US warns vessels transiting Gulf amid tensions with Iran

Vessels transiting the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz could encounter GPS interference or communications jamming, the US warned. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

US warns vessels transiting Gulf amid tensions with Iran

  • Tensions have soared since the US airstrike earlier this month that killed General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general
  • Vessels transiting the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz could encounter GPS interference or communications jamming

DUBAI: The United States on Tuesday warned of threats to commercial vessels in and around the Arabian Gulf in the wake of its confrontation with Iran.
Tensions have soared since the US airstrike earlier this month that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general and the architect of its regional military activities. Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq, without wounding anyone, and accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran, killing all 176 on board.
“Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels,” the US said in a maritime warning. “Associated with these threats is a potential for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive actions.”
It said vessels transiting the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz — through which one-third of all oil traded by sea passes — could encounter GPS interference or communications jamming.
It said some vessels have reported communications from “unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships.”
It said ships contacted by Iranian forces should identify themselves and say that they are proceeding in accordance with international law. It advised ships to refuse to allow Iranian forces to board but not to forcibly resist them, and to immediately contact the US Fifth Fleet.
Iran was accused of sabotaging oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf last year. It denied those allegations, but acknowledged seizing a British-flagged oil tanker in response to the impounding of an Iranian oil tanker by authorities in Gibraltar. The Iranian tanker was suspected of intending to violate sanctions to deliver oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran. Both ships were released weeks later.
The tensions are rooted in President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and to impose “maximum” economic sanctions. The sanctions have devastated Iran’s economy.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”