GCC-UK FMs: Strategic partnership essential to promoting Middle East security and stability

GCC-UK FMs: Strategic partnership essential to promoting Middle East security and stability
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss poses with foreign ministers of the GCC and its Secretary General at Chevening, England. (@trussliz)
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Updated 21 December 2021

GCC-UK FMs: Strategic partnership essential to promoting Middle East security and stability

GCC-UK FMs: Strategic partnership essential to promoting Middle East security and stability
  • UK and GCC already cooperate closely in a wide range of areas including foreign policy, trade, and development
  • Foreign ministers urged Iran to seize the current diplomatic opportunity to restore the JCPOA now

LONDON: Foreign Ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UK said that the strategic UK-GCC relationship is essential in promoting peace, security, stability, and economic growth in the Middle East region and beyond.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met foreign ministers of the GCC and its Secretary General at Chevening, England on Monday.

During the meeting, the foreign ministers agreed the UK-GCC relationship will be strengthened across all fields and that they were committed to developing the partnership in emerging areas such as clean technology, digital infrastructure, and cyber.

The UK and the GCC already cooperate closely in a wide range of areas including political dialogue, security, foreign policy, trade and investment, and development.

The reenergised UK-GCC partnership will help keep UK and GCC citizens safe, and generate business opportunities and jobs, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said.

The UK and GCC member states emphasised the importance of enhancing people-to-people links, which are an essential element in promoting understanding between their peoples, and a key driver of innovation, business opportunities, and cultural and educational exchange.

The UK and GCC member states underlined their commitment to work together to identify bilateral opportunities for joint investment in infrastructure and clean technology in the developing world.

As a first step, they committed to develop mechanisms for strong partnerships on these issues and work together to develop a pipeline of potential joint investment projects.

The foreign ministers welcomed the ambitious five-year strategy and enlarged remit of British Investment International (BII), the UK’s development finance institution.

BII will play a central role in the UK government’s offer to help developing and emerging countries meet their significant financing needs for infrastructure and enterprise.

The foreign ministers also discussed the resumption of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action talks in Vienna, and underlined that this is the last opportunity to restore the JCPOA as Iran’s continued nuclear escalation is permanently eroding the benefits of the deal and undermining regional and international security.

They urged Iran to seize the current diplomatic opportunity to restore the JCPOA now to avoid bringing the region and international community to a crisis point.

Foreign Ministers also noted that a restored JCPOA is the best avenue towards inclusive, and more lasting diplomatic efforts to ensure regional security in a Gulf region permanently free of nuclear weapons.


Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
Updated 33 sec ago

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
  • James Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist, and Volker Waldmann, 60, a Berlin psychologist, have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport
  • According to statements from customs officers, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics; Waldmann allegedly had two pieces, but denied they were his

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court on Sunday adjourned for two weeks the trial of a Briton and a German man accused of trying to smuggle antiquities after a defense lawyer called for more investigations.
James Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist, and Volker Waldmann, 60, a Berlin psychologist, have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport as they wound up their holiday.
According to statements from customs officers and witnesses, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics. Waldmann allegedly had two pieces, but denied they were his.
The two men did not know each other before they traveled to Iraq on an organized tour, and both say they had no intention of breaking the law.
The trial was adjourned until June 6 to allow time for further investigations, at the request of Waldmann’s defense lawyer, Furat Kuba.
During initial investigations, “certain important aspects were not examined,” Kuba said, citing the report of an expert committee that said the fragments found with the men were antiquities.
“We don’t have any more details: what site do these pieces come from? What era, what civilization do they date back to?” Kuba asked, adding there were also outstanding questions relating to the site where the fragments were collected.
“Is it fenced and protected?” Kuba asked. “Are there signs indicating that these are ancient pieces that it is forbidden to collect?“
Kuba said he wanted the tour guide or an Iraqi official who had been present at the site to give evidence in court as to whether the tourists had received instructions prohibiting them from picking up fragments.
Their trial comes with the war-ravaged country, whose tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent, timidly opening to visitors.
Iraq has also been trying to recover antiquities that were looted over a period of decades from the country whose civilization dates back thousands of years.
The judge told the accused they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of “intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity.”
Fitton, at the start of the trial, when asked why he tried to take the artefacts out of Iraq, cited his “hobby,” saying he was interested in “geology and ancient history and archaeology,” and was not aware that taking the fragments was illegal.
Waldmann has denied the pieces allegedly found in his luggage were his, but they belonged to Fitton.


Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media
Updated 56 min 40 sec ago

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

TEHRAN: Gunmen shot dead a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Sunday in the east of the capital Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported.
"Sayyad Khodai... was assassinated during a gun attack carried out by two motorcylists in Tehran's Mohahedin-e Eslam Street," IRNA said, describing him as a "defender of the sanctuary" - in reference to anyone working on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq.


Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
Updated 22 May 2022

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
  • The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men

TEL AVIV: An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced six Palestinian inmates to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cell last year and escaping from a high-security facility in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men, who were members of Palestinian militant groups. They were recaptured days later.
The bold escape dominated newscasts, sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service and prompted the government to launch an inquiry. According to various reports, the men dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell undetected over several months and managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after emerging through a hole outside the facility.
The judge ruled that the sentence took into account the fact that the prison break paralyzed the nation for days, the costs it took to recapture the inmates and the harm to public security caused by having prisoners under life sentence and convicted of serious crimes escape.
The five-year sentence will be added to the prison terms the prisoners were already serving. Five other inmates charged with assisting the men were sentenced to an additional four years.
Israel considers all six of the escapees to be terrorists. Five of them are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and well known in Israel both for his militant activity and his love for giving media interviews.
Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause and many on social media celebrated the escape and held demonstrations in support of the prisoners.


Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
Updated 22 May 2022

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
  • All measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities have been lifted

Oman announced on Sunday the lifting of all measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities, state TV reported, citing a statement from the government committee dealing with the pandemic.
There have been 389,943 infections and 4,260 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the sultanate since the pandemic began, according to Reuters data.


Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces
Updated 22 May 2022

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four people were killed in an attempt to smuggle large amounts of drugs from Syria to Jordan, the kingdom’s armed forces said on Sunday.
Some smugglers were also wounded while others escaped by going back to Syria, it said.
The Jordanian armed forces did not specify who killed or wounded the people involved.
War-torn Syria has become the region’s main production site for a multi-billion dollar trade also destined for Iraq and Europe. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government denies involvement in drug making and smuggling.
In January, Jordanian soldiers killed at least 27 armed smugglers and wounded others as they crossed the border.