GCC-brokered Yemeni consultations seek to bring peace to war-torn country

Update Nayef Al-Hajraf, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), speaks during the last day of the conference on the conflict in Yemen, hosted by the six-nation GCC in Riyadh. (AFP)
Nayef Al-Hajraf, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), speaks during the last day of the conference on the conflict in Yemen, hosted by the six-nation GCC in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2022

GCC-brokered Yemeni consultations seek to bring peace to war-torn country

Nayef Al-Hajraf, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), speaks during the last day of the conference on the conflict in Yemen, hosted by the six-nation GCC in Riyadh. (AFP)
  • GCC chief says the talks were a success and ideas were discussed with full transparency

RIYADH: For the first time in more than a decade, almost all of Yemen’s feuding leaders came together in one building in Riyadh in a bid to settle their disputes.

The Gulf Cooperation Council last month invited all Yemeni political, tribal and religious leaders, journalists, activists, economists and the heads of nongovernmental organizations to join unprecedented talks in the Saudi capital under its aegis to examine and propose solutions to the country’s problems.

With the exception of the Iran-backed Houthis, who turned down the invitation, hundreds of people engaged in the talks to draw up a road map for bringing peace and stability to war-torn Yemen.

During the discussions, members of the General People’s Congress — the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh — exchanged views for hours with supporters of the Islamist Islah party, which led the Arab Spring-inspired protests against Saleh in 2011.

The leaders of the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council discussed ideas with those they fought in Aden in 2018 and 2019.

Sarhan Al-Minaikher, the GCC ambassador to Yemen, said that almost 1,000 people participated in the Yemeni-Yemeni consultations, and that the participants were left in closed rooms to privately, transparently and directly exchange views without any interference from the Gulf bloc or any other country.

The most important outcome of the consultations was the formation of the Presidential Leadership Council, a body of eight people, led by Rashad Al-Alimi and comprising Yemeni leaders representing different parties, including separatists and Saleh’s supporters.

On Thursday, former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi passed powers to the new council and empowered it to run the country and negotiate with the Houthis.

During the closing ceremony, the participants came out with recommendations that called upon the new presidential body to start engaging in talks with the Houthis to end the war, supported boosting and reforming state bodies, and allowed them to function in Yemen.

The participants also called for fighting terrorism, opening roads between Yemeni cities that were closed during the war and seeking an international donor conference for mobilizing funds to the country.

The Riyadh consultations are the latest in a string of initiatives and peace ideas proposed by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf bloc and the UN to bring an end to the violence.

The current fighting in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthis, with support from Saleh and Iran, seized control of Sanaa and put Hadi under house arrest.

In February 2015, Hadi managed to escape from Sanaa to the southern city of Aden where he regrouped his forces and vowed to challenge the Houthis.

The UN and many local organizations say that tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed in the war that has pushed most of the country’s 30 million people to the brink of famine.

Before the Houthi capture of Sanaa, the GCC mediated peace initiatives to end the violence in Yemen.

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

— Born in 1945 in a small village in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan.

— He received military training and degrees from Russia and Britain.

— He was among thousands of South Yemen officers who fled to northern Yemen after a bloody coup in 1986.

— In 1994, he led Saleh’s forces that crushed a rebellion by South Yemen forces.

— Saleh rewarded him by promoting him to vice president in October 1994.

— In February 2012, Hadi became the president of Yemen after an uncontested election that was widely supported by the international community.

— In 2014, Houthis stormed the capital, forced him to resign and placed him under house arrest.

— In 2015, Hadi fled to Aden where he called for international support to push back the Houthis.

— In April 2022, Hadi passed his powers to a presidential council led by his former adviser.

In late 2011, Saleh signed a peace initiative, known as the GCC initiative, and agreed to pass power to his then deputy, Hadi, to run the country during a transitional period.

Hadi was elected a year later as the new president after winning an uncontested election.

As part of the GCC initiatives, the National Dialogue Conference in 2013 brought together hundreds of Yemenis and recommended ways of achieving peace and prosperity.

In 2014, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states backed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement between the Houthis and the other Yemeni forces. But the Houthis violated the deal and expanded militarily across the country, sparking bloody fighting with government troops and allied forces.

