Pope Francis thanks Iraqis for visit, saying they deserve peace

Pope Francis thanks Iraqis for visit, saying they deserve peace
Pope Francis reflected on the packed three-day program that saw him travel throughout Iraq last weekend, offering encouragement to persecuted Christians. (AFP)
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Updated 10 March 2021

Pope Francis thanks Iraqis for visit, saying they deserve peace

Pope Francis thanks Iraqis for visit, saying they deserve peace
  • ‘After this visit, my soul is filled with gratitude – gratitude to God and to all those who made it possible’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis thanked the people of Iraq on Wednesday for allowing him to make his historic trip to the country, saying Iraqis deserve to live in peace.
In his weekly audience, the 84-year-old pope reflected on the packed three-day program that saw him travel throughout Iraq last weekend, offering encouragement to persecuted Christians and extending a hand to Shiite Muslims.
“After this visit, my soul is filled with gratitude – gratitude to God and to all those who made it possible,” he said, citing political and religious leaders.
These include top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, “with whom I had an unforgettable meeting.”
He said he heard first-hand of “wounds still open” from the destruction wrought on Iraq’s Christian communities, which have been decimated after decades of conflict.
“And at the same time, I saw around me the joy of welcoming Christ’s message,” he said.
“The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace. They have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them.”
He condemned the “monster” of war, adding: “I ask myself, who sells arms to terrorists? Today, who sells them to terrorists?
“They are waging wars in other places as well, in Africa, and it’s a question that I want an answer to.”
But he noted that Iraqis “are trying hard to rebuild. The Muslims are inviting the Christians to return and together they are restoring churches and mosques. Fraternity is there.”


Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives
Updated 6 min 45 sec ago

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives
  • Michael Paul Moogan has avoided apprehension by using false identities

DUBAI: Dubai Police have arrested one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives after eight years on the run, after Interpol issued a Red Notice.

Michael Paul Moogan, 35, from Liverpool in the UK, had been on the National Crime Agency-UK wanted list for his alleged role in a large-scale international drug trafficking plot to import drugs from Latin America to Europe, state news agency WAM reported.

Moogan had evaded arrest by using false identities after escaping a police raid on a café in the Netherlands, believed to be a front for a drug cartel.

It is claimed that Café de Ketel in Rotterdam, Netherlands was being used for meetings between drug traffickers and cartels and was central to a plot to bring hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the UK every week, WAM reported.

British officials described the café as “a business not open to the public that could only be entered via a security system,” a separate report from British broadcaster the BBC noted.

Moogan will be flown back to the UK where he is due to face trial, the broadcaster added.

UK anti-crime officials have praised the cooperation between Dubai Police and Interpol, which resulted to Moogan’s arrest.

“We are extremely grateful to those partners for their assistance in ensuring Moogan now faces justice and particularly thank the Dubai Police for their efforts to track him down. His extradition from the UAE is being requested,” Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigation said.

Dubai Police managed to identify the suspect although he had used a different name and nationality to enter the country and was immediately placed under surveillance prior to his arrest.

Police authorities have earlier worked on the extradition of 52 internationally-wanted people involved in serious crimes such as terrorism, organized crime, money laundering, murder and drugs.


Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field
Updated 5 min 53 sec ago

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field
  • Production was not impacted

DUBAI, May 10 : A “limited fire” broke out on Monday at the Kuwait Oil Co’s Greater Burgan field, injuring two workers but with no impact on production, the state news agency KUNA reported, citing a company statement.
The fire was quickly brought under control, it said.
Greater Burgan is Kuwait’s biggest and one of the world’s largest producing fields, according to Wood Mackenzie.


UN chief urges Israel to exercise restraint as more clashes erupt in East Jerusalem

UN chief urges Israel to exercise restraint as more clashes erupt in East Jerusalem
Updated 38 min 12 sec ago

UN chief urges Israel to exercise restraint as more clashes erupt in East Jerusalem

UN chief urges Israel to exercise restraint as more clashes erupt in East Jerusalem
  • More than 180 Palestinians were injured in the violence on Monday
  • Antonio Guterres says Israel must ‘cease the demolitions and evictions’ of Palestinian homes

JERUSALEM: Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Monday as Israel marked the anniversary of its capture of parts of the city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 180 Palestinians were injured in the violence, of whom more than 80, including one person in critical condition, were transferred to hospitals.
Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, has been a focal point of violence in Jerusalem throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The clashes have raised international concern.
Tensions were particularly high as Israel was marked “Jerusalem Day,” its annual celebration of the capture of East Jerusalem and the walled Old City that is home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy places.
In an effort to ease the situation, Israeli police said they had banned Jewish groups from paying Jerusalem Day visits to the holy plaza that houses Al-Aqsa, and which Jews revere as the site of biblical Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres believes Israel “must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” a UN spokesman said, as tensions rise around Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest mosque.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deep concern over the continuing violence in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the possible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“He urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions.”

