Arab coalition in Yemen sets ceasefire in Aden as Saudi Arabia calls for talks

Members of the southern Yemeni separatist forces patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 11 August 2019

Arab coalition in Yemen sets ceasefire in Aden as Saudi Arabia calls for talks

  • Saudi foreign ministry calls for an emergency meeting in Jeddah
  • Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman calls for restraint and reason

JEDDAH: The Arab coalition supporting the government in Yemen called Saturday for a ceasefire in Aden where government troops and southern separatists have clashed for days.

The two forces are meant to be working as allies to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi militia, which control the capital Sanaa. 

Shortly after the coalition statement, the Saudi foreign ministry called for an emergency meeting in the Kingdom.

"The Coalition’s Joint Command is requesting an immediate ceasefire in Yemen’s temporary Capital, Aden," the coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said. “The coalition will use military force against anyone who violates the decision.”

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia "will always be the greatest supporter of the brotherly Yemeni people, and will do everything in its power to return peace and stability to Yemen."

 

"We call on all Yemeni parties in Aden to respond to the Kingdom's immediate call for dialogue in Jeddah, put an end to the violence, unite ranks, and avoid dragging Yemen into further chaos," he said on Twitter.

"We reaffirm the Kingdom's support to the legitimate Yemeni government, and the interim capital, against any action that may disrupt the security and stability of Yemen, and create opportunities for terrorists to exploit," he said.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi deputy defense minister, urged the feuding pro-government forces to exercise "restraint and the primacy of wisdom and the interests of the Yemeni state." 

 

"We reject any use of weapons in Aden and disturbance of security and stability," he said on Twitter, adding that Saudi Arabia has "called for political dialogue with the legitimate Yemeni government in the city of Jeddah".

He reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's commitment "to support and maintain legitimacy in Yemen and to provide all means of support to the brotherly Yemeni people."

"The unfortunate developments in Aden caused disruption of humanitarian and relief work, which is not acceptable to the Kingdom," he said.

 

The alliance said the ceasefire would come into force at 1am on Monday and urged all sides to "retreat from the locations they have seized during the past few days without damaging public and private properties.”

The coalition, he said, "will not hesitate to face anyone that violates the announcement and continues to fight, undermine security and stability or targets government institutions in Aden.”

Al-Maliki said all parties should put the national interests of Yemen as a priority and make sure the Houthis or terrorist groups operating in the country do not divide them.

The Saudi foreign ministry said it had followed the followed "with great concern" the developments in Aden. 

"As a result, an invitation was sent out to the Yemeni government and the parties to the conflict in Aden to hold an urgent meeting in the Kingdom in order to discuss and resolve differences by resorting to dialogue," the ministry said.

The fighting erupted Wednesday when forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council attempted to break into the presidential palace in Aden, AFP reported.

Reports Saturday said the STC and its paramilitary force had seized the presidential palace from the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

 


Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 17 October 2019

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.