Lebanon optimistic about resumption of relations with Gulf states

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022, just hours after meeting with envoys from the Gulf states. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022, just hours after meeting with envoys from the Gulf states. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Updated 25 March 2022

Lebanon optimistic about resumption of relations with Gulf states

Lebanon optimistic about resumption of relations with Gulf states
  • Mikati pledges commitment to all Arab League resolutions amid Iranian FM visit 

BEIRUT: The Saudi and Kuwaiti foreign ministries have responded warmly to the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s call to restore diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The Lebanese are hoping for a swift resumption of the suspended relations, hopes which have been bolstered by statements from Riyadh and Kuwait City. 

Saudi Arabia praised the “positive points” in Mikati’s statement, adding that it hoped it would “contribute to the restoration of Lebanon’s role and status on the Arab and international levels.” The Kuwaiti government, meanwhile, said it was looking forward to engaging in practical measures that would contribute to more security, stability and prosperity for Lebanon.

Mikati’s expression has also been enhanced by the announcement of the launch of the French-Saudi joint fund to support the Lebanese people.

The Saudi and Kuwaiti statements came after Mikati issued an official statement pledging that the Lebanese government would commit to taking all necessary measures to enhance cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Mikati also pledged that Lebanon would abide by all Arab League resolutions, focus on international legitimacy and complete the implementation of their decisions in a way that guarantees civil peace and national stability for Lebanon and fortifies its unity.

In the statement published on Monday evening, Mikati stressed the “necessity to stop all political, military, security and media activities that affect the sovereignty, security and stability of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which originate from Lebanon.”

Mikati affirmed “the obligation to take all measures to prevent the smuggling of contraband, especially drugs, to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, directly or indirectly, tighten controls at all border crossings.”

He pledged Lebanon’s commitment to the Riyadh Agreement for judicial cooperation and the extradition of wanted persons to Saudi Arabia.

Mikati pledged that the “Lebanese government will work to prevent the use of Lebanese financial and banking channels to conduct financial transactions that might harm the security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

In the Cabinet session that was held on Wednesday afternoon, Mikati welcomed “the statements issued by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which indicate that the cloud that disturbed Lebanon’s relations will soon disappear, and we are keen to implement the ministerial statement and call on the Arabs to stand by Lebanon.”

Lebanese political commentators declared that this step will help usher in the return of the Saudi and Kuwaiti ambassadors to Lebanon and that relationships between Lebanon and the Gulf countries should return to normal before the next Arab summit is held.

Saudi Arabia’s return to diplomatic engagement with Lebanon will be achieved primarily through the French-Saudi joint fund, according to some observers, who said that it will help the Lebanese people from beyond the framework of the state.

Politician and author Dr. Khaldoun Al-Sharif said the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s position on Lebanon is a good response to Mikati’s statement.

“As for the political return of the Kingdom, it needs a regional settlement, and Lebanon is not a party to it. The strong party in Lebanon is Hezbollah, which supports forces opposed to the Arabian Gulf directly or indirectly, and this affects the relationship between Lebanon and the Gulf,” said Al-Sharif.

He added: “What is currently required is the stability of Yemen, then Iraq, and Lebanon comes after that.”

The reopening of closed doors between Lebanon and the Arabian Gulf states came about 36 hours before the arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir Abdollahian to Beirut.

Flying over from Damascus, Abdollahian’s visit was supposed to take place a week ago after he visited Moscow, but developments related to the so-called nuclear deal delayed it until Thursday.

The Iranian official’s visit fell the day after Lebanese President Michel Aoun defended Hezbollah’s weapons and said in an interview during his stay in Rome that the group’s arms “have no security effect inside Lebanon, and resisting the occupation is not terrorism.”

At Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, the Iranian minister said that there are many important political developments and all parties must ensure everyone has an opportunity to exchange views.

The minister reaffirmed “Iran’s official readiness to extend bridges of cooperation with Lebanon in various fields, especially economic and commercial ones.”

