UN envoy in Sanaa in last-ditch bid to salvage peace plan

UN envoy in Sanaa in last-ditch bid to salvage peace plan
Martin Griffiths traveled to Sanaa on Sunday in a bid to convince the rebels to accept a peace plan and stop their assault on Marib. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2021

UN envoy in Sanaa in last-ditch bid to salvage peace plan

UN envoy in Sanaa in last-ditch bid to salvage peace plan
  • Griffiths will meet Houthi officials to discuss proposals including a nationwide cease-fire
  • In the past, the Houthis snubbed Griffiths and the US special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking

AL-MUKALLA: The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, traveled to Houthi-held Sanaa on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to convince the Iran-backed rebels to accept a UN-brokered peace plan and stop their assault on Marib.
In his first visit to the city in a year, Griffiths will meet Houthi officials to discuss proposals including a nationwide cease-fire, the lifting of restrictions on Hodeidah ports and the reopening of Sanaa airport.
On Friday, the UN envoy called on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to make bold concessions to end months of political deadlock and reach a peace agreement.
In the past, the Houthis snubbed Griffiths and the US special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, and rejected international calls to halt their deadly offensive on the central province of Marib, demanding that the Arab coalition end airstrikes on their forces and arrange unregulated and unchecked flights from and to Sanaa airport as part of the peace initiatives.
The Yemeni government rejected the Houthi demands, saying that heavy aerial bombardments by Arab coalition warplanes have largely foiled Houthi assaults on Marib and that ending the airstrikes would enable the Houthis to advance quickly toward the strategic city.
On Sunday, Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, said that the internationally recognized government of Yemen welcomes all initiatives to end the conflict.
He added that the Yemeni government seeks a “sustainable and comprehensive” peace that will bring back stability to the country and end the Houthi coup, according to the official SABA news agency.
Meanwhile, on the ground, dozens of combatants were killed on Sunday in heavy fighting between the Houthis and the Yemeni army backed by allied tribesmen in mountainous areas west of Marib city.
Local military officers said that at least 30 Houthis died when Yemeni government forces pushed back their offensive in Marib’s Al-Kasara.




Yemeni pro-government forces move against Houthis on one of the battlefronts in Marib city, Yemen (AFP file)

Loyalists shared videos showing thick smoke billowing from contested areas in Marib after Arab coalition warplanes targeted Houthi locations and military reinforcements.
Thousands of government troops and Houthi fighters have been killed since February when the rebels renewed an offensive on Marib, the Yemen government’s last northern stronghold.
Accusations
The Yemeni government has accused the Houthis of violating the Stockholm Agreement by turning the Red Sea ports under their control into factories for making and launching booby-trapped boats.
Yemen’s Information Minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said that the latest Houthi attack in the Red Sea foiled by the Arab coalition shows that the rebels are still threatening international maritime traffic and breaching existing agreements.
“Houthis using Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa ports as bases for launching terrorist attacks and for booby-trapped boats, confirming their disavowal of Sweden Agreement and exploitation to implement Iranian agenda to spread chaos and terrorism in region and threaten international interests,” the Yemeni minister said in a twitter post.
Under the peace deal between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in late 2018, known as the Stockholm Agreement, the Yemeni government agreed to stop a military offensive on the city of Hodeidah in return for the Houthis handing over ports in Hodeidah to neutral forces and depositing revenues into the central bank in the city.


Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told
Updated 23 sec ago

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told
  • US/Middle East Project called for the Palestinian leadership to stop repressing ‘their own people’
  • Israel PR slammed the security council meetings on the Middle East and said the focus should be on Iran instead

NEW YORK: Israel pursues policies in violation of international law and of UN resolutions “Because it can — no tangible cost or consequence is attached,” the UN Security Council heard on Tuesday. 

Daniel Levy, president of US/Middle East Project, told council members of the need to address what he called “an accountability deficit when it comes to Israel’s action” as it is one of the core understandings that should guide the peace process forward.

“If the unlawful and peace negating politics of Israel continue to be met with impunity, there should be no expectation of positive change.

