UAE to host European-led mission to monitor Gulf waters

French Defense Minister Florence Parly and UAE Minister of State for Defense Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al-Bawardi speak during a military ceremony at the French Naval Base in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2019

UAE to host European-led mission to monitor Gulf waters

  • It will be run by 10-15 personnel deployed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi
  • Tensions in the Gulf have escalated since May

ABU DHABI: A European-led maritime mission to monitor Gulf waters will be stationed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi, the French defense minister said Sunday, amid regional tensions with Iran.
Since May, tensions in the Gulf have escalated following a string of attacks on oil tankers that the United States and its allies blamed on Tehran. The Islamic republic denies the charges.
Iran, however, admitted to shooting down a US drone in June for allegedly flying over its territorial waters. Washington insisted the aircraft was in international airspace.
“We formally agreed that the command center of the European maritime surveillance initiative will be on UAE territory,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told AFP.
It will be run by around 10 to 15 staff members deployed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi who will “contribute to making maritime navigation in the Gulf as safe as possible,” she said on a visit to the base.
Parly did not identify the countries that would be joining the mission, saying that some were still waiting for their respective parliaments to ratify their participation in the initiative.
Earlier this month, Washington launched a maritime coalition based in Bahrain to provide protection to shipping in the troubled Gulf waters and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Most European governments have declined to take part in the US-led coalition, fearful of undermining their efforts to save a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran — which was badly weakened by Washington’s withdrawal last year.
But on Sunday, Parly said France “will coordinate with the Americans.”
This comes a day after she took aim at “gradual US disengagement” in the Middle East.
At the annual Manama Dialogue on regional security on Saturday, the French minister also criticized Washington for its failure to respond to provocations blamed on Iran.
On Sunday she also said that France will send a radar to Saudi Arabia to help bolster the Kingdom’s defense system.
Parly arrived late Saturday in the UAE and held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.
The two countries share strong ties and are engaged in a number of defense agreements.
In 2009, France opened its first military base outside Africa in the UAE, with some 700 personnel stationed permanently.


The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

Updated 13 min 46 sec ago

The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

  • Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction

CAIRO: As famous city squares go, few can have played a more prominent role in shaping a country’s history than Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Best known for providing the stage for nationwide protests, which led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the public gathering place is one of the capital’s most important sites.

For 18 consecutive days, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators — some reports put the number at millions — descended on the square before Mubarak finally resigned after 30 years in power.

And the anti-Mubarak protests were not the only political demonstrations Tahrir, also known as Martyr Square, has witnessed.

On June 30, 2013, a year after Mohamed Mursi became the Egyptian president, thousands of protesters gathered in the square demanding his resignation.

Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction.

Directly after the protests, Egyptians and foreigners feared venturing into Tahrir after it gained a reputation for being unsafe, despite a heavy police presence.

Nine years on from its most significant event, the square is now once again bustling with commuters being within walking distance of the Abdel-Moneim Riad bus station and a transport hub.

Tahrir is also home to the Egyptian Museum which houses more than 100,000 artifacts from the country.

The square is overlooked by the downtown branch of The American University in Cairo, one of the most famous international educational institutions in the country and the Arab world. In 2008, the university relocated to New Cairo, in the Fifth Settlement, taking with it a significant amount of traffic.

Renovation work resumed this month in the square, part of which will involve the addition of four rams restored from Karnak Temple’s Hall of Celebration in Luxor. They will be placed around an obelisk being moved from Sun Al-Hajar in the east of Egypt.

With the Egyptian Museum due to relocate to Haram, near the Giza pyramids, the future of the square is not clear. But with its history, offices, schools, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and timeworn residential buildings, Tahrir Square is guaranteed never to be short of visitors.