Armenian church leasing land to Israelis causes Palestinian worry

Armenian church leasing land  to Israelis causes Palestinian worry
Palestinian demonstrators protest against the selling of church land to Israelis, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. An unknown deal to turn the land into a parking lot is causing concern for the Palestinian leadership. (AP/File)
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Updated 19 December 2020

Armenian church leasing land to Israelis causes Palestinian worry

Armenian church leasing land  to Israelis causes Palestinian worry
  • Armenian Patriarchate terms the deal as simply a financial operation and ‘not selling land’

AMMAN: A previously unknown agreement to turn sensitive land in the old city of Jerusalem into a parking lot — largely for the exclusive use of Jewish residents of the old city — is causing concern for the Palestinian leadership and members of the tiny Armenian community.

The contract, a copy of which is with Arab News, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
Officials of the Armenian Patriarchate confirmed the agreement but insisted that the contract with the Israeli Jerusalem municipality and the Jewish-centric Jerusalem Development Authority (Harali) does not constitute selling or leasing land but is simply a financial operation.
The Armenian Patriarchate said that removal of all earth from the plot of land, which will cost about $2 million, was “a financial obligation that the Patriarchate by itself doesn’t have the capacity to undertake,” according to a statement by the real estate department of the Armenian Patriarchate. The statement said that efforts to get support from “multiple governmental bodies” had run “into obstacles.” In return, the municipality and Harali will have access to 90 parking spots.
But the five-page contract notes (Article 2a) that the cost of lifting the rubble will be considered “a loan” that the church will have to pay back.
The Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs in Palestine wrote to Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manoogian reminding him that the Armenian quarter is part of occupied Palestinian territories where UN resolutions, including the 2017 UNSC Resolution 2334, apply. The letter also noted that the agreement between Jordanian King Abdullah and President Abbas in 2013 was set to regulate Christian and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
The letter, signed by Ramzi Khoury, the director of the committee, called on the Armenian Patriarchate “to abide by international law” and said that Israel has “expansionist ambitions,” especially in the area of the Omar Bin Khatab Square and the Armenian quarters” in the old city. Palestinian sources have said that President Arafat refused to concede the Armenian quarter during the 2000 negotiations at Camp David.

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The Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs in Palestine wrote to the Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manoogian reminding him that the Armenian quarter is part of occupied Palestinian territories where UN Resolutions, including the 2017 UNSC resolution 2334, apply.

A well-respected Palestinian source from the Armenian community said that he “smells a rat,” adding that the current Armenian Patriarchate is not to be trusted. “I think that this is not the first time that the Armenian Patriarchate has tried to sell land and the people of Jerusalem to the Israelis and the people of the city stood up to him,” said the Palestinian leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Palestinian/Armenian source denied claims that the church had no choice but to go to the Israelis after repeated requests for financial support from the Palestinian government and others were turned down: “This is not true. The EU was interested in fixing the parking lot in a way that would allow its parking lot income to support the church while allowing all the people of the old city to use it but the church refused the offer. A 10-point official statement issued by the real estate department of the Armenian Patriarchate states that the parking lot will remain private and that the management, ownership of the parking lot will remain in the hands of the Patriarchate.”
The statement also highlights that “within the next 10 years, once the Patriarchate has finalized and received all construction permits, in agreement with the municipality, the Patriarchate will begin a new construction that will benefit the Armenian community.” The Patriarchate is hoping to get permission to build a hotel.
Armenian clergy have frequently complained about religious Jews spitting on them. In March 2020 the Israeli police, and for the first time since 1967, fined a young Jewish man 1,500 Israeli shekel ($463) for spitting at an Armenian bishop a year earlier.
Palestinians have boycotted the “unified” Jerusalem municipality since 1967 and consider the Jerusalem Development Authority an arm of radical Jewish groups that intend to Judaize the old city of Jerusalem at the expense of the indigenous Arab Palestinians.


Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
Updated 4 min 40 sec ago

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
  • Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said
  • Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months

MARMARIS, Turkey: Firefighters using planes and helicopters, and locals with buckets of water, battled wildfires raging for a sixth day near southern coastal resorts in drought-hit Turkey on Monday.
Meanwhile the government faced fresh criticism of its handling the disaster.
Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F), strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.
Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months.
Drone footage filmed by Reuters showed grey hillsides near the resort of Marmaris where fires left smoldering buildings and blackened tree trunks.
While 16 planes and 51 helicopters tackled blazes across a swathe of southwest Turkey, villagers carrying water containers up a hill to fight a fire near Marmaris said the government was not doing enough to help them.
“We are here as the entire village, from the locals to others. We didn’t run or anything, so the government must see this and also not run away. It must send some of its planes here,” a woman called Gulhan told Reuters.
Engin Ozkoc, a senior figure in the main opposition CHP, called on Pakdemirli to resign for failing to adequately prepare.
“You don’t deserve that ministry. You didn’t foresee this and buy firefighting planes,” he said, criticizing the amount of aerial resources available.
The European Union said it had helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes on Sunday. One from Croatia and two from Spain joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, rejected criticism of the government’s handling of the fires and condemned a social media campaign calling for foreign help.
“Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing tall,” Altun said on Twitter, describing most information about the fires on social media as “fake news.” “All our losses will be compensated for.”
Eight people have been killed in the wildfires, but there were no reports of further casualties on Monday.
Since Wednesday, thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and some tourists have left their hotels, although Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said holidaymakers had returned within hours.
The wildfires are another blow to Turkey’s tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bulent Bulbuloglu, head of the South Aegean Hoteliers Association, said 10 percent of reservations had been canceled in Bodrum and Marmaris. Others had cut their visits short.


Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack
Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack
  • Shooting in Khaldeh, where tensions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have long simmered, prompted leaders to warn against an escalation
  • Attack targeted the funeral of Hezbollah member Ali Shibli who was shot dead on Saturday during a wedding

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army said on Monday it had detained a man wanted over an attack on Shiite Muslim mourners at a funeral where three people were killed, after the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah demanded the perpetrators be detained.
The shooting in Khaldeh, a town south of Beirut where tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims have long simmered, has prompted leaders to warn against an escalation as Lebanon grapples with political and financial crises.
The attack targeted the funeral of Hezbollah member Ali Shibli who was shot dead on Saturday during a wedding.
Sunni Arab tribes claimed responsibility for that shooting, saying they had taken revenge for the killing of one of their members last year in Khaldeh.
Army intelligence stormed the homes of a number of wanted people and detained a man who was involved in the funeral attack, the army said.
Hezbollah, an armed group backed by Iran, has said it is seeking to maintain calm but said the attackers must be handed over. The group has called it a planned ambush.
“You don’t want strife, then come and surrender those killers to the state,” Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah MP, said in an interview with Al-Jadeed TV late on Sunday.
People were “boiling” and the group could not control them all, he said.
Shibli’s coffin was draped in a Hezbollah flag at his funeral in the town of Kunin in southern Lebanon.
Clerics prayed over the casket and Hezbollah fighters wearing camouflage and red berets were in attendance, footage broadcast by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV showed.
“What happened in Khaldeh confirms the blatant absence of the logic of the state and that the language of uncontrolled and illegitimate arms is the one prevailing,” Fouad Makhzoumi, an independent Sunni MP, wrote on Twitter.
“We are afraid of the country being dragged to strife.”
Lebanon’s financial and economic meltdown marks the biggest crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
“Strife awakens on the eve of Aug. 4,” declared the front page headline of an-Nahar newspaper, referring to the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion that devastated swathes of the capital and killed more than 200 people.


Tunisia reiterates commitment to combating illegal migration

 After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Tunisia reiterates commitment to combating illegal migration

 After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
  • Arrival of migrants to Lampedusa taxes accommodation facility on small Italian island
  • Italian politician says information from Tunisian security forces regarding operations to counter illegal migration ‘seems to contradict increasing number of landings’

ROME: Tunisian President Kais Saied reiterated his country’s commitment to combating illegal migration and has thanked Italy for its donation of some 1.5 million coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses, in addition to five containers of equipment to help the country fight the pandemic.

On Sunday night, Saied symbolically received the vaccine donation in a ceremony he attended with the Ambassador of Italy to Tunisia Lorenzo Fanara, in which he hailed bilateral relations and renewed Tunisia’s commitment against illegal migration in the Mediterranean.