Also to be considered is “a legitimacy deficit in Palestinian politics,” Levy said.

“The Palestinian Liberation Organization must become fully representative, inclusive and by extension better able to demonstrate strategic agency and to negotiate. 

“Palestinians have a right to elect representatives to their national institutions. That requires a Palestinian leadership decision, as well as supportive, not preventive, steps by Israel and the International community.

Israeli activists of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization help Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees in Burin village in the occupied West Bank, on Oct.19 2021. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP) 

“We also cannot ignore or condone when existing Palestinian self-governing authorities on the ground with their limited mandate repress their own people.”

Palestinian politician, activist, and scholar Hanan Ashrawi told the ambassadors that everything must be viewed in the context of occupation. 

The security council’s inability to assert its authority, Ashrawi said, has allowed “this injustice to become a perpetual tragic, human modern political and legal travesty.”

She discounted talk of confidence-building between Israel and the Palestinians as “there can be very little confidence under occupation. 

“The policy of confidence-building measures is misguided because occupation brings only contempt, distrust, resentment, and resistance. The oppressed cannot be brought to trust or accept handouts from their oppressor as an alternative to their right to freedom.”

Another attempt at spreading misconception is the constant call for “balance in an unbalanced situation,” Ashrawi said. 

“The mindless refrain that Israel has a right to defend itself while the Palestinian people are denied such a right is perverse, and that the occupier’s violence is justified as self-defense while the occupied are stigmatized as a terrorist. 

“Peace is not achieved by normalizing the occupation, sidelining the Palestinian question, or rewarding it by repositioning Israel as a regional superpower. 

“Such an approach maintains in place the causes of regional instability while enabling Israel as a colonial apartheid to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.” 

Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan strongly criticized Ashrawi’s presence at the security council meeting.

“A spokesperson for Palestinian leadership was invited to represent civil society,” giving a platform to what he called “Palestinian rejectionism.”

Erdan slammed security council meetings on the Middle East for what he called disregarding “the real threat to regional and global security: Iran. 

“Iran has assembled six armies of terrorist proxies in the region and by allowing the Ayatollah regime to continue with the severe violation of their international commitments, these six terror armies will soon have an Iranian nuclear umbrella.”

Before the meeting began, Erdan told reporters in New York that such meetings have the sole aim to “bash Israel” and are a “waste of everyone’s time.

“The security council members help dig the ditch of conflict deeper,” he said.

Erdan called on council members to “stand up to Iran and demand that Palestinian leadership abandon their culture of hate. This is the only way to transform the region into a paradise of progress, prosperity, and peace.”

 


UK, Arab League concerned over Iran’s nuclear program

UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
Updated 57 min 31 sec ago

UK, Arab League concerned over Iran’s nuclear program

UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
  • UK minister for Middle East and North Africa met separately with Arab League secretary-general and Egyptian foreign minister
  • All sides also affirmed their countries support the Libyan political process

LONDON: The UK shares concerns over Iran’s nuclear program with Arab countries, a government official said on Tuesday.
Tehran has stopped honoring some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal and has been holding up negotiations aimed at reviving the landmark accord that scales back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, sparking concern from the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
The comments were made during a meeting in London between the UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, James Cleverly, and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League.
The meeting dealt with developments in the region, including Iran, Syria and Libya, where Cleverly affirmed his country supports the Libyan political process.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cleverly met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, where he praised Egypt’s role as “a key mediator in regional conflicts, and a leading partner on climate” change.
He also congratulated Shoukry on Egypt’s nomination to host the next UN climate change conference (COP27), adding he looked forward to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attendance at the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow next month, and his meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“I also thanked Shoukry for Egypt’s ongoing engagement in Hamas-Israeli talks,” which “played a leading role in securing the cease-fire,” Cleverly said.
The UK and Egypt also agreed on the importance of Libya sticking to its elections timetable, he added.

