After Saudi stop, Merkel visits UAE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with people working in refugee relief from all over Germany in Berlin. Merkel arrived in Dubai on Monday after a one-day visit to Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo)
Updated 01 May 2017

After Saudi stop, Merkel visits UAE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Germany has offered diplomatic help to try to end the war in Yemen, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday as she ended a two-nation Gulf tour taking in the Arab world’s largest economies with a stop in the United Arab Emirates.
Merkel arrived in the seven-state federation following a visit to Saudi Arabia, where she held talks with King Salman and other senior leaders that touched on regional conflicts as well as women’s inequality and other human rights issues.
She said Berlin is offering diplomatic support aimed at resolving the Yemen conflict and has been in contact with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about its proposal, according to a transcript of her remarks provided by her office.
“Germany has offered to support this UN process with its own diplomatic possibilities,” she was quoted as saying. “That has met with the approval of Saudi Arabia. We will now move ahead with the necessary coordination with the UN secretary-general.”
A Saudi-led coalition backed by significant Emirati support has been bombing and battling Yemeni rebels for more than two years in support of the impoverished country’s internationally recognized government.
Shiite powerhouse Iran supports the insurgents, known as Houthis, and the Sunni-ruled Gulf states view the fight as a way to limit Iran’s involvement in their backyard.
While in Saudi Arabia, Merkel had said she does not believe there can be a military solution to the war, which has killed more than 10,000 civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in what was already the Arab world’s poorest country.
The UN recently said some 18.8 million people in the country need humanitarian help or protection.
The German leader was greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan upon her arrival on Monday in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi. The crown prince is the half-brother of the country’s ailing president and his presumed successor.
Emirati officials did not allow foreign journalists based in the country to witness Merkel’s visit.
German officials have said Merkel would press Gulf rulers to do more to take in refugees and provide humanitarian relief for those fleeing conflict in Muslim-majority countries. Germany has provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
Trade is high on Merkel’s agenda too. Her delegation includes prominent German business leaders looking to strengthen ties with the country’s two largest trading partners in the Middle East.
Her meetings in the Emirates, which includes the Mideast commercial hub of Dubai, would include discussion of a free-trade agreement between the Gulf states in the European Union and “how we can move ahead and intensify our economic relations still further,” she said.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 49 min 29 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.