MANAMA: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Monday in the highest-level visit since the countries established relations under a 2020 US-sponsored deal.
Bennett will meet with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, his office said.
“The leaders will discuss additional ways to strengthen bilateral ties ... especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation,” it said in a statement.
The prime minister, who is also set to see other top officials and members of the Jewish community, said he will hold “a series of meetings whose goal is to fill - with energy and content - the peace agreement between the two nations.”
“In these tumultuous times it's important that from this region we send a message of good-will, of cooperation of standing together against common challenges,” he added.
The trip follows a visit to Manama by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz earlier this month that saw the two countries sign a defence agreement.
That deal covered intelligence, procurement and joint training, with Gantz boasting that it further solidified the nascent diplomatic relationship.
Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia and UAE could lead world in clean renewable energy, says adviser to UAE climate envoy Dr. Adnan Amin
Green energy initiatives in the UAE and Saudi Arabia could serve as examples for countries seeking to embrace renewables
Climate change is already wreaking havoc across the globe, developed countries must do their part to cut carbon emissions
Updated 27 June 2022
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the potential to be trailblazers in renewable energy as the devastating effects of climate change become more apparent, according to Adnan Amin, the former director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency and senior adviser to Sultan Al-Jaber, the UAE’s special envoy for climate change.
Amin told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News talk show that features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders, of the radical changes in the UAE’s push toward green energy and their implications for a regional push toward renewables.
The UAE has the lowest-cost solar energy and one of the largest solar plants in the world, and aims to triple or quadruple its solar energy capacity by 2025. While the country will continue to export fossil fuel products, it is projected to become a leader in renewable energy alongside the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and produce “the lowest carbon intensity oil in the world,” Amin said.
Critics have pointed out that the UAE still has a large per-capita carbon footprint, and that oil and gas make up one-third of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Amin said that this is partially due to extremely high temperatures in the region, and added that the country still contributes less than half a percent of global carbon emissions.
“The commitment of the UAE government on decarbonizing has not been doubted, and they’ve seen carbon intensity decreasing year on year,” he said.
Amin predicts that the UAE’s strides in clean energy infrastructure will encourage other Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, to take similar measures. He called NEOM, a planned smart city and independent economic zone in the Kingdom’s north that will run entirely on renewable energy, “a low carbon city.”
“All of the new investments that you’re seeing in renewables generation in Saudi Arabia are huge. The scientific and technological investment that is taking place in research and development in Saudi Arabia is very impressive. You see Saudi Arabia testing a range of technologies so, you know that green energy, geothermal, new types of solar, new types of construction materials, all kinds of innovation is taking place there.”
Despite a global commitment to turn toward clean energy, complex domestic and international politics has often seen governments forced to scale back their promises of climate-based legislation. US President Joe Biden, who is due to visit the Middle East next month, previously pledged to halve carbon emissions by 2030.
However, increasing fuel costs have forced Biden to call for increasing production of fossil fuels. “High gas prices at the pump are poisonous for the electoral chances for any party in power,” Amin said, alluding to the upcoming US midterm elections in November.
He added that while it is no easy task for governments to move forward with serious action on climate change, “there is an expectation from many that we would love to see more … commitment and serious action from the US on this both domestically and internationally.”
With the world gripped by skyrocketing fuel prices, many countries are ramping up production of fossil fuels and the infrastructure required to produce them. However, this infrastructure has an expiration date, according to Amin.
“There’s a real risk of locking of fossil assets for a longer term in countries that, frankly, have the technological and financial ability to move very fast on clean energy,” he said, adding that states must make an effort to find more clean and advanced solutions to the growing global energy crisis.
“We would expect governments to start focusing much more on that opportunity, not on doubling down and replicating the problems of the past, but looking for the solutions of the future,” he said, clarifying that investment in new infrastructure, clean energy, climate-resilient agriculture, and water security “are the areas where I think there’s really a risk in the future.”
The push to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas amid the war in Ukraine and the fuel crisis may have a detrimental effect on the world’s carbon emissions, though Amin explained that on the positive side, this may push countries to embrace renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power.
“We need to grow the investment for renewable energy, and we need to start to adopt the infrastructure that will enable it. Part of that is investing in innovation and technology,” he said. While a foundation exists for growth in the renewable energy sector, Amin added that digitalization, ultra-high voltage grids, grid stability, and smart metering must be developed further.
“We need to make this transition happen as a matter of urgency for political leadership because everything we see in terms of projections of climate impacts, it’s becoming more and more severe every year.”
While the UAE recently invested $50 billion in clean energy projects, not every country is doing its part to fight climate change. Developed nations which have been largely responsible for producing the carbon emissions which have devastated the world’s climate have often balked at taking responsibility, Amin said.
“Climate is a global issue and it requires every country in the world to do its part. But what it requires most, and this is the issue that was being discussed in Bonn in the intersectional meetings, is that we share responsibility,” he said, referring to the Bonn Climate Change Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Germany earlier this month.
The countries that contribute the most to carbon emissions, Amin added, must “contribute to the solution, and contribute to the most vulnerable countries which are now facing very severe climate impacts.”
