Iraq receives hundreds of trafficked antiquities from Lebanon

Special Iraq receives hundreds of trafficked antiquities from Lebanon
Some of the artifacts that were returned to Iraq. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 February 2022

Iraq receives hundreds of trafficked antiquities from Lebanon

Iraq receives hundreds of trafficked antiquities from Lebanon
  • Minister says handover a ‘gesture embodying cultural cooperation’

BEIRUT: Iraq on Sunday received hundreds of trafficked antiquities from Lebanon.

The artifacts had been in Nabu Museum, a private institution in Lebanon’s Byblos region, and the handover took place at the National Museum, with the items given to Iraq’s embassy in Lebanon.

“A total of 337 artifacts were handed over, 331 of which are cuneiform and six others that were among 32 disputed pieces,” said Lebanese Culture Minister Mohammed Wissam Al-Murtada. “Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese committees verified that the six pieces belong to Iraq, so it was decided that they should be handed over as well.”

Al-Murtada described the handover as “a gesture embodying cooperation between Lebanon and Iraq in the cultural field.”

Speaking about whether or not these disputed artifacts had been smuggled from Iraq, he said: “Lebanon’s General Directorate of Antiquities had previously revealed in a 2018 report that some pieces may have Iraqi origins.”

He added that the ministry “consequently assigned a committee of technical specialists to look into these disputed pieces.”

Archeology expert Dr. Jaafar Fadlalah told Arab News: “The owner of the Nabu Museum, who is a well-known businessman, obtained the antiquities displayed in his museum either by buying them from markets specialized in antiques or from auctions. When they were displayed in the museum, some of these pieces were found to belong to either Syria or Iraq.

“These artifacts should thus be returned to their rightful owners, while the disputed pieces remain in place until their ownership is proven. This is a rule followed in all museums around the world.

“During the wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, a large number of antiquities were lost, and some of them were seized later, either during smuggling operations or found in antique shops.

“However, several artifacts may still be stored by those who acquired them but never displayed them, so it is impossible to know where they are and who their rightful owners are.

“The ceremony that was held at the National Museum to hand over the pieces to the Iraqi authorities is to encourage collectors to preserve the antiquities."

He said that Lebanon had previously returned many pieces “without any celebrations” because they had been seized either during smuggling operations or found in local markets.

Nabu Museum owner Jawad Adra emphasized the “ongoing communication” with countries of the region to revive and preserve heritage, and that this understanding “annoys smugglers because we embarrass them.”

The General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces announced on Sunday the recovery of 300-year-old antiquities belonging to the ancient Saint John Church in Byblos, after they were stolen in late January.

It said that three people had been arrested. One was Lebanese, another was Syrian, and the third was Egyptian.


UK warship seizes advanced Iranian missiles bound for Yemen

UK warship seizes advanced Iranian missiles bound for Yemen
Updated 9 sec ago

UK warship seizes advanced Iranian missiles bound for Yemen

UK warship seizes advanced Iranian missiles bound for Yemen
DUBAI: A British Royal Navy vessel seized a sophisticated shipment of Iranian missiles in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year, officials said Thursday, pointing to the interdiction as proof of Tehran’s support for Yemen’s Houthi militia in the country.
The British government statement was striking in that it provided some of the strongest findings to date that Tehran is arming the Houthis against the Arab coalition with advanced weapons smuggled through the Arabian Gulf.
The UK Embassy in the UAE described the seizure of surface-to-air-missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles as “the first time a British naval warship has interdicted a vessel carrying such sophisticated weapons from Iran.”
“The UK will continue to work in support of an enduring peace in Yemen and is committed to international maritime security so that commercial shipping can transit safely without threat of disruption,” said James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.
The announcement signals an escalation as Western officials have in the past shied away from public statements that definitively blame Iran for arming Yemen’s Houthis with military contraband. The route of the smuggled shipments through the Arabian Sea or Gulf of Aden, however, has strongly suggested their destination.
Despite a United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Iran has long been suspected of transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Houthis since the war began in 2015. Iran denies arming the Houthis, independent experts, Western nations and UN experts have traced components back to Iran.
Citing a forensic analysis last month, the British navy linked the batch of rocket engines seized earlier this year to an Iranian-made cruise missile with a 1,000-kilometer range that it said the militia have used against Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis also used the cruise missile to attack an oil facility in Abu Dhabi in January of this year, the British navy said, an assault that killed three people and threatened the key US ally’s reputation as a haven of stability. The US military launched interceptor missiles during the attack, signaling a widening of Yemen’s war.
The HMS Montrose’s helicopter had been scanning for illicit goods in the Gulf of Oman on January 28 and February 25 when it spotted small vessels speeding away from the Iranian coast with “suspicious cargo on deck.” A team of Royal Marines then halted and searched the boats, confiscating the weapons in international waters south of Iran.
A US Navy guided-missile destroyer supported the British warship’s February operation. Fifth Fleet Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said the seizure reflected the Navy’s “strong commitment to regional security and stability.”
The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. The Arab coalition armed with US weaponry and intelligence joined the war on the side of Yemen’s exiled government in March 2015.
Years of fighting have ground into a bloody stalemate and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine. A tenuous truce that began around the holy Muslim month of Ramadan appears to be holding, although both sides have accused each other of violations.

