"We don't, won't and didn't support the Muslim Brotherhood," Qatar FM tells Arab News

Updated 17 May 2017

"We don't, won't and didn't support the Muslim Brotherhood," Qatar FM tells Arab News

"We don't, won't and didn't support the Muslim Brotherhood," Qatar FM tells Arab News

DOHA: Qatar does not support the Muslim Brotherhood and sees no place for Bashar Assad in the future of Syria, the Gulf nation’s top diplomat told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani also said negotiations between the Gulf states and Iran are key to establishing “positive” ties amid heightened tensions.
The Qatari minister, speaking on the sidelines of the recently concluded Doha Forum, said a “clear strategy” on the Syrian conflict is a must.
“We have seen how (ousted President) Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen... allied himself with Gulf enemies who supported him in order to return to power,” Al-Thani said.
“Similarly in Iraq, we saw how (former Prime Minister Nuri) Al-Maliki exited after his sectarian actions, but still remains in Iraq and is equipped and present in some organs of the state. Likewise for Bashar Assad. If he remains president with no power as some propose, or remains an isolated and immune president, this means we will enter into the same tunnel and repeat the same experience, meaning we have not learned from our previous mistakes.
“I add to this the crimes of Assad against his people with no accountability, which means we have opened the door for any leader to carry out such crimes in order to solidify his rule and energy with a political settlement and immunity that protects him from accountability.”
As for what the proposed solution is, Al-Thani said it must also encompass the ongoing issue of terrorism and extremism “so as not to repeat the Libyan experience after the departure of (Muammar) Qaddafi.”
“We must have a clear strategy to solve the Syrian crisis in full. When we talk about a transition stage that ensures sustainability for Syria, we must look at all these sides,” he said.
“The presence of arms is a critical issue that must be resolved before encouraging and guiding Syria to a democratic process and political competition.”
Positive ties with Iran?
The Doha Forum discussed the issue of Iranian relations, which was significant given the differences between Doha and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states vis-a-vis Tehran.
Arab News asked Qatar’s top diplomat how he sees the situation.
Al-Thani said: “Since the Iranian escalation and the attack on the Saudi Embassy and its burning in Tehran, Qatar has condemned this attack and has withdrawn its ambassador back from Tehran to Doha, where he still remains and is not carrying out his role. Diplomatic relations between Qatar and Iran are no longer the same.”
Al-Thani stressed that Doha does not enter into direct dialogue with Iran without the GCC. “But we are among the Gulf Cooperation Council and have responded positively to Iran’s call for dialogue.”
“As for Qatar’s position and its vision on its relations with Iran, we believe that we must have a positive relationship with Iran and a relationship based on good neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of others.”
“In Qatar, we have a shared gas field between us and Iran, and one day we will have to deal with it, so how will we do so? This must be in accordance with positive frameworks built and placed by us Gulf countries.”
As for the criticism over the Iranian nuclear deal and the opening of Western relations with Iran, Al-Thani criticized the absence of the Gulf countries in negotiations, over a matter that concerns “our security first.”
As for lifting sanctions, the Qatari foreign minister believes this raises many question marks and that the GCC presence during the negotiations would have answered those questions. Ultimately, he believes the differences with Iran can only be resolved through the negotiation table, which is why he supports the idea of talks between the GCC as a bloc and Tehran.
“In the end, what do we want from Iran? I do not think there are any countries in the Gulf that do not want to have good relations with Iran, but the question remains how to reach to such relations. We do not believe it will be through confrontation,” he said.

