Yemen peace efforts falter as Houthis demand direct flights to Iran

Yemen peace efforts falter as Houthis demand direct flights to Iran
1 / 2
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (3rd-R) meets with Mohammed Ali al-Houthi (L), President of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa. (AFP file photo)
Yemen peace efforts falter as Houthis demand direct flights to Iran
2 / 2
Military personnel stand guard at Yemen’s Aden Airport. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 April 2021

Yemen peace efforts falter as Houthis demand direct flights to Iran

Yemen peace efforts falter as Houthis demand direct flights to Iran
  • Houthis demanded arranging unchecked direct flights to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, halting Arab coalition airstrikes, and easing restrictions on traffic to and from the seaport
  • Government renews its accusations about Teharan-backed militias not being serious about dialogue

AL-MUKALLA: UN-brokered peace efforts to end the war in Yemen have made no progress, with the Houthis and government squabbling over key issues such as flights from Sanaa airport, halting military operations and airstrikes, and Hodeidah seaport revenues, a senior government official told Arab News.

During talks with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and Omani mediators, the Houthis demanded arranging unchecked direct flights to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, halting Arab coalition airstrikes, and easing restrictions on traffic to and from the seaport as preconditions for agreeing to a truce, the Yemeni government official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

The government has rejected the Houthis’ demands.

It insists on arranging inspected flights from Sanaa to limited regional and international destinations such as Egypt, India, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It also wants the Houthis to stop their military operations before airstrikes are halted, and for seaport revenues to be deposited into the central bank in Hodeidah and used to pay public servants.

If the Houthis agreed to those demands, the government would then engage in direct talks with them to end the war, the official said.

“The Houthis are demanding that the ceasefire be divided: First halting airstrikes and then stopping military operations on the ground,” the official told Arab News.

The government is concerned that the Houthis might ferry fighters and weapons from Iran on direct flights.

The Houthis might also exploit the absence of Arab coalition warplanes to advance on the ground because airstrikes have foiled their attempt to make gains, according to military officers.

Griffiths and the US envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, have shuttled between Riyadh and Muscat to convince the Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthis to accept their ideas for ending the war.

FASTFACT

Yemen’s government is concerned that the Houthis might ferry fighters and weapons from Iran on direct flights.

Those ideas are an immediate truce, followed by other measures to ease the country’s humanitarian crises such as opening airports and seaports, paying public servants and then later resuming a political process.

Griffiths’ spokeswoman, Ismini Palla, said on Monday that the envoy had made progress in reducing the differences between warring factions that were impeding efforts to reach a peace deal.

“We are familiar with their negotiation positions and with the gap between these positions,” she told Arab News. “And we are indeed making progress in narrowing down these differences with the help of a renewed regional and international momentum aimed at helping Yemen find a peaceful way out of this conflict.”

The Kingdom’s initiative for ending the war, unveiled last month by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, has energized peace efforts and led to heightened diplomatic activity in the region to find a settlement.

This initiative includes a truce, reopening Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaport, and resuming peace talks under UN supervision.

On Monday, the Yemeni government renewed its accusations about the Houthis not being serious about striking a peace deal, citing the rebels’ continuing military operations across the country, mainly in the central province of Marib.

During a meeting with the UAE ambassador to Yemen, Salem Al-Ghafli, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak said the Houthis were moving ahead with a large-scale offensive on Marib city, putting the lives of tens of thousands of displaced people at risk.

The minister also warned that the Houthi military operation and its missile strikes on displacement camps in Marib would ruin peace efforts.

He renewed the government’s demands - that the international community pressure Iran to stop meddling in Yemen’s affairs by arming and financing the Houthi militia.


Interview: Israel’s Danny Danon positive about Palestinian peace, says Biden should be tougher on Iran

Interview: Israel’s Danny Danon positive about Palestinian peace, says Biden should be tougher on Iran
Updated 9 min 58 sec ago

Interview: Israel’s Danny Danon positive about Palestinian peace, says Biden should be tougher on Iran

Interview: Israel’s Danny Danon positive about Palestinian peace, says Biden should be tougher on Iran
  • ‘We know that Iran is a threat. A threat to Israel. To the Middle East’

Former Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon urged President Biden Wednesday not to appease Iran and called for tougher changes to force Iran to adhere to a new nuclear arms agreement.

Danon, who is the chairman of World Likud, the political party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also urged the Palestinian leadership to engage in face-to-face peace talks, saying there is room for a Palestinian state.

