Palestinian factions begin dialogue in Cairo

Palestinian factions begin dialogue in Cairo
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hands the election decree to Chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Committee Hana Naser in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 15, 2021. (Palestinian President Office (PPO)/Handout via Reuters)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Palestinian factions begin dialogue in Cairo

Palestinian factions begin dialogue in Cairo
  • Comprehensive national dialogue in Egypt aims to build consensus ahead of elections

CAIRO: Palestinian factions met in Cairo on Monday to discuss reconciliation and explore mechanisms for holding elections.

There are 14 factions taking part. They include delegations from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah.

PFLP political bureau member Jamil Mizher said: “We are in a round of great importance with regards to the comprehensive national dialogue in Cairo. The Palestinian people, at home and abroad, have high hopes for the results of the dialogue. If all the parties have the real will, we can move forward to put an end to this black division and we can regain national unity.”

He said it was important to put all disputes on the table to reach a national consensus that would pave the way for a new era of the Palestinian struggle, whereby all factions could take part to reestablish the Palestinian political system.

“There are obstacles and hurdles,” he added. “We hope that everyone puts aside all the disputes and conflicts and not to allow foreign interference so we can reach an agreement that would spare the Palestinian people the ravages of the catastrophic division.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the movement’s delegation included Saleh Al-Arouri, who is deputy head of the political bureau, Yahya Sinwar, Dr. Khalil al-Hayya, Izzat al-Rishq, Hussam Badran, Muhammad Nazzal, and Ruhi Mushtaha.

Al-Hayya said: “The Palestinian national powers have high hopes and an expanded vision to remove the obstacles hindering the electoral process whether regarding the judicial dimension or freedoms or other issue.”

The Islamic Jihad delegation is led by Dr. Muhammad Al-Hindi, who is head of the political department. It also includes Dr. Anwar Abu Taha, Sheikh Nafez Azzam and Khaled Al-Batsh.

Sources said the Fatah delegation was headed by Jibril Rajoub and included Azzam Al-Ahmad, Rouhi Fattouh, Ahmed Helles and Samir Al-Rifai.

The agenda for the meeting, which Cairo called for, includes discussing the mechanism for holding legislative elections, legal and technical measures related to the electoral process, issues concerning the constitutional court and elections court, means of guaranteeing personal freedoms, and list formation.

Daoud Shehab, who is leader of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, said: “We are going to Cairo with a national vision, mainly based on the need for Palestinians to agree on a political program. What is more important than going to the elections is to agree on a political program. Unless we agree on a political program, the elections would be a new attempt or just an attempt to reproduce the previous phase with all its negative aspects.”

He added that Islamic Jihad’s stance toward participating in elections would be determined after this round of dialogue had concluded.

“We went to Cairo with a national vision that includes the separation between the authority and the organization, in addition to the separation between the legislative council elections and the national council elections.”

The last Palestinian Legislative Council election was held 15 years ago and was halted due to divisions between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Fahd Soliman, who is deputy secretary-general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that all parties at the dialogue had the intention of holding elections.

What would be discussed at the meeting were the mechanisms guaranteeing the transparency and smoothness of the electoral process as well as the means of monitoring the elections, he added.

He told Al-Ghad TV there was consensus at the popular and factional level to hold elections, saying polls represented the cornerstone of what had been agreed on and that the Cairo meeting would discuss this issue in detail.

The factions are also due to discuss holding the elections in Jerusalem, an issue that has not been settled with the Israelis yet.


Top Emirati environmentalist urges action over global biodiversity collapse

Top Emirati environmentalist urges action over global biodiversity collapse
Updated 8 sec ago

Top Emirati environmentalist urges action over global biodiversity collapse

Top Emirati environmentalist urges action over global biodiversity collapse
  • Razan Al-Mubarak wants to ‘debunk myth’ that fighting climate change automatically preserves biodiversity
  • She hopes to see more regional cooperation on protection of indigenous wildlife

LONDON: The managing director of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency on Tuesday urged the international community to take action to prevent global biodiversity loss, which she said often “plays second fiddle” to the issue of climate change in international agreements.

 

Speaking at an online event hosted by the Emirates Society and attended by Arab News, Razan Khalifa Al-Mubarak said: “Often we link biodiversity and climate change as one and the same … But what’s important for us to understand and recognize is that addressing the issue of climate change won’t necessarily address the issue of biodiversity loss … because the drivers are different.”

 

She added that the disconnect between addressing climate change, which is caused largely by excess greenhouse gas emissions, and tackling biodiversity loss, which has an array of localized causes, became abundantly clear during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

“The economic slowdown, particularly in aviation and transportation, reduced global greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent — the greatest decrease in 100 years. But if you look at what happened in the biodiversity agenda, it actually increased,” said Al-Mubarak.

 

This was partly because urban-to-rural population flows increased, but global lockdowns also meant that conservation workers were prevented from carrying out their essential duties that preserve biodiverse systems.

