UN urged to act over Iran piracy in the Gulf

UN urged to act over Iran piracy in the Gulf
Iran has staged a series of attacks on shipping in the region over the past two years. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 August 2021

UN urged to act over Iran piracy in the Gulf

UN urged to act over Iran piracy in the Gulf
  • Dramatic audio recording reveals
 moment gunmen boarded tanker

JEDDAH: The UN was urged on Wednesday to take action against Tehran after two Iranian attacks on shipping in the Gulf in less than a week.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UN Security Council “must respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions and lack of respect for international law.”

Raab spoke after Iranian hijackers who seized the Panama-flagged tanker Asphalt Princess off the UAE coast on Tuesday fled the vessel, and it resumed its course toward the port of Sohar in northern Oman.

In a dramatic audio recording of the incident, one of the tanker’s crew tells the UAE coast guard that five or six armed Iranians have boarded the vessel.

“Iranian people are onboard with ammunition,” the crewman member says. “We are … now drifting. We cannot tell you exactly our ETA to Sohar.”

When the Emirati coast guard asks the crewman what the Iranian gunmen are doing onboard, he says he “cannot understand them,” his voice muffled, before trying to hand over the radio to someone else. The call then cuts off.

Satellite tracking data for the Asphalt Princess then showed it gradually heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early on Wednesday. Hours later, it stopped and changed course toward Oman, just before British Navy monitors said the hijackers had left and the vessel was now “safe.”

HIGHLIGHT

Iran has staged a series of attacks on shipping in the region over the past two years, including limpet mine attacks that damaged tankers. 


The maritime intelligence company Dryad Global said the seizure of the Asphalt Princess was the latest Iranian response to outside pressures, economic conflicts and other perceived grievances.

“Iran has consistently shown that in conducting this kind of operation, it is calculated in doing so, both by targeting vessels directly connected with ongoing disputes, and vessels operating within the ‘grey space’ of legitimacy,” which may be involved in illicit trade, it said.

The hijacking followed an attack last Thursday by Iranian explosives-laden drones on the MT Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker operated by an Israeli company based in the UK. The ship’s Romanian captain and a British security guard were killed in the attack, prompting international outrage.

Iran has staged a series of attacks on shipping in the region over the past two years, including limpet mine attacks that damaged tankers.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the summer of 2019, and in January this year they stormed a South Korean tanker and forced it to change course and head for Iran.


Egypt stresses need for binding deal on Renaissance Dam

Egypt stresses need for binding deal on Renaissance Dam
Updated 24 sec ago

Egypt stresses need for binding deal on Renaissance Dam

Egypt stresses need for binding deal on Renaissance Dam
  • Egypt describes the dam as an existential threat because it suffers from water scarcity and receives 95 percent of its water needs from the Nile
  • The country fears that the process of filling the dam will affect its share of the river’s water

CAIRO: During a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated the need to reach a binding legal agreement on the operation and filling of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam in a manner that takes into account the interests of all parties.

Egypt describes the dam as an existential threat because it suffers from water scarcity and receives 95 percent of its water needs from the Nile. Egypt fears that the process of filling the dam will affect its share of the river’s water. 

Since 2011, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been negotiating an agreement on filling and operating the dam, which is intended to be the largest source of hydroelectric power generation in Africa. However, all negotiating attempts have failed.

Shoukry said there is no specific date for the resumption of talks, and the three countries are waiting to hear proposals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current chair of the African Union.

He added that during his meetings in New York, he was keen to highlight Ethiopia’s “stubborn” position on the crisis.


Sudan ruling body chief pledges reforms to army

Sudan ruling body chief pledges reforms to army
Updated 22 min 19 sec ago

Sudan ruling body chief pledges reforms to army

Sudan ruling body chief pledges reforms to army
  • Al-Burhan said the armed forces are committed to holding elections on the date fixed for ending the transition

KHARTOUM: The general who heads Sudan’s ruling transitional authority on Sunday pledged to reform the army, days after a failed coup.
“We are going to reorganize the armed forces... Partisan activities are banned in the army,” Sovereign Council chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said at the opening of a military hospital in Khartoum.
“The armed forces are committed to holding elections on the date fixed for ending the transition” in 2023, he said.
“After that, the army will leave the political scene and its role will be limited to protecting the country.”
Sudan is led by a civilian-military administration under an August 2019 power-sharing deal signed after president Omar Bashir’s ouster by the military in April that year following mass protests against his iron-fisted rule.
Sudan’s government said it thwarted a September 21 coup attempt involving military officers and civilians linked to the regime of imprisoned Bashir. At least 11 officers were among those arrested.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has since called for reforms within the army, a highly sensitive issue in Sudan.
A transition to full civilian rule has remained shaky, reeling from deep fragmentation among political factions, economic woes and a receding role for civilian leaders.
Paramilitary leader and Burhan’s deputy in the Sovereign Council, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has pointed a finger of blame at politicians after the failed coup.
“Politicians are the main cause behind coups because they have neglected the average citizen... and are more concerned fighting over how they can stay in power,” Daglo said.


