Oman’s foreign minister meets Bashar Assad in rare Syria visit

Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 July 2019
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Oman’s foreign minister meets Bashar Assad in rare Syria visit

  • The two discussed bilateral relations and regional security
  • Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years

MUSCAT: Oman’s top diplomat met Sunday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Muscat said, in the Gulf official’s second visit to the war-wracked country since conflict broke out in 2011.
Assad met with Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah to discuss bilateral relations and regional security, the sultanate’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It added that Abdullah also met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.
Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 for its deadly crackdown on an uprising against Assad’s rule, and fellow Arab countries, including Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have supported the opposition.
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos adheres to a strict policy of non-interference in regional affairs, maintaining relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran — a key backer of Assad.
Abdullah visited Damascus in 2015, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported at the time, to discuss ways to “resolve the crisis in Syria.”
During a visit to Oman last year, Syria’s Muallem praised Muscat for taking “supportive positions toward Syria at various Arab and international forums,” the state-run Oman News Agency reported.
Syria’s once rocky ties with the region are on the rebound.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus late last year after years of closure, and Syria’s relations with Bahrain and Jordan have also improved.
But Saudi Arabia remains hostile to Assad, who has made a military comeback with military support from Russia since 2015, clawing back almost two-thirds of the country.
Syria’s multi-fronted war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.