 

The Zoological Society of London’s Director General Dominic Jermey told participants that a key indicator of global biodiversity change that his organization produces, the Living Planet Index, shows that land use for products such as palm oil or cotton is “one of the critical killers of wildlife.”

 

Al-Mubarak, who was recently appointed as president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said biodiversity, and nature more broadly, are essential to human survival, but the “myth” that addressing climate change will also protect diverse biological systems needs to be “debunked.”

 

In her home country of the UAE, her work has already proved successful in protecting or rejuvenating ecosystems, while also building relationships with international partners.

 

One of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency’s crowning successes was the re-introduction of the scimitar-horned oryx, which is extinct in the wild, back into its native Saharan habitat, an initiative carried out jointly with Chadian environmental officials, the ZSL and others.

 

In Europe, too, Al-Mubarak’s team has made inroads to protect endangered species. The UK and the UAE are signatories to the Raptors Memorandum of Understanding, an international agreement that protects the migration routes of birds of prey such as falcons.

 

And Abu Dhabi is host to the only office dedicated to the administration of the UN’s Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.

 

Al-Mubarak said: “What spurred the Raptors MoU between the UK and the UAE is the story of falconry. If you trace the story of falconry and falcon conservation in the UAE context … it was this fantastic bird, the fastest animal on the planet, that spurred the imagination of the leadership of institutions in the UAE to protect it.”

 

This went “beyond borders,” she added, explaining that their work to protect falcons and other migratory birds now extends to cooperation with Kazakhstan, China and Kyrgyzstan. 

 

She said cooperation with the UAE’s neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, could also improve conservation efforts.

 

Responding to a question by Arab News, she said: “In our region we share species, and we need to be able to share and work on cross-boundary protected areas, which we really haven’t exploited yet. It’s something that we really need to do more of.”

 

Adding to the point, Jermey said: “Wild animals don’t have passports. It’s news to them that there are borders between countries, and we do need to think in a trans-border, trans-boundary way.”


Qatar, Turkey discuss plans to connect Afghanistan, Taliban to outside world

Qatar, Turkey discuss plans to connect Afghanistan, Taliban to outside world
Updated 3 min 57 sec ago

Qatar, Turkey discuss plans to connect Afghanistan, Taliban to outside world

Qatar, Turkey discuss plans to connect Afghanistan, Taliban to outside world
  • Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani discussed options for their countries to jointly run Kabul airport
  • Turkish troops have guarded the Afghan capital’s airport for around six years, while Red Crescent groups from Turkey and Qatar have been working to deliver aid to Afghans

ANKARA: The foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar have reviewed plans for the return to normal operations of Kabul’s international airport in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on Monday discussed options for their countries to jointly run the airport and ways to deliver further humanitarian aid to the Afghan people under conditions agreeable with the Taliban.

Turkish troops have guarded the Afghan capital’s airport for around six years, Red Crescent groups from Turkey and Qatar have been working to deliver aid to Afghans, and a Turkish overseas education foundation has kept its schools open for girls and boys.

During a joint press conference in Doha, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar and Turkey were ready to control Kabul airport if the Taliban agreed to it.

“Qatar and Turkey are continuously working with the interim government in Afghanistan to reach an agreement to open the airport (so it can function) normally,” he added.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Doha on Monday for two days of talks to rebuild ties.

In November, the US signed an agreement with Qatar to designate the Gulf country as the power to protect American interests in Afghanistan, considering it a trusted mediator. Qatar and Turkey played significant roles in the evacuation process out of Afghanistan after the Taliban swept to power.

Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, told Arab News that Turkey and Qatar could cooperate on calling for limited waivers on US-imposed asset freezes against the Taliban, and leverage their respective bargaining power in Western capitals to achieve that outcome.

He said: “Turkey and Qatar can also coordinate on alleviating Afghanistan’s food security crisis, as Qatar’s experience working with the World Food Program in theaters such as Yemen, could be effective in Afghanistan.”

Ramani noted that Turkey had also been ramping up food aid shipments, such as wheat, to Afghanistan over the past month.

“Neither Turkey nor Qatar is likely to provide the Taliban with recognition as Afghanistan’s legitimate authority, but both will encourage engagement with the new Islamic emirate,” he added.

During Monday’s meeting, Cavusoglu urged the international community to engage in dialogue with the Taliban by “distinguishing” between the political and humanitarian aspects.

Zalmai Nishat, research fellow at the University of Sussex’s Asia Center, said the Taliban wanted Turkey to get involved in the operationalization of Kabul airport alongside Qatar.

He told Arab News: “From a historical perspective, Turkey is seen as the successor of the Ottoman empire and is respected by the people of Afghanistan, with the memories of the Caliphate. Also, Turkey is an ally of the US and the EU being a key country within NATO.”

Nishat pointed out that during peace talks between the former government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, control of Kabul airport had been a critical issue and the parties had looked upon Turkey as an ideal partner.

