Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as protesters call for more rallies

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir waves to his supporters during a rally at the Green Square in Khartoum on January 9. (Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2019

Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as protesters call for more rallies

  • Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday will be his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19

KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will travel to Cairo for talks with his Egyptian counterpart, state media reported Saturday, as protesters called for more nationwide demonstrations against his government.
Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday will be his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19.
On Wednesday, he met Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a trip to the Gulf state.
“President Omar Al-Bashir will travel to Cairo on Sunday for a one-day visit,” Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported.
“He will hold bilateral talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and also discuss regional issues that concern the two countries.”
Bashir’s visit was also confirmed by Sudan’s ambassador to Cairo, Mahmoud Abdel Halim.
Protests erupted in Sudan last month after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
The rallies swiftly mushroomed into nationwide calls for an end to Bashir’s three decades in power, as protesters clashed with security forces.
Officials say 30 people have died in the violence, while rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed including medics and children.
The Sudanese group that is leading the protest campaign has called for more rallies over the next few days, including night-time demonstrations on Saturday.
Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has remained steadfast in rejecting calls to resign.
While the spark for the first protests was the rise of bread prices, anger has been mounting for years over worsening economic hardships and deteriorating living conditions in Sudan.
That ire has now spilt onto the streets as protesters chant their main slogan calling for “freedom, peace, justice.”
Bashir has blamed the economic woes on the United States.
Washington lifted its trade embargo on Sudan in October 2017 after two decades of bruising economic punishment, but that failed to revive the country’s financial situation.
Experts say cash injections from the Gulf states, led by wealthy Qatar, have helped stave off economic collapse.
There was no announcement, however, of any financial assistance from Qatar for Bashir during his latest visit.
Egypt, which has deep historical ties with Sudan, has called repeatedly for stability in its southern neighbor.
“Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which is integral to Egypt’s national security,” El-Sisi told a top Bashir aide who visited Cairo earlier this month.
Relations between Cairo and Khartoum had deteriorated sharply in 2017 over territorial disputes and accusations from Bashir that Egypt’s intelligence services were supporting opposition forces fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.
But in recent months the two governments have ironed out their differences, with Sudan lifting a 17-month ban on Egyptian agricultural produce.


Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

Updated 28 min 35 sec ago

Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

  • Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic

TEL AVIV: In the early morning, when the only sound on Tel Aviv beach is the waves, Yosef Salman and his team pick up plastic debris left by bathers or cast up by the sea.
Working in heat and humidity with large rakes, they scoop plastic cups, cigarette ends, empty sunscreen tubes and soiled babies’ nappies.
Also present, but impossible to separate from the sand, are microplastics, tiny particles of plastic debris that have been broken down by sun and salt.
“When it rains... you can see tons of plastic in the sand,” says Ariel Shay, of the Plastic Free Israel movement, which organizes volunteer beach cleanups.
Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic.
A June report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ranked Tel Aviv’s coastline as the third most polluted by plastic waste in the Mediterranean, behind Barcelona and southern Turkey.
Valencia, Alexandria, Algiers and Marseille were listed in fourth to seventh places.
With around four million inhabitants, Tel Aviv is Israel’s most populous metropolitan area.
“Every time I go to the beach now, I spend my time cleaning — it’s horrible!” complains Shani Zylbersztejn, with an eye on her nine-month-old daughter, who plays with a plastic fork freshly dug from the sand.
In the upper-crust town of Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv, Limor Gorelik, of the environmental protection NGO Zalul, patrols the sands, offering beachgoers bamboo cups and reusable bags in a bid to wean them from single-use plastics.
Gorelik blames Israel’s passion for plastic on a lack of education and on deeply ingrained habits, such as using disposable tableware for family picnics.
Observant Jews who want a beachfront lunch on Saturdays are forbidden from washing the dishes afterwards, because their faith bans them from working on the Sabbath.
“They’re not permitted to wash dishes so they use disposable plastic,” Gorelik says.
Even plastic waste dumped in the bins that dot the beaches can end up in the sea, carried by the wind or by birds which rip open garbage bags in search of food.
Independent researcher Galia Pasternak has analyzed coastal plastic pollution in Israel.
According to her data, 60 percent of the waste on the beach comes from the bathers themselves.
Some is also borne by currents from Gaza and Egypt in the south or from Lebanon further north.
In 2005, Israel’s environmental protection ministry launched a program offering local councils incentives for proven results in cleaning their beaches.
Subject to regular inspection, councils that meet requirements get funding, while failing authorities face cuts or even court, says Ran Amir, head of the environment ministry’s marine division.

Amir cites the case of the popular Palmahim beach, south of Tel Aviv.
Palmahim municipal council was taken to court and fined over the state of the beach — which has since become “one of the cleanest beaches in Israel today,” he says.
The ministry’s strategy in recent years has also included public service messages on radio and online, along with fines, recycling facilities and education, according to Amir.
“It think it has partially worked,” says Pasternak, who helped set up some of those programs.
Zalul’s Gorelik, however, says Israel is still trailing behind other countries.
She says charges introduced in supermarkets in 2017 for plastic bags — previously given away free — are too low, at just 0.10 Israeli shekels (0.02 euros/ $0.03) each.
“It’s not enough,” Gorelik says, adding that even this modest measure does not apply to small grocery stores.
She points to new European Union restrictions on single-use plastics.
“Europeans are the leaders on the subject,” she says.
“Here, we are very far away.”