‘High expectations’ from Baghdad summit to reduce regional tensions, analysts say

Iraq's President Salih and France's President Macron attend a news conference in Baghdad. (Reuters)
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Iraq's President Salih and France's President Macron attend a news conference in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, right, meets with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the Baghdad summit on Aug. 28, 2021. (Reuters)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, right, meets with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the Baghdad summit on Aug. 28, 2021. (Reuters)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan being received by his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad on Saturday. (SPA)
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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan being received by his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad on Saturday. (SPA)
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Updated 29 August 2021

‘High expectations’ from Baghdad summit to reduce regional tensions, analysts say

‘High expectations’ from Baghdad summit to reduce regional tensions, analysts say
  • Iraq takes center stage for talks to boost regional security
  • Prince Faisal leads Saudi delegation at landmark summit in Baghdad

AMMAN: Arab leaders and senior officials held rare talks on Saturday at a conference hosted by Iraq aimed at easing Middle East security tensions.
The Saudi delegation was led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who said the Kingdom would continue to work to enhance Iraq’s security and stability, and preserve its institutions.
Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia continued to cooperate with Iraq and partner countries in the region to confront the threat of terrorism, and supported Baghdad’s efforts to cooperate with the international coalition to confront the remnants of Daesh.
The minister took part in talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. 
The UAE and Kuwait were represented by their prime ministers, and Iran and Turkey by their foreign ministers.
The high-level meeting sent a message of Arab solidarity with Iraq. Macron, whose country is co-organizing the meeting, described Saturday’s meeting as “historic,” showcasing Iraq’s return to stability following the ruinous war against the Daesh group, which was defeated in 2017.




Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan being received by his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad on Saturday. (SPA)

“Iraq, which for years has been a headline for war and conflicts, is hosting leaders and representatives of the region today to affirm their support for Iraqi sovereignty and prosperity,” said President Barham Salih.
French President Emmanuel Macron also attended the Baghdad meeting, and said France would continue to deploy troops in Iraq to battle terrorism even if the US withdrew.
“We all know that we must not lower our guard, because Daesh remains a threat, and I know that the fight against these terrorist groups is a priority of your government,” Macron told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

Participants in the summit also discussed the regional water crisis, the war in Yemen and the economic and political crisis that has brought Lebanon to the point of collapse. However, analysts said the meeting’s major significance was that it took place at all. 
“This summit marks the return of Iraq as a pivotal player in the region,” said Ihsan Al-Shammari, head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Center in Baghdad. “Having rival parties seated at the same table is a significant step in that direction.”
Mamdouh Al-Abadi, Jordan’s former deputy prime minister, told Arab News that “even the least important meetings” between leaders were “better than no meetings.” 
“One should not minimize the personal chemistry and relations that are developed in such meetings, and their effect on lowering tensions,” he said.
However, Al-Abadi warned against too much optimism. “If the Syrians are invited and attend the summit, then it would be a game changer,” he added.

Boost for Iraqi PM
He further said that the summit will be a boost to Iraqi PM Al-Kadhimi, who is facing a tough domestic political battle after a campaign announcement by firebrand populist Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr.
On Friday, Sadr reversed his decision to boycott the October elections and said that his movement would take part in order to “end corruption.”

This summit marks the return of Iraq as a pivotal player in the region.”

Ihsan Al-Shammari, head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Center in Baghdad


