37th GCC Summit issues final communiqué

37th GCC Summit issues final communiqué
A broad view of the 37th GCC Summit in Manama, Bahrain, on Wednesday. (BNA)
Updated 08 December 2016

37th GCC Summit issues final communiqué

37th GCC Summit issues final communiqué
MANAMA: The 37th Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, held in Manama on Wednesday, issued its final communiqué stressing the significance of continuously propping up and beefing cooperation and integration among the GCC member states, leading up to the implementation of resolutions targeting full equal treatment among Gulf citizens in view of the joint market.
In a final communique issued after the summit, the GCC leaders said it is vital to share credit information as per a short-term plan and a comprehensive framework for a Gulf credit facilitation exchange mechanism.
They also agreed to build a GCC payments system, and entrust Gulf central banks to own, run and finance the plan by means of establishing an independent company. They approved an anti-fraud bill as a binding law, according to the concluding statement.
They further emphasized that the GCC member states have to commit to implementing a Gulf railway project, sending it to the economic and development committee for setting out a necessary mechanism in this regard.
It is also necessary to further promote and develop cooperation and coordination among the GCC member states in the military field, said the communique, while appreciating progress in the domain of mutual defensive cooperation in the face of various challenges and threats.
On terrorism, they reiterated their unshakeable position of rejection and condemnation of all forms and manifestations of terrorism, but emphasized that more efforts should be exerted to stop terror-financing sources and to fight attempts to distort the image of Islam.
In this regard, they sharply denounced recent explosions and bombings in Saudi Arabia as heinous crimes that have nothing to do with the tolerant religion of Islam or values and principles of humanity and ethics.
They reaffirmed their support to all regional and international efforts to fight Daesh and all other terrorist networks and organizations in Syria, Iraq and other regions.
On the recent US Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), the conferees condemned the law as a breach of the fixed principles of international law, mainly the principle of equality among the states.
They lashed out at the US act as a violation of the basics and principles of the relationship among the states and principle of sovereign immunity, calling on Washington to rethink this legislation due to its negative reflections on the relationship among the states.
However, they congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump, hoping that historic and strategic relations between the GCC member states and the US would be further promoted and cemented during Trump’s term of office.
They also vowed to work with him to ensure security, peace and stability in the region and the entire world.
They congratulated Antonio Guterres on having being elected as the new secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), reiterating support to UN efforts to maintain world security and stability, according to the communique.
Moreover, the GCC leaders voiced much satisfaction with fervent efforts exerted to push forward strategic partnerships of the GCC countries with Jordan and Morocco, reflecting fraternal close relations.
The leaders also blessed the recent resumption of free trade negotiations between the GCC and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
On meetings held in Manama between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May, the conferees highly commended the outcomes of GCC-UK talks which focused on the latest regional and international developments.
They hailed the strategic partnership between the GCC and UK, which reflected historical distinguished relations between both sides and set out frameworks of bilateral cooperation with a view to reaching closer ties in all fields.
On Palestine, the GCC leaders reiterated that total, just and everlasting peace could be reached in the Middle East region only when Israel withdraws from all Arab territories it occupied in 1967.
They reaffirmed support to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in line with the Arab peace initiative and relevant international legitimacy resolutions, the concluding statement added.
They also voiced support to the French initiative, together with other Arab and international efforts, to find a solution to the Palestinian state and to hold an early Middle East peace conference.
The GCC leaders further called on the international community to put more pressure on Israel to end its occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, and appreciated a recent UNESCO resolution recognizing Al-Aqsa Mosque as a purely Islamic site.
On the Iranian-occupied three islands of the UAE, they reiterated their rejection of the occupation of the three islands, and supported anew the UAE’s sovereignty over the islands as an integral part of this GCC member state.
In this regard, they called on Iran to positively respond to UAE efforts to resolve the issue through direct negotiations or the International Court of Justice (ICJ), while denouncing Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of the GCC member states and the whole region.
They also urged Tehran to revise its policies in the region by means of honoring relevant international conventions and treaties, and stop harboring terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, on its soil.
They emphasized that Iran should abide by its nuclear agreement with the G5+1 in July 2015, urging the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to apply an effective mechanism to verify the agreement is put in place.
Regarding Syria, the statement reiterated the GCC’s unwavering support to maintaining Syria’s unity, stability and territorial integrity, while condemning nonstop airstrikes by the aircraft of the Syrian regime and its allies on the Syrian city of Aleppo.
The GCC leaders renewed backing of all efforts exerted by UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and vowed to continue work to ease out the sufferings of the Syrian people.
On Yemen, the conferees reaffirmed full support to Yemen’s unity, sovereignty and independence and rejected any attempt to interfere in its domestic affairs, according to the final communique.
They underscored the significance of finding a political solution to the Yemeni crisis in line with the Gulf Initiative and its Executive Mechanism, Output of the Comprehensive National Dialogue, Riyadh Conference and UNSC Resolution 2216.
In this context, they voiced much appreciation to Kuwait for hosting UN-facilitated peace negotiations among Yemeni political rivals, which began on April 21st and wound up on August 7th, 2016.
But, they condemned the formation of a new government by Yemen’s Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as a serious blow to ongoing efforts to find a political solution to the Yemeni problem.
On Iraq, they renewed keenness on maintaining this Arab country’s unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, while vehemently rejecting interference in its internal affairs.
They voiced total support to the Iraqi government’s efforts to liberate Mosul from the grip of Daesh, emphasizing that IS-controlled Iraqi areas should be retaken only by Iraqi army and police forces.
However, they denounced crimes committed against civilians in the liberated areas on a sectarian basis, calling on the Iraqi government to live up to its responsibility by protecting civilians and ensuring a safe return of internally displaced persons.
Regarding Libya, the GCC leaders, according to the concluding statement issued after their summit in Manama, reiterated backing to UN efforts to ensure security and stability.

