Algiers recalls Madrid envoy over W.Sahara policy change

Spain and Morocco renew ties after Madrid changes Western Sahara stance. (AFP)
Spain and Morocco renew ties after Madrid changes Western Sahara stance. (AFP)
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Updated 20 March 2022

Algiers recalls Madrid envoy over W.Sahara policy change

Spain and Morocco renew ties after Madrid changes Western Sahara stance. (AFP)
  • Spain has maintained generally good relations with Algeria and imports more than 40 percent of its gas needs from the North African country though a pipeline under the Mediterranean

ALGIERS: Algeria has recalled its ambassador from Madrid in protest at Spain’s decision to back a Moroccan autonomy plan for the disputed former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.
A Foreign Ministry statement condemned the “abrupt about-turn” by Madrid, which had previously maintained neutrality in the decades-old conflict for the territory between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front independence movement.
Speaking on Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares backed a 2007 proposal by Morocco to offer Western Sahara autonomy under its sovereignty, describing it as the “most serious, realistic and credible basis” to end the long-running conflict.
“Completely stunned by the statements on the West Sahara issue from the highest levels of the Spanish government, and surprised by this abrupt about-turn from Western Sahara’s former rulers, the Algerian authorities have decided to recall the ambassador to Madrid for consultations with immediate effect,” the statement said.
The Polisario had already responded angrily to the statement from Albares, calling for political pressure to be put on Madrid for a change of heart.
“The United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Justice and all regional organizations do not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara,” the movement said.
Spain has maintained generally good relations with Algeria and imports more than 40 percent of its gas needs from the North African country though a pipeline under the Mediterranean.
Its relations with Morocco have been more problematic.
Its April 2021 decision to allow Polisario leader Brahim Ghali to receive medical treatment at a Spanish hospital drew a furious response from Rabat.
The following month, hundreds of would-be Moroccan migrants stormed the border around the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta, taking advantage of the withdrawal of Moroccan border guards to penetrate the remote outpost of the European Union.
Rabat quickly welcomed the change of policy from Madrid, describing it as “constructive.”


Blinken begins Middle East trip amid spate of violence

Blinken begins Middle East trip amid spate of violence
Updated 29 January 2023

Blinken begins Middle East trip amid spate of violence

Blinken begins Middle East trip amid spate of violence
  • Blinken will repeat US calls for calm and emphasize Washington’s support for a two-state solution
  • On Sunday, Blinken met with Egyptian youth leaders at the American University in Cairo

CAIRO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Egypt on Sunday at the start of a three-day visit to the Middle East as violence flares between Israelis and Palestinians, and with Iran and Ukraine high on the agenda.
Blinken heads on Monday to Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government has stirred concern at home and abroad over the future of Israel’s secular values, fraying relations with the Arab population and deadlock in peace talks with the Palestinians.
A Palestinian gunman killed seven people in an attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday, the worst attack on Israelis in the Jerusalem area since 2008. On Thursday, Israeli forces killed seven gunmen and two civilians in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, the deadliest raid there in years.
In talks with the new Israeli administration, which includes ultra-nationalist parties that want to expand West Bank settlements, Blinken will repeat US calls for calm and emphasize Washington’s support for a two-state solution, although US officials admit peace talks are not likely soon.
Blinken will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu’s government has proposed a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary that would strengthen political control over the appointment of judges while weakening the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn laws or strike down government action.
Demonstrations
The proposals have triggered big demonstrations against what protesters see as the undermining of judicial independence.
“It’s clearly a measure of the vibrancy of the democracy that this has been contested so clearly up and down across segments of Israeli society,” said Barbara Leaf, the top State Department official for the Middle East, briefing reporters ahead of the trip. Blinken will hear from people inside and outside of government on the reforms, she added.
Leaf said the visit would also build on earlier efforts to restore relations between Israel and Arab nations through the Negev Forum, which takes in areas such as economic cooperation and tourism, but does not include the Palestinians.
Russia’s 11-month-old war in Ukraine will also be on the agenda. Ukraine, which has received great quantities of military equipment from the United States and Europe, has pressed Israel in vain to provide systems to shoot down drones, including those supplied by Israel’s regional adversary Iran.
While it has condemned the Russian invasion, Israel has limited its assistance to humanitarian aid and protective gear, citing a desire for continued cooperation with Moscow over Syria and to ensure the wellbeing of Russia’s Jews.
The diplomats will also discuss US efforts to revive the stalled 2015 deal between big powers and Iran, opposed by Israel, that lifted international sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
On Sunday, Blinken met with Egyptian youth leaders at the American University in Cairo, and told reporters he wanted to strengthen Washington’s “strategic partnership” with Egypt.
Blinken will meet President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Monday, and discuss issues such as Sudan’s stuttering transition to democracy and elections in Libya, the State Department said.


Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement

Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement
Updated 29 January 2023

Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement

Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement

RAMALLAH: Israeli guards killed a Palestinian near a settlement in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said Sunday, with the Israeli military alleging he was armed.
Karam Ali Ahmad Salman, 18, was shot dead by “the Israeli occupation near the settlement of ‘Kedumim’,” the Palestinian health ministry reported.
Israel’s army said a “civilian security team” shot a person “armed with a handgun” near the settlement in the northern West Bank.
The Palestinian health ministry reported that Kedumim was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and settlements are regarded as illegal under international law, a charge Israel disputes.
Salman is one of at least 32 Palestinians killed in the West Bank this month, including civilians and militants, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
A Palestinian gunman killed seven people Friday outside a synagogue in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
In response to the deadly attack, the Israeli government announced a slew of measures including “steps to strengthen settlements.”
The latest violence follows a surge in killings last year.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to AFP figures.


Parliamentarians agree on need to digitize OIC work ahead of annual conference

Parliamentarians agree on need to digitize OIC work ahead of annual conference
Updated 29 January 2023

Parliamentarians agree on need to digitize OIC work ahead of annual conference

Parliamentarians agree on need to digitize OIC work ahead of annual conference

ALGIERS: Parliamentary committees of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Saturday agreed on the need to digitize the OIC’s work and organize periodic virtual sessions and meetings to enhance its work.

General secretaries unanimously agreed during preparatory meetings for the 17th session of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States, which is set to be held in the Algerian capital, Algiers, on Sunday.

PUIC Secretary-General Mouhamed Khouraichi Niass renewed his call for setting up a cooperation mechanism between Islamic and international parliaments to strengthen relations in all fields.

Niass expressed his hope to develop a work program to achieve the objectives of the PUIC’s General Assembly and to exchange scientific and practical expertise to upgrade the performance of the General Secretariat.

On Friday, the ninth meeting of the standing committee specialized in cultural and legal affairs and the dialogue of civilizations and religions was held, where members reviewed a number of draft resolutions related to Islamic sanctities in Muslim and non-Islamic countries, especially the protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque from threats. 

The committee also dealt with combating religious intolerance and supporting dialogue among civilizations, as well as combating the dangers of xenophobia and Islamophobia around the world.


Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 January 2023

Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
  • Analysts note a growing crisis of confidence between citizens and the political class since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution unleashed uprisings across the region, and led Tunisians to create a new democratic political system celebrated with a Nobel Peace Prize

TUNIS: Tunisia was once the Arab world’s hope for a new era of democracy. Now it’s in the midst of an election that’s more of an embarrassment than a model.
Barely 11 percent of voters turned out in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, boycotted by opposition groups and ignored by many Tunisians disillusioned with their leaders.
Ten candidates secured seats in the legislature even though not a single voter cast a ballot for them, simply because they ran unopposed.
In seven constituencies, not even one candidate bothered to run.
President Kais Saied is pinning his hopes on Sunday’s second round of voting, which will wrap up his sweeping redesign of Tunisian politics that began when he suspended the previous parliament in 2021.
The new body will have fewer powers than its predecessor and risks being little more than a rubber stamp for Saied.
The president and many Tunisians blamed the previous parliament, led by the Ennahdha party, for political deadlock seen as worsening the country’s protracted economic and social crises.
Some Ennahdha officials have been jailed and the party is refusing to take part in the parliamentary elections, and has held repeated protests.
In last month’s first-round voting, 23 candidates secured seats outright in the 161-seat parliament: 10 of them because they ran unopposed and 13 because they won more than 50 percent of the vote, according to election officials.
In Sunday’s second round, voters are choosing among 262 candidates seeking to fill the 131 remaining seats.
In the seven constituencies with no candidate, special elections will be held later to fill the seats, likely in March. Since Saied was elected president in 2019 with 72 percent of the vote, his support among Tunisians has dulled.
Analysts note a growing crisis of confidence between citizens and the political class since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution unleashed uprisings across the region, and led Tunisians to create a new democratic political system celebrated with a Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
Daily life for Tunisians seems to keep getting worse.
At a Tunis food market, vendors struggled to sell strings of dates, fish heaped on ice, piles of eggplants and herbs as shoppers lamented rising prices.
Few seemed to think Sunday’s vote would solve their problems.
Successive elections “have brought me nothing,” sighed Mohammed Ben Moussa, an employee of a private company.
The economy is meanwhile teetering.
According to the latest figures from the National Institute of Statistics, unemployment has reached more than 18 percent and exceeds 25 percent in the poor regions of the interior of the country, while inflation rate is 10.1 percent.
Tunisia has been suffering for several years from record budget deficits that affect its ability to pay its suppliers of medicines, food and fuel, causing shortages of milk, sugar, vegetable oil and other staples.
The Tunisian government is currently negotiating a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which was frozen in December.

 


Strong quake in northwest Iran kills at least three people

Strong quake in northwest Iran kills at least three people
Updated 29 January 2023

Strong quake in northwest Iran kills at least three people

Strong quake in northwest Iran kills at least three people

DUBAI: An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 struck northwest Iran near the border with Turkiye on Saturday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 300, state media reported.
The official news agency IRNA reported the toll citing the head of emergency services at the university in the city of Khoy, near the quake’s epicenter.
An emergency official told state TV that it was snowing in some of the affected areas, with freezing temperatures and some power cuts reported.
Major geological faultlines crisscross Iran, which has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years.