Egypt recovers two ancient statues from Belgium

Egypt recovers two ancient statues from Belgium
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Belgium has returned two ancient Egyptian artefacts that had been illegally taken from Egypt. (Supplied)
Egypt recovers two ancient statues from Belgium
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Belgium has returned two ancient Egyptian artefacts that had been illegally taken from Egypt. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 October 2021

Egypt recovers two ancient statues from Belgium

Egypt recovers two ancient statues from Belgium
  • The artefacts were returned to Egypt’s ambassador to Belgium during a ceremony held on Saturday
  • Egypt had been working on retrieving statues after Belgian authorities seized them during an antiquities sale

CAIRO: Belgium has returned two ancient Egyptian artefacts that had been illegally taken from Egypt.

The artefacts were returned to Khaled El-Baqly, Egypt’s ambassador to Belgium, during a ceremony held on Saturday by Belgium’s ministry of economy. The deputy prime minister, the Belgian minister of economy and labor, and Belgian government officials also attended.

General Supervisor of the Administration of Recovered Antiquities in Egypt Shaaban Abdel-Gawad said: “The two statues consist of a colorful limestone statue of a standing man resting on a base dating back to the era of the Old Kingdom, and another Ushabti statue from the Late Period made of faience.”

Abdel-Gawad said that Egypt had been working on retrieving the two statues since 2016, when Belgian authorities seized them during an antiquities sale in Belgium. Investigations proved that the owner of the exhibition did not have identification papers for the statues.

The Egyptian attorney general’s office, the ministry of tourism and antiquities, and the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs worked together to retrieve the stolen artefacts. The Egyptian embassy in Brussels and the Belgian authorities were also credited by the Egyptian foreign ministry in a statement.

Ambassador Khaled El-Baqly expressed the importance of the event, which represented a tangible step that expressed the “distinguished relations” between Egypt and Belgium, and paved the way for more coordination, including the recovery of smuggled Egyptian antiquities.


Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow
Updated 6 sec ago

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow
TRIPOLI: A Libyan political body on Wednesday called for a Dec. 24 presidential election to be delayed to February amid growing jostling over the rules and legal basis of a vote aimed at ending a decade of instability.
The statement by the High State Council (HSC), an advisory body installed through a 2015 peace agreement but not recognized by all other Libyan political entities, comes less than three weeks before the vote.
In Libya’s complex, fractured political environment the extent of the HSC’s powers is debated, but its statement adds to the doubts surrounding the election.
The electoral commission has not yet announced a final list of candidates for the presidential race following a fractious process of court appeals over the eligibility of the 98 who registered to run.
The arguments over some highly divisive candidates, including major figures from Libya’s conflict, have already threatened to torpedo the contest.
Those disputes revealed deeper disagreements over the basis for a voting process that has already diverged from both the UN-backed roadmap that set the vote and a controversial election law issued in September by the parliament speaker.
The roadmap envisaged the election as a way to end disputes over the legitimacy of Libya’s rival political bodies, which were formed during earlier transitional periods following the 2011 revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
The HSC was drawn from members of a national assembly elected in 2012 who rejected the results of a 2014 election that created the current parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR).
Despite the 2015 political agreement that enshrined a legislative role for the HoR and an advisory role for the HSC, they do not formally recognize each other, though they have held sporadic peace negotiations in Morocco.
Some Libyans fear the disputes over the current election process could trigger a similar crisis to that surrounding the 2014 vote, when Libya split between warring eastern and western factions with parallel administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The HSC statement on Wednesday said the presidential and parliamentary elections should both take place on the same day, as was originally demanded by the UN roadmap.
Laws issued in September and October by HoR speaker Aguila Saleh, a presidential candidate, set a first round presidential vote for Dec. 24 but delayed the parliamentary vote.
Saleh’s critics accuse him of issuing the laws without a quorum or a proper vote in parliament and after intimidation against some members. Saleh and his allies deny wrongdoing and say the laws were passed properly.

