Kings of Bahrain, Jordan agree to continue cooperating on Arab causes and regional security

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) is received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) is received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) and his wife Queen Rania are received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon their arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) and his wife Queen Rania are received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon their arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) is received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) is received by Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2021

Kings of Bahrain, Jordan agree to continue cooperating on Arab causes and regional security

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad upon his arrival at the Sakhir Air Base on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan/AFP)
  • The two leaders reiterated the Palestinian cause remains a central Arab issue and called for efforts to reach a two-state solution to be stepped up

LONDON: Bahrain’s King Hamad and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday stressed the need to continue to coordinate and consult on issues of mutual concern, the foremost of which is the Palestinian cause.
“The two leaders noted the centrality of the Palestinian cause, calling for stepping up efforts to reach a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the two-state solution, as a strategic option to end the conflict,” according to a statement issued by Petra, the Jordan News Agency.
King Abdullah, accompanied by Queen Rania, was in Manama for an official visit. The royal couple was greeted on arrival at Sakhir Air Base by King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.
The Jordanian king praised the strong bilateral ties between the countries and highlighted the importance of expanding cooperation in all sectors. He commended Bahrain’s stances in support of Arab causes and its steadfast efforts to maintain Arab unity.

King Hamad also praised the deep-rooted ties between the nations, the advanced level of cooperation, and the contributions made by the Jordanian community in Bahrain in all sectors. He commended Jordan’s efforts to arrange the safe return of Bahraini students and nationals to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation in combating the pandemic and limiting the spread of the virus, and thanked King Abdullah for the facilities Jordan provided to the Bahraini embassy in Amman, the Bahrain News Agency reported.
Both leaders said they were satisfied with the levels of bilateral trade and the advanced level of economic and trade ties. They called for continued coordination in efforts to counter terrorism and sustain security and stability.

The talks also covered the latest developments in Syria, with King Abdullah reiterating his country’s support for efforts to preserve the country’s sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity and the unity of its people.
In addition the two monarchs stressed the need to work to stop foreign interference in regional affairs, and to enhance bilateral cooperation to stabilize regional security and stability and protect international navigation in the Arabian Gulf from any threats that affect the movement of global trade, BNA said.


Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects
Updated 9 sec ago

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects
JERUSALEM: Israel worries Iran will secure a windfall in sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb-making potential, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
Negotiators will convene in Vienna on Monday https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/low-expectations-nuclear-talks-iran-creates-facts-grounds-2021-11-28 in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal which the United States under then-President Donald Trump quit in 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran. That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
Israel, which is not a party to the talks, opposed the original 2015 pact as too limited in scope and duration. Israeli leaders have long threatened military action against Iran if they deem diplomacy a dead end for denying it nuclear weaponry.
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round begins after a hiatus caused by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric.

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack
Updated 28 November 2021

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

KHARTOUM: Six Sudanese soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by Ethiopian forces on a Sudanese army post near the border between the countries, Sudanese military sources told Reuters.
Sudan’s army said in an earlier statement on Facebook that “groups of the Ethiopian army and militias attacked its forces in Al-Fashaga Al-sughra, which resulted in deaths ... our forces valiantly repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses in lives and equipment on the attackers.”
The army statement did not provide any details about the death toll.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a Reuters message seeking comment on the incident.


UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
Updated 28 November 2021

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
  • This comes ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2

DUBAI: The President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered the release of 870 prisoners on Sunday ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2, according to state news agency WAM.
The prisoners, sentenced for various crimes, will also have their debts and fines paid off, the statement added.


US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 November 2021

US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
  • The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before

WASHINGTON: The United States under President Joe Biden is to resume on Monday indirect negotiations with Iran in Vienna — but is far less optimistic than in the spring about the possibility of saving the Iranian nuclear deal.
And its options to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb are limited if talks fail.