Tunisians protest against president’s power grab as opposition deepens

Tunisians protest against president’s power grab as opposition deepens
Updated 36 min 29 sec ago

Tunisians protest against president’s power grab as opposition deepens

Tunisians protest against president’s power grab as opposition deepens
  • President Kais Saied gives himself power to rule by decree two months after he sacked the prime minister

TUNIS: About 3,000 demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Sunday under a heavy police presence to protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers in July and called on him to step down.
Saied this week brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution, giving himself power to rule by decree two months after he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority.
“The people want the fall of the coup,” they chanted in the center of Tunis along Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a focal point of the demonstrations that ended the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. “Step down.”
The crisis has endangered the democratic gains that Tunisians won in a 2011 revolution that triggered the “Arab spring” protests and has also slowed efforts to tackle an urgent threat to public finances, worrying investors.
Saied has said his actions, which his opponents have called a coup, are needed to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. He has promised to uphold rights and not become a dictator.
Nadia Ben Salem said she traveled 500 kilometers from the south to express her anger in the protest.
“We will protect democracy... the constitution is a red line,” she said, holding up a copy of the constitution.
Saied still has wide support among Tunisians, who are tired of corruption and poor public services and say his hands are clean.
He has not put any time limit on his seizure of power, but said he would appoint a committee to help draft amendments to the 2014 constitution and establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.” Tunisia’s largest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, has called Saied’s moves “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy” and called for people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless, peaceful struggle.”
Ennahda has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that led to the ousting of its long-time president, playing a role in backing successive coalition governments.
But Saied’s coup has left it facing a severe split: More than 100 prominent officials of Ennahda, including lawmakers and former ministers, resigned on Saturday in protest at the leadership’s performance.
Tunisia’s influential labor union on Friday rejected key elements of Saied’s action and warned of a threat to democracy as opposition widened against a move his foes call a coup.
A first protest against Saied since his intervention on July 25 took place last week. It consisted of several hundred people.
“The language of dialogue has been disrupted with Saied...He does not like dialogue,” said independent lawmaker Iyadh Loumi.
“He wanted to isolate everyone and he is taking all power...Saied must be sacked and put on trial.”
Four other political parties issued a joint statement condemning Saied on Wednesday and another large party, Heart of Tunisia, has also done so.


Syria coronavirus spike sees hospitals reach capacity

Syria coronavirus spike sees hospitals reach capacity
Updated 26 September 2021

Syria coronavirus spike sees hospitals reach capacity

Syria coronavirus spike sees hospitals reach capacity
  • Around 70 percent of the country’s pre-war medical staff have left since the start of the war

DAMASCUS: Hospitals in the Syrian capital Damascus and the coastal province of Latakia have reached capacity due to rising coronavirus admissions, a health official said Sunday.
“We have started transferring Covid-19 patients from the province of Damascus to the (central) province of Homs, and from Latakia to the province of Tartus,” Tawfiq Hasaba, a health ministry official, was quoted as saying by Syrian state TV.
The move came after “hospitals in these areas reached capacity because of a large spike in coronavirus cases,” he added.
Syria on Saturday logged 442 new coronavirus infections in government-held areas — a new daily record for a conflict-hit country that has documented more than 32,580 cases, including 2,198 deaths in regime controlled territory, since the start of its outbreak last year.
“It is the first time the number of cases reaches 400” in one day, Hasaba said, adding that the number of new infections was highest in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise across Syria since mid-August, including in the northwest and northeast, large parts of which fall beyond government control.
According to the World Health Organization, only two percent of Syria’s population has been at least partially vaccinated.
Syria’s conflict has since 2011 killed nearly half a million people and ravaged a health care sector struggling to cope with a mass outflux of professionals.
Around 70 percent of the country’s pre-war medical staff have left since the start of the war.


War monitor: Russia raids kill 11 pro-Turkish fighters in Syria

War monitor: Russia raids kill 11 pro-Turkish fighters in Syria
Updated 26 September 2021

War monitor: Russia raids kill 11 pro-Turkish fighters in Syria

War monitor: Russia raids kill 11 pro-Turkish fighters in Syria
  • Strikes hit school used as a ‘military base’ by the Al-Hamza Division outside the north Syria town of Afrin

BEIRUT: At least 11 fighters from a pro-Turkish rebel group were killed Sunday in Russian air raids in northern Syria, a war monitor said Sunday.
The strikes hit a school used as a “military base” by the Al-Hamza Division outside the north Syria town of Afrin which has been under the control of Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies since 2018, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Eleven fighters were killed and another 13 were wounded in the Russian strikes,” said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.
It said the death toll could climb further amid ongoing efforts to pull victims from the rubble.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said such Russian raids are rare in this region of Syria, which has been controlled by Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies for three years.
A Russian raid outside Afrin last month targeted a position of Faylaq Al-Sham, another Turkey-backed rebel group, he said.
A spokesperson for the National Army, a coalition of Turkey-backed rebel groups, called Sunday’s attack a “clear message from Russia” to Turkey, showing that there are no “red lines.”
Turkey supports Syrian rebel forces battling President Bashar Assad’s government and it has also launched multiple operations across Syria’s northern border against Kurdish forces and against the Daesh group.
Russia, on the other hand, is a staunch supporter of the Syrian regime and has intervened militarily in support of Assad since 2015.
Although they back opposite sides, Ankara and Moscow have worked together to broker several cease-fire deals in Syria’s northwest, including a 2020 truce agreement in the Idlib region, the country’s last major opposition bastion.