Adnan Abu Odeh, former adviser to Jordan’s King Hussein and King Abdullah, told Arab News that the regional meeting is largely about Iran. 
“When regional and world leaders meet, the main issue is usually a regional one, and in this case, Iran and its relations with other countries will most likely be the focus.”
Abu Odeh said that the foreign policy of US President Joe Biden “has made Arab leaders worried — if you can’t depend on the Americans, you start looking for regional solutions.”
Reem Badran, a former parliamentarian in Jordan, told Arab News that “any meeting of regional leaders gives us hope.
“We are always optimistic when leaders meet,” she said, adding: “The new situation is no different. On the economic level, we are hopeful that these summit meetings can be translated into economic stability, especially if major energy and transport projects can be carried out.”
Badran, who now runs a business, Al-Hurra Project Management, and is active in women’s microbusiness financing, said that an improvement of the economic situation would also have a direct effect on women “who are paying the highest price among all segments of our society.”
Tagreed Odeh, Middle Eastern Studies program coordinator at the Council on International Educational Exchange, said that the Baghdad summit is “a golden opportunity to widen space for dialogue with the aim of putting out the regional fires that have consumed the Middle East.”
Odeh said that the key to the success of the summit is “the fact that the host country, Iraq, has declared its willingness to prepare all that is required to have a welcoming atmosphere for all participants.”
Economic reporter Salameh Derrawi said that while the attendees are diverse, the key players are the Jordanians, Egyptians and Iraqis. “The leaders of those three countries have been working hard on finalizing regional projects in the areas of energy, oil pipelines and tax-free industrial zones.”

 


Ten oil workers killed in attack in Syria’s Deir Ezzor — state news agency

Ten oil workers killed in attack in Syria’s Deir Ezzor — state news agency
Updated 6 sec ago

Ten oil workers killed in attack in Syria’s Deir Ezzor — state news agency

Ten oil workers killed in attack in Syria’s Deir Ezzor — state news agency
  • Ten oil workers were killed and one was injured in an attack that targeted a bus carrying them in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor

CAIRO: Ten oil workers were killed and one was injured in an attack that targeted a bus carrying them in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor countryside, state news agency SANA said on Thursday.
The workers are employees at Al-Kharata oilfield, according to the agency.


Japan’s foreign minister urges Iran to cooperate with IAEA

Japan’s foreign minister urges Iran to cooperate with IAEA
Updated 02 December 2021

Japan’s foreign minister urges Iran to cooperate with IAEA

Japan’s foreign minister urges Iran to cooperate with IAEA

TOKYO: Japan’s Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa on Thursday urged Iran to make serious efforts towards the immediate return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a telephone conversation with Dr. Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Foreign Minister of Iran, Minister Hayashi also expressed his intention to cooperate with Minister Amir Abdollahian “to further strengthen and expand the historically friendly relationship between Japan and Iran in a wide range of fields.”

In response, Minister Amir Abdollahian expressed Iran’s intention to further deepen the long-established relationship between Japan and Iran, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

The ministers exchanged candid views on the JCPOA in light of the talks among relevant parties that are taking place in Vienna.

In the talks, Minister Amir Abdollahian explained Iran’s stance on the nuclear issue, and both sides agreed to continue close communication on this matter.

Both ministers exchanged views on regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan, and confirmed that Japan and Iran will continue to cooperate towards the realization of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Japan’s foreign ministry said.

This story originally appeared on Arab News Japan


Iran gives drafts on sanctions, issues to European nuclear deal parties

Iran gives drafts on sanctions, issues to European nuclear deal parties
Updated 52 min 59 sec ago

Iran gives drafts on sanctions, issues to European nuclear deal parties

Iran gives drafts on sanctions, issues to European nuclear deal parties
  • A European diplomat confirmed draft documents had been handed over

VIENNA: Iran has provided European powers involved in its tattered nuclear deal with drafts on sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said on Thursday, as world powers and Tehran try to reinstate the pact.

The announcement came on the fourth day of indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both fully back into the deal. The talks resumed after a five-month hiatus prompted by the election in June of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, an anti-Western hard-liner.

“We have delivered two proposed drafts to them ... Of course they need to check the texts that we have provided to them. If they are ready to continue the talks, we are in Vienna to continue the talks,” Ali Bagheri Kani told reporters.

A European diplomat in Vienna confirmed draft documents had been handed over.

Under the pact, Tehran limited its uranium enrichment program, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons though Iran says it seeks only civilian atomic energy, in exchange for relief from US, European Union and UN economic sanctions.

