US calls on Houthis to halt all military operations in Yemen

Arab coalition forces repel a Houthi militia offensive on oil-rich Marib, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, on Feb. 14, 2021. (AFP)
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e 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, on Feb. 14, 2021. (AFP)
Arab coalition forces get into position during clashes with the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Al-Jadaan area about 50 kilometers northwest of Marib in central Yemen on Feb. 11, 2021. (AFP)
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Arab coalition forces get into position during clashes with the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Al-Jadaan area about 50 kilometers northwest of Marib in central Yemen on Feb. 11, 2021. (AFP)
A girl sits as other children play on swings at a camp for internally displaced people in Marib, Yemen Feb. 16, 2021. (Reuters)
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A girl sits as other children play on swings at a camp for internally displaced people in Marib, Yemen Feb. 16, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2021

US calls on Houthis to halt all military operations in Yemen

US calls on Houthis to halt all military operations in Yemen
  • Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis resumed an offensive to seize Marib earlier this month
  • UN ‘very alarmed’ by Houthi assault, says it could endanger millions of civilians

LONDON: The US urged Yemen’s Houthi militia on Tuesday to halt their advance on the government-held city of Marib and take part in international efforts to find a political solution to the violence in the country.

“The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen,” the State Department said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that around one million Yemenis have sought refuge in Marib during the six-year war to escape Houthi violence.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia resumed an offensive to seize the strategic oil-rich Marib earlier this month. The city is 120 kilometers east of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, which was seized by the Iran-backed militia in 2014.

“This assault will only increase the number of internally displaced persons and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, already home to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” the State Department said.

If the Houthis were serious about a negotiated political solution to the crisis, then “they must cease all military advances and refrain from other destabilizing and potentially lethal actions, including cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia,” the statement added.

The Houthi militia has launched a series of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia this month, including an attack on Abha airport that damaged a commercial aircraft.

Earlier on Tuesday, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said the Houthi offensive threatens to displace hundreds of thousands and complicates a renewed diplomatic push to end the war.

“An assault on the city would put two million civilians at risk, with hundreds of thousands potentially forced to flee — with unimaginable humanitarian consequences,” Lowcock said.

UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has said the resumption of Houthi hostilities near Marib was extremely concerning at a time of renewed diplomatic momentum.

The US special envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking said Washington was “very aggressively” using back channels to communicate with the Houthi militia.

Lenderking told a State Department press briefing that the US is working to energize international diplomatic efforts with its Gulf partners, the UN and others, to create the right conditions for a cease-fire and to push the parties toward a negotiated settlement to end the war.

He said he visited Riyadh last week and met with the Saudi leadership and UN envoy Griffiths, as well as Yemen’s president and foreign minister.

During talks with Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Lenderking discussed a drone attack on Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia which led to a passenger plane being set on fire.

They had lengthy discussions on what could have happened had there been people onboard the aircraft.

“Attacks against Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport and civilian infrastructure by the Houthis are not the actions of a group that claim they want peace, and they must stop,” he said.

Lenderking added that the US is not going to allow Saudi Arabia to be “target practice” and that the Kingdom needs to have the ability to defend itself.

“Unless and until Yemen’s Houthis change their reprehensible behavior their leaders will remain under significant US and international pressure.”

He also said Iran must stop its lethal support for the Houthi militia and called on Tehran and other “stakeholders and those with a say in the issue to rally around and support our efforts.”

“We maintain that a political solution that brings the parties together is the only way to bring lasting peace to Yemen and lasting relief to the people of Yemen,” he said.

(With Reuters)

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Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Updated 11 min 16 sec ago

Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
  • Tripoli laying path for ‘fair, legal elections,’ minister tells Italian MPs

ROME: “Stability, peace and security” are Libya’s major priorities ahead of the country’s next elections, Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush told a meeting of Italian MPs.

Speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News, El-Mangoush said that Libya’s transitional government intends to “talk to everyone the same way and put a new agenda on the table.”

“Peace and security will not be possible without regional and international support,” she said.

Libya’s first woman foreign minister addressed Italian MPs for more than an hour, and was quizzed on her Cabinet’s views on issues ranging from Libya’s relationship with Italy to tackling illegal immigration. 

She said that Libya takes responsibility for violations of migrants’ rights in its territory, but urged the global community to adopt a “different and alternative approach” to stop the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the country’s southern borders.

“Illegal immigration is a broad and thorny topic. However, it is not only a Libyan issue, but a regional and an international one,” El-Mangoush said.

“I ask the international community to be practical and proactive: You need a strategy that is consistent with the current phase. Blaming the coast guard is useless. We have an uninterrupted flow of migrants coming from African states. We do not know who is coming: They could be criminals or sick.

“We are against the violation of human rights and we are sad for the condition of these migrants, but Libya is a transit country for migratory flows and our resources are limited.”