Abdollahian also reiterated the proposal he made during his meeting with Mikati on the sidelines of the Munich Security Forum about a month ago regarding Iran’s willingness to contribute to building two power plants in Lebanon with a capacity of 1,000 MW each.


Details emerge of Iraqi migrant with diphtheria who died after being held in UK asylum center

Details emerge of Iraqi migrant with diphtheria who died after being held in UK asylum center
Updated 16 sec ago

Details emerge of Iraqi migrant with diphtheria who died after being held in UK asylum center

Details emerge of Iraqi migrant with diphtheria who died after being held in UK asylum center
  • Hussein Haseeb Ahmed had tested positive for the disease but the cause of death has not yet been established
  • An investigation into death of the 31-year-old Iraqi national has been postponed until May 30 next year

LONDON: A migrant who died last month after being held at an asylum-processing center in Kent has been identified as Hussein Haseeb Ahmed, a 31-year old from Iraq, the BBC reported on Monday.

He arrived in the UK on a small boat on Nov. 12 but took ill soon after and died seven days later at a hospital in Margate. Although the Home Office initially said there was no evidence that he died as a result of an infectious disease, subsequent tests confirmed he had diphtheria.

An initial investigation into Ahmed’s death revealed that he was taken to the hospital’s emergency department on Nov. 14 as he was unable to eat or drink and found swallowing to be painful. He was discharged following treatment and taken back to the Manston processing center.

However, he was admitted to the hospital on Nov. 19 suffering from increasing shortness of breath, a fever and drowsiness. Blood tests revealed he was experiencing multiple organ failures, the BBC reported.

It has not yet been confirmed whether the migrant, who was of Kurdish origin, died of diphtheria, which is a highly infectious disease.

A full investigation into his death has been postponed until May 30, when a pre-inquest review is scheduled to take place.

 


Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors
Updated 18 min 5 sec ago

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors
  • Despite session boycott, Lebanese Cabinet approves $35m spending on medicines, assistance for military, pensioners

BEIRUT: Lebanon was on Monday preparing for a much-needed $1.5 billion cash injection with tourist chiefs predicting an influx of around 700,000 visitors over the coming days.

With the festive holiday season fast-approaching, hoteliers were reporting an upsurge in bookings on last year as the country temporarily began to put its economic and political woes to one side.

Decorative lights and trees, traditional markets, music festivals, and other popular events and activities were set to lift the nation’s gloom as Lebanese, expats, and foreign trippers were expected to flood into Beirut and coastal resorts.

And there was even some cheer on Monday from Lebanon’s caretaker Cabinet after it accepted a request for the central bank to release $35 million to buy medicines for dialysis and cancer patients, milk for children, plus financial assistance for the military and pensioners.

However, the Cabinet session was not held without acrimony as ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement boycotted the meeting over the continued political deadlock in Lebanon.

Addressing the session, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “We can no longer spend money to help cancer and dialysis patients. Do they (the FPM) want us to commit a collective crime?

“If that is what they are asking, then we won’t assume our responsibility and let everyone assume the consequences of their actions.

“If they want the country to collapse completely, I will not contribute to the crime of killing patients.”

Although the upcoming holiday season would provide a welcome cash boost, most experts said the revenues would act only as painkillers for the country’s ailing economy unless followed by a political breakthrough.

But in downtown Beirut decorative streetlights raised spirits among

the thousands of visitors flocking to markets selling food, drink, toys, books, and flowers.

One shopper said: “Beirut doesn’t fall, and these activities encourage the re-opening of the markets. People need to feel alive again.”

In Achrafieh, Sassine Square was being trimmed up in readiness for the holidays with traders planning to erect a Christmas tree alongside stalls selling festive products.

Preparations were also in full swing for the Beirut Chants music festival. The free event will run over 26 days in churches and souks around the capital and artistic director, Toufic Maatouk, said the festival, now in its 15th year, had received support from foreign ambassies and the participation of Lebanese bands.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud said a host of activities had been lined up for visitors to the city.

