How UAE, Greece came close together

How UAE, Greece came close together
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, meets with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed during his visit to the UAE capital on Nov. 18, 2020 (WAM)
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Updated 25 February 2021

How UAE, Greece came close together

How UAE, Greece came close together
  • ‘Greece can be a springboard for the development of the new leading role that the UAE aspires to play from the Gulf to Libya,’ expert tells Arab News
  • Greek PM visited Abu Dhabi in November to meet with crown prince

On Nov. 18, 2020, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Abu Dhabi for the second time in a few months to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

The meeting proved historic. Greece and the UAE signed a strategic partnership agreement, including a mutual defense clause. Athens hailed it as one of the most important agreements it had signed since World War II.

Bilateral cooperation on foreign policy and defense is expanding rapidly. On Sunday, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos visited the UAE, accompanied by the Chief of the General Staff Gen. Konstantinos Floros, to discuss deepening defense cooperation and to participate in two international defense fairs: IDEX 2021 and NAVDEX 2021.

Last summer, the UAE sent F-16 fighter jets to Crete to participate in military exercises with the Hellenic Air Force.

In a further sign of growing military cooperation, Greece, the UAE, Cyprus, Egypt and France conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 a joint multinational aeronautical exercise codenamed “Medusa” in Alexandria, Egypt.

The exercise was an unofficial, although direct, message to Turkey against its muscle flexing in the eastern Mediterranean.

A joint military exercise between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, the UAE, Slovakia, Spain, Canada and the US is on the cards for later this year.

“Defense cooperation is very important for Greece as far as it contributes to two sectors — first, in increasing investment by the UAE in Greece’s defense industry; and second, in cooperation between the two countries in technology development and intelligence,” Sotiris Roussos, associate professor at the University of Peloponnese and head of the Centre for Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, told Arab News.

“Greece can be a springboard for the development of the new leading role that the UAE aspires to play from the Gulf to Libya.”

The roots of Greek-Emirati cooperation can be traced back to the Arab Spring, which created a new dynamic from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

Since then, Turkey has become an extremely assertive and geopolitically ambitious challenger of the regional status quo in two ways.

Firstly, it is threatening the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean by forcefully questioning either their territorial integrity, or their rights to explore and develop their national resources in their continental shelves or exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

The November 2019 memorandum of understanding between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey, which establishes a maritime boundary between the two countries while ignoring the Greek and Egyptian EEZs, is a prime example of how Ankara views the protection of its geo-economic and geopolitical interests in the region.

Secondly, Turkey poses a threat to the post-Arab Spring regional order, mainly through its support for the Muslim Brotherhood but also its presence in Syria, Libya and the Horn of Africa. The Brotherhood is anathema to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Ankara is following a strategy to exert influence in areas where it sees a power vacuum emerging.

This strategy is founded on its Mavi Vatan (Blue Homeland) doctrine, aimed at presenting Turkey as a maritime power from Libya to the Gulf.

These developments have brought Greek and Emirati interests in close alignment. “Greece could become a particularly relevant interlocutor for the UAE. Despite its peripheral role in the EU and a devastated economy as a result of the 2009 crisis, Greece is emerging as a potential big player in the Mediterranean, and Athens’ geostrategic significance can’t be overlooked,” Cinzia Bianco, Gulf research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Arab News.

“Greece is positioned between three continents, and has geographical proximity to North Africa and the Middle East. Coupled with projected economic growth of 4.1 percent by 2021, significant investment in defense, and anticipated additional expenditure on new warships and fighter jets, this could herald a new and more assertive Greece.”

In this context, the UAE was accepted in December as an observer at the Cairo-based East Med Gas Forum.

Athens and Abu Dhabi have seen their interests closely linked in Libya too as they both oppose the pro-Turkey GNA leadership in Tripoli.

It should also be noted that the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel offers to Abu Dhabi the opportunity to project power in the eastern Mediterranean.

Most recently, the UAE — alongside like-minded Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia — participated in the Philia Forum in Athens.

Greek-Emirati partnership could counter Turkey’s regional assertiveness and serve as a bridge between the EU and the Gulf in an era of widening geopolitical competition.


Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
Updated 3 min 55 sec ago

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
  • Five dissidents arrested last month, with one facing death penalty in Iran
  • Thirty-three deported last year from country formerly seen as safe haven

LONDON: Many Iranian dissidents no longer view Turkey as a safe haven after an increasing number of arrests and deportations in recent months.

Turkey is home to around 67,000 Iranians, with 39,000 claiming refugee status. Millions pass between the two countries each year on account of the visa-free border.

But following a crackdown by Ankara on Turkish dissidents in the last few years, and with trade and security links between the two countries increasing, Iranians too are being targeted.

Last month, Kurdish political activist Afshin Sohrabzadeh was detained and charged with being a “threat to national security” after visiting a police station to obtain travel papers.

He has since been moved to a repatriation center, and his lawyer Mahmut Kacan says his status as a refugee has been ignored.

