West asks whether Iran is serious or stalling as talks set to resume

West asks whether Iran is serious or stalling as talks set to resume
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 November 2021

West asks whether Iran is serious or stalling as talks set to resume

West asks whether Iran is serious or stalling as talks set to resume

VIENNA: Iran and world powers will meet in Vienna on Monday to try to salvage their 2015 nuclear deal, but with Tehran sticking to its tough stance and Western powers increasingly frustrated, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the pact, which then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other powers involved — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi in June as Iran’s president.
Tehran’s new negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic, Western diplomats say.
“Our demands are clear. Other parties and especially Americans should decide whether they want this deal to be revived or not. They abandoned the pact, so they should return to it and lift all sanctions,” an Iranian official close to the talks told Reuters.
Iran’s demands include the dropping of all US and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017, including those unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program, in a verifiable process.
Iran’s foreign ministry ruled out the possibility of direct meeting between Iranian and US officials in Vienna. Talks between Iran and world powers will resume at 1300 GMT on Monday.
In parallel, Tehran’s conflicts with the UN atomic watchdog, which monitors the nuclear program, have festered.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to reinstall monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better, it simply won’t work. We and our partners won’t go for it,” US envoy Robert Malley told BBC Sounds on Saturday.
He warned that Washington would be ready to ramp up pressure on Tehran if talks collapse.
Iranian officials have insisted in the run-up to Monday that their focus is purely the lifting of sanctions rather than nuclear issues. Highlighting that, its 40-strong delegation mostly includes economic officials.
“To ensure any forthcoming agreement is ironclad, the West needs to pay a price for having failed to uphold its part of the bargain. As in any business, a deal is a deal, and breaking it has consequences,” Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani said in defiant column in the Financial Times on Sunday.
“The principle of ‘mutual compliance’ cannot form a proper base for negotiations since it was the US government which unilaterally left the deal.”
Diplomats have said Washington has suggested negotiating an open-ended interim accord with Tehran as long as a permanent deal is not achieved.
Failure to strike a deal could also prompt reaction from Israel which has said military options would be on the table.
“The talks can’t last forever. There is the obvious need to speed up the process,’ Moscow’s envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Twitter. 


Saudi and Iraq air forces discuss promoting joint action

Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)
Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)
Updated 20 min 18 sec ago

Saudi and Iraq air forces discuss promoting joint action

Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)

RIYADH: Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, the commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force, met with his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali during his visit to Riyadh.
During the meeting, they discussed issues of interest to the two forces and ways to promote joint action, the Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Monday.
The two sides also exchanged mementos on the occasion.
The Iraqi air force commander is scheduled to visit a number of air force units and the Saqr Aljazeera Aviation Museum during his visit.


UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June
Updated 41 min 5 sec ago

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June
  • Libyans want an end to this long period of transition that the country has experienced since the events of 2011

CAIRO: A senior US official said she is pushing for Libya to hold elections by June after the county missed a December deadline to elect its first president since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Stephanie Williams, the UN’s special adviser on Libya, said that it is still “very reasonable and possible” for the country’s 2.8 million voters to cast their ballots by June in line with the UN-brokered 2020 roadmap.

Libya failed to hold its first-ever presidential elections on Dec. 24 as scheduled, a major blow to international efforts to end a decade-long chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.

Williams, who led UN efforts to end the latest bout of violence in Libya in 2020, said elections are needed in the country to give credence to the country’s institutions.

“All the institutions are suffering a crisis of legitimacy,” she said.

“I don’t see any other exit for Libya other than a peaceful political process.”

The country plunged into turmoil after the NATO-backed 2011 uprising and split into rival governments — one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and another UN-supported administration in the capital of Tripoli, in the west. Each side is supported by a variety of militias and foreign powers.

Mediated by the UN, an October 2020 ceasefire led to the formation of a transitional government and scheduled elections for Dec. 24. But the vote faced steep challenges that eventually forced its postponement.

Williams urged lawmakers, who are convening Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk, to agree on a “clear, time-bound process with a clear horizon and to not create an open-ended process.”

“They have to shoulder a great responsibility right now to respect the will of the Libyans who registered to vote,” she said.

“Libyans want an end to this long period of transition that the country has experienced since the events of 2011.”

The missed election deadline came after bitter disputes over the laws governing the electoral process. Outbreaks of fighting among armed factions and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops in the North African country also fed mistrust between the rival groups.

Controversial figures declaring runs for the presidency have further polarized the political scene in recent months. Among them are Hifter, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi, the ousted dictator’s son and one-time heir apparent. Opponents of Hifter and Gadhafi have said they will never accept an election victory by them.

The country’s election commission didn’t name a final list of candidates for the presidential and parliamentary elections. Imad Al-Sayeh, head the commission, told the parliament Monday that militias threatened to stop the electoral process if a final list was announced.