“Ankara must design a robust policy about Afghanistan, which would enable it to put pressure on the Taliban and their supporters to create a political system where diverse ethnic communities of Afghanistan feel themselves at home and feel included in the political system, with a fair representation,” he added.

Turkey, allegedly having established intelligence contacts with some Taliban-linked militia in the country, also has strong historical and ethnic ties in Afghanistan, with its non-combat troops on the ground in the past as a member of the NATO alliance.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute, told Arab News that the Taliban needed legitimacy at this stage by establishing themselves as credible actors through the channels of Qatar and Turkey and in doing so help connect the group with the rest of the world.

He said: “Turkey is still looking to position itself as a connection between the Taliban and the outside world. Qatar comes first, with closer ties with the Taliban historically and politically. Turkey would come after Qatar in this political play, but the two countries can play a critical role in maintaining the security of flights in the short term.”

In the medium term, Cagaptay added, Turkey had significant soft power on the ground in Afghanistan that had been developed since the beginning of the early years of the Turkish republic, and it could be used to reach out to Afghan society through its local ties.


Israel announces completion of security barrier around Gaza

Israel announces completion of security barrier around Gaza
Updated 25 min 16 sec ago

Israel announces completion of security barrier around Gaza

Israel announces completion of security barrier around Gaza
  • The 65-kilometer barrier includes radar systems, maritime sensors and a network of underground sensors to detect tunnels
  • Israel has fought four wars with Hamas since the organization seized power in Gaza nearly 15 years ago, most recently in May

JERUSALEM: Israel on Tuesday announced the completion of an enhanced security barrier around the Gaza Strip.

The 65-kilometer (40-mile) barrier includes radar systems, maritime sensors and a network of underground sensors to detect tunnels.

Existing fencing was replaced with a 6-meter (6.5-yard) high “smart fence” with sensors and cameras.

Israel has fought four wars with Hamas since the organization seized power in Gaza nearly 15 years ago, most recently in May.

During a 2014 war, Palestinian fighters tunneled into Israel and clashed with Israeli troops.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced the completion of the barrier after more than three years of construction, saying it places an “iron wall” between Hamas and the residents of southern Israel.

During May’s fighting, Hamas used a sophisticated tunnel system within Gaza but did not infiltrate fighters into Israel. The group fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel in 11 days, with large volleys that occasionally overwhelmed Israel’s sophisticated missile defenses.

Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes during the conflict and brought down several multistory buildings. The war killed over 250 people in Gaza, including at least 129 civilians, according to the UN, while 13 people died on the Israeli side.

Since Hamas seized power, Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza that has severely restricted travel for the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents and strangled the economy.

Israel says the closures are needed to prevent Hamas from expanding its military capabilities, while the Palestinians and rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas organized violent mass protests along the frontier in order to pressure Israel to ease the blockade. More than 200 Palestinians were killed and thousands were wounded. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Rights groups recently accused Israel of failing to hold its forces accountable for the deaths and serious injuries.

Israel says its forces prevented the mass infiltration of Hamas operatives. It says allegations of wrongdoing were fully investigated and soldiers were held to account.


Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM
Updated 07 December 2021

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM
  • Egypt has started locally producing China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for exporting surpluses to African countries
  • FM Shoukry handed a letter to Senegalese President Macky Sall from his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties

CAIRO: Egypt will spare no effort to help African states recover from the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at the seventh session of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.

Egypt has started locally producing China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for exporting surpluses to African countries.

Shoukry said the pandemic has impeded efforts to achieve peace and stability on the continent, and has exacerbated humanitarian crises.

It has become impossible to deal with the pandemic solely as a global health crisis, as it has affected all aspects of life, he added. 

Shoukry highlighted issues that Africa should prioritize, including developing a common vision to address shortcomings in the continent’s medical infrastructure, such as dependence on foreign medicines and vaccines.

He also noted the importance of addressing the root causes of terrorism and armed conflicts in Africa by rebuilding societies that have suffered from the scourge of war and conflict.

He praised the selection of Senegal for the African Union presidency from February 2022, and expressed Cairo’s readiness to provide all forms of support to the country in light of Egypt’s experience as president of the bloc in 2019.

Shoukry handed a letter to Senegalese President Macky Sall from his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties, as well as issues of common concern.


Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
Updated 07 December 2021

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
  • Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries

CAIRO: The Egyptian and Russian navies have launched the joint exercise Friendship Bridge 4, which will last for several days in the Mediterranean.

It began with a ceremony welcoming Russian forces at the Alexandria Naval Base in the presence of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Khaled Hassan Saeed, who delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries’ navies.

Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries.

 Meanwhile, the armed forces of Egypt and Jordan concluded their joint exercise Aqaba-6. The training, which took place in Jordan, included a joint operation to eliminate an armed terrorist outpost inside a border village, and the interception of a merchant ship.