During the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow in 2021, world leaders stressed the seriousness of addressing climate change immediately. At the time, Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar told Arab News that “Saudi Arabia is ready, willing and able to take its position among the international community to solve the problem and do what it can.”
The Kingdom pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060 as part of the Saudi Green Initiative during the conference. With the next conference set to be held in Egypt this year and the subsequent COP28 to be held in the UAE next year, Amin explained that future conferences aim to begin to transition climate promises from mere pledges to on-the-ground implementation.
“We’ve talked about the situation with the global energy crisis. We’ve talked about the constraints from many countries. We’ve talked about the fact that financing is not being made available. We have the next COP in Egypt that’s going to be a very important COP. It’s the first COP since Glasgow, that is the implementation COP. This is how the Egyptian government and the rest of the world wants to see it, that we’re moving to implementation and away from negotiations.”
Developed countries which are the largest contributors to climate change are putting up “huge resistance” to helping vulnerable and developing countries deal with the impacts, Amin said. However, he remains optimistic that by the time of the COP28 conference in the UAE, countries will be able to take stock of the world’s efforts in terms of climate action, “and out of that will come a program for what the next five years should look like.”
In addition to being a global issue, Amin pointed out that climate change is an intersectional issue that will have far-reaching and catastrophic effects on the entire world.
“My fear is that we will have multiple crises happening periodically in different parts of the world, which will begin to impact global food chains. We already have vulnerability on food security. We’re seeing a climate-vulnerable agriculture in many, many poor countries where, frankly, you could face very serious food deficit situations in the future.
“We’re facing a situation where we’re seeing an urgent need for water management. Freshwater resources are declining, and there is potential for conflict over resources like food and water.”
He added that drought, rising sea levels, melting ice, the degradation of resources and other effects of climate change have the potential to create massive waves of migration as people are forced to move to other regions for their survival.
“If we allow climate impacts to continue unchecked, all of these multiple crises coming together would create a level of instability in this world that will be almost impossible to manage,” he said.
Mohamed Amar Ampara was caught in the southeastern city of Gaziantep near Turkey’s border with Syria
Updated 27 June 2022
ISTANBUL: Turkey arrested a Greek citizen on Sunday on suspicion of espionage activities, a day after seizing him in an operation coordinated with its spy agency, local police said.
Mohamed Amar Ampara was caught in the southeastern city of Gaziantep near Turkey’s border with Syria.
“The agent, named M.A.A., was detained by the judicial authorities after he was discovered to have connections with the Greek National Intelligence Organization ... compiled information about our country’s border security and transferred it to Greek intelligence,” the police department in Gaziantep said in a statement.
Turkish media reported at the weekend that Ampara operated disguised as a businessman during his trips to Turkey.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said in the meantime that Ampara’s disappearance had been reported to the Greek Embassy in Ankara a few weeks ago.
The embassy had repeatedly raised the subject with the Turkish authorities but the latter had never provided any answers, it added.
Turkey and Greece are allies within NATO but are embroiled in a number of disputes.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with Ankara accusing Athens of stationing troops on islands near its maritime border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that he would no longer hold bilateral meetings with Greek leaders.
Rich heritage buried under impoverished Gaza Strip
In the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas and repeatedly ravaged by war, people are more familiar with burying the dead than digging up their heritage
Updated 27 June 2022
JABALIYA, Palestine: While workers labored on a large construction site in the Gaza Strip, a security guard noticed a strange piece of stone sticking out of the earth.
“I thought it was a tunnel,” said Ahmad, the young guard, referring to secret passages dug by the militant group Hamas to help it battle Israel.
In the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas and repeatedly ravaged by war, people are more familiar with burying the dead than digging up their heritage.
But what Ahmad found in January was part of a Roman necropolis dating from about 2,000 years ago — representative of the impoverished Palestinian territory’s rich, if under-developed, archaeological treasures.
After the last war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 left a trail of damage in Gaza, Egypt began a reconstruction initiative worth $500 million.
As part of that project in Jabaliya, in the north of the coastal enclave, bulldozers were digging up the sandy soil in order to build new concrete buildings when Ahmad made his discovery.
“I notified the Egyptian foremen, who immediately contacted local authorities and asked the workers to stop,” said Ahmad, a Palestinian who preferred not to give his full name.
With rumors on social media of a big discovery, Gaza’s antiquities service called in the French nongovernmental group Premiere Urgence Internationale and the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem to evaluate the site’s importance and mark off the area.
“The first excavations permitted the identification of about 40 tombs dating from the ancient Roman period between the first and second centuries AD,” said French archaeologist Rene Elter, who led the team dispatched to Jabaliya.
“The necropolis is larger than these 40 tombs and should have between 80 and 100,” he said.
One of the burial sites found so far is decorated with multi-colored paintings representing crowns and garlands of bay leaves, as well as jars for funereal drinks, the archaeologist added.
Archaeology is a highly political subject in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and discoveries are used to justify the territorial claims of each people.
While the Jewish state has a number of archaeologists reporting on an impressive number of ancient treasures, the sector is largely neglected in Gaza.
