Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan
Displaced children play on a metal fence at the elementary school where they now live with their families in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. (AP)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of Tigray refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s army said that a large group of fighters, allegedly members of the former ruling party of the conflict-torn Tigray region, had been “destroyed” attempting to enter the country from neighboring Sudan.

Brig. Gen. Tesfaye Ayalew told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Friday that a force of some 320 had tried to enter Ethiopia via the town of Humera in northern Tigray.

“Some of them perished by thirst on the road, a portion was captured, and those who refused to surrender were destroyed by the army,” he said.

Tigray was plunged into conflict in November last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated the country’s politics for decades.

While he promised a brief military campaign, fighting continues with no end in sight, with evidence of massacres, brutal sexual violence and fears of humanitarian catastrophe.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone, and the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile.

Ayalew, referring to the force as the “junta,” which is how the Ethiopian government refers to the TPLF, said it was led by “US-based former Ethiopia defense forces officers who turned traitors and another group based in Khartoum.”

He alleged a military agreement “reveals the junta has been working secretly together with a few Sudanese leaders and army officers as well as Ethiopia’s enemies.”

He described the destruction of the force, details of which could not be independently confirmed by AFP, as “a big victory, for our army and our country.”

AFP has reached out to the Sudanese government, which was not immediately available for comment. Khartoum has previously denied accusations it is helping forces in Tigray.

“We are deeply concerned about increasing political and ethnic polarization throughout the country,” the State Department said Friday.

Ethiopia has again delayed its national election after some opposition parties said they would not take part and as conflict in

the Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating the prime minister’s efforts to centralize power.

The head of the national elections board, Birtukan Mideksa, in a meeting with political parties’ representatives on Saturday said the June 5 vote in Africa’s second most populous country would be postponed until a yet-unknown date, citing the need to finish printing ballots, training staffers and compiling voters’ information.

The election board has said some 36.2 million people have registered to vote. It was hoped that up to 50 million would do so.

Ethiopia last year delayed the vote, the first major electoral test for Abiy, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That heightened tensions with the Tigray region’s leaders, who declared that the prime minister’s mandate had ended and defiantly held a regional vote of their own that Ethiopia called illegal.

The prime minister, who introduced sweeping political reforms after taking office in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, has repeatedly vowed that this election would be free and fair. Abiy will keep his post if his Prosperity Party wins a majority of seats in the national assembly.

But questions about the vote have been growing. 

The campaign director for one of Ethiopia’s largest opposition parties, Yilkal Getnet with the Hibir Ethiopia Democratic Party, said his party has long believed the country is not ready to hold an election at this time.

“There are lots of peace and security challenges across the country in addition to the border issue with Sudan,” Yilkal said, adding that the safety of millions is in question. 

“As opposed to the ruling party’s thinking, we don’t believe that the election will solve these problems. A national dialogue on a range of issues should come first.”


United Nations urges Israel to halt building of settlements immediately

Palestinian demonstrators hold a night protest against Israeli settlements in Beita in the West Bank on June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinian demonstrators hold a night protest against Israeli settlements in Beita in the West Bank on June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Updated 25 June 2021

United Nations urges Israel to halt building of settlements immediately

Palestinian demonstrators hold a night protest against Israeli settlements in Beita in the West Bank on June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
  • UN officials report on implementation of a 2016 Security Council resolution that declared settlements have “no legal validity"
  • They also called on Israeli authorities to end the demolition of Palestinian homes and other property and the displacement of Palestinians — another flashpoint

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations on Thursday accused Israel of flagrantly violating international law by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying settlements are illegal and urging the country’s new government to halt their enlargement immediately.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland reported on implementation of a 2016 Security Council resolution that declared settlements have “no legal validity.” It demanded a halt to their expansion in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands the Palestinians want to include in a future state.
Wennesland said in a briefing to the council on Guterres’ 12-page report that he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s approval of a plan to add 540 housing units to the Har Homa settlement in east Jerusalem as well as the establishment of settlement outposts. He said that is “illegal also under Israeli law.”
“I again underscore, in no uncertain terms, that Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law,” the UN envoy said. “They are a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
“The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately,” Wennesland said.
Israel disputes its settlements are illegal.
Both Guterres and Wennesland also called on Israeli authorities to end the demolition of Palestinian homes and other property and the displacement of Palestinians — another flashpoint — “and to approve plans that would enable these communities to build legally and address their development needs.”