“I have represented many refugees and asylum seekers from Iran, and their treatment is often terrible,” Kacan said.

Tehran and Ankara “have agreements to exchange people who are a political or security threat, especially anyone who is accused of links to Kurdish groups,” he added. 

“There is supposed to be rule of law in Turkey but the truth is, increasingly, Iranians can be deported without warning or following due process.”

Sohrabzadeh faces the death penalty if deported. He previously spent seven years in solitary confinement in Iran, where he says he was tortured, before escaping to Turkey in 2016, where he was joined by his family.

His wife Fereshteh Kangavari told The Guardian that men, believed to be Iranian agents, had constantly harassed the family in Turkey, and that they had been forced to move home multiple times.

“We lived a quiet life in Turkey, we had no desire to draw attention to ourselves, and we were careful to follow the rules of our host country,” she said.

“All we want is a normal life in a safe place. I am desperately afraid for my husband and the future for us and our son,” she added.

“I don’t feel safe here. It’s a constant feeling of insecurity. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I might get arrested. The way I feel about Turkey has changed.”

Four other Iranian asylum seekers were arrested on the same day as Sohrabzadeh in the Turkish city of Denizli.

Lily Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi, Ismail Fattahi and Mohammad Pourakbari were allegedly involved in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty on violence against women.

“No third country has been determined in the deportation decision, and the judicial proceedings continue,” said the quartet’s lawyer Buse Bergamali.

“Regardless of the country, deportation would be unlawful. It is also unlawful that my clients stay in the removal center during this whole process.”

It is thought that 33 Iranians were deported from Turkey last year, with two subsequently sentenced to death for their roles in protests against the government in 2019.

At least four Iranians, meanwhile, have been kidnapped or killed by Iranian agents in Turkey since 2017.

In 2018, Turkey took over the registration of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory from the UN, after which deportation statistics were removed from government websites.

A senior Turkish official told The Guardian that his country “does not intend to deport any of the aforementioned individuals to Iran. It is possible, however, for them to be sent to a third country.” The official declined to mention the name of any third country involved.


‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
Updated 10 sec ago

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
  • When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the Commonwealth forces’ cemetery in Mosul was damaged
  • There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century

LONDON: “Gentle steps forward” have been taken in recovering sites destroyed during Daesh’s occupation of Mosul, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has said.

Iraq’s second-largest city endured three years of Daesh control, with much of it laid to waste. Many buildings and key infrastructure were destroyed, including a significant war-graves site.

When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the cemetery was damaged.

The CWGC manages the site, where members of the armed forces of Commonwealth nations have been laid to rest.

The commission reported that the remains of those buried were not disturbed, but the iconic Cross of Sacrifice and the surrounding memorials were destroyed, with a pocket of external walls surviving.

British diplomats and other key stakeholders have been working with the CWGC to restore the site.

Preparatory moves before the commencing of recovery work has included representatives from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) sweeping the grounds to remove any ordnance left behind by the site’s previous combatant occupants.

Teams will now survey the site and review how the cemetery can be secured for the full recovery work.

“The CWGC has noted that local conditions are now stabilizing in Mosul, and it has a window of opportunity to re-establish the site,” a CWGC spokesperson told Sky News.

“In addition, it has the excellent support of the UK Consul, UNMAS, and the opportunity to engage a local workforce to assist with the gradual clearance and rehabilitation,” the spokesperson added.

“The commission has rebuilt cemeteries before after serious damage caused by conflict — it is within the CWGC’s capability to do so.”

Iraq saw more than 54,000 Commonwealth war casualties. The commission has not sent a working party to the country since 2006 due to safety concerns. With the violence in Iraq increasing, CWGC cemeteries have been neglected.

When Daesh started its occupation of Mosul, the site was already in a precarious state. With the city now liberated, hope has returned that its graves can receive the restoration they desperately need.

There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century.


Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
Updated 20 April 2021

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
  • Flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March

MOSCOW: Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would soon announce the resumption of charter flights to Egypt, the Interfax news agency reported.
The head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority told Reuters in February that direct flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March after being suspended for more than five years.


Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region
Updated 20 April 2021

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

DUBAI: Israel’s Foreign Minister discussed on Tuesday the threat Iran poses on the region with UK Minister Michael Gove.

Gabi Ashkenazi discussed other regional issues, bilateral ties and “the need for a travel corridor,” with the British Cabinet Office minister.

Gove is visiting Israel to study a COVID “green pass” smartphone app that could soon be the model for vaccine passports in the UK.

 

The British minister, who is in charge of a study into how coronavirus certification might work in the UK, has been a supporter of the Israeli scheme for weeks.

The visit involves meetings with Israel’s health minister, Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine
Updated 20 April 2021

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt has agreed to purchase 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinopharm and expects to receive a batch of 500,000 shots this month, its health ministry said on Tuesday.
The agreement boosts vaccination efforts in Egypt, which has a population of 100 million and has so far received a total of just over 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm and of the AstraZeneca shot.
Earlier this month, Egypt announced it was preparing to produce up to 80 million doses of the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac.