EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker holds a news conference at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2018
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EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

  • European Union leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month
  • The talks with Egypt and other north African countries are to curb illegal migration

BRUSSELS: EU and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, EU officials said Thursday.
European Union leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other north African countries to curb illegal migration.
“The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019,” the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.
The Cairo-based Arab League includes North African countries Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as those in the Middle East and Gulf.
EU officials said the summit was part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.
“It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers,” an EU official told reporters.
Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new alliance” with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.
The EU has previously struck cooperation deals with both Turkey and Libya, whose coast guard officers are trained by the Europeans to stop migrant sea crossings.
The deals with the two gateway countries have helped to cut migration to Europe sharply since a 2015 peak, but the bloc wants to expand work with all north African countries.
The EU is increasingly focusing on less controversial plans to bolster its external borders, but sharp splits persist over redistributing asylum seekers who make it to Europe.


Several killed in blast in northwest Syria

Updated 24 April 2019
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Several killed in blast in northwest Syria

  • It was not clear if the cause of the blast near the market in the town of Jisr Al-Shughur was a car bomb, or a vehicle carrying explosives
  • All except one were civillians

BEIRUT: Fifteen people, all but two civilians, were killed in an explosion in the jihadist-held region of Idlib in northwest Syria on Wednesday, a war monitor said.
The cause of the blast in the town of Jisr Al-Shughur was not immediately clear, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The explosion hit next to the market,” killing 13 civilians, including the daughter of a foreign fighter, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“It is not known until now whether it was a car bomb, or the explosion of a car carrying explosives,” he added.
The Idlib region is under administrative control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
But the Turkestan Islamic Party, a group of foreign jihadists from the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority, also has a large presence in Jisr Al-Shughur.
The Islamic State jihadist group has sleeper cells in the wider Idlib region.
Idlib has since September been protected from a massive regime offensive by a fragile cease-fire deal signed by Damascus ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
But the region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since HTS took full control of it in January.
On Tuesday, regime shelling killed seven civilians, including four children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun.
Increased regime shelling on Khan Sheikhun has sparked one of the largest waves of displacement since the September deal.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since the conflict began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.