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’
Updated 07 May 2021

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’
  • Merkel and Erdogan agreed in a video conference to support the interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya would be an “important signal” as both leaders vowed to support the new interim government there, a German government spokesman said.
Libya’s new unity government was sworn in on March 15 from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a relatively smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.
Turkey had backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord against the eastern-based Libyan National Army, which was supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.
Merkel and Erdogan agreed in a video conference to support the interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh in its efforts to improve the supply situation for the population and in preparing elections by year-end, the spokesman said.
“The Chancellor emphasized that an early start of the withdrawal of foreign soldiers and mercenaries would send an important signal,” the spokesman added.
Merkel and Erdogan also discussed international efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as well as regional issues such as the civil war in Syria and international talks about the Cyprus issue, the spokesman said.
“The Chancellor and the Turkish President emphasized that adequate access for humanitarian aid to the people in need in Syria must be maintained,” the spokesman said. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alistair Bell)

Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood eviction appeal delayed

Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood eviction appeal delayed
Updated 06 May 2021

Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood eviction appeal delayed

Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood eviction appeal delayed

JERUSALEM: The lone Israeli court judge looking into the eviction appeal lodged by Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem has decided to let three judges of the Supreme Court take up the case on Monday.

The decision follows the rejection of both the Jewish settler organization and lawyers for the Palestinian families to reach an agreement between them as requested by the judge.

Lawyer Hosni Abu Hussein, representing the Palestinian families, told Arab News that the Israeli judge did not have the courage to take the right decision.

“Our request to appeal the eviction was based on sound legal arguments that any judge would have easily accepted but the prevailing atmosphere made it difficult for the judge to stand up for justice.”

Head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel Mohammad Baraka and member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi met with representatives of the families in Jerusalem and later issued a statement of support for their “steadfastness” and their rejections of compromise offers.

Tibi told Arab News that the priority is to support the Palestinian families and to protect the Arab identity of Jerusalem. “It is clear that the aim of this unjust eviction effort is to Judaize the Arab city of Jerusalem,” he said.

Abdel Latif Ghaith, a senior veteran Jerusalem activist, told Arab News that the public support for the people of Sheikh Jarrah must continue without any hesitation.

“What is clear is that the Israeli courts will not act on their own even in a case where justice is so obvious. The public pressure both local, regional and international, together with the legal effort and the undisputed documentation, will reverse the effort of the Jewish settlers bent on taking over this Palestinian area,” he said.

Ehab Abdel Latif, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah who has illegal Jewish settlers on two sides of his house, said he is worried. “Although we are not at present threatened with eviction, if the Israeli courts insist on turning a blind eye to the facts in this case and give unquestioned support to the Jewish settlers, then we are all doomed.”

Jordan was in control of Jerusalem when the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) built housing units on the vacant land and started to charge Palestinians rent. Settler organizations, which also claim to be the owners of the land, are now demanding rent payment.

Layer Abu Hussein explained that the compromise the courts wanted failed because of the gap between both sides. Palestinians said that they are willing to avoid eviction on grounds of not paying the rent by depositing the rent to a fund at the courts, while the Jewish settler organization Lahav Shomron is willing to allow the Palestinians to stay at their homes on condition that they pay rent to them. But if this happens the settlers will be considered landowners.

According to the rent protection law in Jerusalem, the offer by the settler organization allows Palestinian families to stay as long as a designated member of the family is alive. Thereafter, the settler organization would take over the homes. Palestinian residents have rejected this offer.

