Oman content with current Israel relationship, foreign minister says

Oman content with current Israel relationship, foreign minister says
Oman is satisfied with its current relationship with Israel, the foreign minister said on Thursday. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Oman content with current Israel relationship, foreign minister says

Oman content with current Israel relationship, foreign minister says
  • Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last year
  • Busaidi also said Oman was ready to help with rescuing Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal

DUBAI: Oman is satisfied with its current relationship with Israel, the foreign minister said on Thursday, even after two fellow Gulf Arab states normalized ties with Israel and raised US hopes others would follow suit.
“As regards Israel we are content so far with the level of our current relations and dialogue, which involves the appropriate channels of communication,” Foreign Minister Badr Al-Busaidi said. Oman, he added, was committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.
Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last year, becoming just the third and fourth Arab states to do so in more than 70 years. The administration of then-US President Donald Trump had hoped other Gulf states would also establish formal ties.
Away from the Gulf, Morocco and Sudan have also since normalized relations with Israel.
Busaidi also said Oman was ready to help with rescuing Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, fraying since 2018 when Trump withdrew the United States from the pact, but felt that existing US communication lines with Tehran could suffice.
Asked at an online event about the chance of Oman mediating in new efforts to restore the deal Iran signed with world powers, Busaidi said Muscat has a very good relationship with both Tehran and Washington and was ready to assist if needed.
“I believe the channels are open directly between the foreign policy teams in Washington and Iran. I see no reason why those channels can’t be reactivated,” Busaidi told the Atlantic Council event.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms, if it so chose, in return for the easing of US and other sanctions.
Trump exited the deal, calling it too lenient on Iran, and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
New US President Joe Biden has said Washington will rejoin the JCPOA if Iran stops breaching limits on enrichment and returns to full compliance with the deal.
Busaidi, who was appointed in August after Oman’s new Sultan Haitham delegated this position away from his own portfolio, reiterated Oman’s longstanding policy of neutrality in a turbulent region.
“Omani foreign policy has always sought to maintain and encourage dialogue between as wide a number of parties as possible,” he said.


EU sanctions elite Iran commander over 2019 protests

EU sanctions elite Iran commander over 2019 protests
Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

EU sanctions elite Iran commander over 2019 protests

EU sanctions elite Iran commander over 2019 protests
  • EU has blacklisted Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the country
  • About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019

BRUSSELS: The European Union has imposed sanctions on eight Iranian militia commanders and police chiefs, including the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, over a deadly crackdown in November 2019, the bloc said in its Official Journal on Monday.
The travel bans and asset freezes are the first EU sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013 and their preparation was first reported by Reuters last month.
The bloc, which also hit three Iranian prisons with asset freezes, blacklisted Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the country.
“Hossein Salami took part in the sessions that resulted in the orders to use lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests. Hossein Salami therefore bears responsibility for serious human rights violations in Iran,” the EU said.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019, according to a toll provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials at the time. The United Nations said the total was at least 304.
Iran has called the toll given by sources “fake news.”
On March 9, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, presented a report saying Tehran used lethal force during the protests and chided it for failing to conduct a proper investigation or failing to hold anyone accountable.
Other individuals targeted with EU sanctions, which take effect on Monday, include members of Iran’s hard-line Basij militia, who are under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, and its head Gholamreza Soleimani.
Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations by the West of human rights abuses.


Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel
Updated 15 min 53 sec ago

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel
  • Public Works Minister signed a decree amendment that would formally extend Lebanon’s claims by 1,430 square kilometers
  • Lebanon’s unilateral move likely to anger Israel and the U.S. who aren’t expected to recognize the disputed area’s extension

