Israel wants US mediation in gas dispute with Lebanon

A United Nations helicopter carrying Italian peacekeepers takes off from the UNIFIL headquarters for a patrol over the Blue Line, a UN-drawn boundary between Lebanon and Israel, in the costal town of Naqoura, southern Lebanon, on Feb. 7, 2018.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Israel wants US mediation in gas dispute with Lebanon

BEIRUT: Israel offered on Wednesday to accept US mediation in a dispute with Lebanon over a potentially lucrative block of gas resources in the Mediterranean.
As tension rises over the issue, the senior US diplomat for the Middle East, David Satterfield, made a surprise visit to Lebanon this week for talks with senior government officials, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to visit on Feb. 15.
“We are willing to accept American mediation to resolve the issue diplomatically. There was international mediation on the matter in the past,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Wednesday.
“We were close to reaching a compromise in 2013, but the whole thing collapsed at the 11th hour.”
There is also growing unease over Israeli plans to build a cement wall on its border with Lebanon. Construction work has already begun at the Ras Al-Naqoura border crossing.
Talks took place at Ras Al-Naqoura on Wednesday between representatives of the Lebanese and Israeli armies, brokered by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The two sides discussed the possibility of deciding on the maritime border between the two countries in the same way as the land border was established. “UNIFIL proposed this solution, and Lebanon welcomes it provided the international force undertakes this task,” Lebanese MP Mohammed Qabbani told Arab News.
Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council said Israel’s behavior was a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and threatened border stability. “We grant the armed forces the political backing to act against any Israeli aggression on the border — on land and at sea,” it said.
Resolution 1701 was passed after the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006, and guarantees Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Israeli minister Steinitz said: “I do not need these explicit threats. Energy security and the protection of our energy installations — and to a great extent the gas rigs as well — are at the top of our list of priorities.
“Let there be no doubt, the state of Israel is the strongest nation in the region, and we will defend our territorial waters and our gas rigs and fields.
“I think both Israel and Lebanon are interested in a diplomatic solution. Lebanese officials are interested in exploiting gas and oil, and they have the right to do so. However, they should not make threats.”


Egyptians hope foreign university campuses will boost higher education

Updated 16 August 2018
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Egyptians hope foreign university campuses will boost higher education

  • The law to allow foreign campuses was approved by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi this month
  • Experts say the move will help improve Egyptian universities

CAIRO: A new law approved by the Egyptian president that allows foreign universities to establish campuses in Egypt, aims to boost the development of higher education and scientific research in the country.

The architects of the new law also hope it will build links with other countries to provide more and better educational opportunities, and preserving the national identity of Egyptian students.

Applications from foreign universities will be examined by a committee formed and headed by the minister of higher education, which will include representatives from other ministries and relevant authorities. 

The minister will have the right to close the campus of a foreign university if it violates Egyptian laws or decisions by the authorities, and to prevent the university from accepting new students.

The law was approved by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi this month after passing through parliament in July.

Experts and university professors have differing opinions on the likely effects of foreign universities setting up in Egypt. While many suggest that Egyptian universities will develop and improve to compete, some fear the opposite will happen.

Youssef Rashid, acting secretary of the Supreme Council of Universities, said he believes the new law is good and will increase competition among universities, as a result improving the quality of education everywhere.

Abdullah Sorour, founder of the Union of Egyptian scientists, said: “A partnership between foreign universities and Egyptian universities is the best way forward.” He added that existing foreign education institutes in Egypt do not have a clear identity.

The proposal was first raised more than a year ago but gained traction in June 2018 after Dr. Khalid Abdul Ghaffar, the current minister of higher education, signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Liverpool in England. He described the agreement as “a sign of confidence in the Egyptian education system” and “evidence of the stability of the country.” He added that the British university will “soon” establish a campus in Egypt, and that there are further plans for cooperation with universities in the United States and Canada.

The new law stipulates that foreign universities in Egypt will be free to set their own tuition fees, but that Egyptian students must be allowed to pay in Egyptian pounds. The fees cannot be increased after enrollment. Some people expressed a hope that the increased competition would drive down the cost of tuition fees.

“We want these universities to be cheaper that their Egyptian counterparts,” said Ahmad Al-Lundi, who works at a bank. He said he pays 50,000 Egyptian pounds a year in tuition fees for his son, who is studying in the Faculty of Pharmacy at Al-Ahram Canadian University, and EGP 41,500 for his daughter, who attends Future University.

The cost of tuition at private universities in Egypt varies wildly. The annual fees at the Egyptian Russian University — which has only three faculties: oral medicine, engineering and pharmacy — range from EGP 33,000 to EGP 58,000, while the British University charges about EGP 80,000 for its dentistry faculty, EGP 60,000 for business administration, economics and political science, and EGP 75,000 EGP for engineering and pharmacy. The October University of Modern Sciences and Literature (MSA), which has nine faculties, charges a tuition fee of EGP 87,500 a year for dentistry and EGP 63,500 for pharmacy, in addition to the cost of a British certificate, which is 325 euros.