New evidence, which has emerged from the Ottoman records in Turkey and the Jordanian government, proves Jordan and the UNRWA agreed to build housing units on the land for Palestinians, Abu Hussein said. The land actually belonged to the Hijazi Saadi family, dated 1149 Hijri (1736 AD).

Using old Ottoman documents, the settlers’ side said the land belonged to an oriental Jewish group that registered itself in 1972.

Palestinian lawyers dispute this claim, arguing that the documents in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul that the settlers refer to do not exist and are forged.

Abu Hussein said that settlers have made ownership claims without proof that they are the original owners of the land.

Ethiopian dam is ‘existential issue’ for Egypt, El-Sisi tells US diplomat

Ethiopian dam is ‘existential issue’ for Egypt, El-Sisi tells US diplomat
Updated 06 May 2021

Ethiopian dam is ‘existential issue’ for Egypt, El-Sisi tells US diplomat

Ethiopian dam is ‘existential issue’ for Egypt, El-Sisi tells US diplomat
  • El-Sisi said Egypt has adopted a flexible approach to the issue over the years through a range of negotiation methods

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has reiterated that the issue of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) is an “existential issue” for Egyptians, adding that his country will not accept any risk to its water supply.

In a meeting with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman on Wednesday, El-Sisi said Egypt is keen to enhance bilateral cooperation with the US and underlined the vital role of such a partnership in achieving stability in the Middle East and Africa.

A spokesman for El-Sisi said the two men discussed several issues relevant to the Horn of Africa, foremost of which was the GERD. Feltman said the US is keen to help reach “a fair and comprehensive settlement” to the matter, given its great importance to Egypt and the region.

Ethiopia started building the 1.8 km-long gravity dam in 2011. Egypt fears it will threaten its supplies of water from the River Nile. Sudan, meanwhile, is concerned about the dam’s safety and its effect on the water supply of Sudanese dams and water stations.

El-Sisi said Egypt has adopted a flexible approach to the issue over the years through a range of negotiation methods. Egypt’s approach, he said, has been based on seeking a “balanced and legally binding” agreement that respects the interests of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. He blamed Ethiopia’s “lack of political will” for the failure of negotiations to date.

The president stressed that Egypt is still seeking a fair agreement regarding the filling and operation of the dam under the negotiations sponsored by the African Union, led this year by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

El-Sisi called on the international community to “assume its responsibilities” to help solve the crisis. The president also highlighted the vital role of US influence in this regard.

Feltman said the US values its strategic relations with Egypt highly in light of Cairo’s political influence and pivotal role in the region. The envoy also stressed America’s desire to boost cooperation with Egypt.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati also met with Feltman. They told him that Egypt still hopes to reach an agreement over the GERD before summer this year.

They added that the process of filling the dam should be carried out according to an agreement that respects the interests of Egypt and Sudan — the two downstream nations — and limits any damage to those two countries.

During their meeting with Feltman, the ministers expressed Egypt’s willingness do as much as possible to ensure the success of the negotiations sponsored by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Both ministers said Egypt is looking forward to cooperating with its international partners, especially the US, to achieve this goal.

Italy says Libyan coast guard fired on its fishing boats, injuring captain

Italy says Libyan coast guard fired on its fishing boats, injuring captain
Updated 06 May 2021

Italy says Libyan coast guard fired on its fishing boats, injuring captain

Italy says Libyan coast guard fired on its fishing boats, injuring captain
  • The captain of one of the boats was "slightly injured" and transferred to an Italian navy vessel
  • There have been frequent tensions between Italy and Libya over Italian fishing activity off the North African coast

ROME: The Libyan coast guard on Thursday fired on three Italian fishing boats, injuring the captain of one of the vessels, Italian authorities said.
The boats operating out of the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo were fishing some 30 to 40 nautical miles off the Libyan coastal town of Misrata when a Libyan coast guard vessel fired warning shots against them.
Giuseppe Giacalone, the captain of one of the boats, was “slightly injured” and transferred to an Italian navy vessel, the mayor of Mazara del Vallo, Salvatore Quinci, told Reuters, confirming reports in Italian media.
There have been frequent tensions between Italy and Libya over Italian fishing activity off the North African coast.
Last September a group of Italian sailors were seized by Libyan patrol boats while fishing in the Mediterranean, accused by local authorities of operating in Libya’s territorial waters. They were released some three months later.
“This is the umpteenth attack by the Libyan government in Tripoli,” Quinci told Reuters.
The southern Mediterranean fishing grounds have been disputed since 2005, when Libya’s then ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, unilaterally extended Libyan territorial waters to 74 nautical miles offshore from 12.
Enrico Letta, leader of Italy’s co-ruling Democratic Party, tweeted that the latest incident was “inconceivable” and Mario Draghi’s government “must not be satisfied by apologies or vague explanations” from Libya.
Libya’s new unity government took office in March from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut
Updated 06 May 2021

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut
  • Arab News learns that Le Drian hinted that sanctions might be imposed against those blocking formation of government

BEIRUT: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed during his meetings with Lebanese officials on Thursday that “the French initiative to solve the crisis in forming the Lebanese government is still in force and the responsibility for implementing it rests with the Lebanese.”

