Lebanon looks to block Israeli frontier wall

A partial view taken on January 30, 2018 shows buildings of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp which is situated in East Jerusalem but surrounded by the Israeli controversial separation barrier. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Lebanon looks to block Israeli frontier wall

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Tuesday pledged a diplomatic push to prevent neighboring Israel’s construction of a dividing wall between the two countries as tensions mount over off-shore exploration for oil and gas.
President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri pledged to “pursue efforts to mobilize at the regional and international level to block building of the wall by Israel,” a statement said after a meeting.
Israel has been building a wall since 2012 on its volatile frontier with Lebanon — with the two countries still technically in a state of war.
Israel and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah fought a devastating conflict in 2006.
Lebanon says part of the wall follows the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” that was drawn up after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, and insists some sections will cut into its territory.
Israel has dismissed these claims and said Tuesday that “construction continues as usual.”
“All the works are carried out in sovereign Israeli territory,” the army said.
The renewed focus on the wall comes as the two sides spar over Lebanon’s plans to explore for oil and gas off shore in waters eyed by both sides.
Beirut is set to sign contracts with a consortium including French firm Total, Italian company ENI and Russia’s Novatek to begin looking for energy deposits off its Mediterranean coast in 2019.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman last month said awarding such bids amounted to “provocative behavior” by Lebanon’s government.
The statement from Lebanon’s presidency denounced the Israeli “allegations” and warned against attempts to “usurp” its resources.
Despite the hostility between the two countries, Israeli and Lebanese military officials meet regularly under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to discuss border issues.
On Monday a meeting was held and discussions focused on “engineering works south of the Blue Line,” UNIFIL said in a statement.
“Any activity close to the Blue Line should be predictable, with sufficient prior notification to allow for coordination by the parties, so as to avoid misunderstandings and prevent incidents,” it added.


Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

Updated 19 min 57 sec ago
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Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

  • Turkish president has threatened to ‘send home in coffins’ visitors from Australia, New Zealand
  • Aussie and NZ leaders want Turkey to explain the ‘vile’ and ‘offensive’ remarks

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned on Wednesday for “vile, offensive and reckless” comments after last week’s Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.

Australia summoned the Turkish ambassador in Canberra to explain the remarks, and New Zealand dispatched its foreign minister to Ankara to “set the record straight, face to face.”

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he shot dead 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Erdogan, in election campaign rallies for his AK Party, urged New Zealand to restore the death penalty and said Turkey would make the killer pay if New Zealand did not.

He said anti-Muslim Australians who came to Turkey would be “sent back in coffins, like their grandfathers at Gallipoli,” and he accused Australian and New Zealand forces of invading Turkey during the First World War “because it is Muslim land.”

But an international affairs scholar in Riyadh said Erdogan’s comments should not be taken as representative of Muslims. 

"He is a propagandist and an unpredictable politician,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “He keeps saying these things and then he issues an apology. Right now, he is making these incendiary comments to win elections.”

It was inappropriate behavior for a head of state, Al-Shehri said. “Which president would use such language and issue these kind of comments?”

In his speech, Erdogan said that the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915 was in fact an attempt by British colonial forces to relieve their Russian allies. The attack was a military disaster, and more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand forces were killed. Thousands of people from both countries travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services, and the anniversary is marked on Anzac Day every April 25.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after summoning the Turkish ambassador and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn.” Morrison described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile.” He accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to forge peace between the two countries.

A memorial at Gallipoli carries Ataturk’s words: “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets ... after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

“Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit,” Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her deputy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, would travel to Turkey to seek clarification of Erdogan’s comments. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said.