Turkey testing waters to dispatch ambassador to Israel

Turkey testing waters to dispatch ambassador to Israel
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a press conference after a Cabinet meeting, in Ankara. (AFP)
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Updated 31 March 2021

Turkey testing waters to dispatch ambassador to Israel

Turkey testing waters to dispatch ambassador to Israel
  • Diplomatic reconciliation with Israel will help break its regional isolation, please US

ANKARA: Turkey has informed Israel it is set to appoint an ambassador to Tel Aviv once Israel commits to simultaneously reciprocating the gesture, according to a media report.

Newspaper Israel Hayom, citing a senior Turkish official, made the claim on Monday. Turkey has not confirmed the report.
Analysts said that following a decade-long deterioration in bilateral ties, especially after the Mavi Marmara incident when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in a Gaza aid flotilla and Turkish activists died, both sides would need to restore trust with each other through concrete and sincere steps, rather than immediately expect the red carpet treatment.
From the Turkish side, any diplomatic reconciliation with Israel would try to break its regional isolation and also please US President Joe Biden’s administration.
However, the presence of senior Hamas officials in Turkey remains the major stumbling block in any rapprochement between the two countries.
The Hamas office in Istanbul, seen as a safe haven for the group’s senior members, is allegedly run by the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement. The group reportedly set up a secret facility in Istanbul to conduct cyberattacks on Israel.
Turkey’s hosting of a senior Hamas delegation last year was also condemned by Washington, DC.
But, since December, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toned down the rhetoric and hinted at Turkey’s willingness to restore ties with Israel. He publicly declared that Israeli and Turkish intelligence cooperation continued.
“Ankara had already signaled its wish to improve relations with Israel a few months ago, but Israel’s response to the Turkish overtures was quite muted,” Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, told Arab News. “It seems that Turkey is losing its patience and would like to advance in the direction of the return of the ambassadors in the immediate term to break some of its isolation in the diplomatic front.”

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Analysts said that following a decade-long deterioration in bilateral ties, especially after the Mavi Marmara incident when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in a Gaza aid flotilla and Turkish activists died, both sides would need to restore trust with each other through concrete and sincere steps, rather than immediately expect the red carpet treatment.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is expected to begin consultations with representatives of the parties elected to the Knesset to begin the process of forming a new government, following the recent election. But there is still the possibility of a fifth election in a two-year period.
Lindenstrauss added that there was no major impediment to the return of ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara because relations were not formally downgraded in 2018. It was, she said, an issue that could theoretically be advanced even with a caretaker government in Israel if a professional diplomat was chosen.
On March 20 some Istanbul-based TV channels affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood - El Sharq TV, Watan TV, Mekameleen - were ordered by Ankara to stop airing anti-Egypt rhetoric in their political shows otherwise penalties would be imposed.
This move to curb Muslim Brotherhood channels could be seen as another message of reconciliation with Israel if Turkey also commits to meeting Israel’s demands in this field and removes some senior Hamas leaders living in Turkey.
“With regard to the activity of Hamas, Ankara has also signaled that it is less tolerant to the movement’s military activity on its soil and hence is moving in the right direction on this issue from Israel’s perspective,” Lindenstrauss said.
During a visit to Cyprus in early March, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Tel Aviv was ready to cooperate with Turkey on natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, and expressed his hopes that Ankara could join the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in the future.
But last week Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a harsh statement about “Israel’s recent evacuation, destruction and confiscation decisions against Palestinians” violating international law. It also urged the international community to stand on the side of the Palestinian people against Israel’s expansionist policies.
“Turkey has recently launched a charm offensive to repair relations with countries in the region, including Israel and Egypt,” Dr. Selin Nasi, the London representative of the Ankara Policy Center, told Arab News. “While Israel has received Turkey’s overtures with skepticism, it nevertheless leaves the door open for negotiations.”
Nasi said that Ankara may also take measures to reassure Israel’s security concerns, such as limiting the activities of Hamas offices operating on Turkish territory or expelling senior Hamas officials, the way Turkey did prior to the normalization deal with Israel in 2016.
“Turkey and Israel have converging interests when it comes to regional security, trade relations and energy cooperation. However, Israel is not in a rush to restore relations with Turkey as it gained an advantageous position in the Middle East, at the expense of Turkey, with the post-Abraham Accord security landscape.”
Nasi also said that Turkey may have stepped up normalization efforts with Israel in the wake of press reports saying that Biden would refer to the 1915 massacre of Armenians as “genocide” on the upcoming April 24 anniversary.
“Turkey might be hoping to win back support of the Israeli lobbies in the US Congress, in this regard. Against this backdrop, Israel is likely to set Turkey’s recalibrating ties with Hamas as a condition for normalization.”
Turkey called back its ambassador in 2018 but did not downgrade the level of diplomatic representation, she explained, and sending back ambassadors was a technical matter. Now that the elections were over, Israel’s domestic political conjuncture provided a more conducive environment for Ankara’s normalization efforts.
“Still, given the bad blood between the two leaders, a change of government in Israel would make it easier for Erdogan to make the first move in restoring ties with Israel,” Nasi said.


Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
Updated 27 October 2021

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
  • Decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination to enter workplaces
  • The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants, banks and travel

RABAT, Morocco: Demonstrators took to the streets in cities around Morocco on Wednesday, some clashing with police as they denounced the country’s decision to require coronavirus vaccination passes to be allowed to work and enter public venues.
The decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination in order to enter their workplaces. In a statement, the government has said employers have “direct legal responsibility” to enforce the decision.
The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants and banks as well as domestic and international travel.
The North African kingdom of 36 million people has Africa’s highest vaccination rate, with more than 50 percent of the population fully inoculated. Earlier this month, the government also started administering booster shots.
But the abrupt and unusually widespread vaccine requirements have also prompted opposition, and led to big crowds at vaccination centers as people rushed to get shots.
In the capital, Rabat, protesters gathered outside the parliament building and chanted slogans against the rule, arguing that it goes against fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Police formed a line to prevent the angry demonstrators from getting inside the legislature.
A few protesters clashed with police as they were pushed away down Mohammed V Avenue that leads to the parliament building.
Among protesters was Nabila Mounib, a member of parliament and the secretary general of the opposition Unified Socialist Party. She joined the protest after being barred from entering the parliament building for showing up without a vaccination pass.
Similar scenes unfolded in other Moroccan cities, with dozens of protesters taking to the streets in the country’s most populous city, Casablanca, as well as tourist hotspots of Marrakech and Agadir. They shouted “United against the pass!” as police pushed and swung batons at some of the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them.


Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim
Updated 3 min 29 sec ago

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim
  • The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement he rejected Kordahi’s comments
  • Najib Mikati said George Kordahi’s comments on TV did not reflect government’s, president’s position on Yemen

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday distanced himself from comments made by the country’s Information Minister George Kordahi suggesting that the Iran-backed Houthis were “defending themselves”
in Yemen.

Kordahi had been responding to a question from the host of “Barlamanasha3b,” an Al Jazeera-affiliated youth TV show, asking about his position on the conflict in the war-torn country.

During the interview recorded on Aug. 5, one month before being appointed information minister, Kordahi said: “The Houthis in Yemen are a resistance movement, defending themselves and not attacking anyone.” He added that the group was acting in self-defense against the “Saudi-UAE attack on Yemen.”

Mikati said: “Kordahi’s statement reflects his personal opinion which we do not accept. These comments do not express the government nor the president’s (Michel Aoun) position on the Yemeni issue. Lebanon is committed to its ties with Arab countries.”

When Kordahi’s remarks later surfaced in a video posted online, they sparked a frenzy on social media and an official protest to the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Yemen’s Ambassador to Lebanon Abdullah Al-Deais.

Kordahi replied by saying he had not intended “in any way, to offend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Emirates,” and expressed his “love and loyalty to the leaders and people of the two countries.”

