Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 December 2021

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon
  • Interior minister says steps will be taken to prevent smuggling and combat the drugs threat

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday held a number of meetings designed to help restore Arab trust in Lebanon, and the country’s diplomatic and economic relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

It followed an agreement, announced in Jeddah on Saturday, by French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to work together to help the people of Lebanon.

The participants in extended meetings at the Grand Serail, the prime minister’s headquarters, included Defense Minister Maurice Selim, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan and Industry Minister George Boujikian.

Other officials who took part included Acting Director-General of Lebanon Customs Raymond Al-Khoury, Mohammed Choucair, the head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, and representatives of the Federation of Lebanese-Gulf Businessmen Councils.

Choucair, who is also a former minister, stressed the need for the organizations to work on resuming exports to Saudi Arabia and said: “We discussed new ways of doing that.”

During the meeting, Mikati said that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are fed up of hearing slogans that are not implemented.”

A number of people who were present told Arab News that Mikati stressed the “need to address the gaps,” and that “some issues the Gulf states are complaining about are right. We must recommend measures to address them, such as the establishment of additional towers on the borders with Syria in order to control the border.”

FASTFACT

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that ‘Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are fed up of hearing slogans that are not implemented.’

Mawlawi said that discussions had focused on the issue of exports to Saudi Arabia and concerns about smuggling.

He said: “We will take practical measures for anything that might pose a threat to our relations with the Arab states, and I will follow up on all judicial proceedings related to smuggling and combating drugs and captagon.

“We must all take prompt action to control the borders, airport, port and all crossing points, and we must (address) the smuggling happening through Lebanon. We do not disclose all smuggling operations we bust.”

Mawlawi added: “We intercepted a captagon-smuggling operation on Saturday. We are following up on it, and the people involved have been arrested.

“We will give practical answers to the smuggling taking place, and what might pose a threat to our relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in this regard.”

He also noted that “in the case of seized narcotic substances, even if they are manufactured outside of Lebanon and brought to Lebanon to change the manufacturing company’s name and repackage them, the company’s license will be revoked, its work discontinued and its name announced.”

Regarding a call for the restriction of weapons to Lebanese state institutions as a condition for the restoration of Saudi-Lebanese relations, Mawlawi said: “We are implementing the Lebanese state’s policy and highlighting its interests.”

Nicolas Chammas, head of the Beirut Traders’ Association, said that “the biggest problem remains contraband.” He added: “We will work to make Lebanon, once again, a platform for the export of goods, not contraband. We are required to take swift, serious measures and we will take successive measures in this regard.”

Fouad Siniora, a former president of Lebanon, described Saturday’s Saudi-French statement as being “of exceptional importance in these delicate circumstances.”

It “resolves the controversy regarding many issues raised in the Arab region, especially with regard to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon,” he added.


Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
Updated 19 sec ago

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
  • Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted
  • Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia

DUBAI: Countries and organizations have condemned the extremist attacks carried out by the Houthi militia towards the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country on Monday, state news agency WAM reported.

An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al-Jawf, Yemen immediately after the attack.

In Saudi Arabia, two residents sustained minor injuries after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that fell in the industrial area of Ahad Al-Masarihah, Jazan on Sunday.

Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted.

Similarly, Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has further said the continued Houthi attacks reflect the militia’s rejection of all peace efforts in Yemen.

Developing


UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 min 35 sec ago

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al Jawf, Yemen in the early hours of Monday immediately after the Houthis fired two ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s MOD Joint Operations Command said.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier on Monday that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country, state news agency WAM reported.

There were no injuries from the shrapnel which fell in over the emirate of  Abu Dhabi.

A statement on WAM said the ministry was “ready to deal with any threats and that it takes all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks.”

Last week, three people were killed after a drone attack by the Iran-backed militia on Abu Dhabi, sparking international condemnation of the group’s indiscriminate actions against civilians.

Early on Monday, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile targeting the southern province of Asir, prompting the coalition supporting the Yemeni government to hit a launchpad used by the Houthis in Al-Jouf.

On Sunday, two people where injured following ballistic missile in Jazan.

 


Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 January 2022

Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round

VIENNA: The United States is unlikely to strike an agreement with Iran to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage, the lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday.
The official, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, repeated the long-held US position that the issue of the four people held in Iran is separate from the nuclear negotiations. He moved a step closer, however, to saying that their release was a precondition for a nuclear agreement.
“They’re separate and we’re pursuing both of them. But I will say it is very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal while four innocent Americans are being held hostage by Iran,” Malley told Reuters in an interview.
“So even as we’re conducting talks with Iran indirectly on the nuclear file we are conducting, again indirectly, discussions with them to ensure the release of our hostages,” he said in Vienna, where talks are taking place on bringing Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the deal.
In recent years, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.
Rights groups have accused Iran of taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage, while Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons.