A communiqué from the Tunisian presidency said that the president expressed his eagerness to “protect rights and liberties and bolster the pillars of security and stability” and affirmed his country’s stance against illegal migration, human trafficking and smuggling. He also warned against politically exploiting this issue during such a “delicate” time as the country is currently experiencing.

Sources in the Embassy of Italy in Tunisia told Arab News that Saied “remains keen to continue bilateral cooperation in accordance with all the agreements made on both sides regarding the issue of migration in the past years.”

The arrival of migrants to the island of Lampedusa continues, meanwhile, due to good sea conditions.

On Monday, the Tunisian Coast Guard informed that 11 operations to counter illegal migration were carried out over the weekend, with 188 migrants aboard various boats stopped in different regions of the country.

The Tunisian Ministry of Interior said in a communiqué issued after the ceremony with President Saied and the Italian ambassador that 56 of the people stopped came from African countries but did not specify their nationalities.

Eleven of them were already wanted for repeatedly trying to reach Italian and European shores illegally.

“They can say what they want, but most of them are Tunisians from Tunisia,” Rev. Michele Giordano from Caritas in Sicily told Arab News.

“The activity of the Tunisian security forces to counter migration from that country probably comes as a response to the interview Ennahda party leader and Speaker of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi gave on Saturday to Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. In that interview, Ghannouchi warned that European countries would face an unprecedented wave of migration if they did not help his movement,” Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, member of the foreign affairs committee in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News.

“I do not see any other reason why they should let everyone know that in recent days the Tunisian National Guard prevented hundreds from crossing the Mediterranean illegally. This kind of information seems to contradict the increasing number of landings from Tunisia in Lampedusa and on the southern shores of Sardinia,” he added.

Only on Sunday, around 200 people arrived in Lampedusa. After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of the tiny island’s port. Over 1,200 migrants are still staying in the facility, however, which is designed to accommodate no more than 250.


Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government
Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government
  • Government formation ‘is a bit slot’, said Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Monday

BEIRUT: Lebanon's newly designated prime minister Najib Mikati said Monday that a cabinet lineup would not be announced by mid-week to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly Beirut port blast.

“Frankly, with regard to the government, I was hoping the pace would be faster,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, whom he said he would now see again on Thursday.

The government of Hassan Diab, who is still caretaker prime minister, resigned en masse days after the August 4 explosion that killed more than 200 people last year.

Mikati, who has already been prime minister twice in the past and is also the country's richest man, was designated on July 26 to form a government after Saad Hariri threw in the towel.

He said he had hoped to clinch a deal before the anniversary of the explosion, but media reports said Lebanon's political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked a new government over the past year.

The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since sunk into what the World Bank has described as one of the world's worst crises since the mid-19th century.

The designation last month of 65-year-old Mikati, seen by many as a symbol of Lebanon's corrupt oligarchy, was met with scepticism both at home and abroad.


Libya gets 2 million Sinopharm doses with more expected

Libya gets 2 million Sinopharm doses with more expected
Updated 02 August 2021

Libya gets 2 million Sinopharm doses with more expected

Libya gets 2 million Sinopharm doses with more expected
  • "We call on all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated," said Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah
  • Since the pandemic began, Libya has recorded 256,328 cases and 3,579 deaths from Covid-19

TRIPOLI: Libya called Monday on people to come forward to be vaccinated after it received two million doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, with more on the way.
“We call on all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated,” Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah told reporters at Mitiga airport near Tripoli after the shipment arrived.
Adding to its security and political problems, the North African country of around seven million people has been hard hit by the pandemic.
Dbeibah, who heads a transitional government ahead of elections set for December, added that another 1.5 million doses of vaccine were expected “in the coming weeks.”
Since the pandemic began, Libya has recorded 256,328 cases and 3,579 deaths from Covid-19.
Recently, it has seen an increase in daily cases of several thousand, partly because of increased testing.
Last Tuesday, a two-week overnight curfew aimed at halting the rise in new infections came into force in central and west Libya.
It does not apply in eastern and southern Libya, which are de facto controlled by military strongman Khalifa Haftar, despite the political and military situation improving.