Efforts ongoing to resume the Renaissance Dam negotiations, says Egyptian minister

Efforts ongoing to resume the Renaissance Dam negotiations, says Egyptian minister
An aerial view of water levels at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Guba, Ethiopia. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 October 2021

Efforts ongoing to resume the Renaissance Dam negotiations, says Egyptian minister

Efforts ongoing to resume the Renaissance Dam negotiations, says Egyptian minister
  • Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and providing power to its population
  • Egypt views the dam as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said there was currently communication between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the three countries involved in negotiations about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and providing power to its population.

Egypt views the dam as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the safety of the dam and the impact on its own dams and water stations.

Shoukry said his country was “always ready to engage in negotiations,” but stressed the importance of having a legal and binding agreement on filling and operating the dam’s reservoir based on the outcome of a UN Security Council session.

He described the council’s statement on the dam as a “great achievement” that came after a lot of hard work to reach a consensus between the body’s 14 member states, including its permanent members.

He said a DRC delegation had visited Egypt and expressed a number of ideas, and that there were currently high-level communications under the auspices of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

“The goal is to reach a binding legal agreement on filling and operating the dam within a short, pre-announced period, and that there be an enhanced framework of observers assisting the African Union to provide solutions and proposals,” Shoukry said.

He also responded to statements from Ethiopian officials saying they would refuse to sign any binding agreement: “It is propaganda for Ethiopian consumption and a challenge to the international community. It proves that Egypt has flexibility as a responsible country and it casts shadows on the actions of the Ethiopian government. Egypt does not set pre-conditions for engaging in negotiations.”  

The minister explained that his country involved Ethiopia in “good faith,” but, after a long period of negotiations, both Egypt and Sudan felt these negotiations were “endless.”

“We place our trust in Tshisekedi that negotiations will resume in accordance with what was approved by the African Union office, as well as the outcomes of the presidential statement issued by the Security Council. If the Ethiopian side has the desire to reach an agreement, we are fully prepared. 

“If this intransigence continues, this does not indicate a comfortable situation and I predict more tension at the regional level. I have emphasised many times that the matter is related to preserving Egypt's water needs, and we have seen even after the first and the second filling that Egypt is taking measures that secure its needs and can continue to provide the required protection in different ways.”

The dam negotiations between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt have been suspended since the failure of the last round held in Kinshasa.

Over the course of previous rounds, Cairo and Khartoum insisted on reaching a binding agreement before the second filling, which Addis Ababa has already implemented.

 

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In latest breach, Iran’s Mahan Air hit with cyberattack

In latest breach, Iran’s Mahan Air hit with cyberattack
Updated 03 December 2021

In latest breach, Iran’s Mahan Air hit with cyberattack

In latest breach, Iran’s Mahan Air hit with cyberattack

TEHRAN: A cyberattack on Sunday disrupted access to Iran’s privately owned Mahan Air, state TV reported, marking the latest in a series of cyberattacks on Iranian infrastructure that has put the country on edge.

Mahan Air’s website displayed an error message saying the site couldn’t be reached. The carrier said in a statement that it had “thwarted” the attack and that its flight schedule was not affected, adding it has faced similar breaches in the past.

Many customers of Mahan Air across Iran received strange text messages on Sunday. A group calling itself Hoosyarane-Vatan, or Observants of Fatherland, claimed in the mass texts to have carried out the attack, citing the airline’s cooperation with Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The self-described hacking group did not provide any evidence.

Mahan Air flies from Tehran to a few dozen destinations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The US Treasury Department, which polices compliance with sanctions, blacklisted the airline in 2011 for allegedly “providing financial, material and technological support” to the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.


Tel Aviv most expensive city to live in, outranking Paris in new report

Tel Aviv most expensive city to live in, outranking Paris in new report
Updated 03 December 2021

Tel Aviv most expensive city to live in, outranking Paris in new report

Tel Aviv most expensive city to live in, outranking Paris in new report
  • Economists attribute the jump to a strong appreciation of the shekel against the dollar

TEL AVIV: Residents of Israel’s seaside metropolis Tel Aviv have for years complained of how expensive it is, with living costs taking a chunk out of their paychecks.

Now a new report affirms their quibbles. Tel Aviv has emerged as the most expensive city to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research group linked to the Economist magazine.

The city, which was previously ranked 5th most expensive, has now surpassed other pricy places like Paris and Singapore.

Economists attribute the jump to a strong appreciation of the shekel against the dollar.

In its report Wednesday, the Economist Intelligence Unit also pointed to a rise in grocery and transport costs.

The report did not include housing prices — another common complaint among young professionals and families trying to live in the bustling city.