8 killed, 44 injured in car crash in southern Egypt

8 killed, 44 injured in car crash in southern Egypt
Updated 07 July 2022

8 killed, 44 injured in car crash in southern Egypt

8 killed, 44 injured in car crash in southern Egypt
  • The incident took place in the early morning when a passenger bus collided with a truck
  • Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt

CAIRO: Eight people were killed and 44 injured in a car crash on Thursday near Egypt’s southern province of Aswan, the state-run news agency reported.
The incident took place in the early morning when a passenger bus collided with a truck, on a highway linking Awsan to Abu Simbel, the seat of the ancient temples of Ramses II, MENA said.
Ambulance vehicles rushed to the scene to carry the casualties’ bodies to Aswan’s morgue and to transfer the wounded to the province’s main hospital, added the report.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
In January, at least 16 people were killed 18 others injured when a microbus collided with a public transportation bus in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt’s official statistics agency says there were around 10,000 road accidents in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, leaving over 3,480 dead. In 2018, there were 8,480 car accidents, causing over 3,080 deaths.


Egypt, UK to cooperate in renewable energy

Egypt, UK to cooperate in renewable energy
Updated 07 July 2022

Egypt, UK to cooperate in renewable energy

Egypt, UK to cooperate in renewable energy
  • Britain ‘commends Egypt’s leadership and efforts on renewable energy generation’

LONDON: Egypt and the UK have signed a statement of intent to cooperate in reforming renewable energy regulations.

The signing took place in London during a meeting between Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Liz Truss, the UK’s secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs.

The UK said it “commends Egypt’s leadership and efforts on renewable energy generation and opportunities for British investors and firms within the energy sector.”

Alongside the plans to cooperate on energy, there was news of a joint $325 million investment for the launch of the Lekela wind farm, located in northern Egypt, boasting 252-megawatt capacity and expected to boost the country’s wind output by 18 percent.

The ministers also explored opportunities for economic cooperation between the two countries, and agreed on a need to work on growing bilateral trade and investment.

The meeting also witnessed the finalization of British Investment International’s $100 million acquisition of Egypt’s Alfa Medical Group.


Egypt FM meets with UK business community

Egypt FM meets with UK business community
Updated 07 July 2022

Egypt FM meets with UK business community

Egypt FM meets with UK business community

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met with representatives of the British business community as part of his visit to London.

During the meeting, he reviewed the economic reforms that Egypt has embarked on since 2014, and the challenges they are facing due to international developments. 

He also reviewed his government’s steps to restructure Egypt’s economy, especially in terms of attracting more foreign investments and providing opportunities for private sector companies to enter various sectors.

Shoukry expressed his aspiration to enhance British investments in Egypt in general, and in the green economy in particular.

He also expressed his confidence in the Egyptian economy’s ability to overcome the negative repercussions of the war in Ukraine, as it did with the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting also discussed Egypt’s hosting of the 27th session of the UN Climate Change Conference in November.


UN Security Council to vote on extending Syria cross-border aid

UN Security Council to vote on extending Syria cross-border aid
Updated 07 July 2022

UN Security Council to vote on extending Syria cross-border aid

UN Security Council to vote on extending Syria cross-border aid
  • The UN resolution permitting aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab Al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014
  • Nearly 10,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid passed through Bab Al-Hawa last year

UNITED NATIONS, US: The United Nations Security Council votes Thursday on extending its authorization of aid transfers across Syria’s border without approval from Damascus, with Russia seeking a six-month prolongation while Western nations want a full year.
The UN resolution permitting aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab Al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014, but is set to expire on Sunday.
Norway and Ireland, two non-permanent members of the 15-country Security Council, have drafted a resolution that would extend the authorization until July 10, 2023.
Nearly 10,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid passed through Bab Al-Hawa last year, bound for the rebel-held Idlib region in northwestern Syria. It is the only crossing through which aid can be brought into Idlib without navigating areas controlled by Syrian government forces.
The resolution, which was obtained by AFP, calls on “all parties to ensure full, safe and unhindered access by all modalities, including cross-line, for deliveries of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Syria.”
Russia, a veto-holding Security Council member and ally of Damascus, has hinted in recent months that it would oppose an extension, having already forced a reduction in the number of allowed border crossings on the grounds that it violates Syria’s sovereignty.
According to diplomats, Russia ultimately put its own draft resolution on the table, which includes an extension of six months.
In an attempt to persuade Moscow, Norway and Ireland have inserted several amendments touching on the transparency of humanitarian shipments, possible contributions to Syria’s reconstruction, and on the need to develop aid deliveries via government-controlled territory.
Russia has long called for the West to participate in Syria’s reconstruction, but some council members, most vocally France, have refused until political reforms have been enacted.
However, during a Security Council meeting in June, a majority of countries — including the United States — offered support for financing so-called “early recovery projects” in Syria.
In this vein, the resolution by Norway and Ireland calls for “further international initiatives to broaden the humanitarian activities in Syria, including water, sanitation, health, education, and shelter early recovery projects.”
By Wednesday evening, few diplomats dared to predict whether the additions would be enough to convince Russia to agree to a full-year extension.
But some told AFP that a last-minute compromise was possible, by making the six-month extension renewable for an additional six months practically by default.