Palestinian leader Abbas heads to Germany for ‘medical tests’

Palestinian leader Abbas heads to Germany for ‘medical tests’
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas upon arriving to head the Palestinian leadership meeting at his headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 7, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 April 2021

Palestinian leader Abbas heads to Germany for ‘medical tests’

Palestinian leader Abbas heads to Germany for ‘medical tests’
  • His office did not provide any further details on the trip
  • He underwent an emergency heart procedure in 2016 after suffering exhaustion and chest pains

JERUSALEM: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Jordan by helicopter on Monday ahead of an official visit to Germany on which he will undergo a health exam, officials said.
His office did not provide any further details on the trip, which was not announced in advance. A Palestinian official said Abbas would undergo a “routine health check” in Germany. The official was not authorized to comment and so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The 85-year-old Abbas, a heavy smoker with a history of heart problems, has attended public events in recent days and there was no indication he was ill. He received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine last month.
But he has traveled abroad for medical treatment in recent years. In 2018, he visited a hospital in the United States after appearing weak in an address to the UN Security Council.
He underwent an emergency heart procedure in 2016 after suffering exhaustion and chest pains, but was given a clean bill of health and quickly discharged from the West Bank hospital.
Abbas has never chosen a successor and a number of senior members of his Fatah party are believed to be eyeing the position. Abbas took over as caretaker president following the death of the iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.
Abbas was elected to a four-year term the following year but remained in office after his mandate expired. The Palestinians have not held elections since 2006, when the Islamic militant group Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
That ignited a political crisis, culminating in Hamas’ seizure of power in Gaza the following year, leaving Abbas’ authority confined to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas has decreed parliamentary elections for next month and a presidential election in July. It’s unclear whether the votes will take place, however, due to the longstanding dispute with Hamas and growing schisms within Abbas’ Fatah party that could lead him to call them off.
The Palestinian leader’s popularity has plummeted in recent years as he has failed to make progress in achieving an independent state or mending ties with Hamas, and as he has presided over an increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority.


Lenderking discusses importance of reaching solution to Yemen conflict during UAE, Germany visits

Lenderking discusses importance of reaching solution to Yemen conflict during UAE, Germany visits
Updated 13 min 55 sec ago

Lenderking discusses importance of reaching solution to Yemen conflict during UAE, Germany visits

Lenderking discusses importance of reaching solution to Yemen conflict during UAE, Germany visits
  • Lenderking and Griffiths are working to encourage the delivery of fuel into Yemen and re-initiate political talks
  • In the UAE, Lenderking met with officials to discuss the importance of fully implementing the Riyadh Agreement

LONDON: US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking discussed the importance of reaching a lasting solution to the conflict in the country during a recent visit to Berlin.
Lenderking also discussed taking action to mitigate the humanitarian and economic crisis in the war torn country with representatives from the UN Security Council permanent member states, as well as Germany, Kuwait, Sweden, and the EU.
Ending the Houthi assault on Marib, facilitating a UN inspection and repair of the Safer oil tanker, and supporting the legitimate government’s efforts to stabilize the Yemeni economy and ease the humanitarian crisis were steps highlighted to end the conflict during the discussions in Berlin.
In the UAE, Lenderking met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the importance of full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.
The Yemen envoy arrived in Germany on Monday, traveled to the UAE on Wednesday and returned to the US on Friday.
Lenderking and the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths are working side-by-side to encourage the swift delivery of fuel into Yemen and re-initiate political talks with the support of the Omani government, a US State Department statement said.
It called on all parties to commit seriously and negotiate in good faith.


Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia, 21 dead, 3 survivors found

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia, 21 dead, 3 survivors found
Updated 27 min 11 sec ago

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia, 21 dead, 3 survivors found

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia, 21 dead, 3 survivors found
  • A survivor said that the boat had 41 migrants on board, who had set off from Sfax in hope of reaching the Italian coast
  • The port city has become a common exit point for Europe-bound migrants escaping conflict or poor living conditions

TUNIS, Tunisia: Tunisian authorities said they recovered the bodies of 21 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, including nine women and a baby, whose boat sank Friday off the central port city of Sfax. The cause of the sinking was unclear.
Commander Housemeddine Jebabli, of the National Guard, told The Associated Press there were only three survivors, who were rescued by the coast guard with the help of civil protection divers.
Jebabli said that authorities are continuing to search the area of the sinking, as there are indications that 17 people could be missing.
Jebabli said a survivor told him that the boat had 41 migrants on board, who had set off the day before from Sfax in hope of reaching the Italian coast.
The port city has become a common exit point for Europe-bound migrants escaping conflict or poor living conditions.
Last month, on March 9, two boats ran aground in the same area killing 39 people, while 165 migrants were rescued. Most were sub-Saharan nationals.


