‘Urgent need’ for unified Arab force to counter radicals

Updated 11 March 2015

‘Urgent need’ for unified Arab force to counter radicals

CAIRO: Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby called on Monday for the creation of a unified Arab force to battle the spread of extremist groups.
“There is an urgent need for the creation of a multi-purpose common Arab military force... able to intervene rapidly to fight terrorism and the activities of terrorist groups,” Elaraby told a meeting of league foreign ministers in Cairo.
He also stressed the importance of “cooperation in areas related to security protection and the exchange of information between Arab countries.”
Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters last week that the bloc’s leaders are expected to focus on the creation of such a common force when they meet for its annual summit on March 28-29 in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
He had said such a force was important as a “symbolic” show of deterrence at times of “conflict or disasters.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi has also called for such a force, saying it is needed to confront security threats in a region where the Islamic State group holds swathes of Syria and Iraq and has gained a foothold in Egypt’s neighbor Libya.
He has suggested that a number of Arab League members, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Jordan, are considering supporting the idea.
Meanwhile, the US military’s top officer warned Monday that the international coalition fighting Islamic State extremists could be jeopardized if the Baghdad government fails to bridge Iraq’s sectarian divide.
Iraq’s political leaders have yet to deliver on promises to reach out to the Sunni population and have raised concerns in the region by forging closer ties to Shiite-led Iran, Gen. Martin Dempsey said after spending several hours in Baghdad.
For the longer term, the solidarity of the anti-IS coalition — which includes Sunni Arab states — could be put at risk, Dempsey told reporters in Manama.
Flying over Baghdad by helicopter earlier, Dempsey noted Shiite militia banners flying over many buildings, describing “the plethora of flags, only one of which happens to be the Iraqi flag.” He said Sunni Arab countries in the region, several of which are taking part in air strikes in Syria, were anxious over Iran’s influence in Iraq.


Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Updated 25 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.