Egyptian, Djiboutian presidents hold talks over ongoing water dispute with Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 28 May 2021

Egyptian, Djiboutian presidents hold talks over ongoing water dispute with Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • El-Sisi and Guelleh discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis, Red Sea security and ways to strengthen and develop bilateral relations
  • Leaders also stress ‘strategic partnership’ on fighting terror in the Horn of Africa

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held talks on Thursday with his counterpart in Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, as part of Cairo’s diplomatic attempts to build more African alliances amid an ongoing water dispute with Ethiopia.

The Egyptian and Djiboutian leaders discussed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute and the Red Sea security.

It was the first time El-Sisi had visited Djibouti as the Egyptian president discussed and exchanged views on the most important developments regarding regional issues of common interest. He also confirmed that constructive bilateral discussions were held with the Djiboutian president.

Both leaders stressed their “strategic partnership” on fighting terror in the Horn of Africa and underscored their cooperation over security issues in the Red Sea and the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait.

With the aim of enhancing stability in Arab and African surroundings, the two presidents agreed to intensify efforts in the field of combating extremist ideology.

“Our bilateral discussions today were about the exceptional circumstances that the East and Horn of Africa region are going through,” El-Sisi said. “We are experiencing a number of conflicts along with the challenges of stabilizing security and stability in some of its countries.”

The talks dealt with ways to strengthen and develop bilateral relations between Egypt and Djibouti at various political, economic, security and military levels.

“We agreed on the importance of intensifying cooperation between the two countries regarding the security of the Red Sea, as an important strategic passageway of great importance to both sides,” El-Sisi said in a joint press conference.

“I also reviewed GERD developments, which is an issue that affects the vital interests of the entire region.”

The president said he stressed the significance of reaching a fair and balanced agreement on the dam at the earliest possible opportunity. Ethiopia began building the 1.8 kilometer-long dam in 2011.

The agreement should fulfill the interests of all countries and peoples of the region, the president said.

“I also affirmed Egypt's rejection of any effort to impose a fait accompli through unilateral measures that do not take into account the interests and rights of the two downstream countries,” El-Sisi said.

The two sides also agreed to focus on ways of increasing the rates of trade exchange between the two countries, as well as intensifying training programs provided by the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development.

El-Sisi indicated that he and Guelleh agreed on the need to increase Egyptian investments in Djibouti and allow Egyptian companies to contribute to infrastructure projects.

The leaders also agreed on the importance of expediting the procedures for the establishment of the Egyptian logistics zone in Djibouti during the coming period to facilitate the export of various Egyptian goods.

They aim to strengthen cooperation in the priority sectors, especially in the field of transport and linking ports, as well as in the field of fish farming.

In the field of health, coordination is also underway between the two sides to establish an Egyptian hospital in Djibouti.


Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested
Updated 30 July 2021

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested
  • The move comes amidst a surge in infections with around 1,104 positive cases registered on Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding COVID-19 vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on Friday.
Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours, it added.
The move comes amidst a surge in infections with around 1,104 positive cases registered on Thursday compared to a few hundred a day in previous months.
Lebanon’s cases peaked when a total lockdown was enforced in January after hospitals became overwhelmed amid a crippling financial crisis, with medicines running low and frequent power cuts.
The country gradually re-opened over the spring.
Lebanon’s vaccination drive has been slow with only around 18 percent of the population fully vaccinated.


EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions
Updated 25 min 57 sec ago

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions
  • In a statement it said the framework provided for the possibility of imposing sanctions on those responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon
  • The sanctions regime could see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes

PARIS: The European Union said on Friday it had adopted a legal framework for a sanctions regime targeting Lebanese individuals and entities after a year of crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation and food and fuel shortages.
In a statement it said the framework provided for the possibility of imposing sanctions on those responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon.
Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians, part of broader international efforts to force a stable government capable of carrying out crucial reforms to emerge from political chaos and economic collapse following a blast that ravaged Beirut port.
"It is, however, of the utmost importance that the Lebanese leadership put aside their differences and work together to form a government and enact the measures required to steer the country towards a sustainable recovery," the EU statement said.
The EU cautioned earlier in July that the sanctions measures would not be immediately implemented.
The sanctions regime could see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes, although it may also decide to not list anybody immediately. Diplomats have said targets are not likely to be decided before the end of the summer.
EU persons and entities are also forbidden from making funds available to those listed, the statement said.
Criteria for EU sanctions would include corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial misdeeds and human rights abuses.


FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment
Updated 30 July 2021

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment
  • Questions remain unanswered, including how a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate was left unsafely stored in the capital for years
  • The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing more than 200 people

WASHINGTON: The amount of ammonium nitrate that blew up at Beirut port last year was one fifth of the shipment unloaded there in 2013, the FBI concluded after the blast, adding to suspicions that much of the cargo had gone missing.
As the first anniversary approaches on Aug. 4, major questions remain unanswered, including how a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate — which can be used to make fertilizer or bombs — was left unsafely stored in a capital city for years.
The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing more than 200 people, wounding thousands, and devastating swathes of Beirut.
The FBI’s Oct. 7, 2020 report, which was seen by Reuters this week, estimates around 552 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded that day, much less than the 2,754 tons that arrived on a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2013.
The FBI report does not give any explanation as to how the discrepancy arose, or where the rest of the shipment may have gone.
In response to a detailed request for comment, an FBI spokesperson referred Reuters to the Lebanese authorities.
FBI investigators came to Beirut after the blast at Lebanon’s request.
A senior Lebanese official who was aware of the FBI report and its findings said the Lebanese authorities agreed with the Bureau on the quantity that exploded.
Many officials in Lebanon have previously said in private they believe a lot of the shipment was stolen.
The ammonium nitrate was going from Georgia to Mozambique on a Russian-leased cargo ship when the captain says he was instructed to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut and take on extra cargo.
The ship arrived in Beirut in November 2013 but never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute over unpaid port fees and ship defects. No one ever came forward to claim the shipment.
The senior Lebanese official said there were no firm conclusions as to why the quantity that exploded was less than the original shipment. One theory was that part of it was stolen. A second theory was that only part of the shipment detonated, with the rest blown out to sea, the official said.
The FBI report said “an approximate amount reaching around 552 metric tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in warehouse 12.”
It noted the warehouse was large enough to house the 2,754 ton shipment, which was stored in one-ton bags, but added “it is not logical that all of them were present at the time of the explosion.”


Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
Updated 30 July 2021

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
  • Parliamentarian Yassin Ayari’s wife said security arrested him for criticizing Tunisian President on Facebook

TUNIS: Tunisian security forces arrested a member of parliament at his home on Friday, his wife said, after he criticised President Kais Saied on Facebook and called his seizure of governing powers a coup.
Yassin Ayari, who represents a small party in parliament, has previously expressed frequent criticism of Saied, who on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.
Neither the security forces nor the judiciary were immediately available for comment on his arrest.
Ayari's wife, Cyrine Fitouri, said by phone that about 20 men in plain clothes who introduced themselves as members of a presidential security unit had raided their home earlier on Friday and used violence as they detained him.
"They took him forcefully while his mother was shouting," she said, adding that they had told the family not to film them as they took him away.
Saied on Thursday said he would uphold freedoms and rights of Tunisians as the United States urged him to return the country to "the democratic path" and key civil society groups said he must uphold the constitution.
His actions appear to have widespread popular support in Tunisia, where years of misgovernance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been aggravated this year by a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.
When he announced his seizure of governing powers on Sunday he also said he would take over public prosecutions and lifted the immunity of parliament members.
The judiciary, which has declared its political independence, said this week it had previously opened investigations into three political parties that have opposed Saied, and has now started investigations into several lawmakers.


Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
Updated 30 July 2021

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
  • Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 starts Monday
  • Over 20 per cent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot

NICOSIA: Cyprus decided Friday to expand its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to cover children aged 12 to 15, as authorities tackle a fourth wave of coronavirus.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 would start Monday.
“The vaccination will be voluntary and with the necessary consent of the parents or legal guardians,” he said.
“Already several European Union countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, and Greece, vaccinate children aged 12-15 to achieve greater protection of the population,” he told reporters.
Children will be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
Over 20 percent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot.
“The only way to stop new aggressive Covid-19 variants is to vaccinate,” said Hadjipantelas.
Cyprus is experiencing a new surge in cases, peaking at 1,152 on 15 July.
The surge is blamed on the more potent Delta variant and a low vaccination rate among the under 30s.
In a bid to contain the spike, the cabinet decided Friday that unvaccinated visitors and tourists staying longer than seven days will need to take a PCR test after a week’s stay.
Currently, there are no restrictions on vaccinated tourists entering the country.
The island has endured three national lockdowns in the past 16 months, and the government is trying to avoid another one to save the economy.
Hospitals have postponed all non-emergency operations as Covid wards reach capacity.
The health ministry said Cyprus has inoculated 73 percent of the eligible population with a first jab, and 64 percent are fully vaccinated.
The target is to reach “herd immunity” of 80 percent by the end of August.
Government-controlled southern Cyprus has registered over 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 416 deaths since the pandemic reached its shores in March 2020.
Wearing face masks and social distancing are compulsory.