Palestine’s UN envoy calls for international action to end Israeli occupation

Palestine’s UN envoy calls for international action to end Israeli occupation
Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during an emergency Security Council meeting on the situation in Gaza at United Nations headquarters. (AP file photo)
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Updated 29 May 2021

Palestine’s UN envoy calls for international action to end Israeli occupation

Palestine’s UN envoy calls for international action to end Israeli occupation
  • Ambassador Riyad Mansour tells Arab News about the diplomatic activity that has been going on behind the scenes in the recent, turbulent months
  • As well as ending the occupation, he says priorities now are a permanent ceasefire, a serious UN humanitarian effort, and progress toward an independent Palestinian state

PHILADELPHIA: The next phase of international diplomacy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must focus on ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state, according to Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN.

He told Arab News said that efforts at the UN relating to Palestine this year have fallen into three distinct phases.

“Phase one was the preparation for an international conference, based on the calls of (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas,” he said.

Mansour added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov played an important role in this phase, which included the revival of the dormant Middle East Quartet — Russia, the US, UN and EU — and the addition of other parties to it.

“We saw the revival of the Quartet and the creation of a ‘Quartet-plus’ that includes key Arab and international states,” he said. “The Quartet-plus was approached to try to resolve the Jerusalem obstacle for Palestinian elections.”

The first Palestinian elections for 15 years were set to take place on May 22, but were jeopardized by growing concerns about whether Israeli authorities would allow Palestinians to vote in the city.

“At one time, nine foreign ministers attended and spoke at a UN Security Council session on Palestine,” said Mansour.

The second phase of activity at the UN focused on ensuring Palestinians in Jerusalem would be allowed to vote, he said. Abbas eventually postponed the elections after the Quartet was unable to secure such an assurance from the Israelis, Mansour added.

The third phase began in April, during Ramadan, and continued until the ceasefire after the 11-days of fighting between Hamas and Israel this month.

“We worked hard during this period to stop Israeli attacks on Muslim and Christian worshipers in Jerusalem, the eviction of Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah and Silgan neighborhoods, and the harassment (of Arabs) at Damascus Gate and in the old city of Jerusalem,” Mansour said.

The lack of any response to calls by the international community for Israel to halt these activities led to an explosion of violence in Gaza this month and 11 days of fighting.

“During those difficult days we tried to put an immediate stop to the attacks on our people but we failed because of the US veto, even on the issue of issuing a statement,” said Mansour.

While in private US officials offered reassurances to the Palestinians that Washington understands their concerns, Mansour said, publicly the Americans chose to work with Israel on efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

“We were interested in a lot of things before the ceasefire was declared but once it was declared we agreed to it … on the condition that there would be no language harmful to or condemning the Palestinian resistance,” he said.

Mansour insisted that he represents all Palestinians at the UN, and his current efforts there have three main aims.

“We want the ceasefire to become permanent, we want a serious humanitarian effort involving all relevant UN agencies, with Israel not putting up any obstacles, and finally we want to be sure that immediate and serious effort is exerted in the effort to end the Israeli occupation and toward the realization of an independent Palestinian state,” he said.


Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested
Updated 6 min 41 sec ago

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 11 min 18 sec ago

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

PARIS: The European Union said on Friday it had adopted a legal framework for a sanctions regime targeting Lebanese individuals and entities.
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.


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.