Moroccan FM, US envoy discuss relations post Israel normalization deal

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (L) and Moroccan Foreign Minster Nasser Bourita (R). (Twitter/@MarocDiplomatie)
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (L) and Moroccan Foreign Minster Nasser Bourita (R). (Twitter/@MarocDiplomatie)
Short Url
Updated 10 January 2021

Moroccan FM, US envoy discuss relations post Israel normalization deal

Moroccan FM, US envoy discuss relations post Israel normalization deal

Moroccan Foreign Minster Nasser Bourita discussed on Sunday relations with top US envoy David Schenker following Rabat’s normalizing its ties with Israel.

Schenker, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said that the US was committed to deepening the relationship with Morocco.

Morocco was a strategic partner in achieving stability in the region, said the envoy, who is the highest-ranking US diplomat for North Africa and the Middle East.

Bourita said that Morocco agreed with Washington on many international issues.

The US official visited contested Western Sahara on Saturday, after Washington recognized Morocco’s sovereignty there in exchange for the deal with Israel.

Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.

Last year Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in agreeing to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.

In return, US President Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old Moroccan goal by backing its contested sovereignty over the barren but phosphate-rich region, which lies next to rich Atlantic fishing zones.

The US Embassy in Rabat called the trip by Schenker “a historic visit” as he is the first US official to visit the Western Sahara.


Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus
Updated 10 min 32 sec ago

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

CAIRO: Syrian state television reported on Sunday evening that Syrian air defences had responded to an "Israeli aggression in the vicinity of Damascus" after an explosion was heard above the capital.
Asked about the report, an Israeli military spokesman declined comment.
In a briefing to supporters of his party on Friday, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israel was taking action "almost weekly" to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.


UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home
Updated 28 February 2021

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home
  • UNICEF made its plea a day after three children died in a fire at Al-Hol camp
  • Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of alleged militants in jails and tens of thousands of their family members in camps in northeast Syria

BEIRUT: The UN children’s agency called Sunday for all minors held in displacement camps or jails in northeast Syria to be allowed home.
UNICEF made its plea a day after three children died in a fire at the overcrowded camp of Al-Hol, for people displaced in the fight against Daesh.
After years of leading the US-backed fight against Daesh, Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of alleged militants in jails and tens of thousands of their family members in camps in northeast Syria.
They hail from Syria, neighboring Iraq and dozens of other foreign countries.
Many are children.
“In the northeast of Syria, there are more than 22,000 foreign children from at least 60 nationalities who languish in camps and prisons, in addition to many thousands of Syrian children,” UNICEF regional director Ted Chaiban said in a statement, without giving a number of children held in jails.
He urged authorities in the northeast of Syria and UN member states to “do everything possible to bring children currently in the northeast of Syria back home.”
They should do this “through integrating Syrian children in their local communities and the repatriation of foreign children,” he added.
The Kurdish authorities have started sending thousands of displaced Syrians home from the camps.
But repeated calls for Western countries to repatriate their nationals have largely fallen on deaf ears, with just a handful of children and even fewer women being brought home.
Three children and a woman died on Saturday after a stove exploded in the Al-Hol camp, starting a fire, a Kurdish official said.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 26 were injured.
Al-Hol is home to more than 62,000 people, displaced family members and relatives of alleged IS fighters, more than half of them children, it says.
A spate of killings, including decapitations, has rocked the camp since the start of the year, and humanitarian actors have repeatedly deplored living conditions there.
On February 1, the Save the Children charity also urged Iraq and Western countries to repatriate children from northeast Syria faster.
Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
Kurdish-led forces backed air strikes by a US-led coalition expelled Daesh from their last patch of territory in Syria in March 2019, in a battle that displaced tens of thousands.


Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination
Updated 28 February 2021

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination
  • Text messages will be sent to prompt all those eligible to register for the vaccine as part of the Egyptian president’s initiative to eliminate waiting lists and facilitate the vaccination process

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced on Sunday the start of online registration to obtain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination for eligible citizens.

