US asks Israel, Palestinians to avoid ‘provocations’ after Jerusalem march approved

US asks Israel, Palestinians to avoid ‘provocations’ after Jerusalem march approved
Jewish settlers visit the Al-Aqsa mosque compound which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2021

US asks Israel, Palestinians to avoid ‘provocations’ after Jerusalem march approved

US asks Israel, Palestinians to avoid ‘provocations’ after Jerusalem march approved
  • The office of outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light to a march through Jerusalem next week
  • Earlier rallies by far-right Jewish groups raised tensions in Jerusalem

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Israelis and Palestinians to avoid "provocations" and preserve a ceasefire after Israel approved a controversial nationalist march in Jerusalem.
"We believe it's essential to refrain from steps that exacerbate tensions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said when asked about the march.
He said the United States was engaged in diplomacy and wanted to do "everything we can to try to prevent escalations or provocations that might provide a spark to renew violence."
Asked if the United States was opposed to the march, Price declined to respond directly but said: "We all saw what precipitated the last flare-up of violence and we know just how delicate the situation is."
The office of outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light to a march through Jerusalem next week, amid threats by Hamas to resume fighting if it goes ahead.
Earlier rallies by far-right Jewish groups raised tensions in Jerusalem, prompting a police intervention in the holy Al-Aqsa mosque compound that was cited by Hamas as it fired rockets into Israel.
The unrest triggered rocket attacks by Hamas, which prompted a military conflict that killed 260 Palestinians and at least 13 people in Israel last month.


Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen
Updated 35 min 31 sec ago

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen

TUNIS: Tunisia's President Kais Saied on Thursday ordered the border with Libya, which had been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to reopen on Friday after meetings between health teams from the two countries, his office said on Twitter.
The decision to reopen the border follows a visit last week by Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh to Tunis after growing friction over the border and other issues. 


Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon
Updated 55 min 59 sec ago

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon
  • The delivery violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers three years ago
  • Lebanon’s crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class and a sectarian-based political system that thrives on patronage and nepotism

AL-AIN, Lebanon: A convoy of tanker trucks carrying Iranian diesel crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon early Thursday, a delivery organized by the militant Hezbollah group to ease crippling fuel shortages in the crisis-hit country.
The delivery violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers three years ago.
It was portrayed as a victory by Hezbollah, which stepped in to supply the fuel from its patron, Iran, while the cash-strapped government grappled with the fuel shortages for months.
“This is a very big and great thing for us because we broke the siege of America and foreign countries. ... We are working with the help of God and our great mother Iran,” said Nabiha Idriss, a Hezbollah supporter who gathered with others to greet the tankers’ convoy as it passed through the eastern town of Al-Ain.
Hezbollah has portrayed the Lebanese economic meltdown, which began in October 2019, as partly caused by an informal siege imposed by America due to the militant group’s power and influence in Lebanon. The group has been sanctioned by consecutive US administrations.
Lebanon’s crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class and a sectarian-based political system that thrives on patronage and nepotism. Severe shortages in fuel have paralyzed the country, resulting in crippling power cuts that have disrupted the work of hospitals and bakeries. Just to get gasoline, people must wait hours in line, commonly called, “queues of humiliation.”
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had announced a month ago that Iran was sending fuel to Lebanon to help ease the crisis. The first Hezbollah-commissioned Iranian oil tanker arrived in the Syrian port of Baniyas on Sunday and the diesel was unloaded to Syrian storage places before it was brought overland to Lebanon on Thursday by tanker truck. The convoy went through an informal border crossing in Qusayr in Syria.
Nasrallah said in a televised speech earlier this week that the tanker did not offload its cargo directly in Lebanon to avoid embarrassing Lebanese authorities and risking sanctions on Lebanon.
Hezbollah, which is often accused by its opponents of operating a state-within-a-state and has been taking part in Syria’s civil war alongside government forces, has its own crossing points along the Lebanon-Syria border away from formal border crossings.
There was no immediate comment from Lebanese or US officials on the Iranian fuel delivery Thursday.
“Don’t forget this day,” tweeted Laury Haytayan, a Lebanese oil and gas expert and activist, describing it as the day Hezbollah won over the Lebanese state.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV called it “the tanker truck convoys to break the American siege” adding that 20 tanker trucks each carrying 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons) crossed the border Thursday and were on their way to the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek where Hezbollah will start distributing the fuel.
The tanker trucks crossed from Syria’s central province of Homs into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and were welcomed by residents who gathered on the sides of the main road. Hezbollah’s yellow flags and banners praising the Iran-backed group and Syria’s President Bashar Assad decorated the streets. A few women showered the trucks with rice and flowers as they drove past.
The arrival of the Iranian diesel comes nearly a week after a new government was formed ending a 13-month deadlock. Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not commented on the deal to import fuel from Iran.
Nasrallah said earlier this week that the diesel will be donated for a period of one month to institutions including public hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, water stations and the Lebanese Red Cross. Nasrallah added that others who will get fuel at low prices are private hospitals, medicine and serum factories, bakeries and cooperatives that sell food products.
Nasrallah said three other tankers carrying diesel and one carrying gasoline will arrive in the coming weeks.


El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs
Updated 16 September 2021

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs
  • The Egyptian president also stressed the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that his country rejects all foreign interference in Iraq’s affairs.

During his meeting with the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Muhammad Al-Halbousi, he stressed the need to adhere to the principles of mutual respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.

