Donors pledge $4.4 billion in Syria aid for 2018: UN

Donors pledge $4.4 billion in Syria aid for 2018: UN
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (C), UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R) and UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock address a press conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” at the European Council in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2018

Donors pledge $4.4 billion in Syria aid for 2018: UN

Donors pledge $4.4 billion in Syria aid for 2018: UN
  • UN says donors pledge $4.4bn dollars in aid for Syria and its neighbors in 2018
  • The pledges fall well short of the estimated $7bn dollars the UN is seeking

BRUSSELS: International donors will pledge $4.4 billion (3.6 billion euros) in aid of the Syrian conflict at a Brussels conference Wednesday, a senior UN official said, well short of the amount hoped for.
“My best guess is that by the end of the day we will have heard pledges for 2018 of $4.4 billion,” Mark Lowcock, the head of UN aid agency UNOCHA, told a news conference.
“I want particularly to thank the EU, Germany and the United Kingdom who have made exceptionally large pledges today,” Lowcock said.
Pledges of a further $3.3 billion for 2019 and after were expected at the conference, which groups more than 80 countries, aid groups and agencies, he added.
The money is needed for humanitarian work inside Syria and to support refugees in neighboring countries, the UN says.
The UN official had earlier said he hoped to see $8 billion pledged on Wednesday, warning that some programs may need to be cut if funds are not forthcoming.
“We are quite desperately short of resources,” Lowcock said on Tuesday, adding that UNOCHA managed to raise only half of the funds it needed in 2017.
London and Berlin led the pledges on Wednesday, with Britain announcing 450 million pounds ($630 million, 515 million euros) for 2018 and another 300 million pounds for 2019, while Germany said it would donate more than a billion euros.
Some 6.1 million people are now internally displaced in Syria, more than five million have fled the country and 13 million including six million children are in need of aid, according to the UN.
More than 700,000 people have been displaced since the start of this year alone as Assad has stepped up his offensive against rebel forces, intensifying the humanitarian crisis.


US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
Updated 39 min 43 sec ago

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
  • U.S. official said America and the international community can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner
  • Current crisis was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and leaders’ failure to put the country’s interests first, said Hale

BEIRUT: A senior US official on Wednesday berated Lebanese politicians for fighting over the formation of a new government for months while millions endure mounting economic hardship.
David Hale, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said America and the international community are ready to help, “but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner.”
Hale spoke on a two-day visit to Lebanon amid a months-long political deadlock and dangerous rift between the president and prime minister-designate. The split has prevented the formation of a new Cabinet tasked with halting the country’s rapid economic collapse.
The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.
The blast hastened the country’s economic and financial decline, which began in late 2019 and has emerged as the gravest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
The local currency has been in free fall since late 2019, losing around 90 percent of its value. The government defaulted on its foreign debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.
“America and its international partners are gravely concerned with the failure here to advance the critical reform agenda long demanded by the Lebanese people,” Hale told reporters Wednesday after meeting Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri.
The current crisis, he said, was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and the failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale added, calling it the only path out of this crisis.
“It’s also only a first step. Sustained cooperation will be needed if we’re going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented.”


Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
Updated 6 min 21 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
  • Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program

DUBAI: The international community must take measure to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned on Wednesday.

Iran’s increase of uranium enrichment to 60 percent cannot be considered as part of a peaceful program, the ministry said in a statement reported by state TV Al-Ekhbariya.

The world should take into account the concerns of the countries in the region about the escalation of Iran, the statement said.

The international community must reach an agreement with Iran, the statement added, urging for “stronger parameters of a longer duration.”

Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program and called on Iran to avoid escalation and not to expose the security and stability of the region to further tension.

The kingdom also called on Iran to seriously engage in the negotiations currently underway.

Meanwhile, the European powers party to the Iran nuclear deal told Tehran on Wednesday that its decision to enrich uranium at 60 percent purity and install a further 1,000 centrifuges at its Natanz site were contrary to efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Talks between world powers, Iran and the United States are due to resume in Vienna on Thursday, but in a joint statement Britain, France and Germany said Tehran’s decision to enrich at 60 percent was not based on credible civilian reasons and constituted an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants and the United States have started substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPoA,” the three countries said.
“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions.”
Tehran has said its decisions came after arch-foe Israel sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site on Sunday.
“In light of recent developments, we reject all escalatory measures by any actor, and we call upon Iran not to further complicate the diplomatic process,” the E3 said.

Iran's president said his country’s decision to dramatically increase its uranium enrichment after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site “an answer to your evilness,” saying Israel hoped to derail ongoing talks aimed at reviving Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
This weekend's sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility appears to be part of an escalating shadow war between the two countries. Israeli authorities have not commented on the attack, but are widely suspected of having carried it out.


Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
  • At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case

CAIRO: Jordan’s state public prosecutor has proceeded with an investigation of all those involved in an alleged plot to destabilize the country. 

Local state media, Al-Mamlaka TV, reported the news on Wednesday citing an unnamed source.

Jordanian officials announced on April 3 the arrest of citizens Al-Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, Bassem Awad Allah, a former head of the Jordanian Royal Court, for security reasons. 

At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case. 

Authorities at the time said those were being held as part of “joint comprehensive investigation undertaken by security forces,” according to state-run Petra news agency.  

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said previously that investigations found links between Bassem Awadallah and external parties, and the so-called foreign opposition. 


Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
Updated 14 April 2021

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
  • Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013
  • Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda”

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister hailed the start of “a new era” with Egypt as Ankara pushes ahead with normalizing relations with Cairo, local media reported on Wednesday.
Turkey and Egypt broke off relations after the 2013 overthrow of ex-Islamist president Muhammad Mursi, who was supported by Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year Turkey and Egypt expelled each others’ ambassadors and froze their relations.
Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to fix ties with other Middle Eastern rivals.
“A new era is beginning,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by NTV broadcaster.
He said there would be a meeting between the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers and diplomats but a date had not yet been set.
Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda” during those talks.
When asked, the minister also indicated there would be meetings between himself and his Egyptian counterpart.
“Why not. There can be reciprocal visits and meetings, too,” Cavusoglu said.
Last month, members of Egypt’s Istanbul-based opposition media said Turkish officials had asked them to “tone down” criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The request appeared to be an attempt by Turkey to curry favor with Egypt in a bid to mend relations.
An Egyptian broadcaster known for his outspoken criticism of Cairo on an Istanbul-based channel, said on Saturday he was going on “unlimited leave.”
Moataz Matar, 46, made the announcement during his popular daily show “With Moataz,” which he has presented for several years on the liberal El-Sharq channel.
Matar said he was not forced by Turkey or the channel to leave but added he did not want to “embarrass” anyone.
“I will come back when I am able to tell the truth on El-Sharq again as I always have,” he added.
After the Arab Spring, Istanbul became a capital of Arab media critical of their governments back home, especially for Egyptian media linked to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
Updated 14 April 2021

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
  • The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement in the province of Assiut
  • Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt

CAIRO: Twenty people were killed and three injured in an accident involving a bus and a truck on a desert highway in Upper Egypt late on Tuesday, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement, which was stopping due to a malfunction, in the province of Assiut, about 370 km south of the capital, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

The bus was burned out within minutes, and the bodies and the injured were removed from it with difficulty, it added.

Thirty-six ambulances rushed to the scene, the health ministry said.

Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt. Dozens have been killed in a recent spate of rail and road crashes.

Eighteen people were killed in March when a truck collided with a minibus in Giza province, about 80 km south of Cairo. At least 20 people were killed and nearly 200 people wounded injured when two trains collided near Tahta, about 440 km south of Cairo.