Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan hold Arab security talks

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, (second left) with foreign ministers from other Arab countries at the talks in Jordan. (AFP)
Updated 01 February 2019

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan hold Arab security talks

  • The meeting covered the goal of achieving “security and stability in the interest of Arab benefit.” 
  • The six-hour talks were “positive, constructive”

AMMAN: Top diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan concluded talks on Thursday aimed at coordinating policy on the multiple conflicts gripping the region.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the ministers “exchanged views on regional issues and ways of cooperation to overcome regional crises.” He said the meeting was “positive and productive.”

The meeting at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center on the Dead Sea also covered the goal of achieving “security and stability in the interest of Arab benefit.” 

The six-hour talks were “positive, constructive, and allowed a wide dialogue with an open agenda on the developments in the region and ways to face common challenges and enhance cooperation and coordination to serve Arab issues and interests,” Safadi said.

He described the meetings as a “consultation between brothers and friends.”

The meeting was attended by Sameh Shoukri of Egypt, Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the UAE, Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain and the Kingdom’s Adel Al-Jubeir. 

“The meeting was aimed at finding ways of bringing Syria back to the Arab fold,” former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Mamdouh Abadi told Arab News, adding that the focus had been the future of Syria not Iran.

But a former Jordanian royal adviser, Adnan Abu Odeh, said the Syria issue was complicated. “Everyone is thinking now of bringing Syria back to the Arab League and the rebuilding efforts in Syria. But the Syrians threw a monkey wrench into the process when they signed a long-term agreement with Iran regarding economic cooperation and the rebuilding of Syria,” he told Arab News.

Former Jordanian Minister Asma Khader said the aim of such meetings was reaching a consensus on difficult issues.

The Dead Sea six-party meeting did not have any Palestinian representation, for example. 

“While the event was held on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea it would have been more productive if a Palestinian official was invited,” she told Arab News. “Any meeting without Palestinians will not be able to confront the biggest regional challenge of the Palestinian cause. Ordinary Arabs are supportive of Iran and Turkey precisely because of their position on the Palestinian issue.”

The foreign ministers also met Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who urged “the importance of coordinating Arab positions on regional issues,” according to the royal court.

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 49 min 27 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”