UN urges Yemen factions to ‘make breakthrough’ toward peace 

UN urges Yemen factions to ‘make breakthrough’ toward peace 
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during a press conference following talks with US special envoy for Yemen and German Foreign Minister at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on April 12, 2021. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2021

UN urges Yemen factions to ‘make breakthrough’ toward peace 

UN urges Yemen factions to ‘make breakthrough’ toward peace 
  • Griffiths discussed with the Houthis the commitment to a ceasefire and the resumption of peace negotiations
  • Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

AL-MUKALLA: Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy to Yemen, on Friday urged warring factions in Yemen to seize the available opportunities and make concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. 

Griffiths’ appeal comes as his latest efforts to convince the Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthis to accept his peace plan, known as the Joint Declaration, reached a deadlock. 

“My recent meetings, as well as the continued international and regional support, show that the parties could still seize this opportunity and make a breakthrough toward resolving the conflict,” Griffiths said in a statement.

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam on Thursday met Griffiths after refusing to meet him during his previous visit to the Omani capital. 

The US envoy Tim Lenderking has previously criticized the Houthis for snubbing the UN Yemen envoy and refusing to comply with peace ideas and pressing ahead with their deadly offensive on Yemen’s central city of Marib. 

In his statement, Griffiths said that he met the Houthi negotiator and senior Omani officials in Muscat where he discussed the UN proposal for opening Sanaa airport, lifting restrictions on Hodeidah port and putting into place a nationwide cease-fire. 

The Houthis demand operating unlimited and unchecked flights from and into Sanaa airport to destinations including Iran, Syria and Lebanon, lifting restrictions on Hodeidah seaports and halting Arab coalition airstrikes before they put into place the truce and stop their offensive on Marib. 

In Riyadh, a senior Yemeni government official, who preferred anonymity, told Arab News that the government told Griffiths during his visit to Riyadh last week that the government insists on limited and checked flights from Sanaa airport and that airstrikes would stop after the Houthis first bring an end to their offensive on Marib. 

On Wednesday, official news agency SABA reported that Yemen’s Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer and Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik met Griffiths in Riyadh and discussed with him the impact of the Houthis offensive on Marib and their military operations on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Griffiths “thanked” the Yemeni government for positively responding to peace ideas to end the war, SABA said. 

On the battlefields, fighting has largely subsided over the past 48 hours in the central province of Marib after the Houthis failed to advance on the ground amid strong resistance from army troops and allied tribesmen. 

Ten days ago, three military sources told Arab News that the Houthi offensive on Marib had weakened as the rebels suffered heavy casualties, defections and attritions. 

Thousands of combatants have been killed in the central province of Marib since February when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to seize control of the oil and gas-rich city of Marib, Yemen government’s last bastion in northern Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Arab coalition intercepted a Houthi drone targeting the southern region of Saudi Arabia, state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

The coalition said that it continues to take precautions to protect civilians as the militia continues to target them, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s civil defense said on Wednesday that several missiles fired by the militia from inside Yemen landed in the Kingdom.

Lt. Col. Mohannad bin Jasser Zailai, deputy media spokesman for the Civil Defense Directorate in Jazan region, said that authorities found five missiles near a main road of one of the border villages in Jazan.

The spokesman said that no casualties were reported.

The Houthis have struck Abha airport several times in recent years, killing one person, injuring dozens and on one occasion causing a passenger aircraft to catch fire.


New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
Updated 26 min 18 sec ago

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem march by Jewish nationalists poses immediate challenge to the new coalition

JERUSALEM: Veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power in Israel on Monday to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett but remained defiant as the patchwork government faced tensions with Palestinians over a planned Jewish nationalist march.
Minutes after meeting Bennett, Netanyahu repeated a pledge to topple the new government approved on Sunday by a 60-59 vote in parliament.
“It will happen sooner than you think,” Netanyahu, 71, who spent a record 12 straight years in office, said in public remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party.
Formation of the alliance of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, with little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, capped coalition-building efforts after a March 23 election, Israel’s fourth poll in two years.
Instead of the traditional toasts marking Bennett’s entry into the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu held a low-key meeting there with the former defense chief, who heads the nationalist Yamina party, to brief him on government business.
“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
The government was already facing a sensitive decision over whether to approve a flag-waving procession planned for Tuesday by Jewish nationalists through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the event, with memories of clashes with Israeli police still fresh from last month in contested Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and in a neighborhood of the city where Palestinians face eviction in a court dispute with Jewish settlers.
“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
The Hamas Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip warned of the possibility of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead, less than a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of cross-border hostilities with Israeli forces.
A route change or canceling the procession could expose the Israeli government to accusations from its right-wing opponents of giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
Israeli police were due to present their route recommendations to government officials on Monday.
Deputy internal security minister Yoav Segalovitz said past governments had stopped nationalists visiting Muslim sites in times of tension.
“The main thing is to consider what’s the right thing to do at this time,” he told Israel’s Kan radio.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards the entire city as its capital.
With any discord among its members a potential threat to its stability, Israel’s new government had hoped to avoid hot-button issues such as policy toward the Palestinians and to focus on domestic reforms and the economy.
“I think the milestone to look out for is the budget,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “If within 3-4 months this government will pass the 2021-22 budget then we can expect this government to serve for at least two or three years. Otherwise, the instability will continue.”
Palestinians held out scant hope of a breakthrough in a peace process leading to a state of their own. Talks with Israel collapsed in 2014.
“We don’t see the new government as less bad than the previous ones,” Shtayyeh told the Palestinian cabinet.
Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and tech millionaire who advocates annexing parts of the West Bank, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a former television host.
Lapid, widely regarded as the architect of the coalition that brought down Netanyahu, is now foreign minister.


Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
Updated 46 min 40 sec ago

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
  • Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate "seriously"

KHARTOUM: Sudan is open to a partial interim agreement on Ethiopia’s multi-billion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile, with specific conditions, Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said on Monday.
While Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt fears it will imperil its water supply and Sudan is concerned about the impact on its own water flows.
Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement on filling and operating the GERD.
Cairo and Khartoum had been aligned on the need for any agreement to be comprehensive, but Abbas’s comments mark a potential shift in Sudan’s position.
” conditions include the signing-off of everything that has already been agreed on in negotiations, ... provisions to ensure that the talks continue even after the filling scheduled for July, and the negotiations adhering to a definite timetable,” Abbas told a news conference, citing a time crunch.
Ethiopia has said it will begin a second filling of the reservoir behind the dam during the rainy season this summer.
Talks overseen by the African Union, aimed at reaching a binding agreement, have repeatedly stalled.


Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
Updated 38 min 33 sec ago

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
  • Fishermen said the bodies were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the ‘Gate of Hell’
  • In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking

HODEIDAH, Yemen: The bodies of 25 migrants were recovered off Yemen on Monday after the boat that was carrying them capsized with up to 200 people on board, a provincial official told AFP.

Fishermen who found the bodies told AFP that they were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara in the southern province of Lahij, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the “Gate of Hell.”

“The boat overturned two days ago and was carrying between 160 and 200 people,” said Jalil Ahmed Ali from the Lahij provincial authority, citing information given by Yemeni smugglers. The fate of the other people on board was unclear.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration confirmed to AFP that a boat sank in the area but said it was still trying to establish the details of the incident.

The fishermen said the victims, found in the Bab Al-Mandab strait that separates Djibouti from Yemen, appeared to be of African origin.

“We found 25 bodies of Africans who drowned when a boat carrying dozens of them sank off the Yemeni shores,” said one of the fishermen.

“We saw the bodies floating in the water 10 miles from the shores of Ras Al-Ara,” added another.

Migrants often find themselves stranded in Yemen with the beaches of Ras Al-Ara being among the areas most targeted by smugglers.

In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking.

In April, at least 42 migrants died off Djibouti after the capsize of their boat which had left from Yemen, according to an IOM report. They were likely among those who try to return home after finding themselves stranded or detained.

The IOM reported this month that 5,100 immigrants arrived in Yemen so far this year, while 35,000 traveled in 2020 and 127,000 in 2019 before the outbreak of the coronavirus which suppressed demand for labor in the Gulf.

The UN agency often sends migrants back to their home countries from Yemen. But it said in April that more than 32,000 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were still stranded in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.


Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members
Updated 56 min 30 sec ago

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, including two senior leaders of the outlawed Islamist movement, judicial sources said.
The court of cassation also reduced sentences for 31 others to life in prison, the sources told AFP, adding that the rulings were final and cannot be appealed.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood held power briefly for a year before their military ouster in 2013.


Caution on Iran nuclear deal as G7 leaders vow to stop bomb

Caution on Iran nuclear deal as G7 leaders vow to stop bomb
Updated 14 June 2021

Caution on Iran nuclear deal as G7 leaders vow to stop bomb

Caution on Iran nuclear deal as G7 leaders vow to stop bomb
  • EU coordinators suggested that differences over the 2015 accord limiting Iran's nuclear activities had narrowed further
  • Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister said a deal was unlikely to emerge in the coming week

VIENNA: Diplomats from outside the European Union cautioned Sunday that negotiations with Iran to salvage a landmark nuclear deal still need more time.
Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations also reaffirmed a commitment to stop the Islamic republic from building nuclear weapons.
Iranian envoys held another round of negotiations with international delegations in Vienna a day after EU coordinators suggested that differences over the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear activities had narrowed further. But Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state media he thought a deal was unlikely to emerge in the coming week. A diplomat from Russia also said more time was needed to work out details.
The Vienna meetings are aimed at rebuilding a nuclear containment agreement between Iran and major world powers that the Trump administration withdrew the United States from in 2018.
US President Joe Biden and other G-7 leaders expressed support for the Vienna process after a three-day summit in southwest England that ended Sunday. The G-7 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We are committed to ensuring that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
“A restored and fully-implemented (nuclear deal) could also pave the way to further address regional and security concerns,” the statement said.
A resolution would see Iran return to commitments made in 2015, aimed at making the development of a nuclear weapon impossible, in exchange for lighter US sanctions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Iran had been “galloping forward” with its nuclear ambitions and violating the terms of the accord since the United States pulled out of the deal.
“I think puts some urgency in seeing if we can put the nuclear problem back in the box,” Blinken said.
Sunday’s bilateral meetings followed joint negotiations held Saturday involving senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain. The United States was not directly involved.
An Iranian pro-opposition group held a small protest outside the famed Vienna Opera House, near the downtown hotel where the talks are taking place. Organizers said local police in Austria’s capital instructed them not to protest outside the hotel. The event ended peacefully.