Arab News has learned that Le Drian also hinted that sanctions might be imposed against those who obstruct the formation of the new government.

On the eve of his arrival in Beirut, Le Drian tweeted that he would deliver “a strongly worded message to political officials and a message expressing our full solidarity with the Lebanese people. We will deal firmly with those who obstruct the formation of the government, and we have taken national measures, and this is only the beginning.”

He also said that his visit to Lebanon “confirms France’s solidarity in the field of education, medicine, and archeology as well as its support for the Lebanese who are doing their best for their country.”

Following the Beirut port blast in August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an initiative to help form a government of specialists to help lift Lebanon out of its economic crisis.

However, Macron’s initiative has not yet been implemented, so people in Lebanon followed Le Drian’s meetings with interest.

Before Le Drian’s visit there was speculation that he did not intend to meet with Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, but might meet with the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Gebran Bassil.

Some had predicted that Hariri would give up his post as PM-designate due to his ongoing disagreement with President Michel Aoun and his political team over the formation of the new government, with Aoun reportedly demanding a ‘blocking third’ for his allies.

However, after meeting with Aoun, Le Drian also met with Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri as well as Hariri.

Aoun’s media office reported that, during his meeting with Le Drian, the president said, “Achieving reforms, foremost of which is the financial audit, which constitutes the first item in the French initiative announced on Sept. 1, 2020, is essential for the advancement of Lebanon and restoring the confidence of the Lebanese and the international community. Forming a new government that will enjoy the confidence of parliament is the top priority.”

Aoun pledged to “continue exerting efforts to reach practical results in this issue, despite the internal and external obstacles and the lack of response of those concerned, by following the constitutional principles and methodology adopted in forming governments.”

He also laid out “the constitutional responsibilities entrusted to the president ... and his responsibility to maintain political and sectarian balance during the formation of the government to ensure that it gains the confidence of parliament” and spoke about the “cost of wasted time to complete the formation process.”

The meeting between Aoun and Le Drian lasted for half an hour, after which Le Drian left without making a statement.

Le Drian held meetings at the Senoub Palace with a number of opposition and partisan figures, including leaders of groups protesting against the corruption of the ruling authority. These groups presented their views on the current reality in Lebanon and their vision of ways in which France could provide assistance to Lebanon to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, stage parliamentary elections, and address financial cases.

However, several groups declined the invitation, including the “Li Haqqi” (I Have My Right) group. Nizar Hassan, a researcher in social movements from that group, told Arab News: “A lengthy discussion took place within the group about the feasibility of attending the meeting with the French minister, and we decided not to attend because there was no great benefit (in doing so).”

He said there were several reasons for this, including “the rejection of France’s attempt to bring the political class in Lebanon to the surface to restore it to power again.”

Future Movement MP Mohamad Hajjar described the speculation that Le Drian would not meet with Hariri as “illogical.”

He said Hariri is committed to “forming a government of specialists to help the country, while another party insists on putting the country on the brink and is dealing with everyone on the basis that either MP Gebran Bassil be the next president or the country will fall into chaos. And Hezbollah is watching.”

Lebanon’s economic crisis reached a new peak on Thursday when Electricité du Liban (EDL) announcement that it no longer had enough money to buy fuel and that it would “be forced to reduce its production, which would negatively impact the feeding hours in all regions, including the administrative areas of Beirut.”

This came hours after the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, issued a decision to stop the payment of sums owed to the Turkish energy company Karadeniz and its Karpowership branch in Lebanon for power ships chartered to produce electricity.

The judge’s decision was based on “preliminary investigations conducted by the Financial Prosecutor’s Office into the possibility of brokers, commission, or corruption in the dealership of ships producing electricity” and is intended to “oblige the two aforementioned companies to return $25 million to the Lebanese state, and to circulate a search and inquiry order against the owners of the two companies.”

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Council suspended a law that parliament had approved granting and advance from the treasury to EDL after MPs from the Lebanese Forces Party filed an appeal “because the advance will use the money of the people and depositors remaining in the reserves of the Banque du Liban to finance electricity, and this was described by the MPs as burning people’s money.”

The Constitutional Council stressed, “If the law violates the constitution, it will be annulled, and if it is not in violation, we will reject the appeal.”