Turkey considering troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: Report

As the US begins pulling out what remains of its mighty army in Afghanistan, Turkey is also said to be planning an exit amid a surge in violence perpetrated by extremist forces. (AFP file photo)
As the US begins pulling out what remains of its mighty army in Afghanistan, Turkey is also said to be planning an exit amid a surge in violence perpetrated by extremist forces. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 11 May 2021

Turkey considering troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: Report

Turkey considering troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: Report
  • Ankara has provided security to Kabul airport for years as the potential absence of Turkish troops will affect other Western countries’ missions
  • Security at Hamid Karzai International Airport can ensure the opening of Afghanistan to the outside world and prevent the Taliban from gaining ground, expert says

ANKARA: As NATO allies are asking US President Joe Biden and his administration to delay its troop withdrawal date from Afghanistan for an extra couple of months, Turkey informed its NATO allies and the US that it is also considering a withdraw from the country, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Turkish authorities have not yet released any official statement about the WSJ report. 

Turkey has provided security to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul for years. The potential withdrawal of Turkish troops will complicate things as other Western nations are trying to keep their diplomatic missions open in the country following the end of NATO’s longest-ever mission. 

In the absence of an international security provider, foreign contractors will be on their own when it comes to airport security operations if NATO does not provide support. 

On Sunday, at least 30 people — mostly schoolgirls — were killed and 52 people were injured in three blasts that targeted a school in Kabul when students were leaving for the day.

Magdalena Kirchner, director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation office in Kabul, said the Turkish decision is driven by the US withdrawal.

“On one hand, Turkey has an interest in Afghanistan’s stability and has deployed troops there since 2001,” she told Arab News. “But on the other hand, its direct military engagement is tied to NATO’s mission there and public approval has been low traditionally.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Afghanistan. Between 2001 and 2014, Turkey was an active partner in NATO’s Afghanistan mission, which was called the International Security Assistance Force and then the Resolute Support Mission from 2015 until the present. 

“As there is no appetite among other allies for a Resolute Support Mission 2.0 or a similar NATO framework, the withdrawal is inevitable in my opinion,” Kirchner said.

“This does not mean that Turkey’s engagement with Afghanistan would end completely.” 

Experts underline that the Kabul airport is of key importance for ensuring the opening of Afghanistan to the outside world. Humanitarian aid, as well as military flights, have already been channeled through the airport.

But the airport’s security is of utmost importance. Not only for preventing the Taliban from gaining ground in the country but also to support the international organizations and NGOs that are sending humanitarian aid.

According to Kirchner, the importance of commercial air travel between Afghanistan and other countries through ongoing Turkish Airlines flights is extremely high in the war-hit country. 

“A disruption of air travel could put the implementation of pledges for ongoing civilian support severely at risk in a critical phase for the country,” she said. “Efforts to facilitate a smooth handover to Afghan or other international forces are underway and will hopefully be successful.”

The US-backed Afghan peace conference, scheduled to be held from April 24 until May 4 in Istanbul, was postponed until after Ramadan. The Taliban had earlier refused to attend any Afghan peace summit until all foreign forces were pulled out of Afghanistan.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan called on the Taliban to keep its promise and reach a negotiated settlement for lasting peace in Afghanistan. The countries are also urging the Taliban to help launch a political transition with the Afghan government after the US completes its troop withdrawal from the country on Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that spurred the US invasion.

Kirchner thinks Turkey had hoped for more political support from Washington and other allies regarding the Istanbul conference and a possible extension of the NATO mission. 

“Enhanced cooperation pertaining to Afghanistan could certainly have helped alleviate other, more conflictual issues on the transatlantic relationship, but Turkey’s leverage is limited there,” she said.

“Although Turkey has significant inroads in Afghan politics and good relations with a high number of stakeholders, the US remains the most important power broker for the foreseeable future.”

Last December, the Turkish parliament approved a motion to extend the deployment of Turkish troops in Afghanistan for 18 months as part of NATO’s support mission in the war-torn country.