As president, Donald Trump withdrew from the international deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions lifted under the accord’s terms.
In response, the Islamic Republic has flouted many of the restrictions set on its nuclear program.
Biden has said he wants to return to the deal — negotiated in 2015 by then-president Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president — so long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
The indirect negotiations in Vienna resume Monday after a five-month suspension imposed by Iran.
“There is room to quickly reach and implement an understanding,” a spokesperson for the US State Department said Wednesday.
But the American envoy on Iran, Rob Malley, has said that Tehran’s attitude “doesn’t augur well for the talks.”
Washington has accused the Middle Eastern nation of dragging its feet and increasing its “radical” demands — while still making progress that would bring it significantly closer to developing a bomb.

If, when talks resume, it quickly becomes apparent to the United States that Iran only wants to buy time to step up its nuclear advances, then Washington will not “sit idly by,” Malley warned.
“We’re going to have to see other efforts — diplomatic and otherwise — to try to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” he said.
One of the diplomatic options mentioned was a possible interim agreement.
“The Biden administration could look at a short-term deal, a limited agreement that freezes some of the most proliferation-sensitive activities in Iran in exchange for some modest sanctions relief,” Kelsey Davenport, the head of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told AFP recently.
The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before.
But such a move risks provoking an outcry in Washington, among Republicans but also among several members of Biden’s Democratic Party, who would see it as too generous a concession to Iran.

“If Iran comes back to the negotiating table with a long list of demands outside of the JCPOA, the US could reciprocate” and present its own list about Iran’s role in regional conflicts and its ballistic missiles, said Davenport, using the official acronym for the nuclear deal.
But doing so would open up long and complex negotiations with an uncertain outcome.
And there is nothing to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear program during that time.

For Suzanne DiMaggio, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, the “options beyond restoring the deal are not great.”
“If there was a better plan out there, we would have heard it by now,” she said Friday during an exchange with reporters.
One possibility would be to increase economic sanctions, even as the Democratic administration continues to blast the Trump era “maximum pressure” approach as a failure.
Punitive measures could also target China, which continues to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. But Beijing is unlikely to change its stance.
US hawks opposed to the 2015 deal — and there are many, particularly among conservatives — argue that Washington should increase economic, diplomatic and even military pressure without waiting for the outcome of the Vienna negotiations.

Accused of weakness by proponents of a harder stance, the Biden administration began to toughen its approach in October, warning that “other options” than diplomacy were on the table to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The White House did not specify what those options were, but it has clearly hinted at the possibility of military action.
However, in a noted op-ed, former US diplomat Dennis Ross said that the “routinized” reference to “other options” had become insufficient, as “Tehran no longer takes Washington seriously.”
“The Biden administration needs to put the prospect of military escalation back on the table if it hopes to make progress on the nuclear issue,” he wrote in the essay, published October 27.
Israel, for its part, has clearly embraced this option as a possibility.
But for DiMaggio, military force “will not ultimately solve the problem.
“In fact, precedent is for the Iranians to meet pressure with pressure,” she warned.
“More aggressive steps beyond sanctions, including further sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program, run the risk of resulting in a miscalculation, mistake or an escalation that cannot be managed, potentially sparking violent conflict.”


Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over omicron

 In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2021

Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over omicron

 In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
  • The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs

JERUSALEM: Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant, and said it would use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
“Our working hypotheses are that the variant is already in nearly every country,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told N12’s “Meet the Press,” “and that the vaccine is effective, although we don’t yet know to what degree.”
Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine, Bennett said. The ban will come into effect at midnight between Sunday and Monday. A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African states was imposed on Friday.
The Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others, Bennett said.
Used on and off since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they had come into contact. Israel’s Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns.
The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say such restrictions may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.
Israel has so far confirmed one case of Omicron, with seven suspected cases. The Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case was vaccinated. Three of the seven suspected cases were fully vaccinated, the ministry said on Saturday, and three had not returned from travel abroad recently.
Around 57 percent of Israel’s 9.4 million population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry, which means they have either received a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine or it has not yet been five months since they received their second dose. Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.