Kuwaiti banks to provide SMEs with financing at 2.5% interest

Kuwaiti banks to provide SMEs with financing at 2.5% interest
Above, a bird’s eye view of the empty streets in Kuwait City on March 24, 2020. Kuwait is helping SMEs with funding requirements. (AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2020

Kuwaiti banks to provide SMEs with financing at 2.5% interest

Kuwaiti banks to provide SMEs with financing at 2.5% interest
  • Kuwait fund to finance 80% of the SMEs’ funding needs at no interest for up to three years

DUBAI: Kuwait’s central bank said on Tuesday that banks must provide qualifying small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus outbreak with financing at a maximum 2.5 percent interest rate.
Kuwait’s National Fund for Small And Medium Enterprise Development will provide 80 percent of the SMEs’ funding needs at no interest for up to three years, while banks will finance 20 percent and the state will support companies in paying the up to 2.5 percent interest for three years.


Bad weather blamed for deadly military helicopter crash

Bad weather blamed for deadly military helicopter crash
Updated 06 March 2021

Bad weather blamed for deadly military helicopter crash

Bad weather blamed for deadly military helicopter crash
  • Akara and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took teams of senior military figures to the crash site in the southeastern Bitlis province on Thursday

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akara has blamed bad weather for a military helicopter crash that killed 10 soldiers and a senior commander in the country’s restive southeast.
Lt. Gen. Osman Erbas, who headed the army’s 8th Corps based in the eastern Elazig province, was among those killed in Thursday’s accident.
The crash was the deadliest since 13 soldiers died in the southeastern Sirnak province near Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq in 2017.
“Based on initial information and witnesses’ statements, we determined that the accident occurred due to suddenly changing adverse weather conditions,” the Anadolu state news agency quoted the defense minister as saying.
Akara and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took teams of senior military figures to the crash site in the southeastern Bitlis province on Thursday.
Defense officials said a formal investigation into the incident had been launched.
The EU and the US immediately offered their condolences to the NATO ally.

FASTFACT

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his support in in a telephone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

A Turkish diplomatic source said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his support in in a telephone call with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The accident occurred in a region where Turkish forces have been conducting military operations against outlawed Kurdish militias since 1984 in a campaign that has killed tens of thousands.
Turkey also provides a vital staging post as well as defenses in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
But its relations with EU members states such as France and Greece have been rocked by a range of regional disputes.


Pro-Kurdish party says it will regroup if hit by court ban

Pro-Kurdish party says it will regroup if hit by  court ban
The HDP has dismissed accusations that it is linked to militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Pro-Kurdish party says it will regroup if hit by court ban

Pro-Kurdish party says it will regroup if hit by  court ban
  • Turkish authorities have arrested thousands of HDP party officials and ousted dozens of its elected mayors and lawmakers in a crackdown in recent years

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said on Friday it would keep campaigning under a different banner if a court outlawed its current organization over alleged links to militants.
Officials told Reuters this week that Turkey’s top appeals court had launched an enquiry into the HDP, the third largest party in parliament, in a step that could ultimately lead to a ban.
“We as the HDP have B and C plans of course. If the HDP is shut down of course we have our own preparations. We come from such a tradition which has always had parties being shut down,” HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan told a meeting with foreign media.
“We have until now continued to fight on by establishing other parties after a party is shut down. It will be like that in the future,” she said, without providing further details.
The HDP has dismissed accusations that it is linked to militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.
Turkish authorities have arrested thousands of HDP party officials and ousted dozens of its elected mayors and lawmakers in a crackdown in recent years.
The pressure on the HDP intensified last month after Ankara said the PKK had executed 13 prisoners, including Turkish military and police personnel, during an army operation to rescue them in Iraq’s Gara region.
The moves against the HDP came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party came to power since 2002, announced on Tuesday an “action plan” to boost human rights.


Doubts over Turkey’s tactical move to extend olive branch to Egypt

Doubts over Turkey’s tactical move to extend olive branch to Egypt
Updated 05 March 2021

Doubts over Turkey’s tactical move to extend olive branch to Egypt

Doubts over Turkey’s tactical move to extend olive branch to Egypt
  • Bilateral relations strained in recent years by Muslim Brotherhood, Libya conflict and other matters

ANKARA: With Turkey hinting at a potential deal with Egypt on exclusive maritime zones in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean, the impact of such an agreement on energy transit routes and the political concessions that Turkey might be obliged to make have come under the spotlight.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday said that the country wanted to sign a deal over maritime boundaries.

But this willingness is currently limited to declarations from the Turkish side, with no tangible reaction from the Egyptians.

Turkey’s tactical move indicates a willingness to reduce escalatory policies in the region in order to bypass any criticism from Brussels and US President Joe Biden’s administration.

Potential sanctions against Turkey’s controversial exploratory activities in the Eastern Mediterranean would be discussed at the European Summit on March 25-26, pushing it to not make aggressive moves ahead of that meeting.

Opinion

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But experts regard such a deal to still be far-fetched, at least in the short-term, because Egypt has had an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement with Greece since last year. This pact angered Turkey because it has had longstanding disagreements with Greece over the extent of their mutual continental shelves.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a phone call on Wednesday evening, after Cavusoglu’s statement, on regional issues of common interest, with a special emphasis on energy and Eastern Mediterranean issues, another strong signal that Greece would do its best to not let a Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement happen.

Turkey said the deal between Greece and Egypt did not include a disputed zone to the south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo which Turkey claims under its own EEZ.

Relations with Egypt have been strained after the Turkish-backed Mohammed Mursi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted by El-Sisi in 2013.

Last year, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece released a joint declaration accusing Turkey of carrying out “provocations” in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Egypt has been involved in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum since 2019 without involving Turkey.

Turkey and Egypt have also backed opposing sides in Libya’s civil war.

“Turkey has tried to lure Egypt into signing an EEZ agreement with it by claiming it will receive a bigger share than it will from a bilateral agreement between Athens and Cairo,” Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, told Arab News. “In a similar manner, it has presented the claim that the EEZ agreement between Israel and Cyprus gives Israel less than what it would receive had it signed an agreement with Turkey.”

While a relaxation in tensions between Turkey and Egypt was plausible, Lindenstrauss did not expect a serious rapprochement happening soon, so an EEZ agreement between the sides was not likely to materialize.

In late February, Egypt and Israel agreed on linking an Israeli offshore natural gas field to liquefied natural gas facilities in northern Egypt through an underwater pipeline to meet the increased demand for natural gas in Europe.

The pipeline will begin from Israel’s Leviathan gas field and then head to Egypt by land before going to Crete through the Greek-Egyptian EEZ.

This route sidesteps Cyprus. In other words, the gas is not likely to be exported through disputed areas that might draw Turkish objections.

Emre Caliskan, a research fellow at the UK's Foreign Policy Centre, thought  that Turkey’s recent efforts to improve its relations with Israel and Egypt was motivated by a need to break the alliance between Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt.

“These countries have been united against Turkey’s increasing influence and gas searches in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he told Arab News. “From the Turkish policymakers’ strategic view, Greece and Cyprus interests are in contradiction with Turkey’s ambitions in the region. Therefore, Turkey will try to distance Greece and Cyprus from Egypt and Israel.”

These moves require a change in Turkey’s support to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology that inspires Hamas in order to bring Egypt onside and end the bilateral dispute. Turkey hosts several of the organization’s members and supporters since the group’s activities were banned in Egypt.

Last month, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced seizing goods worth $121,000 sent by Turkey-based Hamas members to individuals in the West Bank through two Turkish companies.

“We have recently heard claims that Turkey has been reassessing its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is too early to assess any policy change in relation to this. Any substantial reconciliation with Israel and Egypt will require Turkey to distance its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Caliskan said.

For Caliskan, Turkey’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood was based on ideology and also on a strategic partnership.

“Distancing Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood would impact Turkey’s influence in Libya for example. Turkey is likely to compartmentalize its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, reducing its support to their presence in Egypt and Palestine, but will continue supporting them in North Africa, especially in Libya and Tunisia.”


Lebanese president welcomes Pope Francis’ Iraq arrival

 Lebanese president welcomes Pope Francis’ Iraq arrival
Lebanese president Michel Aoun. (AP file photo)
Updated 18 min 20 sec ago

Lebanese president welcomes Pope Francis’ Iraq arrival

 Lebanese president welcomes Pope Francis’ Iraq arrival
  • President Michel Aoun expressed his hope in a tweet that the visit would be a “push toward establishing the genuine peace that Iraqis, as well as all the other peoples of the region, need”

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun welcomed the pope’s arrival in Iraq on Friday, saying he hoped it would be a “push toward establishing the genuine peace” that people in the region needed.

Pope Francis is in Iraq from March 5-8. It is the first time a pope has visited the country, and the trip is one of the most complicated the Vatican has had to organize because of security concerns and the pandemic.

People in Lebanon followed the pope’s arrival on local TV, and Lebanese journalists flew to Iraq to cover the event.

President Michel Aoun expressed his hope in a tweet that the visit would be a “push toward establishing the genuine peace that Iraqis, as well as all the other peoples of the region, need.”

He tweeted: “Welcome Pope Francis to the land of the East, the land that has always brought together civilizations, religions, and cultures.”

Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri described the visit as historic in all “spiritual, cultural, and human dimensions” and a message to the whole region about the importance of interfaith dialogue and the “protection of Muslim-Christian coexistence.”

BACKGROUND

Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri described the pope’s visit as historic in all spiritual, cultural, and human dimensions.

Hariri tweeted: “We look forward to receiving the pope in Lebanon.”

Marada party leader Suleiman Frangieh said the papal visit was a message of peace and dialogue between religions and an establishment for Christians on their land on the basis of coexistence and common faith.

The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Bechara Al-Rai was not at the papal reception in Iraq.

Walid Ghayad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, said that Al-Rai had excused himself from participating.

“The patriarchate has no eparchies or parishes in Iraq, in addition to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesman told Arab News. “As the pope will travel a lot inside Iraq, Patriarch Al-Rai does not want to cause any inconvenience to the measures taken for the visit. The Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon had invited Pope Francis to visit Lebanon some time ago, and the pope said he was eager to visit Lebanon, that Lebanon deserved a special visit, and that he would see when to visit.”

Al-Rai called the pope’s Iraq visit “great, historic, and the greatest evidence of reestablishing the value of Iraq, this historical land that has its religious, civilizational, and social role.”

“The pope has his way to heal wounds,” he added. “He wants to assure the Iraqi people that by praying with them and carrying their cause to the whole world, they will send together messages of peace and union, especially through the meeting that will take place in Najaf to emphasize the fraternal bond between humans.”

Pope Benedict XVI visited Lebanon in July 2013 for three days, with his trip coinciding with developments in the Arab Spring.

 


Al-Qudwa says ‘no turning back’ from Palestine election campaign

Al-Qudwa says ‘no turning back’ from Palestine election campaign
Nasser Al-Qudwa. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 06 March 2021

Al-Qudwa says ‘no turning back’ from Palestine election campaign

Al-Qudwa says ‘no turning back’ from Palestine election campaign
  • Former envoy, FM promoting statehood and financial transparency ahead of elections

AMMAN: Palestinian political figure Nasser Al-Qudwa has said that he has “crossed the river” and will not reverse his plans to run on a list outside his own Fatah movement in the country’s elections.

When Arab News asked whether he will continue his “Democratic Assembly” if imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti does not support him, he said: “There is no turning back.”

Al-Qudwa added: “There is a natural meeting between this movement and that of the imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti, including that he leads this movement.

“Sure, the results might be different if he doesn’t support it, but we are moving in a direction that makes it difficult to retreat.

“We have crossed the river and there is no turning back.”

In his first-ever press conference that was open to journalists, the former Palestine envoy to the UN and foreign minister warned of the difficulties facing Palestinians. He said that there are normal duties during a national liberation movement and a different set following the end of a conflict.

“We have a mix of both, while national liberation is our priority. We need to deal with day-to-day issues that are the needs of our people.

“We have to deal with issues such as health, education and good governance.”

Al-Qudwa said that Israel’s actions in the region represent greed and an unwillingness to compromise.

FASTFACT

Nasser Al-Qudwa says that negotiations should be restricted to dealings between the occupied Palestinian state and Israel, and not on whether there should be a Palestinian state.

“They want everything. They are not even saying ‘we just want the settlements or the Jordan valley.’ They want everything.”

Governments and international bodies retracting their support for Palestinian statehood is another cause for concern, he added.

“Initially, they were saying we support the two-state solution. Now Europe and others are saying we support a negotiated two-state solution.”

Al-Qudwa said that negotiations should be restricted to dealings between the occupied Palestinian state and Israel, and not on whether there should be a Palestinian state.

He also rejected out of hand the idea of a single state, warning that it represents a dangerous notion of “Greater Israel.”

Al-Qudwa said that he has not taken any positions in the Palestinian government for 15 years, and that he has no plans to take any money from outside Palestinian circles.

“What we can raise from ordinary people and those who are well-to-do is enough, especially if there is no one stealing the money,” he said.

Despite taking a different track, Al-Qudwa has been careful to avoid burning bridges with other longtime Palestinian political figures.

“I am still a member of Fatah,” he said.

He also refused to address rumors that he was threatened several times during his last meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“It was a closed meeting and what happens in closed meetings stays in those meetings.”

However, he did say that the position of the president was “not very democratic.”

While Al-Qudwa is counting on the support of fellow Fatah central committee member Marwan Barghouti, he rejected any cooperation with the UAE-based renegade Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan.

“It is difficult to be with Dahlan, because the Palestinian people have rejected the position of the UAE,” he said in reference to the recent normalization pact that the UAE signed with Israel.

Palestinian legislative elections are due to take place on May 22, followed two months later by presidential elections, and then the convening of the PLO’s National Council at the end of summer.