Families rejoice as GCC Summit cements the ties that bind Gulf countries

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit in AlUla that the agreement to mend ties with Qatar underscored the importance of solidarity and security among Gulf, Arab and Muslim states. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit in AlUla that the agreement to mend ties with Qatar underscored the importance of solidarity and security among Gulf, Arab and Muslim states. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court)
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Updated 06 January 2021

Families rejoice as GCC Summit cements the ties that bind Gulf countries

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit in AlUla that the agreement to mend ties with Qatar underscored the importance of solidarity and security among Gulf, Arab and Muslim states. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court)
  • Saudi Arabia reopened its airspace and land and sea borders with Qatar in advance of the 41st GCC Summit in AlUla
  • Families divided by the three-year border closure took to social media to celebrate the announcement

 

JEDDAH: Social media in the Gulf region has been flooded with celebratory joy since news broke that Saudi Arabia had reopened its airspace and land and sea borders with Qatar as part of a deal to end a three-year diplomatic crisis. For many, the story is deeply personal.

On Tuesday Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit in AlUla that the agreement to mend ties with Qatar underscored the importance of solidarity and security among Gulf, Arab and Muslim states.

A public embrace earlier in the day between the Crown Prince and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at AlUla airport capped the Qatari ruler’s arrival on Saudi soil for the first time since 2017.




audi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a meeting with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the Maraya Hall in the historic city of Al-Ula on Tuesday. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court)

For hundreds of separated families, the significance of the reopening of borders and resumption of travel between Saudi Arabia and Qatar cannot be overstated, given the unique social fabric of the Gulf region, with its cross-border ties of marriage and blood.

Videos surfaced on social media showing men, women and children dancing and rejoicing at the easing of the crisis. Many said they were looking forward to reunions in the near future with their loved ones on the other side of the border.

In one video, a Qatari boy could be seen jumping with excitement as he spoke with his father over the phone, exchanging promises of a reunion amid laughter, tears of joy visible on the boy’s face. “Yalla (come on), let’s go” the boy said and the father replied something to the effect: Get ready soon, my son.

Equally euphoric were the sentiments of Ismail Mohammed @soom3a70, a forward for Qatar’s Al-Duhail FC football club. Born and raised in Makkah, the city where his mother still resides, he took to the social-media platform to express his delight with the latest developments. “Good news mom, our get-together is near,” he wrote.

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Similar scenes were probably playing out among members of many other families separated since 2017. Sara Abdulhakeem Abdullah, a 22-year-old Saudi who married her Qatari husband in 2018, can now freely travel to the Kingdom.

“I was awakened by my husband late last night with the news of the reopening of borders,” she told Arab News. “Words fail me. It is so hard to put my feelings into words. I had been trying for a long time to find an easy way to go back to Jeddah where my parental family resides.”

Despite the restrictions on air travel within the GCC countries on account of the coronavirus pandemic, last month Abdullah was able to briefly visit her loved ones in Jeddah with the support of her Qatari family. But the journey was circuitous and tiring both for her and her daughter, now a year old.

“Moving from one airport to another, waiting in transit for hours, is not the easiest thing,” she said. “The journey was worth it in the end as I had not seen my father or siblings since getting married.”




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gives Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani a tour around the historic city of AlUla on Tuesday. (Supplied)

As a newlywed who had to adjust to a new life abroad for the first time in her life, Sara said it was not easy being unable to meet up with her parental family. The pain of the separation was even more pronounced during her pregnancy, when she was not sure when her parents and siblings would be able to meet the first granddaughter of the family.

Shortly before her due date, she was united with her mother and youngest sister but the reunion was still short of three family members. Although she was relieved to have them by her side, her joy was short-lived as the two visitors had to return to Saudi Arabia within a month.

“It was the most difficult thing one can ever imagine, a feeling I wouldn’t want anyone to experience. Those first few months of marriage were one thing, but not having my mother around when I needed her was the most difficult,” she said. “But it’s all old news now. The good times are soon to come.”

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Twitter: @Rawanradwan8


Arab ministers consider ways to tackle Iran’s interference in region

Arab ministers consider ways to tackle Iran’s interference in region
Updated 2 min 19 sec ago

Arab ministers consider ways to tackle Iran’s interference in region

Arab ministers consider ways to tackle Iran’s interference in region
  • Discussions included enhanced efforts ‘to confront Iranian terrorist practices’
  • Stressed the need to work with international community to halt Tehran’s nuclear program

LONDON: The Arab Ministerial Quartet Committee met on Wednesday to discuss developments in the crisis with Iran and ways to address interference by Tehran in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
Osama bin Ahmed Naqli, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt and permanent representative to the Arab League, represented the Kingdom on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
The meeting, which took place in Cairo on the sidelines of the 155th session of the Arab League Council, was chaired by UAE Minister of State Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar. The other participants included Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry, and Bahrain’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Al-Dossary.
They discussed “ways to enhance cooperation and joint coordination to confront Iranian terrorist practices and combat its terrorist arms that spread havoc and destruction, disrupt development and prosperity, and threaten regional and international security and stability,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
They also reviewed “the importance of strengthening work with the international community to stop the Iranian nuclear program, which threatens international peace and security in the region and the world.”