He added: “What I said about the war in Yemen being an absurd war that needs to stop, I said it with conviction, not in defense of Yemen, but also out of love for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

But Al-Deais said Kordahi had only “added insult to injury, as he did not apologize, but rather confirmed what he had said.”

The Yemeni envoy added: “Kordahi’s remarks go against Lebanon’s clear position toward Yemen and its condemnation of the Houthi coup and its support for all relevant Arab and UN resolutions.”

Following a meeting with Aoun on Wednesday, Mikati added: “It is true that we distance ourselves from conflicts, but we do not distance ourselves from any Arab position in solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

This position is a constant position, and we look forward to the best relations.

“Kordahi’s comments will not affect the general course, especially since the constants of the Lebanese position on relations with Arab countries were stated in its ministerial declaration. The interview with Kordahi took place before he was appointed minister and was broadcast yesterday,” Mikati said.

Separately, Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that Kordahi’s comments reflected his “personal stand” and “do not reflect the government’s position.”

In a statement, it said: “The ministry has repeatedly condemned the terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia and maintains its position in defending the security and safety of its Gulf brothers, for whom it holds love, respect, and appreciation, and refrains from interfering in their internal and external policies.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council noted that Kordahi’s remarks showed his limited knowledge and lack of understanding of the situation in Yemen.

GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf condemned, “the Lebanese minister of information’s defense of the Houthi coup group, while ignoring the intransigence of the Houthi movement against all international efforts to end the Yemeni crisis, and at a time when the Saudi Houthi group is targeting missiles and marches, targeting the defenseless Yemeni people, and preventing relief aid from reaching the stricken areas.”

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari on Wednesday met with Al-Deais.

In a statement issued by the Saudi embassy, Al-Bukhari reaffirmed “the Kingdom’s position on supporting legitimacy in Yemen, reaching a political solution, in accordance with the terms of reference represented by the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference and the resolution 2216, in order to preserve Yemen’s unity, integrity, respect its sovereignty and independence, and reject any interference in its internal affairs.

“The Iranian-backed Houthis continue hostilities and terrorist operations by firing ballistic missiles and booby-trapped drones to target civilians and civilian objects in Saudi Arabia, violating international and humanitarian law by using civilian populations in Yemeni civilian areas as human shields, and launching booby-trapped boats and remotely marching, posing a serious threat to regional and international security,” he said.

The Saudi envoy highlighted, “the legitimate right of the Saudi-led coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen, to take and implement the necessary measures to deal with these hostilities and terrorist attacks, and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into these militias that poses a threat to the freedom of maritime navigation and global trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea.”

Al-Bukhari praised “the efficiency” of Saudi air defenses in intercepting and responding to more than 400 ballistic missiles, 791 drones, and at least 205 naval mines.


Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces Geagea eader from attending hearing

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces Geagea eader from attending hearing
Updated 23 sec ago

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces Geagea eader from attending hearing

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces Geagea eader from attending hearing

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
Updated 27 October 2021

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
  • The mission added that the envoys found Hamdok in good health

CAIRO: Envoys from France, Germany, Norway, the UK, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations met with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at his residence, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The mission added that the envoys found Hamdok in good health.


US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
Updated 27 October 2021

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
  • Iran's negotiator said after talks with EU mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks
  • “This window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps”: State Department

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Iran to show “good faith” and quickly revive a nuclear deal after the clerical state indicated it would return to negotiations in Vienna next month.
Iran's nuclear negotiator said after talks with European Union mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks in Vienna next month. These discussions had been on hiatus since June.
"We are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance" with the 2015 nuclear deal, a State Department spokesperson said.
The talks should focus on "closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June," he said.
"As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith."
President Joe Biden has repeatedly offered to return to the nuclear accord reached in 2015 but his administration has voiced growing frustration at the prolonged delay, which comes as a new hardline government gets settled in Tehran.
Then president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions, leading Iran to step up contested nuclear work in protest.