Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel
U.S. Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz during a press briefing on the agreement between Israel and the UAE at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., Aug. 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 September 2020

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel
  • Berkowitz said that Arab leaders have been disappointed by the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan
  • Berkowitz stressed that the door remains open to the Palestinians if they agree to negotiate, but Trump will seek alternatives if they refuse to engage

As many as seven Arab or Muslim countries are likely to follow the lead set by the UAE and Bahrain by signing agreements to normalize relations with Israel, according to Avi Berkowitz, special adviser to US President Donald Trump on Middle East negotiations.

He said that Arab and Muslim political and business leaders have been disappointed by the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was proposed last year by the Trump administration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “the deal of the century.”

During an exclusive interview with Arab News on Tuesday, Berkowitz stressed that the door remains open to the Palestinians if they agree to negotiate, but Trump will seek alternatives if they refuse to engage.

He added the refusal by some Palestinian leaders to negotiate will no longer prevent other Arab and Muslim countries from pursuing peace with Israel, or deter the US from talking with other Palestinian community leaders and groups.

“We can disagree about the details. We can sit around the table and negotiate them,” Berkowitz said during the interview, which will be broadcast on Detroit radio station WNZK at 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning.

“But if you are unwilling to actually review the plan and think it through and explain why you think it is not acceptable, then we are not really talking — we are sort of talking past each other. And I think a lot of people in the region saw that and said ‘we are no longer going to allow this to be a veto over our national interests.’”

Berkowitz said that while there is a seat at the table for the Palestinian leadership to discuss the Trump peace plan, in their absence talks are taking place with other Palestinian community and business leaders, although he did not name them.

“We put out a plan and the plan calls for a realistic two-state solution,” he said. “It calls for a Palestinian state with a capital in areas of East Jerusalem. It calls for free access to all people who come in peace to all of the holy sites, so that no one can say that in any way they are under siege. (It also offers) $50 billion in investments, as well as provisions for people who have been displaced: the refugee issue.

“It undoubtedly is something that will make the lives of the Palestinian people better and will change the course of the region. And so when that was (announced) a lot of people saw that the Palestinians refused the plan prior to it even being published. They wouldn’t even read it before rejecting it — and honestly, that is unacceptable.”

Berkowitz said his own frustration with the situation “pales in comparison” to the frustration that can be heard in the voices of the Palestinian people about the actions of their leaders.

“They understand the current trajectory is a bad one and they constantly bring me fresh ideas,” he added.

Arguing that the presence of Israel is a reality that the Palestinians must accept, Berkowitz said: “We’re not going to allow that to be a veto over the project that we hope to make in the region going forward.”

However, he added that this does not mean that long-standing grievances and concerns will be ignored.

“This is not something that is being done at the exclusion of understanding the significance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “That is a real issue. It is one that we intend to give as much attention as the Palestinian leadership is willing to engage us on.”

The agreement between the UAE and Israel was announced on Aug. 13. Bahrain announced a similar deal on Sept. 11. Both agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, were brokered by Trump. They were signed by the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain and Netanyahu at the White House on Sept. 15.

In exchange for establishing full diplomatic and economic ties, Israel agreed to suspend its plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank.


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 

He also announced that the UAE is looking forward to developing relations with Russia in various fields, saying: "Russia is a reliable friend and partner."

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with UAE officials on developments in the Gulf and the region’s the stability.


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
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Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.