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.”


Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
Updated 17 sec ago

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
  • Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office
  • Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament speaker has called a Thursday session to elect a new president, despite a political deadlock caused by a splintered chamber failing to agree on a candidate.
Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office, and as rival parliamentary blocs refuse to nominate or even discuss who should replace him.
Lebanon’s Parliament of 128 MPs contains two main blocs after elections earlier this year: The Hezbollah-aligned March 8 Alliance with 60 MPs, and their opponents, the March 14 Alliance with 38.
Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority. As a result, a new president must have cross-bench support.
Ali Darwich, a former MP, said the announcement by Berri, whose Amal Movement is part of March 8, is intended “to hold everyone accountable.”
He said: “We hope that the session leads to the election of a president, but tomorrow’s scene will reveal that an agreement on the new president’s identity has yet to be reached.”
Consultations among parliamentary blocs have intensified since Berri’s announcement, with sources suggesting that many have agreed to attend the session.
Melhem Khalaf, a member of the 13-member Forces for Change opposition bloc, said Berri had “fulfilled his constitutional duty by urging deputies to carry out their responsibilities and avoid a presidential vacuum,” and “as reformists, we will be the first to attend.”
His alliance has however not nominated a candidate. Instead, it has issued a set of standards for Aoun’s replacement: “Lebanese-made, a savior chosen from outside the corrupted system that contributed to the destruction of the country.”
Under the constitution, which divides power between the country’s religions, any Maronite Lebanese can run for the presidency.
The most prominent candidates are usually the leaders of Christian parties, such as former deputy Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the Marada Movement and an ally of the Syrian regime; Gibran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and an ally of Hezbollah; and the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea. However, none enjoy majority support in parliament.
The names that were reported on Wednesday to have received some support include Lebanon’s ambassador to the Vatican since 2018, Farid Elias Al-Khazen; former MP Salah Hanin; Michel Moawad, the son of former President Rene Moawad; and independent Neamat Ifram, an MP and businessman formerly of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Other tips for candidacy include Damianos Kattar and Jihad Azour, both former finance ministers; banker Samir Assaf; and Ziad Baroud and Marwan Charbel, both former interior ministers.
The Lebanese president is elected by secret ballot. Candidates must gain a two-thirds majority of the 128 MPs in the first round of voting to be elected outright.
A candidate with a simple majority of 65 votes can be declared the winner if further rounds are required.


PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
Updated 28 September 2022

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
  • One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin
  • A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident

ANKARA: Turkey has blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a deadly attack on a police guesthouse in the country’s southern coastal Mersin province.
One policeman was killed and another injured in the attack reportedly carried out by two women who opened fire with long-barreled weapons and detonated bombs late on Monday.
Another bomb, found in a bag near the guesthouse, was defused.
One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU, launched a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state in 1984, which has since claimed 40,000 lives.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Turkey not to go to areas within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Monday’s attack coincided with domestic debates taking place in Turkey in the run-up to next year’s election marathon.
Erol Bural, a retired colonel and head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Combating Terrorism and Radicalization (TERAM), told Arab News that the Mersin attack was a message to Ankara from the PKK that it was still active in Turkish towns.
He said: “Terrorism is an instrument to exert political violence. The PKK wanted to show that it is still alive in Turkey to launch terror attacks against specific targets.”
Bural noted that the PKK had not carried out an urban attack on such a scale for some time due to the effectiveness of Turkey’s increased anti-terror, and intelligence-gathering measures.
“This attack was carried out by the urban team of the PKK by people who were familiar with the district and who seem to have been specifically trained for such urban operations. They knew very well that the police guesthouse could not have been protected as strongly as a police station. Therefore, they picked that target,” he added.
Bural pointed out that the PKK may also have used the attack as a signal to discourage Turkey from conducting any potential operations in Syria.
“Another underlying reason for this attack might also be revenge following Turkey’s cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK hideouts,” he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Monday that around 400 PKK members in northern Iraq had been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed, or captured — since the start of a cross-border operation in April.
On Sept. 23, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) captured a PKK member against whom a red notice had been issued, and on Wednesday it apprehended another group member, Sabah Ogur. The same day, Akar said the guesthouse attack had been plotted in Syria and added that, “necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators when the time is ripe.”
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s anti-Daesh operation, 16 Daesh suspects were caught in Istanbul and eight in Mersin.
Think tank TERAM closely follows counter-terror operations in Turkey, and Bural said: “Each month, about 1,000 terrorists from different groups are caught in Turkey, and some of them are detained. Therefore, Turkey’s counter-terror operations will continue following this attack with the same vigor.”


Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
Updated 28 September 2022

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
  • Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks
  • Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion

RAMALLAH: Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured, some seriously, during an Israeli military raid early on Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp in in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks. Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the camp, apparently after an explosion. In the streets, men sheltered behind cars as heavy gunfire could be heard.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said one of the men killed in the clashes was Ahmed Alawneh, a 24-year-old intelligence officer.

The party added that the incursion was a “dangerous escalation.” It called for demonstrations to honor the “heroic martyrs” and “unify the battlefields against the Israeli occupation that is trying to single out and isolate Jenin.”

Thousands later participated in the funeral of the four dead amid chants calling for revenge.

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, Jenin’s governor, told Arab News that the Israeli army used excessive force and intended to kill.

He said the two wanted men died in the yard of a house that had been surrounded by Israeli soldiers, despite possessing no weapons and showing no resistance.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, called for the men’s killers to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Mosques announced mourning and a general strike in Jenin and Nablus.

Ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the killings showed that “this occupation, which practices terrorism in all its forms against our Palestinian people,” understands only force.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the “dangerous Israeli escalation” would not give legitimacy, security or stability to Israel.

He added that Israel is an international pariah and that the US, its principle ally, has lost credibility with its continued calls for calm while Palestinian lives, land and holy sites are being destroyed.

“The occupation still insists on crossing all red lines, whether in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the “terrorism of the occupation” would not break Jenin’s determination, and “the fall of the martyrs becomes fuel for the resistance.”

He added that the battle against Israel will continue until it is expelled from all Palestinian land.

Israel accused Hamas of stoking tensions in the West Bank, claiming that an explosive device was detonated when its soldiers tried to arrest the wanted men in Jenin and that both died in an exchange of fire.

Hamas was also accused by Israel of stoking Palestinian resistance at the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, which has been stormed by Jewish settlers for three consecutive days.


Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
  • Envoy is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz
  • Grundberg: We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real

AL-MUKALLA: Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy for Yemen, arrived in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday for talks as he pushes the Yemeni militia and the internationally recognized government to extend the UN-brokered truce for six months and implement truce elements.

Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz, among other things.

The envoy’s visit comes as the Yemeni government and the Houthis received a new draft of the envoy’s proposal, which includes, in addition to the six-month truce, opening secondary roads in the besieged city of Taiz and adding new destinations for commercial flights from Sanaa airport to include Doha, Muscat and Mumbai.

The proposal would ask the Houthis to use revenue from fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port to pay government employees in their territories based on the 2014 payroll, with the Yemeni government covering any payment shortfall.

A Yemeni government source told Arab News that the government received a copy of the draft and expressed reservations about opening only small roads in Taiz rather than at least one main road leading into and out of the city and requested that the Houthis fully pay the government employees in areas under their control.

“Minor roads in Taiz, such as Osefrah, Al-Sateen, Al-Zulai and Al-Rahedah, will be opened during the first phase. Opening the main Softeel road is important for the government,” said the Yemeni official who preferred anonymity, adding that the government is seeking assurances that the Houthis will adhere to the truce’s terms.

The UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been extended twice, will expire on Oct. 2.

Despite significantly reducing hostilities throughout the country and allowing commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo, as well as allowing fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports, the truce did not even result in a partial lifting of the Houthi siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, or the cessation of discriminatory attacks on residential areas in the city.

The UN envoy, after concluding a trip to Riyadh and Muscat, warned on Tuesday that the truce was at serious risk of collapsing and that new fighting could erupt, urging Yemeni parties to achieve peace.

“We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people,” Grundberg said.

The Houthis rejected the new proposal on Tuesday and other calls for extending the truce and insisted the Yemeni government pay public servants in their areas and end what they called the “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“Any discussion of peace in Yemen lacks credibility and seriousness until these critical humanitarian issues are addressed, which are a demand of all Yemenis,” Mohammed Abdul Sallam, a Houthi chief negotiator, tweeted.


US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
Updated 28 September 2022

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan region and called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region of neighboring northern Iraq, where an official said nine people were killed.
“Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq,” the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.