(With AFP)


48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition
Updated 19 October 2021

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition
  • Arab coalition says airstrikes hit 14 Houthi targets, also destroying six military vehicles

RIYADH: The Arab coalition in Yemen said on Tuesday it carried out 14 attacks targeting Houthi militia members in two districts near the strategic city of Marib in the last 24 hours.
The coalition said 48 Houthis have been killed and six military vehicles were destroyed in the military operations in Al-Jawba and Al-Kassara.
“We will continue to provide support to the Yemeni National Army to protect civilians from Houthi violations,” the coalition said in a statement.
This is the ninth consecutive day that the coalition has announced strikes around Marib, reporting a total of more than 1,200 Houthi fatalities.
The previously announced bombings were in Abedia about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Marib — the internationally recognized government’s last bastion in oil-rich northern Yemen.
The strikes reported Tuesday were closer to Marib.
Al-Jawba lies about 50 kilometers from the city and Al-Kassara is about 30 kilometers northwest.
According to a government military official on Tuesday, fighting between the two sides “continues on a number of fronts but there are no major advances or changes on the ground in recent hours.”
The Houthis began a major push to seize Marib in February and have renewed their offensive since September after a lull.
(With AFP)


Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority
Updated 19 October 2021

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority
  • The US secretary of state congratulates UN envoy to Yemen on his new role during call

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday reiterated that resolving the conflict in Yemen remains a top US foreign policy priority.
His comments came during a phone call with the newly-appointed UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg.
Blinken congratulated Grundberg, who was appointed in August to replace Martin Griffiths, on his new role, the State Department said in a statement.
During the call, they “discussed efforts to engage all parties without preconditions and secure a cease-fire, address urgent humanitarian priorities, restart the political process in Yemen, and ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses.”

Blinken also welcomed collaboration on the common goal of reaching an “inclusive, durable solution” to end the conflict in Yemen and bringing relief to Yemenis, the statement added.
On Monday, Grundberg ended a visit to Oman, where he met with Omani officials, Houthi representatives, and representatives of the international community about reaching a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen.

 


Silicon Valley’s Osh Agabi lifts the lid on Koniku’s disease-detection tech

Silicon Valley’s Osh Agabi lifts the lid on Koniku’s disease-detection tech
Updated 19 October 2021

Silicon Valley’s Osh Agabi lifts the lid on Koniku’s disease-detection tech

Silicon Valley’s Osh Agabi lifts the lid on Koniku’s disease-detection tech
  • Koniku Kore uses biotech based on mice neurons to detect diseases, chemicals and even explosives
  • Founded in 2017, Koniku aims to revolutionize health security through robotics and synthetic neurobiology

DUBAI: Artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies are expected to completely transform the way people live, work and do business. But one area where exciting developments are already becoming a reality is in health.

Osh Agabi, originally from Nigeria, has received funding from tech giants in Silicon Valley to develop his “clinical cyborg” — an innovation that aims to detect more than 4,000 smells simultaneously, resulting potentially in the diagnosis of a variety of diseases.

Agabi has drawn the attention of American venture capitalists impressed by his study of human cells grown on a computer chip.

“One thing that has always been a primary driver for me is, how does the human body essentially function?” he told Arab News.

“How is it possible that we are capable of so much? A human being is essentially a machine but a very advanced one.”

Of course, even the most sophisticated machinery can malfunction from time to time, which means the medical tools needed to diagnose and address these issues must evolve and advance.

With this in mind, Agabi launched his own company in 2017, named Koniku — which translates as “immortal” in Nigeria’s Yoruba dialect — specializing in robotics and synthetic neurobiology.

Among its recent creations is the Koniku Kore, which the company says is capable of detecting and interpreting 4,096 different smells at the same time.

“At any given time, you are exhaling literally thousands of different smells, and these different smells are giving us an indication as to the state of your health,” Agabi said.

“If you have a disease, there’s a smell signature associated with it. So, we now have a platform that could potentially be scaled worldwide to offer comprehensive clinical-grade data in everybody’s bathroom, collecting breath in real time and making every individual the CEO of their health.”

Scientists have long recognized the ability of dogs to sniff out human emotions such as fear and sadness and even detect certain cancers and other illnesses.

