Our hearts are with our French brothers over Notre Dame fire: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

French police have yet to identify the reason of the fire. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019
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Our hearts are with our French brothers over Notre Dame fire: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

  • The Grand Imam tweeted in three different languages
  • French President pledged to rebuild the cathedral

DUBAI: Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading Islamic institute, has expressed sadness over the fire that devastated large parts of the historic Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
“I feel so sorry for the massive fire at the historical architectural masterpiece ‘Notre-Dame Cathedral’ in Paris, our hearts go out to our brothers in France, they deserve our full support,” in a tweet.


Al-Tayeb also tweeted the same message in Arabic and French.


The fire is suspected to have started in the 850-year-old cathedral’s attic, where restoration works are being done.

The French fire brigade have yet to officially confirm the cause of the massive blaze, which destroyed the famous tourist attraction’s iconic spire and oak wood roof.

Firefighters managed finally to control of fire during the early hours of Tuesday.

The French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking from the scene, described the blaze as a “terrible tragedy” although the “worst had been avoided,” and promised Parisians that they will “rebuild this cathedral together.”

“Let’s be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we’ve built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So, I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together,” Macron told reporters.

The sense of shock at the damage was palpable and also stirred reactions from governments across the world.

In a rare statement, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened", while Pope Francis sent his hopes that Notre-Dame "may once again become, thanks to reconstruction work and the mobilisation of all, a jewel in the heart of the city." The Queen's son, Prince Charles, also shared his thoughts.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe sent a message saying his country would consider sending support. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a message published on the Kremlin's website that the tragedy "struck a chord in the hearts of Russians." He called Notre Dame a "priceless treasure of Christian and world culture" and said Russia is ready to send the "best specialists" to help rebuild it.

Elsewhere, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed sadness over the fire he described as a "heritage and humanitarian disaster." Hariri added in a tweet late Monday that Lebanon expresses strong solidarity with the "friendly French people."

 


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.