Palestinian demonstrators hold a night protest against Israeli settlements in Beita in the West Bank on June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)

The December 2016 resolution, which the United States abstained on in the final weeks of the Obama administration, also called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians and urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.
It also called on all parties to launch negotiations on final status issues and urged intensified international and regional diplomatic efforts to help end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace.
Guterres and Wennesland made clear that 4½ years after the resolution’s adoption, none of these appeals have been met.
Wennesland said the period between March and June covered in the report “witnessed an alarming increase in the level of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, including hostilities between Israel and factions in Gaza at a scale and intensity not seen in years.”
He said the cessation of hostilities after last month’s 11-day Gaza war “remains very fragile,” adding that the United Nations is working closely with Israel, the Palestinians and partners including Egypt “to solidify a cease-fire, allow the entry of urgent humanitarian assistance and stabilize the situation in Gaza.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that more than four years have passed since the Security Council approved its resolution, but none of the appeals have been met. (Reuters photo)

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has demanded significant easing of the Israeli blockade. Israel has said it won’t tolerate even relatively minor attacks from Gaza, including the launch of incendiary balloons, which triggered Israeli airstrikes last week.
“I urge all sides to refrain from unilateral steps and provocations, take steps to reduce tensions, and allow these efforts to succeed,” Wennesland told the council. “Everyone must do their part to facilitate ongoing discussions to stabilize the situation on the ground and avoid another devastating escalation in Gaza.”
He called on all Palestinian factions “to make serious efforts to ensure the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate, democratic, national government,” saying that Gaza must remain part of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.
During the March to June reporting period, Guterres said 295 Palestinians, including 42 women and 73 children, were killed by Israeli security forces and 10,149 were injured during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, air strikes, shelling and other incidents in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The UN chief said 90 members of the Israeli security forces and 857 Israeli civilians were injured by Palestinians during the same period in clashes, incidents in which stones and firebombs were thrown, the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars and other incidents.
The Gaza war was the worst escalation of hostilities since 2014, with Palestinian armed groups firing over 4,000 rockets and projectiles toward Israel and Israeli forces carrying out over 1,500 strikes from air, land and sea across the Gaza Strip, Guterres said, quoting Israeli sources. During the conflict, 259 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 41 women, while nine Israelis, including two children, were killed along with three foreigners. Hundreds of Israelis were wounded.


Palestinian envoy to UN says Gaza rebuild requires permanent ceasefire

Palestinian envoy to UN says Gaza rebuild requires permanent ceasefire
Updated 25 June 2021

Palestinian envoy to UN says Gaza rebuild requires permanent ceasefire

Palestinian envoy to UN says Gaza rebuild requires permanent ceasefire
  • Donor countries need guarantee of no further violence, diplomat tells Arab News

AMMAN: The rebuilding of Gaza requires a permanent ceasefire and a serious effort to rekindle Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour told Arab News in a wide-ranging interview.

“Most donor countries are not willing to support a rebuilding process without a guarantee that they will not have to go back again after a possible new round of violence,” said Mansour. “A lot of effort is needed from all parties to ensure that the ceasefire becomes sustainable.”

He added that Egypt, Israel, Palestine and the UN were “trying to find a way to cement the currently fragile ceasefire through political agreements.”

“Without a political horizon that will require the involvement of the quartet (America, Russia, the European Union and the UN) plus (others), it will be difficult to sustain the ceasefire and we will be back to square one,” he said, adding that, once that process is complete, serious negotiations for a lasting peace must begin immediately.

The progress — or lack thereof — made in these areas may become apparent during Thursday’s session discussing the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that deals with Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories, at which the secretary-general “will need to say whether Israel is abiding by the resolution or not,” Mansour explained.

That meeting will be the first security council session to be held since the formation of Israel’s new government, headed by right-wing Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, which has already approved a number of new settlement expansions.

Mansour, who helped draft Resolution 2334, told Arab News that it contains a number of important articles that support Palestinian rights.