Al-Sayeh said the commission needs between six and eight months to prepare for elections, given the uphill challenges that led to the postponement of Dec. 24 vote.

Williams said lawmakers and leaders in Tripoli should work out the disputes over the elections rules. She did not see the departure of foreign mercenaries as a “prerequisite for the elections,” saying that holding the cease-fire is the priority.

“There have been mercenaries in Libya since 1970s,” she said, adding later, “I don’t believe that that is a card that is necessary to play at this time.”

Williams also said all factions should accept the results no matter who wins.

“The way to solve this is (allowing) the Libyan voters go to the ballot box and make their own choice,” she said. “Results need to be respected.”

The vote’s delay also threatens to open a power vacuum. Lawmakers have argued that the mandate of Dbeibah’s government ended on Dec. 24. Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of parliament, said Monday that the transitional government “should be restructured.”

The UN adviser called on the parliament to focus on delivering the vote rather than appointing a new transitional administration.

“What Libyans have clearly said is that they want to go to the ballot box and choose their government, a democratically government representing the entire Libya,” she said.


‘Serb crimes still fresh in Kosovar memories’ on Recak massacre anniversary

‘Serb crimes still fresh in Kosovar memories’ on Recak massacre anniversary
Updated 34 min 58 sec ago

‘Serb crimes still fresh in Kosovar memories’ on Recak massacre anniversary

‘Serb crimes still fresh in Kosovar memories’ on Recak massacre anniversary
  • Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Lulzim Mjeku appeals for justice and preservation of peace in the Western Balkans
  • Comments come as Kosovar Albanians mark 23rd anniversary of 1999 killing that spurred NATO intervention

RIYADH: The people of Kosovo want to see more international involvement in the Western Balkans to stem a rising tide of hate speech and preserve peace in a still tense region, its ambassador to Saudi Arabia has told Arab News.

In an interview with Arab News in the run-p to Kosovo’s Independence Day on Feb. 17, Lulzim Mjeku cited a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Jan. 14 as Kosovars were preparing to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Recak massacre.

The statement said individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Serbia, have glorified atrocities, praised war criminals, targeted communities with hate speech and, in some cases, directly incited violence.

Mejku said that the OHCHR “called upon the international community to intervene and to take concrete action against hate speech. Unfortunately, we have seen denialism in recent times.” Denialism refers to the practice of rewriting the past and pretending that historical events did not happen as they did.

The incidents the OHCHR was referring to involved large groups of people chanting the name of Ratko Mladic, a Serbian war criminal, while holding torchlight processions and singing nationalistic songs urging the takeover of various locations in the former Yugoslavia.

The hate crimes cited by the UN statement occurred in Serbia and in several locations in the Republika Srpska, an entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina northwest of Kosovo. In one incident, shots were fired near a mosque in Janja in northeastern Bosnia, where local Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were mocked and threatened while returning from prayers.

Muslims populations of the Western Balkans know only too well the ugly history of ethnic hatred. “Forty years ago, the father of Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, Kosovo’s current minister of foreign affairs, was assassinated,” Mejku said, referring to the murders of Jusuf and Bardhosh Gervalla, Kosovar Albanian artists, writers and political activists, allegedly by the Serbian-Yugoslav secret police on January 17, 1982, near Heilbronn, a city in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

“The gunmen also killed Kadri Zeka, a friend and collaborator of the Gervalla brothers. As dissidents who opposed Serbia’s oppressive regime in Kosovo and worked for their province’s independence, the three activists had been living in exile since 1980. The assassins have never been brought to justice.”

As a young journalist in 1999, Mjeku covered the massacre which occurred on Jan. 15 in Recak, a village in Kosovo. Forty-five people had been shot and their bodies dumped in a ravine outside Recak, apparently by ethnic Serb policemen and soldiers.

Other massacres of Kosovar Albanians followed, including in Krusha in March 1999, Meja on April 27, 1999, and Dubrava prison on May 22, 1999.

“As we commemorate this month the 23rd anniversary of the Recak massacre, the horrible crime is still fresh in our memories,” Mjeku told Arab News. “As sad as it may sound, the Republic of Kosovo owes its very existence to the crimes that were committed against the Kosovan people.”

Nikola Sainovic, a former deputy prime minister of Serbia, was among those responsible for spreading widespread terror among the Kosovar Albanian population.

In 2009, he was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against ethnic Albanian civilians during the Kosovo War. Soon after he was granted early release in 2015, Sainovic was appointed to the board of the Socialist Party of Serbia.

Allegations of war crimes have also dogged members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the main ethnic Albanian guerrilla force in Kosovo which fought against the Serbs.

After politicians unsuccessfully waged a years-long peaceful struggle for greater autonomy or independence, the KLA launched an armed uprising against Serbian rule in the mainly Muslim Yugoslav province in March 1998.

