UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen

UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen
Martin Griffiths. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018

UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen

UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council has approved the appointment of Martin Griffiths of Britain as the new envoy for Yemen, the third mediator to take on the mission over the past seven years.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday informed the council of his intention to appoint Griffiths and no council member raised objections to the decision, diplomats said.

Extensive experience
Griffiths, who is executive director of the Brussels-based European Institute of Peace, “brings extensive experience in conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation and humanitarian affairs,” Guterres wrote in the letter.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with 60 percent of the population — 17 million people — in need of food, 7 million of whom are at risk of famine.
Griffiths will replace Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania, who last month said he would not stay on as Yemen envoy beyond the end of his contract at the end of this month.
As UN envoy since April 2015, Cheikh Ahmed failed to make progress in diplomatic efforts to end the war between the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government and Houthi militias who seized control of parts of the country in 2014.
His predecessor, Jamal Benomar, also quit after four years of efforts to establish a political transition fell apart.
Born in 1951, Griffiths was the founding director of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, which specializes in political dialogue. He held that position from 1999 to 2010.
He has also worked in the British diplomatic service and for international agencies, such as UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Save the Children.

Peace mission
In 1994, he was appointed director of UN humanitarian affairs in Geneva, and in 1998 became deputy to the UN emergency relief coordinator in New York.
Griffiths will be taking on one of the world’s most challenging peace missions, with no end to the violence within sight.
More than 9,200 people have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
A severe cholera outbreak has also killed 2,000 people and infected one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.


Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process
Updated 9 min 44 sec ago

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process
  • Ex-president among hundreds of prospective candidates prevented from running
  • Low turnout predicted as observers liken election to coronation for hardliner Ebrahim Raisi

LONDON: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will not vote in Friday’s election, and warned that the heavily restricted process will produce a government without domestic or international legitimacy.

Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, said he will exercise his “personal right” to abstain from voting.

“I am not going to vote. And the main reason is that I am witnessing that a major part of the people are put aside,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“A weak government is coming to power. And a weak government will weaken the situation in Iran. It will weaken the domestic situation and it will weaken our relations with the world. It will turn our relations with the rest of the world against Iran.”

Ahmadinejad was among hundreds of prospective candidates prevented by the Guardian Council — a religious body beholden to and appointed in large part by Iran’s supreme leader — from running in this year’s election.

His own re-election in 2009 also proved controversial, with some of Iran’s largest post-revolution protests sweeping the country to express dismay at what the public perceived to be a sham vote.

This year saw some of the heaviest vetting of candidates by the Guardian Council ever. Almost all so-called reformist candidates were prevented from running — with one token reformist candidate allowed — and with only a series of obscure hardline figures allowed to run against the prolific head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi.

Three of those withdrew from the race, facilitating an election that observers have likened to a coronation for the controversial hardliner Raisi.

Despite the autocratic nature of the Iranian regime, authorities view election turnout as an important legitimizing tool.

They are doing their best to convince citizens to head to the polls by putting up banners in cities and by covering the election heavily on state TV. 

Turnout is expected to be significantly lower this year, with some polls predicting just 40 percent.


New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
Updated 18 June 2021

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
  • Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in Khartoum
  • The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military has announced plans to create a joint force to “crack down on insecurity” and assert the state’s authority in the capital and nationwide as an economic crisis and regional tensions plague a fragile transition period.
The announcement was made in an order from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, that was published late on Thursday.
Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is head of the Rapid Support Forces which will be part of the new force with the police, armed forces, General Intelligence Service and “representatives” of rebel groups and the public prosecutor, the order said.
In a speech this week defending reforms meant to tackle a deep economic crisis and stabilize a political transition toward elections, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said there was a danger of chaos or civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous leadership.
The latest of those reforms was the removal of fuel subsidies last week at a time when annual inflation has risen to 379 percent, causing a public outcry.
Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in the capital, Khartoum, in recent days.
Sudan’s Darfur region has seen an uptick in deadly violence, as has the country’s eastern region, since the installation of a military-civilian power-sharing government in mid-2019.
A peace agreement signed late last year called for the integration of rebel groups into a unified national army which has not yet begun.
UN special representative Volker Perthes told a news conference he was concerned about the delay, adding that he considered the police to be best suited to protect civilians.
Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces, which emerged out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur’s conflict of the early 2000s, are viewed with mistrust by many in the country.
The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta, according to the order.
Dagalo also ordered the signatory rebel groups to get their members under control and designate gathering places. Many rebel troops had moved toward Khartoum as their leaders joined the government following the singing of the agreement.


Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
  • Vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
  • Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose

TEL AVIV: Israel will send at least 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under a deal to share shots, officials said on Friday, in a boost for the Palestinians’ vaccination campaign in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Under the terms of the deal, announced by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, the PA agreed to give Israel a reciprocal number of doses from one of its own shipments due to arrive later this year.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by Bennett since he was sworn in on Sunday, replacing veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” a joint statement from Bennett’s office and the health and defense ministries said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech doses earmarked for transfer “will expire soon,” the statement said, and they were “approved in light of the fact that Israel’s vaccine stock meets its needs today.”
A source in the PA health ministry confirmed the deal and said the Palestinians expect to receive a shipment of Pfizer doses in August or September. The Israeli statement said Israel would receive reciprocal doses from the PA in September or October.
Neither side said when the initial Israeli transfer to the PA would be made.
Israel, which led the world with its swift vaccine roll-out, had faced criticism for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in territory it captured in a 1967 war.
Around 55 percent of eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated — a turnout largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.


Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
  • Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty

DUBAI: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has affirmed Cairo’s support for the Libyan government to achieve stability, presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi said.

Radi issued the statement on Thursday following Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel’s visit to Tripoli, where he met with Abdel Hamid Al-Dabaiba, Libya’s Prime Minister-designate of the new Government of National Unity. They discussed how to strengthen cooperation relations and support the political process in the war-torn country.

Sisi affirmed that the efforts exerted for national unity in Libya are a key pillar for its stability, renewing Egypt’s support for carrying out the Libyan elections, local daily Egypt Today reported.

Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty, the report said.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry met with his Libyan counterpart Naglaa Al-Manqoush on the sidelines of an Arab ministerial meeting in Doha earlier this week.

Both ministers discussed developments in Libya steps to hold elections by the end of the year.


Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said.
The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting.
“Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement.
“In response... fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.”
AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people.
Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out.
US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement.
“They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said.
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices.
The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.