She added that “in southern Libya, we have a famine in progress. What can you ask to a people on the edge  of famine? How can these people help somebody arriving from the south if they need help themselves? Please, don’t blame us, but try to understand the difficult situation we are facing. We have limited resources and outdated policies to deal with this.”

Discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, the minister said she believes this will not happen in a day, but will be the result of long negotiations. However, she believes that the dialogue with several states involved “gives us hope.”

“For us, sovereignty is the top priority, so stability and security are in order to be able to hold democratic, clean and legal elections,” she said.  

“We asked everyone, including Turkey, for cooperation to get all foreign forces off Libyan soil. Our safe future depends on the withdrawal of foreign forces.”

El-Mangoush said that the Libyan government “wishes for an even bigger role for Italy to solve Libya’s crisis, to put an end to foreign interference and help us to release all foreign forces.”

She called for Italian help in economic, medical and cultural areas, including the restoration of Tripoli’s old town and ancient buildings in the center of Benghazi damaged by war.

“Only the Italians can do a good job,” she said.


Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
Updated 37 min 53 sec ago

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
  • Police detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex’s fugitive founder Faruk Fatih Ozer
  • Interior Minister spoke to his Albanian counterpart about the case after news surfaced Ozer fled to Albania

ISTANBUL: Turkey issued an international arrest warrant on Friday for the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange who fled with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets, state media reported.
Police also detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex, the company headed by the fugitive businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer.
He is being sought on charges of “fraud by using information systems, banks or credit institutions as a tool and founding a criminal organization,” the Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkish security officials on Thursday released a photo of Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an undisclosed location.
Security sources later confirmed that Ozer — said to be 27 years old — has been in Albania since Tuesday.
The justice ministry has started legal proceedings to seek his arrest and extradition from the Albanian capital Tirana, Anadolu reported.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke by phone with his Albanian counterpart about the case, the agency added.
The Thodex exchange suspended trading after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.
Media reports said the exchange shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.
The 62 suspects were apprehended in simultaneous raids carried out in eight cities including Turkey’s main hub Istanbul, Anadolu reported.
Police raided the company’s headquarters on the Asian side of Istanbul and seized computers and digital materials, press reports said.
Authorities also imposed an interim freeze on Ozer’s bank accounts, according to Anadolu.
Police have also issued arrest warrants for 16 other people, Anadolu said, without elaborating. There was no immediate information about those being held.
A lawyer for the investors, Oguz Evren Kilic, said Friday that the investigation into Thodex “is deepening.”
“Hundreds of thousands of users cannot get access to their digital wallets. The situation will get more serious unless a concrete step is taken” by Thodex, he told AFP by phone.
Kilic said his clients have already lodged complaints at the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul and other cities.
In a message posted on the company’s official Twitter account on Thursday, Ozer slammed the “baseless allegations” against him.
He said he was abroad for meetings with foreign investors and would return home “in a few days and cooperate with judicial authorities so that the truth can come out.”
Complaints against Thodex have increased by more than 1,160 percent over the week to April 20 compared to the previous week, according to Turkish customer complaint website Sikayetvar.
One investor who reached Sikayetvar said: “I have been unemployed for a year. I trusted Thodex and invested everything I have... I can’t sleep or eat. I am begging you, please help.”
Another said: “Why is Thodex’s CEO silent? Why are they victimising people. Are you making fun of us?“
Growing numbers of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies in a bid to shield their savings in the face of a sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and high inflation.
The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about its safety.
Turkey’s central bank said last week it will ban the use of cryptocurrencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.
It warned that cryptocurrencies “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.


Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
  • Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights
  • Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt

DUBAI: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume flights between the two countries after a five-year suspension, including Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Presidency’s website reported.
The decision comes after Egypt maintained security standards for its air travel and both sides reached agreements on other undisclosed issues.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights between the two countries in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From his side, Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt, praising the extended partnership between the two countries.
He also affirmed that Russia was counting on Egypt’s pivotal role in stabilizing its entire regional environment.
The report added that the call also covered discussions about developments in Libya and the Renaissance Dam file. It also covered issues of bilateral cooperation in investment, especially regarding the economic zone of the Suez Canal Corridor.
Russian aviation and tourism flights to Egypt were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, 2015, with 224 people on board.


Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
Updated 23 April 2021

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
  • The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather
  • Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”

JERUSALEM: Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.
The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs.”
There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.
Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City “hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them toward less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.
Police said officers attempted to “distinguish between them and those who finished prayers” and were not involved in the events.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalized.
Israeli police said 20 officers were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous,” a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.
On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organized a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.
Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.
The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned “the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City.”
A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the “settler” attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.
Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.
Police reported “a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment.”
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.
Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhoods “to end this pointless violence.”
More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.