Muslim Brotherhood: Terrorist or not?
One of the most disputed issues between Qatar and many other GCC countries is Doha’s alleged support for Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries label as a terrorist organization. So how does Al-Thani explain the different position held by Doha, which does not classify the group as such?
“The question is whether the data or information that led these GCC countries to classify the organization as such is the same information available to Qatar? No it is not, and thus we have not placed the Brotherhood on the terrorist list because we have not obtained proof that the Muslim Brotherhood present in the state of Qatar are planning terrorist activities against Qatar,” he said.
However, does this mean Doha supports the Muslim Brotherhood? And what interests does Qatar have in backing a group that has been outlawed by some of Doha’s major allies?
“We do not, will not, and have not supported the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather we support any individual that assumes the presidency in Egypt in a clear and transparent manner,” he said.
To illustrate what he means, particularly given the widely held belief that Doha does indeed support the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Thani gave two examples from his country’s foreign policy with Egypt and Tunisia.
“In Egypt, when the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power, some linked this to Qatar’s support, even though nearly 70 percent of the assistance program provided by Qatar was during the era of (former Egyptian Prime Minister) Essam Sharaf, during the period of the military council, while of the remaining 30 percent, a portion was during time of the Muslim Brotherhood and a portion during the time of (Abdel Fattah) El-Sisi,” he said.
Essam Sharaf was the prime minister of Egypt from March 3, 2011 to Dec. 7, 2011, having been appointed premier following the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.
“With regard to the gas shipments that were agreed upon, three of which were agreed during the era of El-Sisi, add to that Qatari deposits in Egypt. They were not withdrawn, even though we have the right to withdraw them. This all indicates we do not support a specific period of government,” he said.
“Tunis, on the other hand, is currently led by President (Beji Caid) Essebsi, who is among the opponents of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Tunisian parliament. Despite this, the Tunisian people elected him and the state of Qatar directed its support to the Tunisian people and believes that Tunisia deserves the support of GCC countries.”
Asked why then has Doha embraced members of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled to Qatar, which has received them despite being wanted in their own countries, Al-Thani said: “The presence of these individuals is as political oppositions, and we have such individuals from several countries, not only Egypt. We do not permit them in Qatar to carry out any political activities or take Qatar as a platform to abuse or attack their own countries.”
In what some observers might assume as a reference to the Palestinian group Hamas — although it must be made clear that the Qatari foreign minister did not mention them by name — Al-Thani said that “there has been a group that tried to carry out political activities in Doha and we informed them that Qatar can no longer host them.”
Asked about the controversial Egyptian-born Muslim Brotherhood scholar Yusuf Qaradawi, who continues to reside in Doha, Al-Thani said: “He is a Qatari citizen who carries the Qatari nationality, and an elderly individual, and thus we cannot inform him to depart Qatar. The Qatari constitution does not allow for the submission of any Qatari citizen to foreign judiciary, be it in an Arab or non-Arab country.”
Finally, asked about the belief held by some that Qatar is not in agreement with fellow GCC states on a number of issues, Al-Thani said: “The GCC organization or system does not require us to have a unified policy on all issues, but when it comes to collective Gulf security, there is consensus as this is common ground and Qatar will not deviate, particularly if the matter concerns the collective security of the GCC states or imminent danger.
“With the issue of Yemen for example, as this is a matter that affects our common security, Qatar’s forces have been on the ground supporting the coalition led by Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the crisis. In Syria, we Qataris have also stood with Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the crisis and our position remains consistent, as is the case in Iraq as Iraq affects the security of all of us as GCC countries,” he added.


In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs
Updated 13 min 2 sec ago