MESSAGE SENT
Malley was speaking in a joint interview with Barry Rosen, a 77-year-old former US diplomat who has been on hunger strike in Vienna to demand the release of US, British, French, German, Austrian and Swedish prisoners in Iran, and that no nuclear agreement be reached without their release.
Rosen was one of more than 50 US diplomats held during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis.
“I’ve spoken to a number of the families of the hostages who are extraordinarily grateful for what Mr.Rosen is doing but they also are imploring him to stop his hunger strike, as I am, because the message has been sent,” Malley said.
Rosen said that after five days of not eating he was feeling weak and would heed those calls.
“With the request from Special Envoy Malley and my doctors and others, we’ve agreed (that) after this meeting I will stop my hunger strike but this does not mean that others will not take up the baton,” Rosen said.
The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round. Iran refuses to hold meetings with US officials, meaning others shuttle between the two sides.
The deal between Iran and major powers lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities that extended the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it chose to. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, reimposing punishing economic sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded by breaching many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions, to the point that Western powers say the deal will soon have been hollowed out completely.

LEVERAGE
Asked if Iran and the United States might negotiate directly, Malley said: “We’ve heard nothing to that effect. We’d welcome it.”
The four US citizens include Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, 50, and his father Baquer, 85, both of whom have been convicted of “collaboration with a hostile government.” Namazi remains in prison. His father was released on medical grounds in 2018 and his sentence later reduced to time served. While the elder Namazi is no longer jailed, a lawyer for the family says he is effectively barred from leaving Iran.
“Senior Biden administration officials have repeatedly told us that although the potential Iranian nuclear and hostage deals are independent and must be negotiated on parallel tracks, they will not just conclude the nuclear deal by itself,” said Jared Genser, pro bono counsel to the Namazi family.
“Otherwise, all leverage to get the hostages out will be lost,” he added.
The others are environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 66, who is also British, and businessman Emad Shargi, 57.


Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
Updated 24 January 2022

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
  • The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top diplomat held an official meeting Sunday evening with a Palestinian minister, the latter said, the first such encounter between the Jewish state’s current foreign minister and a Palestinian official.
“I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
“I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy,” he added, without saying where the encounter took place.
The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place.
In late December, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted talks with Mahmud Abbas on the Palestinian president’s first visit to Israel for an official meeting since 2010.
At that time, Israel’s defense ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority.
These included a $32 million (100 million shekel) advance payment to the PA in taxes collected on its behalf by Israel, and the granting of 600 extra permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross into Israel.
It also announced the regularization of 6,000 more Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War of 1967.
Sheikh had welcomed Abbas’ meeting with Gantz, saying at the time that it had been a “serious and courageous effort” toward a “political” solution.
After Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was formed in June, Gantz visited the PA’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in August for talks with Abbas, the first official meeting at such a level for several years.
Right-winger Bennett leads a motley coalition of parties ranging from the Jewish nationalist right to the center and left, and includes an Israeli Arab party for the first time.
After those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group who opposes Palestinian statehood, underlined that there was no peace process under way with the Palestinians, “and there won’t be one.”


Iran rights defender sentenced to 8 years jail

Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2022

Iran rights defender sentenced to 8 years jail

Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
  • Mohammedi, who has long campaigned against the use of the death penalty in Iran, had before her latest arrest been working with families seeking justice for loved ones who they say were killed by security forces in the 2019 protests

PARIS: An Iranian court has sentenced leading human rights campaigner Narges Mohammedi to eight years in prison and over 70 lashes, her husband announced on Sunday, following her sudden arrest in November last year.
Her husband Taghi Rahmani, who is based in France, wrote on Twitter that the sentence was handed out after a hearing that lasted only five minutes.
The details of both the verdict and the case against her remain unclear.
A colleague of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who now lives outside Iran, Mohammedi has been repeatedly jailed by the Iranian authorities over the last years.
She was released from prison in October 2020 but then suddenly arrested in November 2021 in Karaj outside Tehran while attending a memorial for a man killed during nationwide protests in November 2019.
Amnesty International at the time condemned Mohammedi’s arrest as “arbitrary” and described her as a “prisoner of conscience targeted solely for her peaceful human rights activities.”

BACKGROUND

A colleague of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who now lives outside Iran, Narges Mohammedi has been repeatedly jailed by the Iranian authorities over the last years.

Mohammedi, who has long campaigned against the use of the death penalty in Iran, had before her latest arrest been working with families seeking justice for loved ones who they say were killed by security forces in the 2019 protests.
Even while out of prison, she had in May 2021 been handed a sentence of 80 lashes and 30 months in jail on charges of “propaganda” against Iran’s Islamic system.
Activists have decried what they see as increased repression in Iran over the last months, including the jailing of campaigners and greater use of the death penalty.
Prominent detainees have also died in prison, such as the well-known poet Baktash Abtin.
Another top rights defender serving a lengthy sentence in Iran is prize-winning lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who defended women arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.
While she is currently believed to be out of jail on medical leave, supporters fear she is at risk of being imminently returned to prison.