Egypt hosts emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers

Egypt hosts emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers
Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo to discuss regional developments including the Palestinian crisis and the policies of the new US administration. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Egypt hosts emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers

Egypt hosts emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers
  • Palestian issue remains core concern, say delegates

CAIRO: Egypt on Monday hosted an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss regional developments, the policies of the new US administration, and the structure and functioning of the Arab League.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, said the organization was keen to find a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian issue.

He told a meeting of the Arab League Council that any threat to Arab land was a threat to the entire nation, and that the region was on the threshold of a new phase.

He said the emergency meeting carried a message to the whole world, that Arab countries spoke with one voice when it came to Palestine, and that the Palestinian issue would remain at the heart of Arab concerns until it was resolved by establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He stressed the need for the international community to make this issue its priority.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned of any change in the status of Jerusalem and said that Cairo was working to facilitate Palestinian dialogue toward reconciliation.

He stressed the importance of the right of return of Palestinian refugees and that Egypt adhered to a Palestinian state with 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed that Arab countries were united to face the challenges.

He called on the international community to put an end to Iran's violations and threats to the region, saying the Iranian regime threatened the security and stability of Arab countries through its militias. He condemned the Houthi targeting of civilian facilities.

He urged that the countries most affected by Iran's threats be part of any future agreement, noting that Iran's nuclear activities and ballistic missiles threatened regional security.

The Saudi foreign minister welcomed the Yemeni parties' implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. He emphasized the Kingdom's adherence to a Palestinian state with 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that the two-state solution was the only way to end the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

“The Palestinian issue is the first central issue for the Arabs and is the key to a just and comprehensive peace,” Safadi added. “It highlights the need for direct Arab action to support (our) brothers and achieve peace, especially with the start of a new American administration and the new gestures it announced.”

The assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, said the body’s general secretariat had received notes from the permanent delegations of Jordan and Egypt requesting that the emergency meeting be held.

The General Secretariat of the Arab League said the notes referred to developments requiring a comprehensive position that achieved protection for national security, served common interests, strengthened common solidarity and reaffirmed Arab constants on the Palestinian issue.

Arab sources said earlier that the meeting of Arab foreign ministers would issue a decision submitted by Egypt and Jordan stressing the need to adhere to the two-state solution and obliging all Arab countries to provide support to Palestine. 

The decision will demand the Israeli side to respond to the Arab peace initiative through the immediate resumption of peace talks.


Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province
Updated 18 min 11 sec ago

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province


Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials
Updated 19 min 16 sec ago

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

BAGHDAD: The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq Mitja Leskovar has tested positive for Covid-19, two officials told AFP Sunday, just days before Pope Francis’ historic visit.
“Yes, he tested positive, but it will have no impact on the visit,” an Iraqi official involved in the papal plans said.
An Italian diplomat also confirmed the infection.
As apostolic nuncio to Baghdad, Leskovar had been traveling across the country in recent weeks to prepare for the pope’s ambitious visit, including visits to Mosul in the north, the shrine city of Najaf and the southern site of Ur.
During foreign trips, popes typically stay at the nuncio’s residence, but Iraqi officials have not revealed where Francis will reside during his trip, citing security reasons.
Iraq is experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus infections, which the health ministry has blamed on a new faster-spreading strain that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
The country of 40 million is registering around 4,000 new cases per day, near the peak that it had reached in September, with total infections nearing 700,000 and deaths at nearly 13,400.
Pope Francis, as well as his Vatican staff and the dozens of international reporters traveling with him, have already been vaccinated.
Iraq itself has yet to begin its vaccination campaign.


Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion
Updated 28 February 2021

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

DUBAI: Iran was most likely behind an explosion that occurred earlier this week on an Israeli-owned cargo vessel in the Gulf of Oman, the Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said. 
The MV Helios Ray, which was carrying vehicles in the Gulf was struck on Febriuary 25.
“The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the belief that Iran was responsible, but it must still be verified," Gantz said in an interview with Israeli state television Kan.

“Right now, at an initial assessment level, given the proximity and the context that is my assessment,” he added.And Gantz said that it was known that Iran was intending to target Israeli assets and citizens.
Top Israeli defense and political leaders will discuss on Sunday their response to the apparent attack, Kan reported citing officials who have said it "crossed a red line."