Khaled Mujahid, the ministry’s spokesman, said that registration has begun for eligible groups, including persons with tumors and kidney failure; those who have undergone operations, including open-heart surgery, and kidney and liver operations; and those with cerebral or peripheral catheters.

Text messages will be sent to prompt all those eligible to register for the vaccine as part of the Egyptian president’s initiative to eliminate waiting lists and facilitate the vaccination process.

Mujahid said that offices have been allocated in health units and hospitals across Egypt to register those who are unable to do so online. The spokesman pointed out that the site informs citizens of all details concerning the vaccine and allows them to register their data so that priority is automatically given according to age and chronic disease.

Mujahid said that the categories of people eligible to register on the website are divided into three groups in line with universally recognized priorities. These groups include health workers, those with chronic diseases and the elderly.

He explained that those registering online will have to enter identifying data, including name, ID number and contact information, such as phone number, where a verification code will be sent. Following this, the governorate and nearest health unit where the citizen may be vaccinated are determined.


Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal
  • Iran says US must lift all its unilateral sanctions first

DUBAI: Iran on Sunday ruled out holding an informal meeting with the United States and European powers to discuss ways to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, insisting that Washington must lift all its unilateral sanctions.
“Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to Iranian media.
Iranian officials had said Tehran was studying a proposal by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to hold an informal meeting with other parties to the nuclear pact and the United States, which reimposed sanctions on Iran after then-president Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018.
Iran and the new US administration of President Joe Biden have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the accord. Iran insists the United States must first lift sanctions while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal, which it has been progressively breaching.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sketched out a potential choreography on Feb. 1 to overcome the impasse.


Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all
Updated 23 min 7 sec ago

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all
  • ‘Like a dove, he’ll bring a twig of peace to all the people living in this land who’ve suffered for too long,’ priest tells Arab News
  • Pope Francis due to arrive in Baghdad on March 5

ROME: The pope’s upcoming visit to Iraq is a “precious gift” not only for the Christians who live there, but for all those who after years of war want a return to peace and coexistence between religions, a priest who worked for eight years in the diocese of Mosul told Arab News.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Pope Francis is coming … to invite us to all be instruments of peace,” said Fr. Jalal Jako.

“Like a dove, he’ll bring a twig of peace to all the people living in this land who’ve suffered for too long.”

Jako, currently in Italy, will return to Iraq for the pope’s visit, which will begin on March 5.

The priest was born in Qaraqosh, a historic Christian city near Mosul, which is part of the pope’s itinerary.

Jalal Jako visiting a church in Qaraqosh after it was badly damaged by Daesh. (Supplied)

He fled the region in August 2014 along with nearly 150,000 Christians and made his way to Erbil in northern Iraq. There, Jako worked in a refugee camp where he said the conditions for those who had fled the extremists were “terrible.”

When he returned to Qaraqosh three years later, “We found that everything had been destroyed,” he said.

The pope will be welcomed by Iraq’s prime minister in Baghdad and then visit the country’s president at the presidential palace, where he will meet with local authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps.

Pope Francis will also meet with bishops and priests at the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.

On March 6, he will fly to the city of Najaf and meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. The pope will return to Baghdad that day and celebrate Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph.

On March 7 he will visit Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and meet with religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region. He will also visit the city of Qaraqosh. His return to Rome is scheduled for March 8 from Baghdad.

Jako said: “We can’t fail to be there at such an important moment for us Christians — the first visit of a pope to Iraq. He’ll tell us, ‘No more blood, live all as brothers.’ Thus he’ll send out a message that all the Iraqi people need.”

Jako added: “Pope John Paul II was supposed to come on a pilgrimage in 2000 … but it wasn’t possible for him. Pope Francis is keeping his predecessor’s promise to come to Iraq to visit a Christian community that today has only 500,000 faithful, a third of the number who lived there in 2003. He comes as the leader of a Church that respects all religions and aims to build peace.”