“It’s really hard to live here. You pay the rent and you pay for something small and you live, like, from paycheck to paycheck so it’s really hard,” said Ziv Toledano, a transplant from northern Israel. He said his expenses have nearly doubled in Tel Aviv.

Israeli news outlets constantly compare the prices of basic goods in Israel to other Western nations, hammering into audiences what has been clear to their wallets for years: That the country is far more expensive than others.

Tel Aviv is Israel’s financial and cultural epicenter. It boasts a thriving high-tech scene, world-class restaurants and a stretch of Mediterranean beach lined by gleaming new hotels and condominiums.

The shekel is one of the world’s strongest currencies, with its value buoyed in large part by heavy foreign investment in the local high-tech scene.

Dan Ben-David, head of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research and an economist at Tel Aviv University, said goods and services in Israel in general are more expensive than in other countries. Tel Aviv is more expensive because it is the country’s economic hub, with high-paying tech jobs drawing talent from across the country who are driving up prices of food and rent.

“Israel is expensive, and in that regard, Tel Aviv is more expensive than other places in Israel’s because that’s where the good jobs are,” he said.

The city draws even more Israelis wishing to live close to its vibrant cultural and social scene.

Compounding the issue, Ben-David said, is major congestion leading into the city and inadequate transit to its suburbs and surrounding cities, sending even more people wanting to reside in the city.

That, along with foreign buyers, has sent real estate prices skyrocketing, making purchasing an apartment in Tel Aviv almost unattainable for the average Israeli.

Even modest apartments in desirable areas can cost 4 million shekels, or over $1.2 million.

A decade ago, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demand a solution to the rising cost of living.

Successive Israeli governments have struggled to create better job opportunities in other parts of the country and attempts to extend public transit are ongoing, but slow.


Lebanese info min Kordahi to resign on Friday: Reuters

Lebanese info min Kordahi to resign on Friday: Reuters
Updated 40 min 20 sec ago

Lebanese info min Kordahi to resign on Friday: Reuters

Lebanese info min Kordahi to resign on Friday: Reuters

LONDON: Unconfirmed media reports suggested that Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi is set to resign on Friday, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Kordahi’s resignation announcement was made following his meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday.
Kordahi’s party, Al-Marada, is looking into who will replace him, and has appointed Minister of Education Abbas Al-Halabi as the acting information minister until then, Lebanese Al-Jadeed TV reported.
Several Gulf countries severed diplomatic ties with Lebanon in protest made by Kordahi that were critical to the war in Yemen.


Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts
Updated 02 December 2021

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts
  • Armed groups have reportedly already strongarmed voters at polling stations and the full list of candidates has still not been finalized

LONDON: The political situation in Libya will remain unstable whether or not planned elections go ahead later this month, experts have warned, pointing to legal, political, and security failings that endanger stability in the near future.

In an event hosted Thursday by London think-tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, a panel of speakers outlined their grim predictions for the future of Libya’s political roadmap.

Wolfram Lacher, senior associate at the German Institute for International Affairs, warned that the political situation is even worse than in the lead-up to the 2014 election, which ultimately saw the eruption of conflict between Tripoli and Benghazi-based parties.

“The current situation is immensely more problematic than it was in 2014. It’s not comparable at all,” said Lacher.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are planned for Dec. 24 for the first time since the cessation of hostilities in a civil war between the Government of National Unity’s Tripoli-based forces, the Government of National Accordand Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, based in Benghazi.

Lacher explained that the years of division that ensued during that civil war have led to a more divided country than in pre-2014.

The creation of rival administrations, Lacher said, “essentially led to the whole constitutional architecture of Libya breaking down. There is no basis anymore than anyone agrees on.”

He continued: “We’ve had two civil wars in Libya since (2014) that have inflicted deep rifts on the social fabric. The militias have grown incredibly powerful since 2014, and much more politically involved.”

But Lacher warned that the legal process convened to run this month’s elections actually threatens to enflame these divisions, not heal them — as the election was intended to do.

Libyan authorities are currently embroiled in a dispute over the legal basis upon which certain candidates, such as former Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, could run. Some candidates have argued that Dbeibeh should be barred from running for President because he did not comply with laws that force officials to resign a minimum of three months before an election takes place.

But these ostensibly legal technical issues — that appear administrative in nature — have an important role in deciding the outcome of the vote itself, as well as the political reality and intra-Libyan dynamics in the days following the vote.

Experts warned that militias and armed factions could refuse to accept the vote if it does not go their way, and use legal issues, such as certain candidates being allowed to run, as grounds to delegitimize the entire process. It is not clear what would happen if losing candidates choose to do this.

Zahraa Langhi, member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, told participants that both the LNA and GNA are currently benefitting from a political stalemate in Libya, and so they have no true interest in seeing a free and fair election carried out.

“The current political stalemate, the political fragmentation — all these forces are benefitting from it,” Langhi said, explaining that any delay in the election could “reward” those who spoil the election’s integrity.

She also said that interim governments, convened as part of international multilateral measures, “failed miserably” to rectify Libya’s political fragmentation — despite that objective being a “major, basic milestone in the roadmap to creating national unity.”

Langhi lamented a failure by the UN to engage effectively with actors on the ground in Libya.

“The (UN) special envoy is leaving (his post) in a couple of days, leaving the whole process without oversight.”

She said that the UN has left the issue of vetting candidates — fundamentally important to a safe and secure election — to Libya’s judiciary, which she believes has “failed to address the issue.”

Now Libyans are left with a series of candidates that Langhi said do not provide any real choice for Libyans, the most prominent of which are former Prime Minister Dbeibeh, former warlord Haftar, and possibly even Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi — son of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi. “This cannot continue,” she said.

But Otman Gajiji, former chairman of the Libyan High National Election Commission, cast doubt on the possibility that Libyans will manage to vote freely and fairly at all.

Not only do Libyans not have enough time to familiarize themselves with the dozens of candidates currently in the running for election, he said, but a series of attacks on polling stations are a grim omen for voting day.

“There are new unofficial reports that four polling stations were attacked by armed groups in Aziziya, and one was in Tripoli — all voter cards, or most of the voter cards, were taken by these armed groups. For me that is a very bad sign,” Gajiji said.

He added: “We are 22 days, three weeks, ahead of the elections. Such events are not a good indicator for the near future, or for the future of the elections.”


Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon
Updated 02 December 2021

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon
  • Professional syndicates elections fail to inspire political shifts

BEIRUT: Elections held by professional syndicates in Lebanon over the past few weeks have not ended in tangible change.

The results of polls for the Lebanese bar associations, the Order of Pharmacists of Lebanon, and the Lebanese Press Editors’ Syndicate returned expected candidates, while the elections of the Lebanese Dental Association were suspended after a fight broke out between members.

Hezbollah members, meanwhile, entered the vote counting hall and proceeded to destroy ballot boxes.

However, the elections of the Order of Engineers and Architects saw the only official breach for the opposition candidates.

The last of these elections were those of the Press Editors’ Syndicate, which was held on Wednesday and saw an unprecedented voter turnout exceeding 73 percent. Twenty-seven candidates contested 12 seats on the syndicate’s council.

Joseph Kosseifi, the re-elected head of the syndicate, told Arab News that “journalists are part of this Lebanese society, but the syndicate is not politicized. It is the least politicized of the liberal professions syndicates. It is normal for journalists to have political tendencies, however, the work of the syndicate is related to the profession.”

Many of the candidates had called for change. May Abi Akl, who scored the second largest number of votes among the candidates who lost, was one of them. She noted that her decision to run for election “aimed at bringing about change within the Press Editors’ Syndicate and preventing the election of a closed list that only represents itself. Our objective was to introduce new blood into the syndicate and we were able to stir up the still water.”

As the results were announced on Wednesday night, the opposition candidates chanted “down with the rule of the ruling class.” However, Kosseifi said: “Whoever wants real change has to be a partner within the public assemblies and this is not happening. All the revolution on the streets was able to achieve is make people protest and scream. Apart from that, they failed to achieve a qualitative breach.”

Activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said that “the elections of the liberal professions syndicates gave indications regarding the alignment of the ruling parties. Their performance was not good, even among themselves. We saw the Shiite duo, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, working alone, while the Future Movement-Progressive Socialist Party alliance was somewhere else. On the other hand, the weakness of the ruling parties was not matched by a unified opposition.

“There are two opinions within the opposition. Some say that holding on to pure opposition will not achieve anything and that it sometimes needs an alliance with the opposing political forces to bring down the symbols of the ruling class. For example, an alliance between the opposition forces and the Kataeb Party could make a difference in regards to removing the representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement. However, others stress the importance of unifying all of the forces that are not part of the ruling class to be able to confront it,” Abdel Samad explained.

Electoral expert Zeina El-Helou told Arab News: “The political forces, no matter how opposed to the ruling class, want to build an alliance with me in order to take from me, not to give me. There are fundamental differences between the forces of the revolution and the opposing political forces. We do not agree on any political objective. How can we be their allies? They tell us to be their allies now and oppose them in Parliament. Does that mean that we are replacing one party of the ruling class with another party? We do not want to fight battles in Parliament. We want the Parliament to work. We want to make changes.”