Appearing on The Ray Hanania Show broadcasting on the US Arab Radio Network, Danon called Iran a threat and said it would be better if the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were scrapped.

“We know that Iran is a threat. A threat to Israel. To the Middle East. To the stability of the world. The second assumption I want to make, that the agreement that was signed in 2015 was a bad agreement, the JCPOA,” Danon said.

“Today it is not better, it is even worse. Now the question is what will the US do? I hope the new administration will not re-enter the JCPOA as it is, without any amendments. That would be bad. That would be a sign the administration is trying to appease the Iranians.”

In a wide-ranging radio interview, Danon said that if the JCPOA is not scrapped, then the agreement should be amended.

“The second option is they would try to improve the agreement. And if they would try to do that, we have a few ideas of what should be improved in the agreement,” Danon said.

“The inspections. The ballistic missile test. The sunset clause. The billions of dollars they give to proxies and promote terrorism. We would be able to walk with the US on that. But still it’s not clear whether Biden is willing to push for amendment or whether he is willing to go back to the agreement.”

Danon said that the sanctions on Iran are the only reason why Iran is negotiating. He said Biden and the European nations should not let their guard down with Iran, arguing that any easing of sanctions would embolden Iran’s plans to build a nuclear weapon.

“You cannot say that the sanctions didn’t help. The reason that they are negotiating today is because of the sanctions. I think we should continue with the sanctions against the regime,” Danon said.

“On the other end, they play for the long run. We look at cycles of four years. President Trump. President Biden. Prime Minister Netanyahu. They look for the long run and that is why they are so dangerous.”

Danon said Israel supports a Palestinian state, but he cautioned that any agreement or final borders must all be negotiated face-to-face between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

“We think we should negotiate directly with the Palestinians Eventually it will have to be both sides entering the room and talking directly to each other,” Danon said.

“But you need a leader for that. I don’t think President Abbas is the right leader. I think he wants to finish his term in history not being the one who is actually signing the agreement or actually making the compromises. It is unfortunate because we are going to have to wait for the next generation to emerge and hopefully negotiate on that.”

Danon pointed to the negotiations conducted between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin as an example of how peace can be achieved through compromise and mutual respect.

“Four years after a bloody war that we had in 1973, Anwar Sadat landed in Israel, approached the Israeli parliament and we believed him. We believed that he was a partner,” Dannon said.

Asked if he supports a Palestinian state, Danon said, “My goal is to give as much freedom as possible to the Palestinian people without risking the well-being and security of the Israelis. So, the question is where you draw the line.

“I think it is not a problem of land. I am very familiar with the land in Judea and Samaria. I can tell you — I just traveled there last week with my family — the majority of the land in Judea and Samaria is vacant. It is desert. There is nothing there. It is not a problem that we are actually fighting over land. There is a place for the Palestinians. There is a place for the Jews. It is more about recognition. It is more about actually recognizing the fact that both sides will stay here and eventually we will have to work together.”

During the radio interview broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 in Washington D.C., Danon said that he believes the Abraham Accords negotiated by former President Donald Trump can serve as a blueprint for peace throughout the Middle East, including with the Palestinians.

“I think it is an important step in the right direction. I think it will help the process. Eventually it will help the Palestinians to take tough decisions,” Danon said.

“I personally believe that when we start negotiating with the Palestinians, we should have those leaders in the room. We should think about regional challenges and regional opportunities. The Palestinians are here, we are here to stay. We have to learn to live together to work together. But I do believe that the presence of other moderate leaders in the process can be helpful.”

But Danon said he fears Palestinian elections which are scheduled to be held on May 22 for the Palestinian Legislative Council and on July 31 for the Palestinian presidency will be dominated by Hamas, which is accused of engaging in terrorism and violence to undermine a comprehensive peace accord and will eventually control the Occupied West Bank territories, in addition to the Gaza Strip where it is now based.

“Actually, I have a feeling that Hamas will be able to take over. It happened in the past during the election. It can happen again. I am not involved and we are not interfering in the process,” Danon said.

“But you see there are a few factions in the PA coming from the Fatah side and Hamas is running with one list. I don’t know what will happen there but the last thing we want to see is Hamas taking over Judea and Samaria.”

Danon also offered greetings for Ramadan, saying, “I want to take this opportunity and wish a Ramadan Kareem, a Happy Ramadan to all of my colleagues from all around the world.”

For more information on The Ray Hanania Show, visit ArabNews.com.


Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record
Updated 15 April 2021

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record
  • There are more than 770 hospitalized COVID-19 patients
  • Authorities have renewed the ban on all commercial activities and movement of people and vehicles between 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

DUBAI: Oman has reported on Wednesday a record number of coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit as the Sultanate renewed night curfew, daily Times of Oman reported.

There are more than 770 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 264 in ICU, for the first time since the pandemic started, the report said.

Authorities have renewed the ban on all commercial activities and movement of people and vehicles between 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply, media and three-ton trucks are exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister
Updated 15 April 2021

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister
  • Turkey and Egypt froze ties after the 2013 overthrow of president Muhammad Mursi
  • Cavusoglu said the first delegation talks would be at the level of deputy foreign ministers

ISTANBUL: A Turkish delegation will visit Egypt next month as part of Ankara’s efforts to mend ties, the foreign minister said on Thursday.
“Egypt invited a delegation from Turkey. The delegation will go in early May,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the private NTV broadcaster.
“We will discuss openly how to normalize relations.”
Turkey and Egypt froze ties after the 2013 overthrow of president Muhammad Mursi, who forged close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year, both countries expelled each others’ ambassadors and Cairo had then declared the Turkish envoy “persona non grata.”
But Turkish officials last month said Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to repair relations with other Middle Eastern rivals.
Cavusoglu on Thursday said the first delegation talks would be at the level of deputy foreign ministers, ahead of a contact between the ministers.
“I hope we will all together further improve relations,” he said.


US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel
Updated 15 April 2021

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel
  • He also addressed Iran’s cooperation and work with Hezbollah
  • The official also addressed the current economic and political crisis in the country and Hezbollah’s activities


DUBAI: The US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale said on Thursday they are ready to facilitate a Lebanese-Israeli agreement on the maritime borders.

“These negotiations have the potential to unlock significant economic benefits for Lebanon,” Hale said during a press conference at Baabda palace in Lebanon.

The official also addressed the current economic and political crisis in the country and Hezbollah’s activities.

“(The) Lebanese people are suffering cause the leaders failed to put the interests of the country first,” Hale said.

“Hezbollah’s accumulation of dangerous weapons, smuggling and other illicit and corrupt activities undermine legitimate state institutions, they rob the Lebanese the ability to build a peaceful and prosperous country,” he added.

He also addressed Iran’s cooperation and work with Hezbollah.

“It’s Iran that’s fueling and financing this challenge to the state and its distortion of Lebanese political life,” Hale added.

The Under Secretary for Political Affairs also said that those who stand in the way may face punishment.

“Those who continue to obstruct progress on the reform agenda, jeopardize their relationship with the United States and our partners and open themselves up to punitive actions,” Hale added.


Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
  • Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places

AMMAN: Jordan on Wednesday condemned Israeli police for sabotaging door locks at four Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets in a bid to silence the Muslim call to prayer.

The move came after waqf officials, who oversee Jerusalem’s holy sites, refused to turn off loudspeakers on the first day of Ramadan. They said the Israelis had wanted it quiet while new soldiers prayed at the Buraq (Western) wall.

Jordanian officials claimed employees of the Jordan-run Jerusalem waqf and Al-Aqsa affairs department were harassed during the police operation.

Daifallah Al-Fayez, spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, described the Israeli actions as a provocation against Muslims around the world and a violation of international law and the historical status quo.

He said that Al-Aqsa Mosque was a “pure” Islamic holy site and that the Jerusalem waqf department was “the sole authority” tasked with supervising all of its affairs.

A source at the Jerusalem Waqf Council told Arab News: “This is the first time since 1967 that Israeli occupiers have sabotaged locks in order to enter the minarets and physically cut off the electricity to the loudspeakers. And they pursued waqf officials and staff who refused to carry out their demands.”

Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places.

An Israeli siren was sounded in Jerusalem at 8 p.m. on Tuesday as a tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers with that day’s call for isha prayer in the city being at 8:29 p.m.

Hanna Issa, head of the Islamic-Christian Committee for Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Israeli action had been a violation of the 1998 Rome Convention and called on the international community to hold Israel to account.

Dimitri Diliani, president of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the incident was an attempt to stifle religious freedoms and represented an attack against Islamic holy places.

“In addition, this is a reflection of a racist policy of the Israeli occupiers that can’t accept anyone who is not Jewish,” he said.

Ahmad Tamimi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, urged international action to put an end to Israeli violations of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.