With food and fuel, Hezbollah braces for the worst in Lebanon collapse

With food and fuel, Hezbollah braces for the worst in Lebanon collapse
Updated 39 min 17 sec ago

With food and fuel, Hezbollah braces for the worst in Lebanon collapse

With food and fuel, Hezbollah braces for the worst in Lebanon collapse
  • Hezbollah readies for 'stage of darkness and hunger', a step reflecting worries over looming end to subsidies
  • Plan chimes with worries in Lebanon that people will have to rely on political factions for food and security

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah has made preparations for an all-out collapse of the fracturing state, issuing ration cards for food, importing medicine and readying storage for fuel from its patron Iran, three sources familiar with the plans told Reuters.
The moves, responding to a grave economic crisis, would mark an expansion of services provided by the armed movement to its large Shiite support base, with a network that already boasts charities, a construction firm and a pension system.
The steps highlight rising fears of an implosion of the Lebanese state, in which authorities can no longer import food or fuel to keep the lights on.
They underline Hezbollah’s growing role in tackling the emergency with services that the government would otherwise provide.
The plan chimes with worries in Lebanon that people will have to rely on political factions for food and security, such as in militia days during the 1975-1990 civil war.
In response to a question about Hezbollah’s plans, Leila Hatoum, an adviser to the caretaker prime minister, said the country was “in no condition to refuse aid” regardless of politics.
The sources from the pro-Hezbollah camp, who declined to be named, said the plan for a potential worst-case scenario has gathered pace as an end to subsidies looms in the coming months, raising the specter of hunger and unrest.
Lebanon’s currency has crashed as the country runs out of dollars, with no state rescue in sight. Food prices have shot up 400%.
Fights in supermarkets are now commonplace, as are people rummaging through trash. A brawl over food packages this week killed one person and injured two others.
Hezbollah’s plan would help shield its communities — not only members but also mainly Shiite residents of districts it dominates — from the worst of the crisis, the sources said.
Hezbollah, which with its allies has a majority in parliament and government, did not respond to a request for comment.
“The preparations have begun for the next stage...It is indeed an economic battle plan,” said one of the sources, a senior official.

OUTSIZED NETWORK
Already, the new ration card, seen by Reuters, helps hundreds of people buy basic goods in the local currency — largely Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian cheaper items at a discount up to 40%, subsidised by the party, the sources said.
The card — named after a Shiite Imam — can be used at co-ops, some of them newly opened, in the southern Beirut suburbs and parts of southern Lebanon where Hezbollah holds sway.
An Iran-funded paramilitary force which critics once called “a state within a state,” Hezbollah has grown more entangled in Lebanese state affairs in recent years.
Washington, which deems Hezbollah a terrorist group, has ramped up sanctions to choke off its sources of funding, including what it estimates as hundreds of millions of dollars from Tehran yearly.
Iranian funding keeps Hezbollah better off than many in the country’s mosaic of parties, including those opposed to its arsenal. Some factions have issued aid baskets to their patronage communities, but the Iran-backed network remains outsized in comparison.
“They’re all doing it...But Hezbollah’s scope is much bigger and more powerful, with more resources to deal with the crisis,” said Joseph Daher, a researcher who wrote a book on Hezbollah’s political economy. “This is more about limiting the catastrophe for its popular base. It means the dependency on Hezbollah particularly will increase.”
And while Hezbollah gives ration cards, the state, hollowed out by decades of graft and debt, has talked up the idea of such a card for poor Lebanese for nearly a year without acting.
Ministers have said the need for parliamentary approval has stalled the cabinet’s plan for cards.

DARKNESS AND HUNGER
Photos on social media of shelves stacked with canned goods, reportedly from one of Hezbollah’s co-ops, spread across Lebanon last week.
Fatima Hamoud, in her 50s, said the ration card allows her once a month to buy grains, oil and cleaning products for a household of eight. “They know we’re in bad shape,” she said. “Without them, what would we have done in these tough times?“
A second Shiite source said Hezbollah had filled up warehouses and launched the cards to extend services outside the party and plug gaps in the Lebanese market, where cheap alternatives are more common than pre-crisis.
He said the card offers a quota, based on the family size, for needs like sugar and flour.
The goods are backed by Hezbollah, imported by allied companies or brought in without customs fees through the border with Syria, where Hezbollah forces have a footing since joining the war to back Damascus alongside Iran.
The source added that Hezbollah had similar plans for medicine imports. Some pharmacists in the southern suburbs of Beirut said they had received training on new Iranian and Syrian brands that popped up on the shelves in recent months.
Two of the sources said the plan included stockpiling fuel from Iran, as Lebanon’s energy ministry warns of a possible total blackout. The senior official said Hezbollah was clearing storage space for fuel in next-door Syria.
“When we get to a stage of darkness and hunger, you will find Hezbollah going to its back-up option...and that is a grave decision. Then Hezbollah will fill in for the state,” said the senior official. “If it comes to it, the party would’ve taken its precautions to prevent a void.”


Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece

Erdogan defends minister after spat with Greece
Updated 16 April 2021

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.