Fatah committee member sets up separate electoral list, defies leaders’ orders

Fatah committee member sets up separate electoral list, defies leaders’ orders
Updated 14 min 6 sec ago

Fatah committee member sets up separate electoral list, defies leaders’ orders

Fatah committee member sets up separate electoral list, defies leaders’ orders
  • Nasser Al-Qudwa launched the Palestinian Democratic Forum, with 230 prominent Palestinians attending
  • Al-Qudwa is a nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and runs the Yasser Arafat Foundation
AMMAN: Nasser Al-Qudwa, a member of the Fatah Central Committee announced on Tuesday that he has set up a separate electoral list for the upcoming legislative elections, in defiance of orders from the party’s leaders. Al-Qudwa could still support a Fatah-nominated government, however. Al Qudwa held an online meeting on Tuesday to announce the launch of the Palestinian Democratic Forum, with a number of key figures in attendance. The forum attendees included 230 prominent Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora. Participants called on imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti to join them too. Committees dealing with media, legal affairs, management, and candidacies were formed and it was agreed that members of these committees should not be on the electoral list. It was also agreed that there would be strict guidelines regarding candidates’ donations. Hani Al-Masri director-general of Ramallah’s Masarat think-tank, told Arab News that Al-Qudwa’s move could be a game-changer. “Al-Qudwa combines clean hands, respected national presence, and popular support, it will be a game-changer if Barghouti supports the list,” he said. Al-Qudwa is a nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and runs the Yasser Arafat Foundation. He resigned from the Fatah Central Committee in May 2018, but his colleagues in the committee soon convinced him to withdraw his resignation. He has never served time in an Israeli jail. The backing of Barghouti would strengthen his credentials in the eyes of many Palestinians. In a poll conducted in September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, Barghouti received 61 percent of the vote versus 32 percent for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, although Haniyeh still defeated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by three points in that poll. In a subsequent December poll, Barghouti again beat the Hamas leader convincingly. Hamas is unlikely to challenge in the presidential race scheduled for July 30. Al-Qudwa stated in the meeting that he has no issue with rank members of the reform faction loyal to former Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan being involved in the Palestinian Democratic Forum, even though he has been critical of Dahlan. “The new group is intended only to be a forum and not a vehicle to solve Fatah’s many problems,” he said. “We are creating a list and our aim is not to cause a crisis.” Al-Qudwa provided a 22-point initial program for the forum and said that the new body “is open for engagement and discussion in the coming meeting scheduled for March 4.” In addition to laying out ideas about how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the program calls for unity between Gaza and the Wes Bank, the rebuilding of the PLO, and government efficiency, as well as addressing issues including democracy, the rule of law, fighting corruption, and gaining national independence for the Palestinian state using the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. The wide-ranging meeting also discussed negotiations, the Oslo Accords, Israeli settlements, how to protect and reclaim Palestinian land, women’s and children’s rights, and Palestinian martyrs and prisoners.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit reappointed

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit reappointed
Updated 24 min 37 sec ago

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit reappointed

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit reappointed
  • The 78-year old, was first elected to lead the Cairo-based pan-regional body in 2016
  • Since its founding in 1945, the Cairo-based league has chosen an Egyptian diplomat as its chief, apart from 1979 to 1990

CAIRO: Egypt’s Ahmed Aboul Gheit was reappointed for a second term Wednesday as secretary general of the 22-member Arab League, a diplomatic source said.
The 78-year old, who served as Egyptian foreign minister between 2004 and 2011, was first elected to lead the Cairo-based pan-regional body in 2016.
“Arab foreign ministers unanimously decided to approve Egypt’s request to reappoint Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit for a new five-year term,” the source said.
Since its founding in 1945, the Cairo-based league has chosen an Egyptian diplomat as its chief, apart from 1979 to 1990, when a Tunisian was appointed and the headquarters moved to Tunis, after Egypt signed a peace deal with neighboring Israel.


Egypt’s fostering campaign helps orphans find homes

Egypt’s fostering campaign helps orphans find homes
Updated 47 min 33 sec ago

Egypt’s fostering campaign helps orphans find homes

Egypt’s fostering campaign helps orphans find homes
  • In 2020, Egypt broadened the rules for who can foster a child to include single women over 30 and divorcees
  • A social media campaign encouraging both taking children home and financing them has also helped spark change