Palestinian dad expects no justice for son killed by troops

Palestinian dad expects no justice for son killed by troops
Updated 1 min 42 sec ago

Palestinian dad expects no justice for son killed by troops

Palestinian dad expects no justice for son killed by troops
WEST BANK: A week after the death of his eldest son, Moayed Al-Alami sat on the sofa on his ground floor patio, protectively hugging and kissing two of his remaining children.
The Israeli military has opened an investigation into the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed Al-Alami who was shot by Israeli soldiers as he rode in the family car. But that is no comfort to his father, who is devastated by his son’s death and has little faith that he will see justice.
“I have no confidence in the investigation until I see the soldiers in court,” he said. The rear of Moayed’s car is riddled with bullet holes and the back seats are still covered in bloodstains.
Mohammed was shot and killed by Israeli forces as he traveled with his father and two siblings in their hometown of Beit Ummar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. His death sparked two days of violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops, resulting in the death of one protester.
Recounting the events of last week, Al-Alami said he had just picked up some snacks for the children, using his car, when Mohammed asked to return to the store.
“Mohammed told me, ‘father you have forgotten something.’ I asked if it was necessary, and he said it was very necessary. So, I told him that we will go back and buy it,’’ said Al-Alami.
Al-Alami said he turned the car around. Moments later, his white Renault was struck by gunfire from the rear, including at least three bullets that he said hit Mohammed. The boy was rushed to hospital and operated on for four hours before he died.
The Israeli military has said soldiers in the area called on the van to stop, and that the forces fired warning shots and only aimed at the vehicle’s tires. Al-Alami said he never heard any warnings. Over 10 bullet holes riddled the vehicle.
The army also said that Al-Alami’s car resembled a vehicle driven by a group of men who were seen burying what turned out to be a dead baby earlier that day.
Al-Alami’s brother — who witnessed the entire event from the balcony — said the two events were not related and that earlier, another family had been burying a stillborn baby in a cemetery.
“The three people who arrived earlier had come to bury a baby that had died in the womb,” Ashraf Al-Alami said.
After the three people had left, he said he began to worry when he saw soldiers arrive. He feared they would mistake the burial site as a crime scene and grow suspicious. That was when his brother’s car approached.
The Israel human rights group B’Tselem this week released what it said was security-camera video of the shooting. In the video, Al-Alami’s van is seen approaching a dip in the road, with a group of Israeli soldiers standing further down a hill.
Al-Alami is seen doing a U-turn before being chased up the street by troops, who are heard shouting at him to stop, before opening fire. The actual shooting is not seen, but at least a dozen shots are heard. B’Tselem said the video shows the family posed no threat to the troops.
The army has said that senior commanders and military police — which investigate suspected wrongdoing by troops— are involved in the probe.
But Moayed said that he did not expect the investigation to lead to anything. He said the military helped transfer the boy to the hospital after the shooting, but that he has not heard from investigators.
And B’Tselem, a major human rights group, grew so frustrated with the military justice system that in 2016 it halted its longtime practice of assisting in investigations. It accuses the army of whitewashing wrongdoing and says soldiers are rarely punished.
In the first seven months of this year, Israeli fire has killed 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank, surpassing the total number of child killings in 2020, according to the advocacy group Defense for Children Palestine.
Israeli soldiers man a watchtower next to Beit Ummar in order to protect traffic going in and out of the nearby Israeli settlement of Karmei Zur.
Mohammed’s funeral the following day resulted in large clashes in which a 20-year-old Palestinian man was killed by Israeli army fire. His funeral was held on Friday, followed by more clashes.
The mayor of Beit Ummar – who is also a member of the extended Al-Alami family — said that most of Beit Ummar’s 17,000 residents attended the boy’s funeral.
‘‘The soldiers did not allow us to bury our child in dignity,’’ said Habis Al-Alami. ‘‘To kill a boy with just bread in his hand. It is a crime, we just want to be treated as human beings.’’

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry
Updated 19 min 21 sec ago

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry
  • New exhibition shows how one of the world’s most glamorous brands drew inspiration from regional designs

PARIS: Having already explored its links with Japan and ancient Egypt, the French luxury goods brand Cartier is now exploring the profound influence that Islamic art has had on the company’s history.

To do so, Cartier turned to the Louvre — home to both the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Department of Islamic Arts. The former hosts the largest collection of jewelry in France, while the latter contains a priceless and historic collection of artworks from the Islamic world.

The result is “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity,” an exhibition that runs in Paris from October 21 to February 20, and will then travel to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) in Texas.

17th Century Court Belt from Iran or India - silk with silver thread - from the Louvre. (Supplied)

Arab News spoke to Evelyne Possémé, chief curator of ancient and modern jewelry at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Judith Henon-Raynaud, curator and deputy director of the Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre — two of the four curators of the exhibition. (The other two curators are Thomas W. Lentz, curator of Islamic and medieval art at the DMA, and Sarah Schleuning, the DMA’s interim chief curator and The Margot B. Perot senior curator of decorative arts and design.)

The exhibition, based on research that began in 2018 at the Louvre into Louis Cartier’s personal collection of Islamic art, consists of more than 500 pieces, including jewelry and other objects from Cartier, along with drawings, books, photos and archival documents tracing the brand’s interest in Islamic arts.

“The museum had acquired two Indian ivory pencil boxes from the early seventeenth century, which were part of this hitherto unknown collection,” Possémé told Arab News.

