Egyptian and Russian foreign ministers discuss strategic relations

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Egyptian and Russian foreign ministers discuss strategic relations

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
  • Meeting was on sidelines of UN General Assembly session 
  • Countries have partnership and cooperation agreement 

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov discussed strategic relations between the two countries, as well as Syria, Libya, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Lavrov and Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. 

They discussed issues related to the further development of Russian-Egyptian relations, stressing the need to “maintain bilateral contacts, in which dialogue based on trust between the leaders of the two friendly countries plays an important role.”

Lavrov and Shoukry said the partnership and strategic cooperation agreement between Russia and Egypt, which entered into force in January, would ensure the strengthening of joint work in commercial, economic and humanitarian matters.

In an official post on Telegram, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Lavrov had invited Shoukry to visit Moscow.


Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
Updated 4 sec ago

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
RAMALLAH, West Bank: Activists called on the international community Saturday to help reverse Israel’s unprecedented designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, a label that effectively outlaws them.
They said the decision amounts to an attempt to silence groups that have documented Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians over the years. Some of the groups have close ties with rights organizations in Israel and abroad.
Israel claims the targeted groups were a front for a small PLO faction with a violent history, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israel’s terror label for the six groups, including some that receive European funding, appears to have caught the United States and Europe off-guard. Israel later insisted some Biden administration officials were notified ahead of time.
The move against the rights groups comes at a time when efforts to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state alongside Israel are hopelessly bogged down. For years, the US and Europe have been engaged in politically less costly conflict management, rather than pushing for a solution, while Israeli settlements on occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state have continued to expand.
Amid the paralysis, Europe, in particular, has invested in strengthening Palestinian civil society, an effort now seemingly being challenged by Israel’s decision to outlaw well-known rights groups.
The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalize funding and expressions of support.
Rights groups in Israel and abroad have expressed outrage over the “terror” label.
Palestinian activists said they are counting on international pressure to get the decision reversed.
“We hope that the International community will put enough pressure on Israel so that it will back down,” Ubai Aboudi, head of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of the targeted groups, said Saturday. Aboudi said he was previously charged by Israel with being a PFLP member, but denied ever belonging to the group.
Sahar Francis, the director of the prisoners rights group Addameer, told a news conference that she was grateful for the international statements of support, and that “we expect this campaign and pressure to continue in order for it to be fruitful.” Addameer is also one of the targeted groups.
Shawan Jabarin, who heads the veteran rights group Al-Haq, said Israel’s designation came as a surprise and that the groups had not been given a heads-up. Two of the six groups said they would not be forced underground despite the uncertainty of their new status,
An Israeli defense official alleged in a statement Saturday that the six groups “operate as an organized network” under the leadership of the PFLP. The statement claimed the groups serve as a lifeline for the PFLP through fund-raising, money laundering and recruiting activists.
It also named several members of the rights groups who were later arrested as alleged members of the PFLP military wing. The small PLO faction has a political party and a military wing that has carried out attacks that killed Israelis.
The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries.
The six groups have denied the allegations and have denounced Israel’s terrorism designation as a blatant attempt to squash reporting on rights abuses in the occupied territories, mainly by Israel, but also by the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian autonomy government.
The UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said Saturday that the reasons cited by Israel’s defense minister were “vague or irrelevant,” and denounced his decision as the latest move in a “long stigmatizing campaign” against the organizations.
The European Union delegation to the Palestinian territories acknowledged financing activities by some of the rights groups. It said past allegations of the misuse of EU funds by partners “have not been substantiated” but that it takes the matter seriously and is looking into it.
“EU funding to Palestinian civil society organizations is an important element of our support for the two-state solution,” it said Friday.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, said it had not been given advance warning about the decision and would seek more information. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday that “we believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”
The other four groups targeted by Israel include Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. The majority of the organizations target human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.

Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Updated 17 min 40 sec ago

Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
  • Aoun justifies opposition to law by citing ‘natural and climatic factors’ that often occur in March and could prevent voting
  • Bassil may benefit from these developments and reap rewards elsewhere, says analyst

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has sent a law amending legislative election rules back to parliament for reconsideration, the presidency said in a statement.