“Unlike UN Security Council Resolution 242, which left the issue of Israeli withdrawals vague, UNSC 2334 is clear that Israel must withdraw from all areas occupied in June 1967,” he said.

In light of Israeli attempts to establish settlements in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the resolution specifically bars any settlement in the holy city, he added.

“In addition to stating that the Occupied Territories include all areas captured in June 1967, the resolution specifically states that East Jerusalem is one of the areas that Israel is not allowed to settle in,” Mansour said.

The Palestinian envoy also noted that Article 5 of the resolution calls on all UN member states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” That means that no member state should deal with any Israeli institutions operating in settlements, Mansour claims.

Palestinians have also called on UN member states not to treat settlers living illegally in the Occupied Territories in the same way as they do Israelis living inside the green line. A number of countries including South Africa and Denmark have amended their policies in this regard, Mansour told Arab News.

Palestinian land expert Khalil Tofakji told Voice of Palestine that the new Israeli government has not changed the country’s policies regarding settlements.

“Israeli governments have a unified position … which includes establishing new settlements and expanding existing ones,” he said.

An open debate is scheduled to take place at the UN Security Council in New York next month to discuss all issues relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Mansour said.


Raisi’s hard-line stance ‘could spell trouble’

Raisi’s hard-line stance ‘could spell trouble’
Updated 25 June 2021

Raisi’s hard-line stance ‘could spell trouble’

Raisi’s hard-line stance ‘could spell trouble’
  • President to complicate West’s dealings with Iran

PARIS: The election of a loyal acolyte of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iranian president could ease the West’s dealings with the Islamic Republic due to a streamlined power structure in Tehran but Ebrahim Raisi’s hard-line stance could also spell trouble, analysts say.

Under pressure to boost an economy crippled by US sanctions, Raisi is not expected to block EU efforts to revive a 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear ambitions by bringing the US back into the accord.

But, according to analysts, his hostility toward the US means Raisi is unlikely to respond to Western demands for a wider deal covering Iran’s ballistic program, meddling in neighboring countries and its detention of Western nationals.

“Raisi, like Khamenei, is suspicious and skeptical of Western intentions vis-a-vis Iran and will be cautious about future Western engagement,” said Sanam Vakil, senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank.

“This foreshadows a continued pattern of anti-American resistance, economic nationalism and internal repression, punctuated by moments of pragmatism,” she added.

“A more monolithic power structure will be less bogged down by infighting, which often impeded Rouhani’s agenda and that of his envoys,” said International Crisis Group analysts Ali Vaez and Naysan Rafati in a note on the election.

They said Raisi is set to be the first president under Khamenei whose views have “mirrored” those of the supreme leader.

Before Raisi, Khamenei has worked with four presidents — all served the maximum two consecutive terms and none saw completely eye-to-eye with the supreme leader.

Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997) was a longstanding political rival of Khamenei, Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) a reformist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) a maverick who fell out with Khamenei in his second term and Rouhani, an advocate of better ties with the West.

Raisi also enters office as the first Iranian president to be personally sanctioned by the US under a November 2019 executive order that cited his record on human rights.

“This dynamic is sure to complicate dialogue between Iran and the West in the years ahead, even if his administration is likely to support the restoration of the nuclear deal for now,” said Ali Reza Eshraghi in a report on the elections for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Painstaking talks in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal have made progress in recent days, raising the prospect that an accord could be reached before Raisi takes office.

Sanctions would be gradually lifted if the US, which quit the accord under Donald Trump, re-enters the agreement, allowing the energy-rich nation to begin realizing its economic potential.

“It is a feasible vision but it will require the lifting of sanctions. That is why the implementation of the JCPOA will be important, even for Raisi, even for the IRGC,” said Bijan Khajjehpour, managing partner at Vienna-based consulting firm Eurasian Nexus Partners.

But any hope of a entirely new nuclear deal, let alone one that covers wider issues, does not appear realistic for now.

“I see no prospect of serious talks about (a) longer and stronger” deal, said Suzanne Maloney, director of the foreign policy program at the US think tank the Brookings Institution.


