UK Parliament calls out fake Qatari news reports about politicians’ visit

A picture tweeted by Lord Nazir Ahmed shows members of the delegation on a visit to Qatar. (Twitter)
Updated 20 October 2017
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UK Parliament calls out fake Qatari news reports about politicians’ visit

LONDON: Qatar issued a false statement about a visit by British politicians to Doha, in which it was claimed an official committee called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gulf state, the UK Parliament has told Arab News.
The state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA) in September claimed that the “British Parliamentary Inquiry Committee” had been “charged by the British Parliament to investigate the violations of the siege imposed on the State of Qatar.”
But no committee of that name exists, and the UK Parliament made no order for such a visit, it was confirmed this week.
The QNA report — which also referenced a non-existent MP called “J. Morse” — was picked up by several Qatar-based media outlets. Some claimed that the group of politicians had called for the blockade on Qatar to be lifted.
The UK Parliament confirmed that a group of British politicians visited Qatar in September, but denied that it was an official visit.
“A number of parliamentarians visited Qatar in partnership with the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK,” a parliamentary spokesperson told Arab News.
“This was done in their personal capacity, and not as part of an official committee of the UK Parliament. The rules concerning registration of foreign travel for MPs and peers are set out in the relevant codes of conduct.”
The delegation to Qatar in September included Grahame Morris MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Lord Kilclooney and Lord Qurban Hussain. All refused to comment on the nature or funding of the trip, despite repeated requests by Arab News.
The three members of the House of Lords all declared the visit in the parliamentary register of interests, saying that the travel and accommodation costs were met by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in UK. Lord Kilclooney and Lord Qurban Hussain declared it as a “cross-party parliamentary visit.”
Records for the Arab Organization for Human Rights lodged at Companies House in the UK show that it is a non-trading company. The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The freelance journalist Bill Law also accompanied the group trip to Qatar, and was pictured, with a wide smile on his face, in group photographs with the politicians.
Law later filed a report for the BBC radio show “From Our Own Correspondent,” in which he quotes Qataris who were highly critical of the Anti-Terror Quartet, including one unnamed person who claimed the action of the quartet amounted to “terrorism.” 
A BBC spokesperson stood by the report. “This first person piece from Qatar looks at the impact the current situation is having on the mood of the country, families, as well as at the economic upset. We’re satisfied the piece is an impartial piece of journalism,” the spokesperson told Arab News.
The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — imposed a blockade in June over allegations that Qatar supports extremist groups. Doha denies the charges.


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 54 sec ago
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.