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing public works minister said Monday that he has signed a decree that would increase the area claimed by the Mediterranean country in a maritime border dispute with Israel.
Public Works Minister Michel Najjar told reporters that he has signed an amendment of the decree that would formally extend Lebanon’s claims by 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles).
The unilateral move by Lebanon is likely to anger Israel and the US who are not expected to recognize Beirut’s extension of the disputed area.
Lebanon and Israel began indirect talks with US mediation in October to reach a deal over the disputed area that is believed to be rich with oil and natural gas deposits. The meetings that stopped few weeks later were being held at a UN post along the border of the two nations that remain technically in a state of war.
The negotiations were the first non-security talks to be held between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations following decades of conflict. Resolving the border issue could pave the way for lucrative oil and gas deals on both sides.
In late October, the Lebanese delegation to the talks — a mix of army generals and professionals — offered a new map that pushes for an additional 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles).
This area is to be included in Lebanese territory on top of the already disputed 860 square kilometer- (330 square mile-) area of the Mediterranean Sea that each side claims is within their own exclusive economic zones.
Najjar said, however, that the decree still required the signatures of the defense minister, prime minister and president to go into effect.
The announcement came as US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale was expected in Lebanon this week to meet Lebanese officials.
Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history and had plans to start drilling in search for oil and gas in the disputed area this year.
Israel has already developed offshore natural gas rigs, producing enough for domestic consumption and export abroad. Lebanon hopes that its own oil and gas discoveries will help alleviate its long-running economic troubles.
It was not immediately known how the US and Israel would respond to the Lebanese decision.


Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
Updated 12 April 2021

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
  • Syrian Arab Air Force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018
  • OPCW previously reported that Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017

THE HAGUE: The Syrian regime’s air force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018, the global toxic arms watchdog said on Monday after an investigation.
The report is the second by an investigations team set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the new power to apportion blame for attacks.
The OPCW said in a statement that the Investigations and Identification Team “concludes that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons in Saraqib on 4 February 2018.”
“The report reached the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, at approximately 21:22 on 4 February 2018, a military helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force under the control of the Tiger Forces hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder,” the OPCW report said.
“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals.”
The team issued its first report a year ago, in which it said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017.


34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
Updated 12 April 2021

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
  • Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board

DJIBOUTI: Thirty-four migrants drowned on Monday after their boat capsized off the coast of Djibouti, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, the second such accident in just over a month.
Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board, an IOM official in Djibouti told AFP, asking not to be named.
"The migrants were being transported by people smugglers," Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM's regional director for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, added on Twitter.
"Apprehending and prosecuting people traffickers and smugglers who exploit the vulnerabilities of migrants must become a priority. Too many lives needlessly lost."
There were "many children" among the bodies found, the first official said, adding that survivors were receiving treatment from the IOM and local authorities.
The boat capsized in seas north of the Djibouti port town of Obock, a major transit point for thousands of African migrants in the region trying to reach the Gulf.
It follows a similar accident on March 4 when 20 people drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard during a journey between Djibouti and Yemen across the Gulf of Aden.
At least 200 migrants were packed aboard that vessel when it left Djibouti. But about 30 minutes into the voyage the smugglers panicked about the weight on board, and threw 80 people into the sea before turning back towards land.
Two similar incidents in October claimed the lives of at least 50 migrants.
Every year thousands of migrants make perilous boat journeys from the Horn of Africa to war-torn Yemen, many with the aim of travelling overland to Gulf nations in search of work.
It is believed thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen, where a years-long conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The strait which separates Djibouti from Yemen is unusual in that it sees migrants and refugees passing in both directions -- boatloads of Yemenis fleeing to Africa to escape war, while others head in the opposite direction carrying African migrants to the Arabian Peninsula in search of better opportunities.


Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
Updated 12 April 2021

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
  • Israel will never allow Tehran to build nuclear weapons says Netanyahu
  • Iran blamed Israel for Sunday's incident at the Natanz nuclear site, threatens revenge

DUBAI: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran has never given up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and that Israel will never allow Tehran to build them.
The Israeli leader, addressing reporters with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at his side, made no comment about Iran's accusation that Israel had sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site.

Iran blamed Israel for Sunday's incident at the Natanz nuclear site and will take its revenge, state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday.
Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of "nuclear terrorism" and said Tehran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators.
Iran and world powers held what they described as "constructive" talks last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington abandoned three years ago.
"The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions ... they have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists," Zarif was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Iran had identified the person who disrupted flow of power at the Natanz nuclear facility that led to electricity outage in the site, Iran’s Nournews website quoted intelligence sources as saying.
“The person has been identified ... Necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person who caused the electricity outage in one of the halls at the Natanz site,” the website reported. It gave no details about the person.