US decision on Jerusalem casts shadow over Pence visit

Pence has arrived in Cairo and will be meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.(AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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US decision on Jerusalem casts shadow over Pence visit

CAIRO: US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Cairo on Saturday at the start of a brief visit to the region against a backdrop of widespread anger at the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The issue topped the agenda at talks with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The two men also discussed the global fight against terrorism and Egypt’s role in providing peace and stability.
Pence will also visit Jordan and Israel on the the three-day trip. It had been scheduled to begin in Israel on Dec. 17, but the plans were changed after the uproar over the US decision on Jerusalem.
The visit was delayed twice, and Pence decided to come to Egypt first because it was the ideal platform to address Muslims and the Arab world.
One US official said Washington hoped Pence’s visit would help to end the emotional fury caused by the US decision, and to open a new page focusing on priorities such as fighting terrorism. Nevertheless, the Vice President has been snubbed by Egypt’s two main religious leaders, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Pope Tawadros, both of whom refused to meet him.
Mohammed El-Orabi, a former Egyptian foreign minister and a member of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Arab News Pence would listen to Egypt’s stance on the Jerusalem decision and its effect on US-Arab relations.
Tariq Fahmi, a professor of political science, said Cairo would use Pence’s visit to send important messages and clear warnings to the US administration. They would focus on respect for the two-state solution and the rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem. He said the Egyptian leadership would tell the US Vice President that any acts in this regard would harm US credibility in the region.
Pence spokesman Elisa Farah said the vice president’s meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Israel formed part of US national security interests, and the visit would go ahead despite the shutdown of the US federal administration following failure of Congress to agree on a budget.
US officials in the White House said that in addition to the Middle East peace process, Pence would discuss countering Iran’s support of terrorism, how to help refugees in Syria, and the protection of Christians and other minorities in the region from attacks by terrorist groups.
Pence will not meet Palestinian officials during his visit. Spokesmen for both Fatah and Hamas said on Saturday that the vice president’s visit was unwelcome because he was biased in favor of Israel, and there was no justification for meeting him.


Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds in oil producer

Updated 45 sec ago
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Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds in oil producer

  • The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp
  • The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya and a U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli

BENGHAZI: Eastern Libyan authorities have resumed an investigation into the unexplained killing of a top rebel commander in the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, a case that could reopen old wounds.
The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp of the kind that have marked the turmoil and violence gripping Libya ever since.
The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya, controlled by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, and a U.N.-backed administration in the capital Tripoli.
Haftar ordered the eastern military prosecutor to "immediately and urgently reopen the investigation" of the killing of Younes and two others slain in 2011, according to a decree posted late on Monday.
A previous investigation launched in 2011 had named as prime suspect Ali Essawi, who was deputy prime minister during the uprising at a rebel transitional authority which took over power from Gaddafi.
A court later dropped the case against Essawi and other suspects. But Essawi resurfaced into the spotlight when Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez appointed him as economy minister this month.
His appointment had sparked angry reactions from Younes's Obeidat tribe and a second eastern-based tribe, who warned in comments published on local media that the move was a provocation.
Both tribes are among the most powerful in the east and allied to Haftar, who has conquered most of eastern Libya.
The United Nations has been trying to mediate between east and west in a bid to overcome divisions and prepare the North African country for elections.
France had been pushing for the vote in December but recent fighting between rival groups in Tripoli and a lack of a constitutional basis has dimmed the prospect.
Younes was for years part of Gaddafi's inner circle.
He defected at the start of the uprising in February 2011 and became the military chief of the rebellion, a move opposed by other rebels who had suffered under the old regime.
His death caused deep rifts within the rebellion, exposing tensions between Islamists - whom Gaddafi fiercely suppressed during his 42-year dictatorship - and secularists and former army figures, with various factions accusing each other of responsibility.
The circumstances of his killing remain murky, but it is known that he was slain in July 2011 after rebel leaders summoned him back from the front line to Benghazi, the eastern city and cradle of the uprising.