CAIRO: Yasmina Al-Habbal always wanted to take in an orphan but only did so last year after Egypt’s government eased regulations over who could do so and campaigned to change public attitudes, enabling her to take home baby Ghalya.
Formal adoption — where people permanently adopt a child, give them their surname and make them their legal heir, is not accepted in Islam due to the importance of respecting lineage, and not practiced in Egypt, although people are encouraged to sponsor children or foster them.
Complexities around Islam and adoption prevented some people from fostering and instead people chose to support children who remained in the full-time care of orphanages.
In January 2020 however, Egypt broadened the rules for who can foster a child to include single women over 30 and divorcees, and reduced the minimum level of education required, hoping that by increasing the pool of prospective foster parents it could make fostering more widespread and socially accepted.
A social media campaign “Yala Kafala” (Let’s sponsor a child) encouraging both taking children home and financing them, started by an Egyptian woman, has also helped spark change.
Habbal, 40 and unmarried, had always dreamt of having a daughter and said she faced social pressure when choosing to care for now seven-month-old Ghalya.
“My friends said to me: ‘how will you face society? What are you going to tell people? Are you going to tell Ghalya that she isn’t your child? Are you going to tell everyone else?’.”
Habbal assured her friends she would respond by telling people their prejudiced views were wrong, and she would tell Ghalya it didn’t matter where she came from.
“I’m going to tell Ghalya... ‘what is important is the positive change you’ve made to so many people’s lives’.”
She added she has a seen a change in attitudes to fostering, and her experience is encouraging others to apply.
“In this past year, the number of families who have applied to sponsor orphans shows just how much people have accepted it. People used to be afraid of it, but now, Egypt’s highest religious authority Al-Azhar, civil society organizations and the ministry of social solidarity are all trying to make the idea more widespread,” she said.
Reem Amin, a member of Egypt’s social solidarity ministry’s alternative families committee said its main goal was to remove the need for orphanages by 2025.
“An orphanage’s main goal is as a stopover point before the child moves to a foster home,” she said.
The ministry’s legal adviser Mohamed Omar said around 11,600 families have taken in orphans since January 2020 and another 11,000 orphans needed homes.
In the second half of 2020 as restrictions due to the pandemic began to ease, the ministry received 1000 requests from families wanting to sponsor orphans.
Cairo couple Mohamed Abdallah and his wife had initially failed to conceive a child of their own and decided to take in an orphan instead.
Months later, Abdallah’s wife Merna became pregnant and now they are raising their biological son Soliman and Dawood, their foster child. “I have a dream that they will be an example for a normal society — two brothers who love each other, even though they are not related by blood,” said Abdallah.


Yemen’s army launches offensive in Taiz to relieve pressure on Marib

Yemen’s army launches offensive in Taiz to relieve pressure on Marib
Updated 03 March 2021

Yemen’s army launches offensive in Taiz to relieve pressure on Marib

Yemen’s army launches offensive in Taiz to relieve pressure on Marib
  • During the early hours of the offensive, the army troops liberated a number of villages

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Army has launched a new offensive in the southern city of Taiz to break a six-year-long siege by the Iran-backed Houthis and ease military pressure on government forces in the central province of Marib, a Yemeni army spokesperson in Taiz told Arab News on Wednesday. 

Abdul Basit Al-Baher said that hundreds of army troops on Tuesday night attacked Houthi-controlled locations on the western and eastern edges of the city, triggering clashes with the rebels. 

During the early hours of the offensive, the army troops liberated a number of villages and mountainous locations and killed at least 12 Houthis and destroyed military equipment. 

“The national army activated four battlefields in Taiz and managed to push Houthi militia from different locations,” Al-Baher said, adding that the army is pushing to break the Houthi siege on Taiz and open a strategic road that links Taiz with the Red Sea areas. If the government forces seize control of Al-Bareh, the epicenter of the fighting, government forces will be able to partially end the Houthi siege on Taiz and funnel fighters and military equipment from the western regions.

About the timing of the offensive, local Yemeni commanders say that the Houthis in Taiz have been weakened since they sent their elite forces and heavy equipment to participate in the movement’s offensive on the central city of Marib. 

“The Yemeni Army offensive partly aims to ease military pressure on Marib,” Al-Baher said. 

On Wednesday afternoon, artillery shells fired by the Houthis landed in areas close to Al-Thawra hospital in the eastern part of the city, residents said. No one was reportedly hurt in the shelling. 

The Houthis have imposed a siege on the city of Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, since early 2015, after failing to seize control of the city due to strong resistance from army troops and resistance fighters. 

The Houthi siege has stifled the densely populated city, pushing tens of thousands of people to the brink of famine and triggering condemnation from local and international rights groups.

Houthis earlier this month renewed a major offensive to recapture the central city of Marib, the Yemeni government’s last stronghold in the northern half of Yemen. 

In the western province of Hodeidah, a civilian was killed and his brother was wounded when an artillery shell fired by the Houthis exploded inside their house on Tuesday night in the town of Hays, south of Hodeidah city, local media said. 

The Joint Forces, an umbrella term for three major military units in the country’s western coast, said that Houthi sporadically shelled civilian areas in Hays, causing panic among residents. 

A truce imposed under the Stockholm Agreement in 2018 has largely failed to bring peace to contested areas in Hodeidah as local rights organizations say that hundreds of civilians have been killed in shelling and by land mines planted by the Houthis during the last three years.

Yemen’s government has hailed US sanctions on two Houthi military leaders for orchestrating terrorist strikes inside and outside Yemen. 

Yemeni Minister of Information Muammar Al-Eryani described the US decision as a “right step” on the path to punishing the Houthi group for rejecting peace ideas and launching deadly attacks on civilians across Yemen and in Saudi Arabia.