This galvanized a disproportionate response from the Serb political establishment, which did not discriminate between Kosovar Albanian fighters and civilians, sending thousands of refugees into neighboring Albania and North Macedonia.

In response to the escalating violence, notably the Recak massacre, NATO launched a 78-day bombing campaign that eventually forced Serb policemen and soldiers to withdraw from Kosovo.

After Yugoslavia accepted a peace proposal in June 1999, NATO ended the bombing campaign and the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244, suspending Yugoslav rule in Kosovo and forming the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo with a NATO peacekeeping element, KFOR.

The cessation of violence brought hope to Kosovars at a time of great despair, paving the way for a new reality and prompting a return of refugees.

Many KLA leaders subsequently moved into politics. Hashim Thaci, a former president of Kosovo and a commander in the KLA, stands accused by a court in the Netherlands of responsibility for almost 100 murders.

Mjeku believes now is the time for diplomacy to take primacy. “During all these years, Kosovo as a country has voted for stability and security, not only for its own population, but also for the wider Balkan region and Europe,” he told Arab News.

Kosovo, a country of almost 2 million people, is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. After nine years under UN control, Kosovo declared independence through its assembly on February 17, 2008. Since then, more than 100 countries have recognized Kosovo.

The US, several EU member states and the GCC countries recognized Kosovo’s independence early on. Today Saudi Arabia, which was among 35 states that submitted statements supporting Kosovo, covers the country on non-residential basis from its embassy in Tirana, Albania

Mjecku said that with the generous assistance of its friends, Kosovo has made progress in healing the wounds of the past. Sixty percent of the population is under the age of 30, and many have little memory of the years of grief and violence, he said.

The Western Balkans is calmer than it was 20 years ago, although ethnic tensions are rising again in advance of elections in Serbia in April, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October.

UNMIK, which at its peak fielded more than 50,000 soldiers, is now down to 3,500 men, headquartered in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. The mission seeks to support a normalization agreement, better known as the Brussels Agreement, between Belgrade and Pristina brokered by the EU in 2013.

“As a young nation, we have made great progress in rebuilding our lives and healing our wounds,” Mjeku told Arab News.

“In this long-term journey, we have not been alone. We have had the assistance of our friendly countries, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the institutions of our allies, notably the US and the EU.”


What We Are Reading Today: Grief: A Philosophical Guide by Michael Cholbi

What We Are Reading Today: Grief: A Philosophical Guide by Michael Cholbi
Updated 53 min 15 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Grief: A Philosophical Guide by Michael Cholbi

What We Are Reading Today: Grief: A Philosophical Guide by Michael Cholbi

Experiencing grief at the death of a person we love or who matters to us — as universal as it is painful — is central to the human condition.

Surprisingly, however, philosophers have rarely examined grief in any depth.

In Grief, Michael Cholbi presents a groundbreaking philosophical exploration of this complex emotional event, offering valuable new insights about what grief is, whom we grieve, and how grief can ultimately lead us to a richer self-understanding and a fuller realization of our humanity.


Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops in occupied West Bank

Palestinian shot dead  by Israeli troops in occupied  West Bank
Updated 18 January 2022

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops in occupied West Bank

Palestinian shot dead  by Israeli troops in occupied  West Bank
  • Violence has simmered in the West Bank, among territories Palestinians seek for a state, since US-backed peace talks with Israel stalled in 2014

HEBRON: A Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank on Monday and was shot dead by him, the army said.

In a separate incident, the Palestinian Health Ministry said an elderly Palestinian died of injuries received nearly two weeks ago when he was hit by a vehicle in Israeli police service.

Violence has simmered in the West Bank, among territories Palestinians seek for a state, since US-backed peace talks with Israel stalled in 2014.

Video circulated on social media, and apparently taken by a motorist, showed a man lying on the road at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank, knife in hand, as three soldiers approached with rifles trained on him. A military spokesman said a man had emerged from a car and tried to stab a soldier, who shot him dead, and that the vehicle had fled the scene.

Another Israeli military official identified the dead man as a Palestinian from an outlying village.

In the nearby city of Hebron, the Health Ministry announced the death of 75-year-old Suleiman Al-Hathalin, a veteran protester against Israel’s West Bank settlements.

He had been standing in front of a tow truck that had been sent to his village of Um El-Kheir to confiscate unlicensed cars on Jan 5, a relative, Hazem Al-Hathalin, said.

He said that Suleiman Al-Hathalin was struck deliberately by the truck, which “ran him over with its front and back wheels” before driving away.

Israeli police spokespersons did not immediately comment.

In a statement quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Jan. 14, police said Palestinians had thrown stones at the truck and police forces that had accompanied it, making it impossible for them to stop and help a man who had climbed on the vehicle and fallen.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Facebook that he “died defending his village.”

Villagers said vehicles which police had sought to tow away were bought from Israelis at low cost after they failed to pass annual roadworthiness inspections in Israel.