Scientists have long recognized the ability of dogs to sniff out emotions and illnesses. (Shutterstock)

Agabi and his team have isolated similar brain cells in mice, genetically modified them to carry proteins that allow them to smell the contents of the air and inserted them into a Koniku chip.

The chip is then placed inside the Koniku Kore, which collects air through a mechanical pump and passes it on to the cells. The cells then detect the smell and give off signals that are interpreted by the device’s onboard computer. Weighing just 700 grams, the device is ideal for home use, says the company.

“Our target, before this decade ends, is to have our technology in 10 million homes to analyze disease in real time,” Agabi said.

Some scientists caution that fusing natural proteins with silicon circuits is a daunting task, citing the fragility of cells and the complexity of their interactions with chemical substances.

A CNN web report of 2020 on Koniku quoted Timothy Swager, a chemistry professor at MIT, as saying that to pull off what the company claims would require “some technical miracle.”

Agabi, who completed a master’s degree in bioengineering at the Imperial College London and later a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience and bioengineering at ETH Zurich, intends to present his invention to potential investors at the upcoming Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

“It’s the thing that gets me up every morning and I’m excited about it,” he said.

Agabi is likely to find an enthusiastic crowd of potential investors. He won a startup competition organized by the Misk Global Forum in Saudi Arabia two years ago, so there are sure to be many in the Kingdom’s developing health-tech sector awaiting his return visit.

“It’s something I feel very privileged to do as a person coming from my background, born and bred in Lagos but mostly educated in Europe and now in the US scaling this technology to a global audience,” he said.

Given the healthcare challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the growing commercial interest in home and wearable health tech, Agabi believes there is a ready market for his creation.

Osh Agabi wants to bring that power to humans. (Supplied)

The device is currently undergoing clinical trials with Treximo and the University of Southern Nevada. Given its potential application as a rapid COVID-19 detection test, Koniku hopes to secure emergency use authorization for its product in the near future. From there, the sky is the limit for a whole new range of bio- and neuro-tech.

“Synthetic neurobiology and biotechnology will be big,” Agabi said. “When we have biotechnology or synthetic biology merged with data, machine learning and AI, what is possible is unprecedented. It will be the next big thing.”

Koniku’s customers to date include Airbus, which uses the technology to detect explosive compounds, and Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world’s largest manufacturer of scientific equipment, to sense fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs.

Major oil companies in Saudi Arabia are also in discussions with Koniku to use the technology to detect benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene.

“During the refining process of oil and other such chemical compounds, there are compounds that are given off that might be carcinogenic for human beings, that decrease people’s quality of life, make the place smell bad, and so on,” said Agabi.

“This is what we have with Exxon Mobil, for instance, and for methane emissions and for all the compounds that are byproducts from the oil and gas industry that decrease the quality of life in the area we’re working on.”

Koniku has also explored several possibilities for the application of its innovations in oil exploration. “Think about our technology as a ‘smell cyborg,’ similar to a camera on your phone, for security, for filming or vision,” Agabi said.

“You can use this ‘smell cyborg’ for many more applications across the whole spectrum. But our strongest application and what our vision aims to bring to this world is diagnosing disease on a global scale.”

Given the healthcare challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the growing commercial interest in home and wearable health tech, Agabi believes there is a ready market for his creation. (AFP)

For Agabi, the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that the world needs a global system for disease surveillance, where abnormal breath signatures, propagation and growth rates can be detected. In doing so, sickness, death and economic damage could be avoided.

“It is an unfortunate crisis that has cost a lot of life and sorrow,” he said.

“But one of the things we can take from this is the need for a global disease surveillance system through which we can assess the health of people in different cities or states.”

In an increasingly interconnected world, Agabi says every individual has the potential to be a bioweapon until proven otherwise. The only way to make that transparency possible is to develop a technology stack that is able to scan people’s health on a global scale.

“That is what Koniku puts itself forward as,” Agabi said. “That’s what we seek partnerships on. But that is our larger vision, which, with the right partners and resources, we can realize. That’s why I’m very excited to return to the region and form strong partnerships to build this up.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek