Gulf countries reject US position on Israeli settlements, Arab League calls emergency meeting

Laborers work in a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Ramat Givat Zeev in the occupied-West Bank Nov. 19, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Gulf countries reject US position on Israeli settlements, Arab League calls emergency meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it completely rejected Washington’s statement on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, state news agency SPA reported.
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday abandoned the position held by the United States for four decades that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law.” 
An official foreign ministry source expressed “the Kingdom’s utter rejection of the US government’s statements that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legitimate and do not violate international law.”
The source added that Israel’s construction of the settlements is contrary to the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law, and stands as an obstacle to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East and a two-state solution.
The source said that achieving lasting peace requires the Palestinian people to obtain their full legitimate rights in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy.

The United Arab Emirates also stressed the need to abide by the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative, which are relevant to the West Bank, including Security Council resolutions stating that Israeli settlements are illegal.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the UN Security Council to abide by the Security Council resolutions stating that Israel should stop settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities toward providing international protection for the Palestinian people and confronting Israeli policies that violate international law.
Bahrain also reiterated its firm rejection of the Israeli settlements, “which is in violation of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy, especially Security Council Resolution 2334 issued in 2016 to stop settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
Bahrain’s foreign ministry said that the construction of settlements carries serious repercussions that would hinder efforts to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, the Arab League said it is to hold an urgent meeting Monday on the US announcement.
Hossam Zaki, the pan-Arab body’s deputy secretary general, said several members had backed a Palestinian Authority (PA) call for a ministerial meeting.
The PA’s permanent representative to the Arab League has condemned Washington’s change of position — announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — as “illegal.”
Pompeo said Monday that after legal consultations, the US had concluded the establishment of settlements was “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
The Cairo-based Arab League has said the US shift was an “extremely adverse development.”


Egyptians largely follow law on wearing masks, some worry about cost

Updated 01 June 2020

Egyptians largely follow law on wearing masks, some worry about cost

CAIRO: Most Egyptians appear to be following a new law that says they must wear face masks in public, the latest move by the authorities to slow the spread of the coronavirus as reported cases rise.
The law, which came into effect on Saturday, adds to measures including closing airports to international travel, shutting restaurants and suspending school classes.
Those who fail to comply with the rules on masks risk a fine of around $252.
“This was supposed to happen from the very beginning, so that (people) learn discipline and learn the rules. We are a country that needs discipline,” Isis said, standing near a shop in central Cairo and wearing a mask.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has registered nearly 25,000 cases of the coronavirus and reported 959 deaths.
Infections rose sharply during the last week marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, when families typically gather for the festivities. A total of 1,536 cases were confirmed on Sunday, double the number on the same day a week ago.
Egypt’s population is overwhelmingly young, but cities are crowded, making it more difficult for people to socially distance.
Reuters witnesses said that police in Cairo were not allowing people inside some banks and metro stations on Sunday and Monday if they were not wearing masks.
“Today people are following the rules. It is good that people are becoming more aware and abiding by this decision ... People today are protecting themselves, protecting their homes, protecting their families,” Adel Othman said through his mask, as he stood in line to enter a bank.
Some people worried that the new rules would add to the financial burden on a population where millions live in poverty.
“I need to spend 30 Egyptian pounds ($1.89) a day to buy masks for my family of six which adds up to 900 pounds a month. My entire salary is 2,200 pounds. How?” said Essam Saeed, an employee at the education directorate in Beni Suef, south of Cairo.
The government said in May that it was going to offer cloth face masks at 5 Egyptian pounds ($0.31) a piece that were viable for use for one month.
Egypt is looking to produce 30 million of the cloth masks a month to meet local demand and will in the coming days produce 8 million as part of an initial trial, the trade minister said in a statement on Sunday. ($1 = 15.8800 Egyptian pounds)