Authorities periodically announce discoveries in the territory, but tourism at archaeological sites is limited.
Israel and Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, tightly restrict the flow of people in and out of the enclave administered by Hamas since 2007.
“However, there is no difference between what you can find in Gaza and on the other side of the barrier” in Israel, Elter said. “It’s the same great history.”
“In Gaza, a lot of sites have disappeared because of conflict and construction, but the territory is an immense archaeological site which needs many teams of experts,” he added.
Stakes and fences have been erected around the Roman necropolis, which is watched over constantly by guards as new buildings go up nearby.
“We are trying to fight antiquities trafficking,” said Jamal Abu Rida, director of the local archaeological service tasked with protecting the necropolis and which hopes to find investors for further excavation.
“The image of Gaza is often associated with violence, but its history is bursting with archaeological treasures that need to be protected for future generations,” said Jihad Abu Hassan, director of the local Premiere Urgence mission.
Demographics add to the pressure. Gaza is a tiny, overcrowded strip of land whose population in 15 years has ballooned from 1.4 million to 2.3 million. As a result, building construction has accelerated.
“Some people avoid telling authorities if there is an archaeological discovery on a construction site out of fear of not being compensated” for the resulting work stoppage, Abu Hassan said.
“We lose archaeological sites every day,” which shows the need for a strategy to defend the enclave’s heritage, including training local archaeologists, he said.
Over the last few years, his organization has helped to educate 84 archaeological technicians. Doing so also offers employment prospects, in an impoverished territory where youth joblessness exceeds 60 percent.
Lebanon’s Najib Mikati was nominated premier for a fourth time on Thursday after securing the support of 54 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers
Updated 26 June 2022
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urged fractious politicians on Sunday to speed up the formation of a government to allow authorities to prepare for presidential elections due before the end of October.
Lebanon’s Najib Mikati was nominated premier for a fourth time on Thursday after securing the support of 54 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, in consultations convened by President Michel Aoun.
But with splits running deep among Lebanon’s ruling elite, it is widely believed Mikati will struggle to form a government, spelling political paralysis that could hamper reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund to unlock aid.
“Again I demand speeding up formation of a national government with the country’s pressing need for it and so that the focus can immediately be on preparations to elect a president who saves the country,” Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said at a sermon on Sunday.
“We call on all parties to cooperate with the premier designate ...,” he added.
Analysts and politicians expect the process of forming a Cabinet to be further complicated by a looming struggle over who will replace Aoun, the Hezbollah-aligned head of state, when his term ends on Oct. 31.
Houthis seize properties of late former PM Bajamal
Bajamal was a senior member of the General People’s Congress, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party, and head of three consecutive governments from 2001 to 2006
Updated 26 June 2022
AL-MUKALLA: An anti-corruption authority controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis in Sanaa has ordered the seizure of assets belonging to Abdul Qader Bajamal, a late former prime minister, accusing him of misusing public funds, Yemeni activists and local media said.
Ahmed Nagi Al-Nabhani, a Yemeni activist based in the city, told Arab News that the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption issued a seizure order targeting houses, bank accounts and other properties owned by Bajamal over a failed project during his tenure in 2003.
Bajamal was a senior member of the General People’s Congress, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party, and head of three consecutive governments from 2001 to 2006.
Al-Nabhani said that the SNACC had sent the case to the Public Funds Court for prosecution, and called for coordinated local and international rights campaigns, mainly from Bajamal’s party, to pressure the Houthis to allow the former premier’s family to access their assets.
“There must be serious and real solidarity with the family of Bajamal, because they are now, according to the decision of the SNACC, banned from using their father’s property,” Al-Nabhani said.
Bajamal died in September 2020 at the age of 67.
In a condolence message to his family, Mahdi Al-Mashat, head of Houthi Supreme Political Council, described Bajamal then as a “sincere, dedicated” national leader who served his country.
The seizure order against Bajamal came as the Houthis raided the houses of other late Yemeni officials in Sanaa and areas under their control.
In Sanaa, armed Houthis occupied the house of the late Abdul Rahman Bafadhel, an MP and member of the Islamist Islah party, and expelled his daughter and her husband, citing a seizure order, a friend of the family told Arab News.
Bafadhel died in Saudi Arabia in October 2015 in a car accident.
The militia also raided the house of Ameen Ali Al-Kaderi, a late tribal leader who opposed their rule in the central province of Ibb, his son Salah said.
Since taking power militarily in late 2014, the Houthis have issued hundreds of seizure orders and death sentences against military and security leaders, politicians, journalists and activists who rejected their coup and supported the internationally recognized government of the country and military operations by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.
The Houthis sold or rented some of the seized properties, turned others into secret detention centers, and gifted others to their leaders.
Abdurrahman Barman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and director of the American Center for Justice, told Arab News that the latest string of seizure orders against Bajamal and Bafadhel show the Houthis are moving to dispossess families of dead politicians of their property under the pretext of fighting corruption.
“This is an attempt to impoverish Yemenis to concentrate wealth, power, the economy, the judiciary, the media and all sources of power in the hands of the group,” Barman said.