US agrees to redeploy remaining combat forces from Iraq

A US soldier walks at the Qayyarah air base, where US-led troops in 2017 had helped Iraqis plan out the fight against Daesh in nearby Mosul in northern Iraq, before a planned US pullout. (File/AFP)
A US soldier walks at the Qayyarah air base, where US-led troops in 2017 had helped Iraqis plan out the fight against Daesh in nearby Mosul in northern Iraq, before a planned US pullout. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2021

US agrees to redeploy remaining combat forces from Iraq

US agrees to redeploy remaining combat forces from Iraq
  • Iraq pledged to protect bases with US-led forces, who were present solely in support of Iraq's effort in fighting Daesh
  • Talks also covered security, counterterrorism, economics, energy and the environment

LONDON: The US has agreed to redeploy remaining combat forces from Iraq after talks in Washington on Wednesday.
Any American troops left in the country will focus on training and advisory tasks, a joint statement from Iraq and the US said, adding the Iraqi military had made substantial progress.
The two countries “reaffirmed their mutual intention to continue bilateral security coordination and cooperation,” the statement said.
The announcement came after a US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue held on Wednesday chaired by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterpart Fuad Hussein.
The timing of the withdrawal would be decided in upcoming technical talks, the statement said.
“The transition of US and other international forces away from combat operations to training, equipping, and assisting the ISF reflects the success of their strategic partnership and ensures support to the ISF’s continued efforts to ensure Daesh (Daesh) can never again threaten Iraq’s stability,” it said.
The announcement comes as Shiite paramilitary factions linked to Iran continue to launch attacks on US forces stationed in the country almost on a daily basis. 
During the talks, Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to protect the personnel, convoys, and diplomatic facilities belonging to members of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.
The discussions also covered security, counterterrorism, economics, energy and the environment.
Washington expressed its support for Iraq’s efforts to reform its power sector and “both countries affirmed their support for Iraq diversifying its sources of energy by building greater ties to its neighbors in Jordan and in the GCC, including by moving forward with electric grid interconnection projects.”
The two sides pledged to work closely together as Iraq commits to implementing reforms to diversify its economy, improve the business climate, and help create a more vibrant private sector, the statement added.
The two countries also discussed greater cooperation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the management of water resources.


Ex-Algerian leader Bouteflika, ousted amid protests, dies

Ex-Algerian leader Bouteflika, ousted amid protests, dies
Updated 11 sec ago

Ex-Algerian leader Bouteflika, ousted amid protests, dies

Ex-Algerian leader Bouteflika, ousted amid protests, dies

ALGIERS, Algeria: Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who fought for independence from France in the 1950s and 1960s and was ousted amid pro-democracy protests in 2019 after 20 years in power, has died at age 84, state television announced Friday.
The report on ENTV, citing a statement from the office of current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, did not provide the cause of death or other details.
Bouteflika had suffered a stroke in 2013 that had badly weakened him. Concerns about his state of health, kept secret from the Algerian public, helped feed public frustration with his rule that erupted in mass public protests in 2019 that led to his departure.
Earlier in his life, Bouteflika fought for independence from colonial ruler France, successfully negotiated with the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers taken hostage in a 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters, and helped reconcile Algerian citizens with each other after a decade of civil war between radical Muslim militants and Algeria’s security forces.


Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 44 min 22 sec ago

Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
  • The March 2020 agreement followed weeks of fighting that brought Turkey and Russia close to conflict and displaced nearly a million people

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia later this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin about the violence in northwestern Syria, where Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides, two Turkish officials said on Friday.
Turkey supports fighters who sought to topple President Bashar Assad, while Russia has helped shore up Assad after a decade of conflict.
Both sides have complained about violations of a truce they agreed 18 months ago in the northwestern Idlib region, the last rebel bastion left in Syria, where Ankara says two Turkish troops were killed in an attack on Saturday.
“The main agenda point is Syria, namely Idlib,” a senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the planned talks in Russian resort of Sochi. “The conditions set out in the Idlib agreement have not been fully implemented.”
The March 2020 agreement followed weeks of fighting that brought Turkey and Russia close to conflict and displaced nearly a million people.
“There should not be any new instability in Syria,” another Turkish official said.
Erdogan’s planned two-day visit will follow his trip to the UN General Assembly in New York next week, the officials said, without specifying exact dates.
Despite backing opposing sides in both the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, Turkey and Russia have forged close cooperation in the defense, energy and tourism sectors.


Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy
Updated 17 September 2021

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy
  • Eitan Biran's parents, younger brother and 11 other people all died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May
  • Italian media said Shmuel Peleg had driven with his grandson across the nearby border to Switzerland and flown on a private jet to Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM: The grandfather of a six-year-old boy who is the only survivor of an Italian cable car disaster said he was looking out for his grandson’s wellbeing by bringing him to Israel.
He did so against the will of the boy’s family in Italy.
Eitan Biran’s parents, younger brother and 11 other people all died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May. He is now at the center of a custody battle.
The boy moved in with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, in northern Italy after the accident. A week ago his maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, picked him up for a planned family trip but they never returned, according to the aunt.
Italian media said Peleg had driven with his grandson across the nearby border to Switzerland and flown on a private jet to Tel Aviv.
“What is good for the boy outweighs my personal interests,” Peleg said when told during an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 that Italian authorities are calling his action kidnapping.
“So I decided that I am saving the boy and bringing him to Israel,” Peleg said during the TV interview that aired on Friday. “I took a car, a KIA. I drove with Eitan. The passports were checked at the embassy in Switzerland. Approved. And we took off in a completely legal manner to Israel.”
The boy’s family in Italy has filed a petition in a Tel Aviv family court for his return. Their Israeli lawyer said the court had set a hearing for Sept. 29. It is required to make a ruling within six weeks.
A legal source has said prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Pavia had opened a kidnapping investigation. The prosecutors’ office declined to comment.
Israeli police have said they had received a complaint that a minor had been kidnapped and flown to Israel, and had questioned an unidentified 58-year-old man on suspicion of involvement.
Asked why he did not wait for an Italian court to make a decision, Peleg said “I must say that I lost faith in the Italian judicial system.”
Peleg’s family, through a public relations firm, said earlier in a statement that the Italian consul in Israel came to Peleg’s house to meet with Eitan.
“The message from the consul was that the foreign ministries are working to try to find a compromise between the families,” according to the statement.
Magistrates are still investigating why the cable car, on a line connecting Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the nearby Mottarone mountain, plunged to the ground.


Amal Clooney named Sudan adviser to ICC prosecutor

In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Amal Clooney named Sudan adviser to ICC prosecutor

In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
  • The UN says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court’s new prosecutor on Friday named prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney as a special adviser on Sudan’s Darfur conflict.
Clooney has previously been involved in a number of cases at the Hague-based ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.
Her post focusing on Darfur is one of several new special portfolios created by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, a Briton who took office in July.
“I am delighted to welcome such an outstanding group of experts and I am grateful for their willingness to serve as my special advisers,” Khan said in a statement.
Clooney’s husband, the Hollywood actor George Clooney, is a longtime campaigner for human rights in the Darfur region.
The UN says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict.
Fighting broke out when black African rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against deposed dictator Omar Bashir’s Arab-dominated regime.
London-based Amal Clooney represented Darfur victims in a case at the ICC against Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Janjaweed militia — a notorious armed group created by the government.
She has also been involved in a string of human rights cases involving countries including Iraq, Myanmar and the Philippines, and criminal cases covering Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia.
Last year she garnered headlines after resigning her post as a British envoy for media freedom, in protest at the government’s “lamentable” decision to breach its EU divorce treaty.


Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord
Updated 17 September 2021

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord
  • Yair Lapid announced the visit in a conference call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials from Bahrain, UAE and Morocco
  • “This Abraham Accords club is open to new members," Lapid said

JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign minister said Friday that he will visit Bahrain later this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf country following a diplomatic agreement reached last year.
Yair Lapid announced the visit in a conference call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, which signed US-brokered agreements to normalize relations with Israel last year.
The officials hailed the so-called Abraham Accords, which have led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a raft of agreements to boost economic ties. They expressed hope that the new relationships would be deepened and that other nations would follow suit.
“This Abraham Accords club is open to new members,” Lapid said, before announcing that he plans to visit Bahrain by the end of the month. He visited the UAE in June and Morocco in August.
The Biden administration has welcomed the accords brokered by former President Donald Trump’s administration, and has pledged to build on them.
The Palestinians viewed the agreements as a betrayal of their national cause because they further eroded a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should be conditioned on progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Blinken, who hosted the video conference, said “we all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians and to make progress toward the longstanding goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita called the accords a “historic event that is worth commemorating,” but said that relaunching the peace process with the Palestinians is “fundamental.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani said more should be done to showcase the benefits of cooperation.
“We need to demonstrate what genuine regional peace, interdependence and prosperity can mean in practice for the day-to-day lives of all the peoples of the Middle East,” he said.