US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight

US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien delivers a speech, as part of an Israeli-American delegation, in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31, 2020. (AFP)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner, center, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, right, and Head of Israel’s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat aboard Flight LY971 to Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner, center, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, right, and Head of Israel’s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat board El Al’s flight LY971 to Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and US President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner prepare to board a flight with an Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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Above, a screen displaying the flight number of Israeli flag carrier El Al which will carry Israeli and US delegations to Abu Dhabi at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv on August 31, 2020. (Reuters)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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A seat cover reading in Arabic, English and Hebrew ‘making in history’ inside Israeli flag carrier El Al’s Flight LY971 to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. (Reuters)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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A passenger aboard the historic Flight LY971 shows a facemask with the #UAE and #Israel flags emblazoned on it, as well as a ‘peace swag.’ (Twitter: @RaphaelAhren)
US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
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A passenger aboard the historic Flight LY971 shows what he describes as a ‘peace swag.’ (Twitter: @RaphaelAhren)
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Updated 31 August 2020

US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight

US-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic flight
  • Jared Kushner: ‘While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond’
  • “Peace” was written in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the cockpit of the El Al flight

ABU DHABI: A US-Israeli delegation led by White House adviser Jared Kushner arrived Monday in Abu Dhabi, on the historic first commercial flight from Tel Aviv to mark the normalization of ties between the Jewish state and the UAE.

The word “peace” was written in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the cockpit of the El Al flight that landed at the VIP terminal in the Emirates capital where US flags flew alongside the Star of David banner.

“While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key architect of his Middle East policy, said before boarding.

“The future does not have to be predetermined by the past. This is a very hopeful time.”

The landmark direct flight by Israel’s national carrier, numbered LY971 in a nod to the UAE’s international dialing code, is due to return on Tuesday with the number 972, matching Israel’s dialing code.

The agreement to normalize ties was announced by Trump on Aug. 13, making the UAE the first Gulf country and only the third Arab nation to establish relations with Israel.

Unlike Egypt, which made peace with its former battlefield enemy in 1979, and Jordan, which followed in 1994, the UAE has never fought a war with Israel.

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was also on the flight to the UAE, said “our goal is to achieve a joint working plan to advance relations in a very broad range of areas.

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“This morning, the traditional blessing ‘go in peace’ receives special meaning for us,” he was quoted as saying in an English-language government statement.

The talks in Abu Dhabi aim to boost cooperation between the two regional economic powerhouses in areas including aviation, tourism, trade, health, energy and security.

An Israeli government statement said there would be “working meetings of joint teams on a range of issues ahead of the signing of cooperation agreements in the civil and economic spheres.”

The visit will also include a meeting between Kushner, Ben-Shabbat and UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, it said.

Israel’s health ministry had late Sunday updated its list of “green countries” with low coronavirus infection rates to include the UAE and eight other countries.

The change meant the Israeli officials and journalists traveling to Abu Dhabi would be exempted from a 14-day quarantine upon return.

Since the agreement between the UAE and Israel was unveiled, there have been phone calls between their ministers, and on Saturday the Emirates in a new milestone repealed a 1972 law boycotting Israel.

PICTURE GALLERY: Take a look at photos of the historic Flight LY971

“It will be permissible to enter, exchange or possess Israeli goods and products of all kinds in the UAE and trade in them,” read a decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking alongside Kushner in Jerusalem on Sunday, praised “the swift pace of normalization” between his country and the UAE.

Noting the UAE’s move from Saturday, Netanyahu said it “opens the door” for “unbridled trade, tourism, investments, exchanges between the Middle East’s two most advanced economies.”

“You will see how the sparks fly on this. It’s already happening,” he said, predicting that “today’s breakthroughs will become tomorrow’s norms. It will pave the way for other countries to normalize their ties with Israel.”

“There are many more unpublicized meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalize relations with the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said without naming any countries.

As part of the normalization agreement, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank, although Netanyahu quickly insisted the plans remained on the table in the long run.

The Palestinians dubbed the UAE’s agreement with Israel a “stab in the back” as it opens parts of the Arab world to the Jewish state while their own conflict remains unresolved.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by most Arab states, says it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians establishing an independent Palestinian state.