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered.

Aoun’s objection comes after the Free Patriotic Movement bloc raised its opposition to holding elections in March instead of May because it “narrows its margins of action.”

During the legislative session of Oct. 19, the bloc also objected to proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six allocated seats and allowing expatriates to vote for the electoral lists.

The FPM sought to allocate these six seats in the electoral law, provided that voting for these representatives would take place in the 2022 elections.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on the parliamentary committees to convene next Tuesday to discuss Aoun’s response to the electoral law.

Observers described these developments as a sign of a political struggle for the presidency.

The parliament to be elected in March is expected to pick the new president after Aoun’s term ends in October.

In the decree in which he requested a review of the amendments, Aoun said that “shortening the constitutional deadline for the elections could prevent voters from being able to exercise their electoral right due to the natural and climatic factors that often prevail in March, making it impossible for voters to reach their polling stations, not to mention the cost of transportation and the inability to supply polling stations with electricity.”

He added: “This could also prevent voters residing outside Lebanon from exercising their political right preserved in the current electoral law by voting for their representatives in the electoral district designated for non-residents.”

The president said that the amendments to the law deprive the right to vote from 10,685 citizens, who would reach the age of 21 between Feb. 1 and March 30, 2022.

Zeina Helou, an elections expert, told Arab News: “Aoun is trying to pull strings in order to later accuse the other political parties of preventing him from carrying out the reforms he wanted.”

She added: “Aoun and his political team prefer to gain more time to conduct the elections rather than move the date up.

“Freezing the voter lists will deprive new voters who would soon turn 21 from the right to vote, and this may be a reason to appeal before the Constitutional Council.”

Helou added that “the FPM fears that Christian voters who live in Greater Beirut will not go to the polling stations in their remote villages and towns in Akkar, in the north, the south, and Baalbek-Hermel, either because of the high prices of gasoline or because of the stormy weather in the mountains in March, and insists on Mega polling centers.”

She noted that “this process requires a lot of time to be arranged, but I doubt that the rest of the political parties want these polling stations in the places where voters live because they lose the ability to control their voters and know who they voted for.”

Helou pointed out: “The Shiite duo, Hezbollah and the Amal movement — unlike Aoun and his political team — do not fear the upcoming elections. Hezbollah does not derive its legitimacy from the elections but from its weapons and power.

“Hezbollah is able to obstruct any parliamentary session, just as it is currently obstructing holding cabinet sessions until Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut port blast, is removed. The second Hezbollah feels threatened, it will turn the tables.”

Justifications for disrupting the elections in March may already be in motion, regardless of constitutional reasons that may or may not be taken into account.

Helou told Arab News that FPM head MP Gebran Bassil — who has always wanted to become president — may benefit from the current developments and reap rewards elsewhere.

Although the political parties believe it is still too early to discuss what the upcoming parliamentary elections will bear, Helou said that in 2018, the elections were held amid understanding and settlements between the political parties in power, while in 2022 they will be marked by tug-of-war and alliances.

“The same parties could be re-elected and regain their seats in parliament, and we may see a low voter turnout for lack of convincing alternatives.”

Next Tuesday, parliament is expected to either approve Aoun’s request, which requires the votes of 61 MPs, or appeal it before the Constitutional Council.

Parliament could also introduce some amendments to the law, which requires the votes of half of the quorum plus one; if the quorum is 65 MPs, the law would need 33 votes.


Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
Updated 23 October 2021

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
  • Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles
  • Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese faction calling for a transfer of power to civilian rule warned Saturday of a “creeping coup,” during a press conference that an unidentified mob attack sought to prevent.
Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since the April 2019 ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir.
Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.
The main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — which led anti-Bashir protests, has splintered into two opposing factions.
“The crisis at hand is engineered — and is in the shape of a creeping coup,” mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman, said in a press conference in the capital Khartoum.
“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions — but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.
The press conference at the official SUNA news agency premises was delayed when an unidentified mob tried to stop it going ahead.
The FFC’s mainstream faction backs a transition to civilian rule, but supporters of the breakaway faction have ratcheted up calls for “military rule.”
On Thursday, tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan to counter a week-long encampment supporting pro-military rule in central Khartoum.
Critics have charged that the rival sit-in has been orchestrated by senior figures in the security forces, Bashir sympathizers and other “counter-revolutionaries.”
Tensions between the two sides have long simmered, but divisions ratcheted up after a failed coup on September 21.
Hamdok has previously described the splits as the “worst and most dangerous crisis” facing the transition.
On Saturday, Hamdok denied rumors he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate.”
The premier also “emphasised that he does not monopolize the right to decide the fate of transitional institutions.”
SUNA reported that Jeffrey Feltman, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, is expected in Khartoum for meetings.


Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province
Updated 23 October 2021

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province
  • Houthis target international ships in Red Sea, says official
  • Coalition’s air raids on Houthi targets in Hodeidah came days after it destroyed similar locations in Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: The Arab coalition on Saturday said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.

A coalition statement said warplanes targeted Al-Jabanah coastal base, east of Hodeidah city, where the vessels had been prepared to attack international ships sailing through the Red Sea.

“The coalition efforts have contributed to protecting shipping lanes and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and south of (the) Red Sea,” it said.

The coalition’s air raids on Houthi targets in Hodeidah came days after it destroyed similar locations in Sanaa, where explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles had been prepared to attack locations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The coalition recently vowed to launch heavier aerial bombardments in Yemen if the Houthis did not stop attacking civilians inside and outside Yemen.

A pro-government officer from Hodeidah said on Saturday that Al-Jabanah had three military sites and was known to Yemeni military officials as a place for making explosive-laden boats and drones.

“The Houthis usually target international ships in the Red Sea from Al-Jabanah since it is the closest area in Hodeidah to international waters,” the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, told Arab News.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has accused the Houthis of breaching the Stockholm Agreement by turning coastal areas in Hodeidah under their control into bases for launching attacks against the administration, the coalition, and international maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

The airstrikes in Hodeidah are the first to have taken place in the last few months as most of the coalition’s efforts are focused on supporting government troops battling the militia in the central province of Marib.

Dozens of Houthi fighters and government troops were killed in fighting outside Marib city as the militia pressed ahead with its offensive to capture it along with its gas and oil fields.

Residents and local officials said on Saturday that fierce clashes had erupted in Jabal Murad after hundreds of Houthis attacked troops and allied tribesmen in a bid to make fresh territorial gains that would put them closer to their target.


Egypt, Qatar discuss trade and investment future 

Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Nevin Gamea meeting Qatar’s ambassador to Cairo, Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi. (Supplied)
Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Nevin Gamea meeting Qatar’s ambassador to Cairo, Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2021

Egypt, Qatar discuss trade and investment future 

Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Nevin Gamea meeting Qatar’s ambassador to Cairo, Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi. (Supplied)
  • Minister urged the importance of an Egyptian-Qatari trade committee to follow up on all bilateral cooperation projects.

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Nevin Gamea met Qatar’s ambassador to Cairo, Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi, on Friday to discuss ways to further develop economic, trade and investment relations between the two countries after a four-year hiatus ended earlier this year.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Gamea said that both countries are intensifying efforts achieve further rapprochement at a political and economic level. She noted the importance of translating goodwill into concrete cooperation.

She pointed to the importance of building on the “solid ground” laid by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani by enhancing trade and developing joint investment.

The minister urged the importance of an Egyptian-Qatari trade committee to follow up on all bilateral cooperation projects.

Gamea also stressed the importance of the two countries working at a ministerial level, and invited the Qatari minister of trade to visit Cairo.

Al-Shafi said that Egypt offers “strategic depth” to the region, noting the desire of both countries to begin a new phase of bilateral cooperation.

He urged the importance of enhancing intra-regional trade and joint investment between Egypt and Qatar to “reflect the great potential of both countries.” He said that there is consensus between the two governments on a large number of joint cooperation files.

Al-Shafi praised the economic reforms and urban developments implemented by Egypt, and said that Qatari investment has remained strong in the Egyptian market, especially in finance and real estate.