing is more important than the content.
"By sidestepping direct reference to the list of Saudi and Emirati demands, the agreement allows Qatar to implicitly acknowledge its willingness to increase its efforts against terrorist financing, while establishing the United States as a mediator in the conflict," said Cammack.

"It remains to be seen, though, whether this agreement can be a bridge to a broader GCC political settlement, since both sides are deeply entrenched in their positions," he added.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News: “The agreement helps tone down the acrimony between the two sides and gives Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy a chance. This is a possible first step, but the bigger picture remains the same for Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain — Qatar must change.”
For its part, the ATQ issued a joint-statement saying the four countries value US efforts. However, the quartet made it clear that this step is not enough and that Qatari “seriousness in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harboring terror” will be closely monitored.
Tillerson is expected in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with the foreign ministers of the Anti-Terror Quartet.
          


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.