Dam discussion deadlock requires coordination, say Egyptian and Sudanese leaders

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amd Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan holding a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, on March. 6, 2021. (Presidency of Sudan via AP)
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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amd Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan holding a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, on March. 6, 2021. (Presidency of Sudan via AP)
Dam discussion deadlock requires coordination, say Egyptian and Sudanese leaders
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President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, left, meets with Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling Sovereign Council, at the presidential palace in Sudan. Sudan Sovereign Council via Reuters)
Dam discussion deadlock requires coordination, say Egyptian and Sudanese leaders
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Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan walks with President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, during a welcome ceremony in Khartoum, Sudan March 6, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 March 2021

Dam discussion deadlock requires coordination, say Egyptian and Sudanese leaders

Dam discussion deadlock requires coordination, say Egyptian and Sudanese leaders
  • El-Sisi discussed Sudan’s border dispute with Ethiopia and security in the Red Sea region
  • The visit came amid a rapprochement between the two governments

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited Sudan on Saturday for the first time since the overthrow of former President Omar Bashir, as the neighbors push to break a deadlock over a multi-billion dollar dam being built by Ethiopia.

During his meeting in Khartoum with Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, El-Sisi said it was his firm belief that the security and stability of Sudan was an integral part of the security and stability of Egypt.

A statement from the Egyptian presidency reflected an agreement between El-Sisi and Al-Burhan that the current stage of the dam discussions required the highest levels of coordination between the two countries.

It said that Egypt supported the Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet, including the presidency of the African Union, the US, the EU and the UN, to mediate in the dam issue.

El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed to reject any unilateral measures aimed at monopolizing the resources of the Blue Nile.

Both leaders discussed ways to strengthen bilateral relations at all levels, as well as several regional and international issues of common interest, especially developments in the situation in the Sudanese-Ethiopian border region, and the recent Sudanese moves to extend state sovereignty over its eastern borders bordering Ethiopia.

They also discussed developments in the Horn of Africa and East Africa. The discussions, according to the Egyptian presidency, reflected a mutual understanding about ways to deal with issues in a way that ensured the enhancement of African capabilities to face the challenges facing the continent as a whole.

Al-Burhan appreciated Egypt’s stance in support of Sudan to face the repercussions of various crises, as well as to contribute to removing Sudan's name from the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

He affirmed Sudan's aspiration and keenness to activate joint projects between Egypt and Sudan and to enhance the prospects for cooperation, especially at the political, economic, security and military levels.

El-Sisi confirmed Egypt's continued support for the government and people of Sudan, and interest in upgrading bilateral relations in a way that enhanced the strategic partnership based on mutual respect and cooperation for the benefit of the two countries.

There has been high-level diplomatic and military activity between the two countries in recent days. 

The Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Maryam Al-Mahdi met El-Sisi and her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on Tuesday.

The Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces Mohamed Farid concluded a two-day visit to Khartoum, during which an agreement was signed for cooperation in the fields of military training and coordination.

On Friday, the UN offered to help move forward the negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the GERD that Ethiopia is building 15 kilometers from the Sudanese border, at an estimated cost of $5 billion.

In a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, Shoukry “stressed the need to launch a serious and effective negotiation process” over the dam before a second round of filling expected this summer, Reuters news agency reported.

Ethiopia, which says it has every right to use Nile waters, started filling the reservoir behind the dam last summer after Egypt and Sudan failed to secure a legally binding agreement over the hydropower dam's operation.

Sudan fears the dam could increase the risk of flooding and affect the safe operation of its own Nile dams, while water-scarce Egypt fears its supplies from the Nile could be hit.

Years of diplomatic talks over the project have repeatedly stalled.


Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece

Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece
Updated 38 min 43 sec ago

Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece

Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece
  • ‘Turkey has violated international laws and conventions’, Greek foreign minister told Turkish counterpart
  • "Our foreign minister put him in his place in the face of this behaviour and attitude," Erdogan told reporters Friday

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday robustly defended his foreign minister after he traded barbs in an unusually public spat with his Greek counterpart.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’s visit to Ankara on Thursday ended in disarray when he and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu used their closing statements to accuse each other of discrimination and violating international laws.
“Turkey has violated international laws and conventions in the Aegean Sea and in the eastern Mediterranean,” Dendias told Cavusoglu at one point.
“Turkey has carried out 400 (military) flights over Greek soil,” said Dendias.
“If you heavily accuse my country and people before the press, I have to be in a position to respond to that,” Cavusoglu retorted.
The oddly undiplomatic press event became the dominant talking point on Turkish news shows and overshadowed what was meant to be an attempt by the two NATO neighbors to mend ties after a year of disputes.
It was the first time the two ministers met since the two countries teetered on the edge of war when their gunboats collided during a Turkish push into disputed eastern Mediterranean waters last August.
Erdogan said Cavusoglu “could not be any softer” with Dandias because “that would not suit our country or people.”
“Our foreign minister put him in his place in the face of this behavior and attitude,” Erdogan told reporters after attending Friday prayers in Istanbul.
The Turkish leader said his own meeting with Dendias earlier that day was held in a “warm atmosphere.”
Dendias had also described his talks with Erdogan as “extraordinary.”
Turkey had said last month that Dendias was coming to prepare what could have been a groundbreaking summit between Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
But the heated exchange highlighted the deep diplomatic divide that stands between the two neighbors and no summit was announced.
The disagreements on Thursday included each country’s treatment of their respective Turkish Muslim and Greek Orthodox minorities.
Erdogan took issue with Dendias’s decision to pay a visit to the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians in Istanbul on Wednesday.
“You don’t show the necessary ... concern for our 150,000 (Turks in Greece). You appoint their chief mufti,” Erdogan said. “We do not appoint the patriarch here.”


