British lawmakers deny link to Qatar ‘report’ on impact of boycott

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The image used by Qatar’s National Human Rights Council for the supposed report bears the portcullis logo of the UK Houses of Parliament as well as the names of British politicians — but no link to the report was provided. (NHRC)
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The image used by Qatar's National Human Rights Council bears the name of Grahame Morris MP who led the delegation. (Twitter: @grahamemorris)
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Lord Ahmed denied any knowledge of the report and said the Qataris had “weakened” their case. (REUTERS)
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Fellow delegation member Lord Kilclooney also cast doubt on the report’s legitimacy, saying: “I signed no such report.” (Supplied)
Updated 22 February 2018
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British lawmakers deny link to Qatar ‘report’ on impact of boycott

LONDON: A report by visiting British politicians on the effects of the boycott on Qatar was compiled without their authorization or knowledge — and may even not exist at all.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Council (NHRC) claimed that a report was published in January 2018 following a visit to Doha by a “British parliamentary delegation” in September.

It said the report details the group’s “observations and conclusions on the repercussions and impacts of the blockade,” according to the NHRC.

Although no link to the report was provided, the NHRC published a photograph alongside mention of it, clearly showing the portcullis logo of the UK Houses of Parliament, and the title “Human Rights Implications of the Blockade on Qatar.”

The image also bears the names of Grahame Morris MP, who led the delegation, and Lord Ahmed, Lord Hussain and Lord Kilclooney.

But on Thursday, Lord Ahmed denied any knowledge of the report and said the Qataris had “weakened” their case.

“I’ve not seen it or read it, and I certainly did not authorize using the portcullis logo. I have no authority to use the logo except on my letters from the House of Lords,” he said.

The delegation spent three days in Qatar last September. The visit was arranged by the NHRC, which subsequently claimed the MPs had presented a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May urging an end to the boycott on Qatar imposed by the Anti-Terror Quartet, which is made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. In fact, the MPs had simply submitted a suggestion to debate the subject.

Asked if the Qataris had misrepresented the delegation, Lord Ahmed said, “It weakens their case.”

His fellow delegation member Lord Kilclooney also cast doubt on the report’s legitimacy, saying, “I signed no such report.”

The NHRC claimed the delegation that visited last September had “interviewed” 100 “victims” of the boycott, now in its ninth month. But Lord Ahmed said, “We met quite a few people but definitely not that many.”

He also said he had been more concerned with finding out about progress on human rights, particularly the rights of workers employed on big construction projects.

“I grilled them on that,” he said.

It would also be wrong to describe their visit as official, he added. “It was a parliamentary delegation but it did not come about through any parliamentary structures.”

He believes he was invited because he had met the crown prince — now the ruler — of Qatar during a earlier trip to Gaza.

When asked if the report about their September visit even exists, Lord Ahmed replied, “I can only repeat I’ve never seen it and I can’t say I was involved. While we were there we made a statement on what we saw and heard but I was not party to any report.”

This is not the first time Doha has wildly exaggerated and even concocted stories concerning visiting foreign delegations.

Last week, the state-run news agency QNA claimed a British All-Party Parliamentary Group led by Alistair Carmichael had praised Qatar’s record on workers’ rights. But Carmichael was not even in Qatar at the time.

A spokesman for the House of Commons told Arab News that Parliament was not aware of this trip being “part of an official parliamentary visit,” as claimed by a QNA report published by The Peninsula newspaper.


Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

Updated 42 min 50 sec ago
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Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

  • Research group warns of ‘dire humanitarian consequences’ over disputed Al-Nahda project
  • Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam

CAIRO: An international research group has warned of “dire humanitarian consequences” if a controversial Ethiopian project to dam the Nile leads to conflict with Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

The $5 billion dam is a source of friction between the three countries that could spill over into open hostility, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report.

Egypt and Sudan fear the dam, now being built near the Sudanese border, could reduce available water to both countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Al-Nahda dam, has been under construction since 2011 and is due to be completed in 2022. When finished it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating about 6,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use and export.

Dr. Abbas Al-Sharaki, a water resources expert at the Institute of African Studies at Cairo University, told Arab News that Egypt is likely to face a water crisis in the future because of the dam.

Planned negotiations on the dam between the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia are unlikely to succeed, he said. 

Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam, which would affect the 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that Egypt currently gets from the Nile. Ethiopia’s leaders insist the dam will also benefit all three countries.

Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the former Egyptian minister of irrigation, said that the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Egyptian water quota is inevitable, but Egypt is looking to reduce its effects and delay it as long as possible until other resources are raised.

Dr. Hisham Bakhit, professor of water resources at Cairo University, said that Egypt is conducting large-scale research to reduce the impact of the dam.

Egypt has many sustainable solutions to manage the Nile’s water, he said.

The country gets 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water from the Nile, and has “historical rights” over the river guaranteed under treaties in 1929 and 1959, Bakhit said.

MP Mustafa Al-Jundi said that Egypt has the right to appeal to the African Union, the African Parliament, the UN and international courts in the case of Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources, said this week that Cairo does not oppose the development ambitions of any country “as long as they don’t harm any shares in water or threaten national security.”

The ministry is working to tap all sources of water and implement modern methods in irrigation. Desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and experimental studies into salt water farming are among Egypt’s plans to ensure reliable future supplies, he said.

The Al-Nahda dam was 60 percent complete before work stopped in August as a result of a funding crisis. In January, a Chinese company, Voith Hydro Shanghai, signed a deal to build the turbine generators at the dam.