Guterres urged that the status quo at the holy sites be upheld and respected, Dujarric said.

 

The late-night skirmishes raised the likelihood of further clashes Monday during the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations.

Israeli police gave the go-ahead to the parade Sunday, despite days of unrest and soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions at a flashpoint holy site and in a nearby Arab neighborhood where Jewish settlers are trying to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes.

Addressing a special Cabinet meeting ahead of Jerusalem Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”

“We will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances,” he said. At the same time, he said, “We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem.”

The United States again expressed its “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including clashes between Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Old City, home to sites sacred by Muslims and Jews, and Israeli police, as well as the expected expulsion of Palestinian families.

Washington made its concerns during a phone call between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart. Sullivan urged Israel “to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations,” according to a statement by National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.

Jerusalem Day is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem, home to the Old City and its sensitive holy sites, in the 1967 Mideast war. But the annual event is widely perceived as provocative, as hard-line nationalist Israelis, guarded by police, march through the Damascus Gate of the Old City and through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

This year the march coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of heightened religious sensitivities, and follows weeks of clashes. That, combined with Palestinian anger over the eviction plan in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, could set the stage for an especially volatile day.

Amos Gilad, a former senior defense official, told Army Radio that the parade should be canceled or at least kept away from Damascus Gate, saying “the powder keg is burning and can explode at any time.” Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said the final route of the parade had not yet been decided.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

In recent days, dozens of Palestinians have been wounded in clashes near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City. The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It has been a tinderbox for serious violence in the past.

“The occupier plays with fire, and tampering with Jerusalem is very dangerous,” Saleh Arouri, a top Hamas official, told the militant group’s Al-Aqsa TV station.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

The violence, along with the planned evictions in east Jerusalem, have drawn condemnations from Israel’s Arab allies and expressions of concern from the United States, Europe and the United Nations.
In Sunday night’s clashes, Palestinian protesters shouted at police and pelted them with rocks and bottles, while police fired stun grenades and a water cannon to disperse the crowds. Palestinian medics said at least 14 protesters were injured.
The clashes were less intense than the previous two nights. Police said over 20 police officers had been injured in recent days.
But there were signs the violence was beginning to spread.
Late Sunday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired four rockets toward Israel, setting off air raid sirens in southern city of Ashkelon and nearby areas, the Israeli military said. It said one rocket was intercepted, while two others exploded inside Gaza. Early Monday, Israeli tanks and artillery struck several Hamas posts near the border in retaliation for the rocket fire. There were no reports of injuries.
Earlier in the day, Israel carried out an airstrike on a Hamas post in response to another rocket attack. Gazan protesters affiliated with Hamas militant group also launched incendiary balloons into southern Israel during the day, causing dozens of fires.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli police also clashed with hundreds of Arab students at Israel’s Hebrew University, using stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Police said 15 people were arrested at another protest in the northern city of Haifa.
Jordan and Egypt, the first two countries to strike peace deals with Israel, both summoned senior Israeli diplomats to condemn the Israeli actions.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who acts as custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, condemned what he called “Israeli violations and escalating practices” and urged Israel to halt its “provocations against Jerusalemites.”
At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was following the events in Jerusalem with worry and called for an end to the clashes.
“Violence only generates violence,” he told the public gathered at St. Peter’s Square.
With tensions high, the Israeli Supreme Court postponed a decision on the possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The decision had been expected for Monday, but was pushed back by up to 30 days in light of “circumstances,” the court said
Palestinians and international rights groups portray the planned evictions as a part of a campaign by Israel to drive Palestinians from traditionally Arab neighborhoods, especially in the heart of Jerusalem. Israel has cast the evictions case as a real estate dispute.
The flare-up in hostilities comes at a crucial point in Israel’s political crisis after longtime leader Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition. His opponents are now working to build an alternate government. If they succeed, Netanyahu would be pushed to the opposition for the first time in 12 years.


Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
European Union leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if Ankara continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. (Reuters/File)
Updated 10 May 2021

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
  • Erosion of liberties, disputes with Cyprus and Greece mean membership still some way off

ANKARA: Since the approval of its candidacy to EU membership in 1999, Turkish relations with Brussels have been strained, exacerbated by Turkey’s controversial moves in the eastern Mediterranean and concerns over its ongoing democratic issues.

Now, though, Turkey wants to begin a new era with the EU, despite recent diplomatic gaffes, such as the Sofagate crisis, when Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, was not given a seat next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her high-profile visit to Ankara.
“Turkey keeps its determined stance and efforts toward its strategic goal of EU membership, despite the double standards and obstacles it faces,” Erdogan said in a statement on May 9, celebrated across the bloc as Europe Day. “Turkey’s membership will pave the way for the rise of a Europe that is more effective at regional and global levels, giving hope not only to its citizens, but also to the people of its neighborhood as well as the whole world.”
Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The nonimplementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.
Dr. Ilke Toygur, CATS fellow at German think tank SWP Berlin, said that it is important to be realistic over Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU.
“After months of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, 2021 has (seen) a positive spin Turkey-EU relations. This positive agenda is, however, centered on fruitful cooperation rather than advancing Turkey’s accession negotiations,” she told Arab News.
Ankara is seeking an update to the 2016 refugee deal that obliges Turkey to stem the tide of people seeking to reach Europe from its shores in return for financial aid. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson paid a visit to Turkey on Friday for talks about the deal, and to discuss visa liberalization.
The EU offered Turkey €6 billion ($7.1 billion) to help Syrian refugees, but only €3.6 billion have been sent so far — a point of contention for Ankara. However, the deal was criticized by some EU member states, who claimed Turkey had used millions of Syrian refugees as leverage against Brussels to extract more money.

FASTFACT

Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The non-implementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.

In February 2020, Turkey allowed thousands of migrants gathered on the border with Greece to make their way toward Europe.  
Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU began in 2015, but the unresolved Cyprus conflict has always been a barrier to progress, while EU leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if the country continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
Ankara’s EU candidacy should be formally suspended if Turkey continues on its “autocratic track,” EU lawmakers at the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee stated on April 23, adding that the country no longer fulfilled the democratic criteria to be accepted as a candidate, let alone a full member, to the EU.
However, Turkey remains dependent on trade with the bloc. Exports to EU member states surged by 35 percent and reached $26.86 billion in the first four months of 2021. Ankara also expects the expansion of the EU-Turkey Customs Union to new sectors of its economy, like services and agricultural trade.
Toygur thinks the EU would like to work on existing trade issues and pave the way for Customs Union modernization; however, the process itself would require an official mandate and a lot of good will from both sides to settle issues of contention.
“High level of dialogue in older files, such as transport, economy or energy, as well as new files (such as) global health or climate change, are also concrete proposals on the table,” she said.
The German Marshall Fund’s latest public opinion survey “Turkish Perceptions of the European Union” revealed, however, that half of Turkish young people think the EU does not intend to let the country join the bloc.
Despite this, Turkish public opinion favors the EU as the closest partner in dealing with international matters, while this trend seems stronger in people aged 18-24 compared to the general population. 68.8 percent of Turkish young people said they would vote “yes” in any referendum on EU membership.


Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model
An armed supporter of the Houthis sits in the back of a pick-up. (AFP/File)
Updated 10 May 2021

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model
  • Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Yemeni activists, politicians and journalists have signed an online petition to force the Iran-backed Houthis to release the abducted Yemeni model Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues.
Appalled by reports that the Houthis would subject the model to virginity testing, the petition called upon the militants to apologize to the model and release her.
“We strongly call for the immediate release of Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues and (for) an apology for Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues for (this) arbitrary detention,” the petition read.
Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses.

BACKGROUND

Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses.

Snatched by the Houthis in a Sanaa street on Feb. 20, the model was thrown into solitary confinement as the rebels banned media coverage of the case and forbade her lawyer from speaking to international news outlets.
Ahmed Seif Hashed, an MP, described the group as “the worst” rulers Yemen had on Twitter.