* with Reuters


French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut
Updated 13 min 31 sec ago

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut

French foreign minister delivers warning to Lebanese MPs in Beirut
  • Arab News learns that Le Drian hinted that sanctions might be imposed against those blocking formation of government

BEIRUT: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed during his meetings with Lebanese officials on Thursday that “the French initiative to solve the crisis in forming the Lebanese government is still in force and the responsibility for implementing it rests with the Lebanese.”

Arab News has learned that Le Drian also hinted that sanctions might be imposed against those who obstruct the formation of the new government.

On the eve of his arrival in Beirut, Le Drian tweeted that he would deliver “a strongly worded message to political officials and a message expressing our full solidarity with the Lebanese people. We will deal firmly with those who obstruct the formation of the government, and we have taken national measures, and this is only the beginning.”

He also said that his visit to Lebanon “confirms France’s solidarity in the field of education, medicine, and archeology as well as its support for the Lebanese who are doing their best for their country.”

Following the Beirut port blast in August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an initiative to help form a government of specialists to help lift Lebanon out of its economic crisis.

However, Macron’s initiative has not yet been implemented, so people in Lebanon followed Le Drian’s meetings with interest.

Before Le Drian’s visit there was speculation that he did not intend to meet with Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, but might meet with the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Gebran Bassil.

Some had predicted that Hariri would give up his post as PM-designate due to his ongoing disagreement with President Michel Aoun and his political team over the formation of the new government, with Aoun reportedly demanding a ‘blocking third’ for his allies.

However, after meeting with Aoun, Le Drian also met with Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri as well as Hariri.

Aoun’s media office reported that, during his meeting with Le Drian, the president said, “Achieving reforms, foremost of which is the financial audit, which constitutes the first item in the French initiative announced on Sept. 1, 2020, is essential for the advancement of Lebanon and restoring the confidence of the Lebanese and the international community. Forming a new government that will enjoy the confidence of parliament is the top priority.”

Aoun pledged to “continue exerting efforts to reach practical results in this issue, despite the internal and external obstacles and the lack of response of those concerned, by following the constitutional principles and methodology adopted in forming governments.”

He also laid out “the constitutional responsibilities entrusted to the president ... and his responsibility to maintain political and sectarian balance during the formation of the government to ensure that it gains the confidence of parliament” and spoke about the “cost of wasted time to complete the formation process.”

The meeting between Aoun and Le Drian lasted for half an hour, after which Le Drian left without making a statement.

Le Drian held meetings at the Senoub Palace with a number of opposition and partisan figures, including leaders of groups protesting against the corruption of the ruling authority. These groups presented their views on the current reality in Lebanon and their vision of ways in which France could provide assistance to Lebanon to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, stage parliamentary elections, and address financial cases.

However, several groups declined the invitation, including the “Li Haqqi” (I Have My Right) group. Nizar Hassan, a researcher in social movements from that group, told Arab News: “A lengthy discussion took place within the group about the feasibility of attending the meeting with the French minister, and we decided not to attend because there was no great benefit (in doing so).”

He said there were several reasons for this, including “the rejection of France’s attempt to bring the political class in Lebanon to the surface to restore it to power again.”

Future Movement MP Mohamad Hajjar described the speculation that Le Drian would not meet with Hariri as “illogical.”

He said Hariri is committed to “forming a government of specialists to help the country, while another party insists on putting the country on the brink and is dealing with everyone on the basis that either MP Gebran Bassil be the next president or the country will fall into chaos. And Hezbollah is watching.”

Lebanon’s economic crisis reached a new peak on Thursday when Electricité du Liban (EDL) announcement that it no longer had enough money to buy fuel and that it would “be forced to reduce its production, which would negatively impact the feeding hours in all regions, including the administrative areas of Beirut.”

This came hours after the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, issued a decision to stop the payment of sums owed to the Turkish energy company Karadeniz and its Karpowership branch in Lebanon for power ships chartered to produce electricity.

The judge’s decision was based on “preliminary investigations conducted by the Financial Prosecutor’s Office into the possibility of brokers, commission, or corruption in the dealership of ships producing electricity” and is intended to “oblige the two aforementioned companies to return $25 million to the Lebanese state, and to circulate a search and inquiry order against the owners of the two companies.”