The explosion did not cause any casualties but left two 1.5-meter-diameter holes in the side of the vessel.

The MV Ray Helios arrived in Dubai's port for repairs Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

 The Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray was seen sitting at dry dock facilities in Dubai by an AP journalist. 

Reuters quoted a statement by a spokesman for Dubai state port operator DP World saying that “an assessment can be made” when the ship arrives. DP World owns and operates the dry docks, where ship repairs and maintenance are carried out.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the ship.


Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib
Updated 28 February 2021

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

DUBAI: Yemen’s information minister has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the governorate of Marib that “cannot be contained” due to continued fighting by the Iran-backed Houthi militia. 

Minister Muammar al-Eryani told the country’s state news agency Saba that the governorate holds the biggest number of refugee families, who have been displaced due to the ongoing Houthi violence. 

Eryani said Marib had received more than two million refugees who have settled there since the war broke out, saying they make up 60 percent of refugees in the country. Those refugees represent 7.5 percent of the total population in Yemen.  

The minister was citing a report on from the Executive Unit for IDPs Camps Management that was released Friday. 


Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
Updated 28 February 2021

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
  • He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”

ISTANBUL: Mujdat Gezen’s half-century career as an acclaimed Turkish writer and actor has included awards, a stint as a UN goodwill ambassador and a taste of prison after a 1980 putsch.
Now aged 77, the wry-witted comedian and poet with an easy smile and a bad back risks returning to jail on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”
“I am even banned from appearing in crossword puzzles,” Gezen quipped.
Gezen landed in court with fellow comedian Metin Akpinar, 79, over comments the pair made during a television show they starred in on opposition Halk TV in 2018.
In the broadcast, Gezen told Erdogan to “know your place.”
“Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place,” Gezen said on air.
His parter Akpinar went one step further, saying that “if we don’t become a (democracy)... the leader might end up getting strung up by his legs or poisoned in the cellar.”
These are risky comments to make in a country still reeling from a sweeping crackdown Erdogan unleashed after surviving a failed coup in 2016.
Their trial is coming with Erdogan rattled by a burst of student protests that hint at Turks’ impatience with his commanding rule as prime minister and president since 2003.
Prosecutors want to put the two veteran celebrities behind bars for up to four years and eight months. The verdict is expected on Monday.

Jailed over book
Thousands of Turks, from a former Miss Turkey to school children, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan on social media and television.
Bristling at the jokes and comments, Erdogan warned in 2018 that his critics “will pay the price.”
“The next day,” Gezen told AFP in an interview by telephone, “police turned up and I was summoned to give a statement to prosecutors.”
The knock on the door reminded Gezen of how he ended up being dragged before the courts after spending 20 days in jail when a military junta overthrew Turkey’s civilian government at the height of the Cold War in 1980.
Gezen’s book about Nazim Hikmet — perhaps Turkey’s most famous 20th century poet, who happened to be a communist who died in exile in Moscow in 1963 — was taken off the shelves after that coup.
“I was chained up while being taken from prison to court with a gang of 50 criminals, including murderers and smugglers,” he recalled.
He was freed by the court in 1980, and may yet be acquitted on Monday.
Still, Gezen is uncomfortable with the similarities, and with Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan.
“There is a record number of journalists in jail — we have never seen this in the history of the republic. That’s what upsets me,” he said.

Irritable dictator
An author of more than 50 books and founder of his own art center in Istanbul, Gezen says he has “either criticized or parodied politicians to their faces” for decades without going to jail.
His popularity and resolve earned him a role in 2007 as a goodwill ambassador for the UNICEF children’s relief fund.
But he fears that Turkey’s tradition of outspoken artists — “art is by its nature oppositional,” he remarked — is wilting under Erdogan.
“We now have self-censorship. But what is even more painful to me is that (some artists) prefer to be apolitical,” he said.
“The president has said how he expects artists to behave. But it cannot be the president of a country who decides these things. It’s the artists who must decide.”
To be on the safe side, Gezen’s lawyers now read his books before publication to avoid legal problems.
“It is risky in Turkey,” he observed.
Many of the opposition media outlets that once flourished have been either closed or taken over by government allies, leaving independent voices with even fewer options.
But he remains doggedly optimistic, calling democracy in Turkey something tangible but just out of reach, like the shore for a stranded boat.
“And then someone up on the mast will cry: Land ahoy!“