Cladding panel from Iran in late 14th - 15th century. (Supplied)

The exhibition is organized as a themed chronological tour divided into two parts, the first of which explores the origins of Cartier’s interest in Islamic art and architecture through the cultural backdrop of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and reviews the creative context, as designers and studios searched for sources of inspiration. It includes pieces from Cartier’s library, Louis Cartier’s personal Islamic art collection, and Indian and Iranian jewelry.

The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to pieces inspired by Islamic art, from the start of the 20th century to the present day, and draws heavily on drawings, jewelry and objects from collections belonging to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre, which were part of the first exhibitions devoted to the arts of Islam.

The gallery exhibits some major pieces inspired by Islamic art and as well as animations detailing the composition of the jewels and their patterns.

Tiara, Cartier London, 1936. Platinum, diamonds, turquoise. (Supplied)

From the outset, visitors find themselves immersed in these shapes and motifs, with three of Cartier’s iconic creations set against masterpieces of Islamic art.

“The discovery of Islamic art at the beginning of the twentieth century had a significant impact on Cartier’s creators,” Henon-Raynaud explained. “Although famed for its garland-style jewelry, from 1904 onwards Cartier began developing pieces inspired by the geometric patterns of Islamic art found in books about ornamentation and architecture.”

The two curators cite enameled brick decorations originating from Central Asia and stepped merlons in the Art Deco style (a reference to the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925) as early influences on Cartier’s shift in its design philosophy.

Bib necklace 1947 - twisted 18- and 20-karat gold with diamonds and amethysts. (Supplied)

“This source of inspiration is perceptible throughout the twentieth century in the creations of the house,” explained Possémé. “They were sometimes easily identifiable, at other times broken down and redesigned to make their source untraceable.”

The House of Cartier, founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, initially specialized in selling jewels and artworks. It was only when Louis-François’ son Alfred took over the management of the company in 1874 — supported by his eldest son Louis in 1898 — that the house began to design its own jewelry, while continuing its activity of reselling antique pieces.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Paris was a hub for trade in Islamic art. Thanks to major exhibitions organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1903 and then in Munich in 1910, Louis Cartier discovered these new shapes that gradually permeated French society.

1924 head ornament - Cartier New York - Platinum - white and pink gold - diamonds and feathers. (Supplied)

Jacques Cartier, an enthusiastic traveler, visited India in 1911 to meet various Maharajas. The gemstone trade was in full swing by that time, and allowed Cartier to build a strong relationship with the Indian princes, so he collected many antique and contemporary jewelry items, which he would either resell unchanged, use as inspiration, or dismantle for incorporation into new designs.

“The influence of Islamic art is also clear in (Cartier’s) use of bold color ranges — lapis lazuli blue, emerald green and turquoise, for example — at a time when jewels tended to be created using diamonds in monochrome settings,” Henon-Raynaud said. “Finally, shapes and construction of jewelry from Persia and India gave rise to technical innovations such platinum mountings, in order to gain flexibility.”


Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
Updated 24 min 16 sec ago

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
  • The 25-year-old will face Eray Samdan of Turkey on Thursday afternoon knowing at least a bronze medal is now guaranteed

A four-match winning streak has seen Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa of Jordan confirm a semifinal place, and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal, in the Karate Kumite -67kg competition on Thursday morning at the Nippon Budokan arena in the Japanese capital.

He will now fight Eray Samdan of Turkey in their last four match (from 3pm KSA). While the winners of the semifinals meet in the gold medal match, the losers will each receive a bronze medal.

The 25-year-old Al-Masatfa kicked of his participation in Pool B with an 8-3 win over  Kalvis Kalnins  of Latvia, and followed that up with 7-4 win over the Frenchman Steven da Costa.

After his bout against Angelo Crescenzo was cancelled due to the Italian pulling out of the competition, Al-Masatfa continued his winning run by beating Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee Olympic Team 3-0.

The Jordanian rounded up his Pool B matches with 4-1 win over Andres Eduardo Madera Delgado of Venezuela to secure his semi-final spot.

Meanwhile, Ali Elsawy of Egypt, fighting in the Kumite -67 Pool A, lost his opening bout 4-3 to Japan’s Naoto Sago, before losing his second match 4-1 to eventual semifinalist Samdan.

The 26-year-old Egyptian got back to winning way when he narrowly overcame Firdovsi Farzaliyev of Azerbaijan 1-0.

However, Elsawy lost his last Pool A match 3-1 to Darkhan Assadilov of Kazakhstan to exit the competition.


SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase
Updated 21 min 32 sec ago

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase
  • Net profit jumped 57 percent to $2.04 billion in Q2
  • Selling prices increased 10 percent, sales volumes rose 3 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) reported a surge in second-quarter profit as it sold more chemicals at higher prices than the previous quarter amid an increase in crude prices.

Net profit jumped 57 percent to SR7.64 billion ($2.04 billion) in the three months to the end of June as revenue rose 13 percent to SR42.42 billion, SABIC said in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange.

The Middle East’s largest petrochemicals producer posted a SR12.51 billion first-half profit on sales of SR79.95 billion, compared with a loss of SR3.27 billion on sales of SR54.81 billion in the same period last year.

Selling prices increased by 10 percent in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, while sales volumes rose 3 percent. Over the first half, sales prices were 48 percent higher and volumes were 2 percent lower compared with last year.

“SABIC’s financial performance in the second quarter was strong – continuing the margin improvement seen during the first quarter of 2021,” Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan, vice chairman and CEO of SABIC, said in a statement to the Tadawul. “This was driven by higher sales volumes and prices, supported by a rise in oil prices and a healthy supply and demand balance for most of our key products as the global economy continued its path to recovery.”

SABIC achieved $230 million of synergies with Saudi Aramco since June 2020 when Aramco acquired a 70 percent stake in SABIC, driven by combining their purchasing power and sharing warehousing and logistics facilites.

In the second half of 2021, SABIC expects demand will continue to be strong in line with the recovery of the global economy. Margins will moderate, but remain healthy as oil prices and
feedstock costs remain elevated while existing supply constraints ease and new supply capacity comes on line, it said in the filing.


Sydney suffers deadliest day of pandemic as lockdown nears seventh week

Sydney suffers deadliest day of pandemic as lockdown nears seventh week
Updated 16 min 51 sec ago

Sydney suffers deadliest day of pandemic as lockdown nears seventh week

Sydney suffers deadliest day of pandemic as lockdown nears seventh week
  • Sydney struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta virus strain
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under fire for a sluggish national immunization drive

SYDNEY: Sydney recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday as authorities launched an investigation into a beach party suspected of spreading the virus into a region outside the city, triggering a snap one-week lockdown there.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city which is nearing its seventh week of a planned nine-week lockdown, reported five deaths and a record daily rise in infections as it struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta virus strain.
Four of the five people who died were unvaccinated while one had one dose, state health officials said, as they implored residents to get inoculated as early as possible.
The nearby Hunter region, home to New South Wales state’s second-largest city of Newcastle, was locked down from Thursday evening after six new cases. The orders place an additional 615,000 people under strict stay-at-home orders, raising the total to 6 million people in the state.
Together with the northern city of Brisbane and it surrounds, about a third of Australia’s 25 million population is under stay-home orders.
Officials suspect the virus in the Hunter region spread from a beach party near Newcastle after people traveled from Sydney, an apparent violation of the city’s lockdown.
“Our strongest focus ... is getting to the bottom of how the disease was transmitted and introduced into Newcastle,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told reporters in Sydney.
New South Wales reported a record 262 new cases, most of them in Sydney, exceeding the previous daily high of 239 on Sunday, with officials blaming the Delta strain for a significant number of younger people in hospitals.
“As older people become vaccinated ... COVID will predominantly affect the unvaccinated, in this case younger people,” Alexandra Martiniuk, epidemiologist at the University Of Sydney, told Reuters.
Sydney is in shock after the death of a healthy 27-year-old man from the coronavirus on Wednesday — the state’s youngest on record.
With around 35,200 COVID-19 cases and 932 deaths, Australia has avoided the high caseloads of other developed countries but its vaccination figures are among the lowest, with only 20 percent of its population over 16 fully vaccinated.
New South Wales health officials are imploring residents, especially people above 60, to get inoculated.
The five deaths in Sydney included three men in their 60s, one man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak in New South Wales to 21.
Health experts expect the country to endure stop-and-start lockdowns until it reaches a high vaccination coverage although New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she might ease some restrictions in Sydney when half the state’s adult population get vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also under fire for a sluggish national immunization drive, which critics say has forced Sydney into the months-long lockdown, shut large swathes of the economy and likely tipped Australia into its second recession in as many years.
“I’m a fortunate one to be in essential service, so I’m still working, still getting paid. For other people it’s a mixed bag. Some people are taking it really well and others not so well,” Keirom O’Donoughue, a pharmacy salesperson in one of the worst-affected suburbs of Bankstown in Sydney, told Reuters.
Neighboring Victoria and Queensland states are also on alert after new cases rose.
Victoria, which ended a lockdown only weeks ago, reported eight new cases, raising the prospect of more tight curbs.
In Brisbane, another 16 COVID-19 cases were reported, the same as the previous two days.