UAE confirms 1,843 new COVID-19 infections, 2 deaths

UAE confirms 1,843 new COVID-19 infections, 2 deaths
Updated 16 April 2021

UAE confirms 1,843 new COVID-19 infections, 2 deaths

UAE confirms 1,843 new COVID-19 infections, 2 deaths
  • The total number of infected cases since the pandemic began has reached 493,266
  • The total fatalities stand at 1,547

DUBAI: The UAE has recorded 1,843 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours after conducting 198,135 tests, state news agency WAM reported.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention said the total number of infected cases since the pandemic began has reached 493,266 while the total fatalities stand at 1,547 after two deaths were confirmed.
Meanwhile, 1,503 people had recovered from the virus, raising the total number of recoveries to 476,518.


Half of Cyprus passports in cash scheme were illegal — inquiry

Half of Cyprus passports in cash scheme were illegal — inquiry
Updated 16 April 2021

Half of Cyprus passports in cash scheme were illegal — inquiry

Half of Cyprus passports in cash scheme were illegal — inquiry
  • Over 3,000 foreign investors who paid a minimum 2 million euros were given Cypriot passports between 2013 & 2019
  • In "tens" of cases, the commission recommended rescinding citizenship without giving details

NICOSIA: More than half the passports Cyprus issued to rich foreigners in an investment scheme were illegal, a government-appointed board of inquiry has found.
More than 3,000 foreign investors who stumped up a minimum of 2 million euros were given Cypriot passports between 2013 and 2019, with the scheme proving popular with Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese and Cambodians.
The program was terminated last year after a corruption scandal, embarrassing the island’s center-right administration which had championed the scheme before admitting it was flawed.
“Our interim report gives statistical data concerning illegal naturalizations — those which, in the view of the committee, were issued by exceeding the boundaries of the law — and those are 51.81% of the total,” Myron Nicolatos, who chaired the inquiry, told reporters on Friday.
He said some others were within the proper legal framework but did not meet some legal criteria which applied at the time.
In “tens” of cases, the commission recommended rescinding citizenship, Nicolatos added, without giving details.
His report has been passed to the attorney-general’s office and not been made public.
“The interim report notes possible criminal, disciplinary or administrative responsibilities which will be investigated by the relevant authorities,” said Nicolatos, who was president of the Supreme Court until he retired in 2020.
Panned by critics as opaque and fraught with the risk of money-laundering, the scheme had been staunchly defended by the government through a slew of mainly foreign media reports and European Union misgivings.
The authorities were forced to unceremoniously dump it after the Al Jazeera network secretly filmed a former speaker of parliament and others allegedly offering to help a person with a criminal record obtain a passport.
He resigned, but denied any wrongdoing, saying his comments were taken out of context.
The European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus over the scheme last year, arguing that granting EU citizenship for pre-determined payments, without any genuine link to the state, concerned undermined EU citizenship.
Investigators probed 2,478 passports issued from 2007 to 2016, and an additional 417, deemed high-risk, until 2020.


Iran says production of 60% enriched uranium ‘underway’

Iran says production of 60% enriched uranium ‘underway’
Updated 16 April 2021

Iran says production of 60% enriched uranium ‘underway’

Iran says production of 60% enriched uranium ‘underway’
  • The move takes Iran closer to the 90 percent purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon
  • Britain, France and Germany have expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s latest enrichment move

TEHRAN: Iran has begun producing uranium at 60 percent purity and is making nine grams per hour, the head of the Islamic republic’s atomic agency said on Friday.
“The enrichment of uranium to 60 percent is underway at the Martyr Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility” in Natanz, Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said, quoted by Tasnim news agency.
“We are now getting nine grams (almost a third of an ounce) per hour,” Salehi said later on state television.
Iran announced this week that it would boost its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity in response to an attack Sunday on the Natanz nuclear facility that it blamed on arch-foe Israel.
The move takes Iran closer to the 90 percent purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic republic has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral deal and began imposing sanctions.
The 2015 deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Under the accord, Iran had committed to keep enrichment to 3.67 percent, though it had stepped this up to 20 percent in January.
Diplomatic negotiations aimed at ensuring the return of the United States to the JCPOA resumed this week in Vienna.
Britain, France and Germany — the European parties to the JCPOA — have expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s latest enrichment move.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday sought to allay Western concerns over the move, saying the Islamic republic’s nuclear program is “peaceful.”


Egypt continues to push for political solution in Libya

Egypt continues to push for political solution in Libya
Updated 16 April 2021

Egypt continues to push for political solution in Libya

Egypt continues to push for political solution in Libya
  • Egypt’s foreign affairs minister Sameh Shoukry reiterates support for UN special envoy’s efforts

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry reiterated his country’s support in reaching a comprehensive political settlement to the Libyan crisis in a meeting with UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Libya Jan Kubis.

Shoukry said such a settlement should preserve the unity of Libya, ensure the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from it, and preserve the capabilities of its people and its national institutions.

Egypt’s foreign minister stressed the importance of the UN-sponsored Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which seeks to pave the way for legislative and presidential elections in Libya scheduled for December.

Shoukry also reaffirmed his country’s support for the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, which includes five representatives from each of the rival sides in the conflict. He is optimistic the commission can unify security and military institutions within Libya.

Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Shoukry is also backing the continuous efforts made by Kubis in his mission to reach a political solution that would serve the Libyan people and achieve their aspirations for a stable and prosperous nation.

The UN envoy briefed Shoukry on the results of his recent contacts with the parties involved in the Libyan crisis. The envoy expressed his appreciation for Egypt's efforts aimed at supporting its national neighbors and his aspiration for continued coordination with Cairo.