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations
Updated 6 min 13 sec ago

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations
  • Le Drian's trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a "working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship"

ALGIERS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks in Algeria Wednesday in a bid to heal the latest rift between the North African country and its former colonial ruler.
Le Drian’s trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a “working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship” and he is set to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a French foreign ministry source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Algeria’s APS state news outlet confirmed that the French diplomat had met his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra during “a working visit and evaluation of bilateral relations.”
Relations between Algiers and Paris have been strained for much of the six decades since the former French colony won its independence after a 130-year occupation.
President Emmanuel Macron has gone further than his predecessors in owning up to French abuses during the colonial era.
But ties collapsed in October after Macron accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting history and fomenting “hatred toward France.”
In remarks to descendants of independence fighters, reported by Le Monde, Macron also questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.
Coming a month after Paris decided to sharply reduce visa quotas for citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, those comments sparked a fierce reaction from Algeria.
The country withdrew its ambassador and banned French military planes from its airspace, which they regularly use to carry out operations against jihadist groups in West Africa and the Sahel region.
The comments also prompted Tebboune to boycott a major November summit in Paris on Algeria’s war-torn neighbor Libya, vowing that Algeria would “not take the first step” to repair ties.
The dispute prompted a rare expression of contrition from the French presidency, which said it “regretted” the misunderstandings caused by the remarks.
An aide from Macron’s office said the French leader “has the greatest respect for the Algerian nation and its history and for Algeria’s sovereignty.”
Algerian Foreign Minister Lamamra welcomed that statement and, in the end, represented Algeria at the Libya conference.
Le Drian’s visit comes as Algeria prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence in March.
Macron, France’s first leader born after the colonial era, has made a priority of historical reconciliation and forging a modern relationship with former colonies.
Earlier this year, he recognized that French officers tortured and killed Algerian lawyer Ali Boumendjel in 1957.
Macron also in October condemned “inexcusable crimes” during a 1961 crackdown against Algerian pro-independence protesters in Paris, during which French police led by a former Nazi collaborator killed dozens of demonstrators and threw their bodies into the river Seine.
A report commissioned by the president from historian Benjamin Stora earlier this year urged a truth commission over the Algerian war but Macron ruled out issuing any official apology.
And as he seeks re-election next year, he is wary of providing ammunition to far-right nationalist opponents Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.


Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan
Updated 08 December 2021

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Cairo: Egypt’s military announced that under the directives of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, tons of medical and pharmaceutical aid have been sent to South Sudan.

The aid, transported by a military plane, was provided by the Ministry of Health and Population.

Officials in South Sudan expressed their appreciation for Egypt’s support, which they said strengthens bilateral relations.

During floods that swept South Sudan earlier this year, Egypt sent aid such as food and medical supplies.


Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022
Updated 08 December 2021

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

CAIRO: The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has announced the selection of Cairo as next year’s culture capital of the Muslim world.

Egypt’s Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem told a press conference that this choice reflects Cairo’s position as a meeting place for different cultures, a creative hub and a center for thought and art.

She praised ISESCO’s efforts to celebrate the capitals of Islamic countries and promote relationships between them.


Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
Updated 08 December 2021

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
  • Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools

RABAT: Morocco’s state schools are failing students and “deepening inequality,” a supervisory body has warned, as authorities scramble to raise the quality of teaching after years of neglect
The High Council for Education (CSE) has warned of a “crisis” in public education and said that government schools “are not giving the majority of pupils basic skills or a fundamental education.”
Despite a string of reforms, state schools “are becoming a machine for reproducing inequalities in society,” said the CSE in a report last month, cautioning that this “poses a serious threat.”
The situation has pushed many, including middle class families, to tighten their belts so they can scrape together fees for private schools.
“I pay almost 400 euros a month,” says Siham, an employee in the private sector. “It’s a lot, but it’s essential to guarantee that my two children get a better French and English education, which public school can’t give them.”
Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools.
“These figures are distressing; they show that we’re raising illiterate citizens,” said Abderazzak Drissi, head of the kingdom’s National Teachers’ Federation.
The situation contrasts with the lofty goals of Morocco’s “New Development Model” presented by a royal commission in May and laying out a string of targets to be met by 2035.
The council’s warning is just the latest in a string of official reports to raise the alarm over problems in the education system and the resulting high unemployment rate among youth, the age group hardest hit by social inequality.
Chakib Benmoussa, who took office as education minister in October, described the system as “painful.”
“Improving the quality of public education depends first of all on the quality of teacher training,” he told parliament this month.
The CSE report agreed, adding that some choose the profession for “lack of alternatives.”
According to ministry figures, this year more than 100,000 candidates applied for fewer than 17,000 teaching jobs.
Under Benmoussa, the ministry has brought in new rules requiring prospective teachers to be aged under 30 and have a university degree with distinction.
The aim is “to select the best candidates who really want to practice this profession, as is the case at medical or engineering schools,” a ministry official told AFP.
But while there is agreement on the problems, opinions vary on the solutions.
The new conditions sparked a backlash from the teachers’ union and trainee teachers, with street demonstrations erupting last month.
Drissi, the union member, said what was needed was “a tougher entrance exam, not an age limit.”
But the ministry official said that “now it is urgent to reform the education system. We’ve delayed too much.”