Yemen PM wants to maximize oil derivatives grant from Saudi Arabia

Yemen PM wants to maximize oil derivatives grant from Saudi Arabia
Updated 25 June 2021

Yemen PM wants to maximize oil derivatives grant from Saudi Arabia

Yemen PM wants to maximize oil derivatives grant from Saudi Arabia
  • 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives arrived Wednesday and will meet the demands of power plants in Yemen’s southeastern province
  • Supreme Energy Council conducts a comprehensive assessment of the governorates benefiting from the fuel grant

RIYADH: Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed has called on governorates to submit monthly reports and maximize an oil derivative grant provided by Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom announced on Wednesday that the second batch of oil derivatives had arrived at the port of Mukalla in Hadramout. The 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives will meet the demands of power plants in the southeastern province.
In order to receive the third batch, Saeed wants governorates to honor the commitments agreed upon with the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY).
The prime minister’s comments came during a meeting of the Supreme Energy Council in Yemen headed by Abdulmalik Saeed, in which he conducted a comprehensive assessment of the governorates benefiting from the grant. 
During the meeting, Minister of Electricity and Energy Anwar Kalashat presented a report on the distribution of the first two batches of the oil derivatives grant provided by the Kingdom. The report also included the commitment of the beneficiary governorates to submit monthly reports detailing the reforms that have been carried out.
The first batch of the oil derivatives arrived at the Yemeni port city of Aden on May 8. The shipments are being carried out in cooperation with the Yemeni government and local authorities to operate more than 80 Yemeni power plants at a total cost of $442 million.


Arab League leads condemnation of Honduras opening embassy in Jerusalem

Arab League leads condemnation of Honduras opening embassy in Jerusalem
Updated 25 June 2021

Arab League leads condemnation of Honduras opening embassy in Jerusalem

Arab League leads condemnation of Honduras opening embassy in Jerusalem
  • Arab League warns of its repercussions and setbacks on Arab relations with Honduras
  • Arab Parliament says the move has no legal effect and will not change the legal and historical status of Jerusalem

AMMAN: The Arab League on Thursday condemned the opening of Honduras’ embassy in the occupied city of Jerusalem, calling it a grave violation of international law and relevant international legitimacy resolutions.
The Arab League said that the “existing legal and historical status of the city of Jerusalem, including UN Security Council resolutions No. 476 and 478 of 1980, confirm that East Jerusalem is an occupied Arab Palestinian territory, and it is prohibited to transfer any embassies to the occupation government.”
The Arab League’s Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories Affairs, Saeed Abu Ali, said in a statement that the opening of the embassy in occupied Jerusalem is considered a blatant attack on the rights, land and sanctities of the Palestinian people, warning of its repercussions and setbacks on Arab relations with Honduras.
Honduras transferred its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Thursday as part of efforts to boost ties with the Jewish state, becoming the fourth country to do so.
The central American nation had already opened a commercial office in Jerusalem, breaking a decades-long policy of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The country also has the second largest Palestinian community in Latin America, after Chile.
The Arab Parliament also condemned the move, saying it had no legal effect and will not change the legal and historical status of Jerusalem, which it said is one of the issues to be determined through negotiations between the concerned parties, and not by unilateral decisions that violate the resolutions of international legitimacy and international consensus.
The Arab Parliament called on the Honduran government and parliament to reverse this step and adhere to the state of international consensus regarding the occupied city of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and most countries have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians’ foreign ministry, in a statement carried by the official WAFA news agency, condemned the Honduras embassy move “in the strongest terms.”
It said: “It is particularly unfortunate that the President of Honduras has decided to be on the wrong side of history.”
The status of Jerusalem remains one of the biggest flash-points in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jordan also confirmed its rejection of the move and said any measures aimed at changing the status of the city are null and illegal.
Foreign ministry spokesman Daifallah Al-Fayez said the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace is through a two-state solution that embodies the independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with occupied Jerusalem as its capital, based on international law and resolutions of international legitimacy.
Amman also condemned Israeli authorities decision to approve the construction of new housing units in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Al-Fayez rejected the decision and said it constitutes a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions.
He added that Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, whether building or expanding settlements, confiscating land or displacing Palestinians, is illegal and undermines efforts to calm tensions and achieve a comprehensive and just peace, and the chances of a two-state solution.
(With AFP)