But in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, calling it too soft on Iran, and reimposed harsh US sanctions, spurring Tehran to breach nuclear limits in the pact.

Estimating that 70-80 percent of a draft agreement was completed when Iran and world powers last met in June, a senior European diplomat said on Tuesday that it remained unclear if Tehran would resume talks where they left off.

While Bagheri Kani had said everything negotiated during six rounds of talks between April and June was open for discussion, a member of Iran’s delegation said “elements in the previous unapproved draft that were in conflict with the nuclear deal were revised and gaps were filled” in Iran’s submitted drafts.

Israel, which opposed the original 2015 pact as too limited in scope and duration, urged world powers on Thursday to halt the talks immediately. It cited a UN nuclear watchdog report that Tehran has begun enriching uranium with more advanced centrifuges in its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, where any enrichment had been banned under the deal.

Iran had started the process of refining uranium to up to 20 percent purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow.


Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions
Updated 02 December 2021

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions
  • Israelis are still allowed to fly to other countries and must quarantine when they return
  • Bennett was attacked by political rivals and everyday Israelis itching to return to normalcy

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came under fire Thursday after his wife and children flew abroad just days after the Israeli leader urged citizens to avoid international travel because of the new coronavirus variant.
Gilat Bennett and her children took off Wednesday on a personal visit, triggering a storm of criticism against the prime minister for not following his own guidelines.
Their trip comes after Israel tightened travel restrictions in light of the omicron variant. Israel closed its border to foreign visitors and barred travel to much of Africa but Israelis are still allowed to fly to other countries and must quarantine when they return.
The episode drew comparisons to incidents at the beginning of the pandemic, when former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spent the Passover holiday with members of their family who lived outside their residence, even as they urged Israelis to celebrate away from their relatives. That sparked an outcry and raised questions about the public’s trust in leaders at a time of a major crisis.
Bennett was attacked by political rivals and everyday Israelis itching to return to normalcy.
“It’s a testament to his behavior, to his responsibility to the public, to the lack of personal example. He thinks he can do what he wants,” opposition lawmaker Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio.
Israelis took to social media to berate the prime minister on his social media pages, questioning his leadership.
“Send regards to the family abroad while we are all languishing here with the restrictions,” a user named Anna Gechtman wrote.
In a Facebook post Wednesday answering questions about the new variant, Bennett was asked about his family’s trip and said they were not violating the new travel rules. He said they were expected to fly to a country that subsequently was banned to travel for Israelis and then changed their destination. He also said more had been revealed about where the virus has spread since his decision to limit travel.
“I understand the criticism,” Bennett wrote. “Everyone is leaving while following the restrictions and will of course quarantine as is required.”
Bennett on Friday announced the tightened measures in a press conference on Friday. He counselled Israelis not to bother booking holidays because he expected more countries to be added to the no-travel list.
“If you ask me, I don’t recommend flying abroad right now with such a level of uncertainty,” he said.


Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada
Updated 02 December 2021

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada
  • Operation in Sanaa targeted one of the main stores of weapons and other supplies
  • The coalition also destroyed workshops that store ballistic missiles and drones in Saada

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Thursday carried out air strikes on military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa and Saada, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
It further called on civilians not to approach the targeted sites.
The coalition said the operation in Sanaa targeted one of the main stores of weapons and other supplies. “In east of Sanaa, we destroyed two sites under construction as warehouses for military use,” it said.
The coalition also destroyed workshops that store ballistic missiles and drones in Saada.
Earlier on Wednesday, the coalition said they intercepted and destroyed a drone over Amran province after it was launched from Sanaa International Airport.
The Iran-backed Houthis have repeatedly target Saudi Arabia with explosive-rigged drones, mostly without causing much damage because of the Kingdom’s air defenses.
The coalition has carried out multiple sorties against targets in Sanaa, particularly hitting the airport after surveillance pictures and videos showed it has been converted into a military base for experts of the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.