Officials at Rafic Hariri International Airport noted that many Lebanese expats, especially from the Gulf region, were returning to spend the festive period with their families.

The airport, that has been acting as a transit point for football fans heading to Qatar for the World Cup, had also seen some supporters opting to stay in Lebanon on their way back from the tournament.

Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents, said flights were fully booked from Dec. 10 to 25 with the number of Arab tourists on the rise, particularly from Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Abboud added that bookings had increased by 38 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has predicted that around 700,000 tourists will arrive in the country over the coming days.

Pierre Achkar, chairman of the Lebanese Federation for Tourism and president of the Hotel Owners Association, expected hotel bookings to reach 60 percent.

Many luxury hotels are still undergoing restoration following the Beirut port blast, but the iconic Phoenicia hotel recently celebrated its reopening.

And on Beirut waterfront, close to the explosion site, the Arab Cultural Club and Syndicate of Publishers Union in Lebanon has inaugurated the 64th edition of the Beirut International and Arab Book Fair with more than 133 publishers taking part.

Salwa Siniora, head of the Arab Cultural Club, said: “Enlightened intellectuals have a prominent role to play in shaping the destiny of the nation, and that knowledge and intellect are the flame that will remove the abhorrent blackness impeding visibility and the creative imagination.”

But signs of the ongoing crises in the country remain prominent with another protester staging a sit-in at a Lebanese bank, this time in Antelias, demanding the release of savings.

 


Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
Updated 05 December 2022

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
  • Team of 30 psychologists, specialists will provide support to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti charity is offering psychological aid and emotional support for victims of wars and crises in the Middle East.

The International Islamic Charity Organization charity has established a team of 30 psychologists and specialists who will provide support in three refugee-hosting countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Othman Al-Asfour, head of the lICO Tarahum team, said that the initiative affirms an integral part of social and psychological support in humanitarian aid.

Psychologist Dr. Shereefa Al-Khamees stressed that refugees were in urgent need of psychological aid as much as handouts and donations.

The psychological health of the affected is very delicate and requires thorough treatment and support, Al-Khamees added.

 


Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
Updated 05 December 2022

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, Algerian president witness signing of two agreements and three MoUs
  • Governments instructed to take steps to boost investment, commercial opportunities in both countries

ALGIERS: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune have launched a new phase of bilateral relations.

The leaders held talks on Sunday in Algiers to discuss boosting Jordanian-Algerian cooperation in politics, economics, trade, investment, and defense, Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both sides, also affirmed interest in maintaining coordination and consultation on Arab causes and other issues of mutual concern. 

King Abdullah reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the need to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights. 

He called for a just and comprehensive peace plan based on the two-state solution which establishes an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He also reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the historical and legal status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Following the meeting, the leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement on visa exemptions for diplomatic passport-holders, as well as a cooperation program between Jordan News Agency and the Algerian Press Service. 

Three memorandums of understanding on political consultations, cooperation between the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and the Algeria Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, and the mutual recognition of maritime qualification certificates for seafarers, education programs, and maritime training between the two countries were also signed.

King Abdullah and President Tebboune further instructed their governments to take the necessary steps to encourage investors and businesses to explore investment and commercial opportunities in both countries. 

They were also directed to move forward with agreements that would expand collaborations in health care, energy, medical tourism, hotels, transportation, aviation training, higher education, and cultural exchange between universities. 

Economists have praised the outcomes of King Abdullah’s state visit to Algeria.

Jordanian Senator Mazen Darwazah said that Jordanian investment in Algeria has gradually increased over the last two decades, with the drug industry spending nearly $1 billion.

Jordanian-Algerian Business Council Coordinator Khaled Al-Soub said that Algerian law allows Jordanian investors to expand their projects and acquire shares from foreign partners. 

Energy expert Hashem Akel said that Algeria was rich in petrol and natural resources and hoped that energy imports from the country would increase after Jordan receives preferential prices.

 


Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 05 December 2022

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.