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Council suspended a law that parliament had approved granting and advance from the treasury to EDL after MPs from the Lebanese Forces Party filed an appeal “because the advance will use the money of the people and depositors remaining in the reserves of the Banque du Liban to finance electricity, and this was described by the MPs as burning people’s money.”

The Constitutional Council stressed, “If the law violates the constitution, it will be annulled, and if it is not in violation, we will reject the appeal.”


Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks
Updated 34 min 29 sec ago

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks
  • US secretary of state: ‘We don’t yet know’ if Tehran is serious about making a deal in Vienna
  • Blinken tells BBC Iran could acquire nuclear weapons within months

LONDON: Negotiators in talks with Iran over curbs to its nuclear program do not yet know if Tehran is willing to make a deal, according to the White House’s top diplomat.

“We’ve been engaged now in Vienna for some weeks with our European partners, with Russia, China, and indirectly … with Iran,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC on Thursday.

“We’ve demonstrated our very seriousness of purpose in terms of wanting to get back into the so-called JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),” he added. 

“What we don’t yet know is whether Iran is prepared to make the same decision and move forward.” 

Blinken warned that, having progressively walked back on nuclear curbs hammered out as part of the 2015 deal agreed with world powers, Tehran could acquire nuclear weapons within months.

Under the original deal, from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, Iran received billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief in exchange for strict curbs and heavy monitoring of its nuclear program.

“Right now, unfortunately, Iran has itself lifted many of the constraints imposed on it by the agreement because we pulled out,” Blinken said.

“And it’s now getting closer and closer again to that point where its breakout time is going to be down to a few months and eventually even less.”


Egypt and Turkey conclude talks on regional issues

With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
Updated 06 May 2021

Egypt and Turkey conclude talks on regional issues

With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
  • Talks were aimed at resetting ties between the two regional powers
  • Both sides vowed to evaluate the outcome of their first round of consultations

LONDON: Egypt and Turkey concluded consultations on Thursday in the Egyptian capital Cairo to discuss ties and regional conflicts.
A joint statement described the talks as “frank and in-depth” and dealt with bilateral relations and a number of regional issues, particularly the situations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and “the need to achieve peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean region.”
The two day consultations were headed by Egyptian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamdi Sanad Loza, and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal.
“The two sides will evaluate the outcome of this round of consultations and agree on the next steps,” the joint statement added.
The discussions were the first high-level public talks for years between the two powers.
Turkey has been striving to mend fences with several US-allied Arab states but Egypt has so far responded cautiously to Turkish overtures.
(With Reuters)


Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
Updated 06 May 2021

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
  • The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power

LONDON: Qatar’s Public Prosecutor ordered the arrest of Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi over reports of crime related to holding public office, Qatar News Agency reported on Thursday.
“After reviewing documents, and their attached reports, the Attorney General ordered the arrest of the Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi to investigate what was mentioned in the reports of crimes related to practicing public office,” the statement said.
The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power.
The Public Prosecutor ordered wide investigations into the crimes raised in the submitted reports.


UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
Updated 06 May 2021

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
  • UN says eviction of Palestine refugee families in other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are ‘very worrying’
  • Wennesland says ‘deeply concerned’ by surge in tensions and violence in occupied West Bank since start of Ramadan

LONDON: The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law.
“The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are also very worrying,” Tor Wennesland said in a statement on Thursday.
Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flared over a controversial land rights case.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City on land claimed by Jews.
He also said he was “deeply concerned” by the surge in tensions and violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the start of the Muslim month of Ramadan.
“In the past few days alone, two Palestinians, including a woman and a child, were killed in separate incidents, by Israeli security forces (ISF) in the context of clashes or attacks,” said Wennesland.
He also said an Israeli was killed by a Palestinian in a drive-by shooting, and several others were injured.
"I reiterate that ISF must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” he added.
Last month, anti-Arab Israeli extremists, emboldened by the election of their allies to parliament, began a march calling for violence against Arabs.
The move raised tensions, prompting cross-border attacks from Gaza and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Wennesland said perpetrators of violence on all sides must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.
“I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to stand firmly against violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric,” he said, adding “if unaddressed, the situation could spiral out of control.”