OIC foreign ministers reject Netanyahu annexation pledge

The Israeli PM announced his plans to annex the Jordan Valley on Sept. 8. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 September 2019

OIC foreign ministers reject Netanyahu annexation pledge

  • Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki warns dispute with Israel is now religious conflict
  • Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Al-Assaf calls on international community to shoulder its responsibilities

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday expressed its “total rejection” of the Israeli prime minister’s pre-election pledge to annex part of the West Bank, Saudi state media said.
Battling to win re-election in polls on Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu made a deeply controversial promise last week to annex the strategic Jordan Valley, which accounts for around a third of the occupied West Bank.
He also repeated his intention to annex Israeli settlements in the wider West Bank, but in coordination with US President Donald Trump.
After an emergency foreign ministers’ meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, the OIC expressed “its total rejection and strong condemnation of the Israeli Prime Minister’s declaration.”
“This dangerous declaration... deliberately undermines international efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace... and pushes the whole region toward further violence and instability,” the 57-member pan-Islamic body added in a statement carried by Saudi state media.
The emergency meeting of OIC foreign ministers was called at the request of Saudi Arabia, which has unilaterally condemned Netanyahu’s pledge as a “dangerous escalation.”
The multilateral statement comes as Netanyahu’s government on Sunday approved a new settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement, the premier’s office said.
Netanyahu’s moves could essentially destroy any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His pledge to annex the Jordan valley has drawn firm condemnation from the Palestinians, the United Nations, the European Union the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Arab states.
Speaking at an emergency meeting in Jeddah, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Al-Assaf called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibilities’ regarding the “ongoing Israeli violations against the Palestinian people.”
“We condemn the dangerous escalation by the Israeli Prime Minister,” Al-Assaf added.         
And he said that any announcements or actions on the matter by Israel were “null and void.”
“We condemn Israel’s continued attempt to change the historical identity of Palestine,” OIC Secretary General, Yousef Al-Othaimeen told the emergency meeting on Sunday.
And he added: “We call on the international community to put an end to Israel’s aggressive policies against the Palestinian people.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki warned the meeting that the dispute with Israel had become a religious conflict because of its violations.
And he described the announcement regarding the Jordan Valley as a “serious threat.”
“Netanyahu’s announcement of its intention to include the Jordan Valley undermines international agreements and resolutions,” Al-Maliki added.


Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

Updated 18 October 2019

Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

  • “Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Al-Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father said
  • Twenty-four hours later, hei was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home”

BAGHDAD: A prominent Iraqi blogger resurfaced Friday a day after he was seized by masked gunmen, his father said, as Amnesty International denounced a “climate of fear” in the country after protests and deadly violence.
Shujaa Al-Khafaji’s family said armed men had snatched him from his home on Thursday without identifying themselves or showing an arrest warrant.
Khafaji’s Facebook page, Al-Khowa Al-Nadifa (Arabic for “Those Who Have Clean Hands“), carries posts on political and social issues and has some 2.5 million followers.
“Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father, Fares Al-Khafaji, told AFP.
He said they seized his son’s phones and computers, but were not violent.
Twenty-four hours later, Khafaji was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home,” his father added.
The report of Khafaji’s seizure sparked an outcry from activists and influential political leaders.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International denounced a “relentless campaign of intimidation and assault against activists in Iraq” by authorities.
“The Iraqi authorities must immediately rein in the security forces and dismantle the climate of fear they have deliberately created to stop Iraqis from peacefully exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly,” said Lynn Maalouf, the group’s Middle East research director.
The group said other activists, including a doctor and a lawyer, were “forcibly disappeared more than 10 days ago,” and called on Iraqi authorities to reveal their whereabouts.
Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr wrote on Twitter that “any act of aggression (against journalists or activists)... by the state constitutes an attack on freedom of speech.”
Former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi’s parliamentary bloc called on the government “to stop abuses of free media.”
Iraq was gripped by anti-government protests between October 1 and 6, during which 110 people, mainly demonstrators, were killed in clashes with security forces.
During the protests, unidentified armed men in uniforms raided several local television stations in Baghdad, destroying their equipment and intimidating their staff.
Journalists and activists also reported receiving threats, mostly by phone, from unidentified callers accusing them of having sided with the protesters.
Khafaji faced online harassment last month after a string of attacks on bases of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force dominated by pro-Iran groups.
The group on Thursday denied any involvement in the disappearance of activists, threatening legal action against anyone making such accusations.
But according to Amnesty, the Hashed was involved in at least one abduction — that of lawyer Ali Hattab, who represented protesters and was seized on October 8 in the southern city of Amara.
He was snatched by “suspected members of a faction of the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashed),” Amnesty said quoting Hattab’s relatives.
It happened two days after “two armed men from the PMU came to (his) home to warn him to stop being vocal about the killing of protesters on Facebook, otherwise they would kill him,” Amnesty added.