El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s readiness to support Iraq in all fields to restore its historical position and its Arab and regional role.

A spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said El-Sisi welcomed the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament,  conveying his greetings to President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi.

The spokesman said that the meeting reflects the improving joint relations and the exchange of visits of senior officials in the two countries, whether at the bilateral level or through the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Jordan.

El-Sisi also affirmed Egypt’s readiness to transfer the experience of its development experience to Iraq to support the government’s move to stabilize the country, restoring its historical position, its active Arab and regional role, and consolidating its position in the Arab world.

The Egyptian president also stressed the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections in shaping Iraq’s future and strengthening its national institutions.

Al-Halbousi conveyed to El-Sisi the greetings of Salih and Al-Kazemi.

Al-Halbousi stressed his country’s pride in the successive visits of El-Sisi to Iraq, adding that it has consolidated the depth of the close bilateral relations between the two countries.

The speaker praised Cairo’s supportive role in restoring stability in Iraq, and its contributions to its development and consolidation of security.

He expressed the aspiration to develop cooperation between the two countries in various fields, especially at the parliamentary level, and to benefit from the Egyptian experiences in development and building state institutions.


Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast
Updated 16 September 2021

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast
  • Former public works minister Youssef Fenianos is one of a number of former government officials who have declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar
  • Bitar has charged Fenianos and 3 other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence

BEIRUT: The lead judge investigating Lebanon’s massive port explosion last year issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a former government minister who failed to appear for questioning, the state-run National News agency reported.
Youssef Fenianos, the former public works minister, is one of a number of former government officials who have declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar.
Bitar has charged Fenianos and three other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence that led to the deaths of more than 200 people in the blast and over 6,000 wounded.
Bitar also summoned the former and current security chiefs. The former prime minister has also refused to appear before the judge.
Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, had been improperly stored in the port for years. It finally exploded on Aug. 4, 2020, devastating parts of the capital Beirut.
The Lebanese investigation has been running into major obstacles, including the removal of Bitar’s predecessor on charges he violated the constitution by summoning government officials. More than a year after the blast, there are still no answers to what triggered the explosion, and no one has been held accountable.
Rights groups and local media revealed that most state officials knew of the presence of ammonium nitrate in the port but did nothing to remove it or properly store it. In an extensive report issued last month, Human Rights Watch said senior officials knew of the risks posed by the highly explosive material and did nothing to protect the public against it.
On Wednesday, more than 140 local and international organizations and survivors of the blast have repeated a call issued earlier urging a UN-backed probe into the blast to mete out justice.
In their plea, the groups said government officials have refused to appear for questioning and authorities declined to lift immunity to allow for prosecution of members of parliament or senior government and security officials.
“Political leaders have attempted to cast doubt on Judge Bitar’s impartiality, accusing him of being politicized,” the groups said and criticized Lebanese security forces for forcefully breaking up protests by families of the blast victims on at least two occasions. “The failures of the domestic investigation to ensure accountability dramatically illustrates the larger culture of impunity for officials that has long been the case in Lebanon.”
Fenianos’ legal team argued Thursday that the matter is no longer for Judge Bitar to investigate after parliament opened a review into the charges leveled against lawmakers and government officials.
The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded and was the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s troubled history. Lebanon has a long history of violence that goes unpunished and a legal system widely criticized for falling under political influence.


Cairo hosts 11th session of Egyptian-Libyan joint committee

Cairo hosts 11th session of Egyptian-Libyan joint committee
Updated 16 September 2021

Cairo hosts 11th session of Egyptian-Libyan joint committee

Cairo hosts 11th session of Egyptian-Libyan joint committee
  • During a two-day visit to Cairo the Libyan premier, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, and senior ministers held a series of meetings as part of the Egyptian-Libyan joint higher committee’s 11th sitting

CAIRO: The prime minister of the Libyan Government of National Unity on Wednesday headed a high-level delegation to Egypt for the latest session of talks on cooperation between the two countries.

During a two-day visit to Cairo the Libyan premier, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, and senior ministers held a series of meetings as part of the Egyptian-Libyan joint higher committee’s 11th sitting.

On Thursday, Dbeibah met Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly ahead of an expanded session of discussions in the presence of representatives from the Egyptian and Libyan sides. The talks were followed by the signing of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding in various fields.

Commander of the Libyan army, Khalifa Haftar, and the speaker of Libya’s House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, recently held talks in the Egyptian capital with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi but spokesman for the Libyan unity government, Mohammed Hammouda, said there were no plans for Dbeibah to meet either Haftar or Saleh during his trip.

“The visit will discuss some outstanding issues between the two countries, and the conclusion of agreements and a number of memoranda of understanding with the Libyan-Egyptian supreme committee.

“There is no meeting on the prime minister’s agenda with Haftar or Saleh, who are visiting Egypt starting Tuesday,” Hammouda added.

The joint committee meetings approved the implementation of a number of road, bridge, and infrastructure projects in Libya, along with trade and capital exchange agreements.

Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat said the latest round of talks had highlighted a range of opportunities for joint cooperation between Egypt and Libya on economic development.

Libyan Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammed Al-Hawij thanked the Egyptians for hosting the meetings and for their efforts to strengthen relations between the two nations.

He said that Libya hoped to mirror Cairo’s economic success stories and draw on Egyptian expertise in its own reconstruction projects.

In April, an Egyptian delegation led by Madbouly visited Libya and signed 11 memoranda of understanding.