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

BASRA: It’s nearly dawn and Zainab Amjad has been up all night working on an oil rig in southern Iraq. She lowers a sensor into the black depths of a well until sonar waves detect the presence of the crude that fuels her country’s economy.
Elsewhere in the oil-rich province of Basra, Ayat Rawthan is supervising the assembly of large drill pipes. These will bore into the Earth and send crucial data on rock formations to screens sitting a few meters (feet) away that she will decipher.
The women, both 24, are among just a handful who have eschewed the dreary office jobs typically handed to female petroleum engineers in Iraq. Instead, they chose to become trailblazers in the country’s oil industry, donning hard hats to take up the grueling work at rig sites.
They are part of a new generation of talented Iraqi women who are testing the limits imposed by their conservative communities. Their determination to find jobs in a historically male-dominated industry is a striking example of the way a burgeoning youth population finds itself increasingly at odds with deeply entrenched and conservative tribal traditions prevalent in Iraq’s southern oil heartland.
The hours Amjad and Rawthan spend in the oil fields are long and the weather unforgiving. Often they are asked what — as women — they are doing there.
“They tell me the field environment only men can withstand,” said Amjad, who spends six weeks at a time living at the rig site. “If I gave up, I’d prove them right.”
Iraq’s fortunes, both economic and political, tend to ebb and flow with oil markets. Oil sales make up 90% of state revenues — and the vast majority of the crude comes from the south. A price crash brings about an economic crisis; a boom stuffs state coffers. A healthy economy brings a measure of stability, while instability has often undermined the strength of the oil sector. Decades of wars, civil unrest and invasion have stalled production.
Following low oil prices dragged down by the coronavirus pandemic and international disputes, Iraq is showing signs of recovery, with January exports reaching 2.868 million barrels per day at $53 per barrel, according to Oil Ministry statistics.
To most Iraqis, the industry can be summed up by those figures, but Amjad and Rawthan have a more granular view. Every well presents a set of challenges; some required more pressure to pump, others were laden with poisonous gas. “Every field feels like going to a new country,” said Amjad.
Given the industry’s outsized importance to the economy, petrochemical programs in the country’s engineering schools are reserved for students with the highest marks. Both women were in the top 5% of their graduating class at Basra University in 2018.
In school they became awestruck by drilling. To them it was a new world, with it’s own language: “spudding” was to start drilling operations, a “Christmas tree” was the very top of a wellhead, and “dope” just meant grease.
Every work day plunges them deep into the mysterious affairs below the Earth’s crust, where they use tools to look at formations of minerals and mud, until the precious oil is found. “Like throwing a rock into water and studying the ripples,” explained Rawthan.
To work in the field, Amjad, the daughter of two doctors, knew she had to land a job with an international oil company — and to do that, she would have to stand out. State-run enterprises were a dead end; there, she would be relegated to office work.
“In my free time, on my vacations, days off I was booking trainings, signing up for any program I could,” said Amjad.
When China’s CPECC came to look for new hires, she was the obvious choice. Later, when Texas-based Schlumberger sought wireline engineers she jumped at the chance. The job requires her to determine how much oil is recoverable from a given well. She passed one difficult exam after another to get to the final interview.
Asked if she was certain she could do the job, she said: “Hire me, watch.”
In two months she traded her green hard hat for a shiny white one, signifying her status as supervisor, no longer a trainee — a month quicker than is typical.
Rawthan, too, knew she would have to work extra hard to succeed. Once, when her team had to perform a rare “sidetrack” — drilling another bore next to the original — she stayed awake all night.
“I didn’t sleep for 24 hours, I wanted to understand the whole process, all the tools, from beginning to end,” she said.
Rawthan also now works for Schlumberger, where she collects data from wells used to determine the drilling path later on. She wants to master drilling, and the company is a global leader in the service.
Relatives, friends and even teachers were discouraging: What about the hard physical work? The scorching Basra heat? Living at the rig site for months at a time? And the desert scorpions that roam the reservoirs at night?
“Many times my professors and peers laughed, ‘Sure, we’ll see you out there,’ telling me I wouldn’t be able to make it,” said Rawthan. “But this only pushed me harder.”
Their parents were supportive, though. Rawthan’s mother is a civil engineer and her father, the captain of an oil tanker who often spent months at sea.
“They understand why this is my passion,” she said. She hopes to help establish a union to bring like-minded Iraqi female engineers together. For now, none exists.
The work is not without danger. Protests outside oil fields led by angry local tribes and the unemployed can disrupt work and sometimes escalate into violence toward oil workers. Confronted every day by flare stacks that point to Iraq’s obvious oil wealth, others decry state corruption, poor service delivery and joblessness.
But the women are willing to take on these hardships. Amjad barely has time to even consider them: It was 11 p.m., and she was needed back at work.
“Drilling never stops,” she said.


Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib
Updated 28 February 2021

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

DUBAI: Yemen’s information minister has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the governorate of Marib that “cannot be contained” due to continued fighting by the Iran-backed Houthi militia. 

Minister Muammar al-Eryani told the country’s state news agency Saba that the governorate holds the biggest number of refugee families, who have been displaced due to the ongoing Houthi violence. 

Eryani said Marib had received more than two million refugees who have settled there since the war broke out, saying they make up 60 percent of refugees in the country. Those refugees represent 7.5 percent of the total population in Yemen.  

The minister was citing a report on from the Executive Unit for IDPs Camps Management that was released Friday. 


Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
Updated 28 February 2021

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
  • He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”

ISTANBUL: Mujdat Gezen’s half-century career as an acclaimed Turkish writer and actor has included awards, a stint as a UN goodwill ambassador and a taste of prison after a 1980 putsch.
Now aged 77, the wry-witted comedian and poet with an easy smile and a bad back risks returning to jail on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”
“I am even banned from appearing in crossword puzzles,” Gezen quipped.
Gezen landed in court with fellow comedian Metin Akpinar, 79, over comments the pair made during a television show they starred in on opposition Halk TV in 2018.
In the broadcast, Gezen told Erdogan to “know your place.”
“Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place,” Gezen said on air.
His parter Akpinar went one step further, saying that “if we don’t become a (democracy)... the leader might end up getting strung up by his legs or poisoned in the cellar.”
These are risky comments to make in a country still reeling from a sweeping crackdown Erdogan unleashed after surviving a failed coup in 2016.
Their trial is coming with Erdogan rattled by a burst of student protests that hint at Turks’ impatience with his commanding rule as prime minister and president since 2003.
Prosecutors want to put the two veteran celebrities behind bars for up to four years and eight months. The verdict is expected on Monday.

Jailed over book
Thousands of Turks, from a former Miss Turkey to school children, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan on social media and television.
Bristling at the jokes and comments, Erdogan warned in 2018 that his critics “will pay the price.”
“The next day,” Gezen told AFP in an interview by telephone, “police turned up and I was summoned to give a statement to prosecutors.”
The knock on the door reminded Gezen of how he ended up being dragged before the courts after spending 20 days in jail when a military junta overthrew Turkey’s civilian government at the height of the Cold War in 1980.
Gezen’s book about Nazim Hikmet — perhaps Turkey’s most famous 20th century poet, who happened to be a communist who died in exile in Moscow in 1963 — was taken off the shelves after that coup.
“I was chained up while being taken from prison to court with a gang of 50 criminals, including murderers and smugglers,” he recalled.
He was freed by the court in 1980, and may yet be acquitted on Monday.
Still, Gezen is uncomfortable with the similarities, and with Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan.
“There is a record number of journalists in jail — we have never seen this in the history of the republic. That’s what upsets me,” he said.

Irritable dictator
An author of more than 50 books and founder of his own art center in Istanbul, Gezen says he has “either criticized or parodied politicians to their faces” for decades without going to jail.
His popularity and resolve earned him a role in 2007 as a goodwill ambassador for the UNICEF children’s relief fund.
But he fears that Turkey’s tradition of outspoken artists — “art is by its nature oppositional,” he remarked — is wilting under Erdogan.
“We now have self-censorship. But what is even more painful to me is that (some artists) prefer to be apolitical,” he said.
“The president has said how he expects artists to behave. But it cannot be the president of a country who decides these things. It’s the artists who must decide.”
To be on the safe side, Gezen’s lawyers now read his books before publication to avoid legal problems.
“It is risky in Turkey,” he observed.
Many of the opposition media outlets that once flourished have been either closed or taken over by government allies, leaving independent voices with even fewer options.
But he remains doggedly optimistic, calling democracy in Turkey something tangible but just out of reach, like the shore for a stranded boat.
“And then someone up on the mast will cry: Land ahoy!“


Egypt’s tourism ‘will return to pre-COVID-19 levels by fall 2022’

Egypt’s tourism ‘will return to  pre-COVID-19 levels by fall 2022’
Updated 28 February 2021

Egypt’s tourism ‘will return to pre-COVID-19 levels by fall 2022’

Egypt’s tourism ‘will return to  pre-COVID-19 levels by fall 2022’
  • The tourism sector is one of the Egyptian economy’s main pillars. It made revenues of $4 billion in 2020, compared to $13.03 billion in 2019. The country received about 3.5 million tourists last year, compared to 13 million in 2019

CAIRO: Tourism in Egypt will return to pre-pandemic levels by autumn 2022, according to a government minister.
Khaled Al-Anani, who is minister of tourism and antiquities, said the sector’s recovery and restoration to pre-pandemic levels would be because of countries’ COVID-19 vaccination programs as well as Egypt’s efforts in developing archaeological sites in the Red Sea and South Sinai areas.
He said that, in the last three months of 2020, Egypt had received between 270,000 and 290,000 tourists on a monthly basis, equivalent to 10,000 tourists a day.
Al-Anani said the Grand Egyptian Museum would be finished during the third quarter of 2021 provided that, within the next few days, the winning international coalition to manage the museum’s operations was announced.
He added that the ministry had contacted 30 companies that organize concerts and Olympics to participate in the opening ceremony of the Grand Egyptian Museum but, while three had been chosen to organize the event, the pandemic had disrupted these plans.
The tourism sector is one of the Egyptian economy’s main pillars. It made revenues of $4 billion in 2020, compared to $13.03 billion in 2019. The country received about 3.5 million tourists last year, compared to 13 million in 2019.
At the start of 2020 it was expected that Egypt would receive over 14 million tourists.
It received 2 million tourists in the first quarter of last year until the pandemic hit and led to a contraction in tourism, according to the minister’s adviser and ministry spokesperson, Soha Bahgat.
“The tourism sector in the whole world has been affected in an unprecedented way due to the pandemic … and Egypt has taken strict precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus, and at the same time supportive measures for the economy, including supporting the tourism sector,” she said.
Egypt managed to attract about a million tourists from last July to the start of 2021.
Bahgat added that although the number was small, it had led many establishments to resume operations and slowly maintain the tourism sector.


Egypt has overcome peak of coronavirus second wave, says health official

Egypt has overcome peak of coronavirus second wave, says health official
Vendors work at a vegetable market amid the coronavirus disease pandemic in Cairo. (File/Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2021

Egypt has overcome peak of coronavirus second wave, says health official

Egypt has overcome peak of coronavirus second wave, says health official
  • Egypt on Tuesday morning received 300,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, the second batch from the company after the first shipment of 50,000 doses in December

CAIRO: Egypt has overcome the peak of the second wave of coronavirus, according to the president’s health adviser Mohammed Awad Taj El-Din.
He said that new coronavirus cases were currently decreasing, pointing to the continued presence of the disease, but that precautionary measures still needed to be followed in order to reduce infection rates among people.
“The second wave was high, but there is a decrease in new cases. As for cases that need hospitals or ventilators, their numbers have decreased,” he added.
Taj El-Din regarded the fluctuation in the number of cases, whether it was an increase or decrease, as natural because COVID-19 symptoms appeared in some people up to two weeks after they had contracted the virus.

FASTFACT

Egypt on Tuesday morning received 300,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, the second batch from the company after the first shipment of 50,000 doses in December.

He said that intensive care rooms were available as were respirators and, as long as there was a decline in the number of new cases, there was no reason to be worried.
Egypt on Tuesday morning received 300,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, the second batch from the company after the first shipment of 50,000 doses in December.
It also received 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early February, as part of its program to vaccinate health workers.
Taj El-Din said the antibodies produced by the coronavirus vaccines could last up to nine months, and the immunity to coronavirus that was produced by the vaccines, the period in which people were protected from contracting the virus again, varied between three and nine months.
He explained that the immunity period varied from one person to another, as some vaccines gave 86 percent protection from the virus while others gave up to 90 percent.
He said it was necessary to limit gatherings and follow precautionary measures during Ramadan so that there was no new coronavirus wave in Egypt.