In March 2015, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, led by the Kingdom, intervened militarily at the request of Saleh and managed to blunt Houthi advances on the ground and helped government forces liberate many provinces.

Thanks to military support from the coalition, the Yemeni government liberated Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, and its neighboring provinces during the first months of the military operations.

Despite supporting the internationally recognized government, Saudi Arabia has sponsored peace talks and supported many peace agreements between the Yemeni factions since the beginning of the war.

Amid international outrage over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the Kingdom in March last year presented an initiative to bring peace to Yemen and alleviate the suffering of its people. That called for an immediate nationwide truce, the opening of Sanaa airport and the lifting of restrictions on the movement of fuel ships into Hodeidah port.

But the Houthis rejected the initiative and continued with their aggressive attacks on government-controlled areas.

When fighting between the former government and south Yemen separatists broke out in Aden in 2019, Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing deal known as the Riyadh Agreement.

That led to the formation of a new government, led by Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, and allowed it to resume duties from Aden.

In 2018, the Kingdom deposited $2 billion into the central bank of Yemen in Aden, which helped the government pay salaries, buy vital commodities and stopped the fall of the Yemeni riyal.


Five protesters sentenced to death by Iran regime

Five protesters sentenced to death by Iran regime
Updated 07 December 2022

Five protesters sentenced to death by Iran regime

Five protesters sentenced to death by Iran regime
  • 1,200 students ‘poisoned’ on eve of demo

JEDDAH: Iran’s regime on Tuesday sentenced five people to death for allegedly killing a member of a paramilitary force affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Eleven others received prison sentences.

The 13 men and three minors had been charged with killing Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer branch of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.

The five sentenced to death Monday were charged by Iran’s Revolutionary Court, along with eight others. Three boys were charged by Iran’s Criminal Court. Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi provided no evidence to support any of the accusations in an official report.

Officials did not disclose the identities of the 16. They said their sentences can be appealed, the longest being 25 years.

The alleged killing took place In Karaj, near Tehran, on Nov. 12 when a group of men chased and attacked Ajamian with knives and stones, the regime claims.

The sentencing comes amid months of anti-government demonstrations that have been violently suppressed by Iran’s security forces. The protests, now entering their third month, were sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday arrested 12 people accused of being linked to overseas agents and planning “subversive action,” the elite force said.

Tehran has accused Western intelligence services of fomenting the protests and seeking to instigate a civil war in Iran.

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Meanwhile, a group of 1,200 university students in Iran have been struck by a food poisoning outbreak on the eve of nationwide anti-regime demonstrations set to be held throughout the country, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The students at Kharazmi and Arak universities, as well as four other institutions, threw their provided food onto surrounding streets in protest, with the country’s national student union accusing authorities of deliberately poisoning people.

In a statement, the union said: “Our past experiences of similar incidents at the Isfahan University negates the authorities’ reason for this mass food poisoning.”

Officials have blamed the outbreak on waterborne bacteria.

However, clinics in several affected universities have also closed or run out of supplies to treat dehydration and other associated symptoms of food poisoning, in a sign that the outbreak may have been a deliberate strategy to thwart the national protest movement.

It came as a three-day nationwide strike was due to begin on Wednesday, intensifying public pressure against the regime.


Usufruct rights granted for Egypt’s natural reserves to boost ecotourism

A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2022

Usufruct rights granted for Egypt’s natural reserves to boost ecotourism

A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
  • Highlighting “full transparency through the information and data that is published,” Fouad also talked about the government’s nationwide afforestation program, which will see the number of trees reach 2 million next year

CAIRO: In a significant move, Egypt’s government has granted usufruct rights to investors to expand ecotourism in nature reserves for up to 10 years, provided that the local population is employed in the projects involved.

Yasmine Fouad, minister of environment, announced that the program would begin with the Nabq and Ras Mohammed reserves in South Sinai, where restaurants and cafeterias have been set up.

She highlighted the ministry’s efforts to support the local community by enabling them to sell handicrafts and provide food services to visitors at the nature reserves.

Fouad said that 70 percent of the employees at the Wadi El-Gemal Reserve were from the local population.

The number of stations to monitor air pollutants has been increased to 116 nationwide, she said, adding that the ministry publishes a report every three days on air quality and issues alerts if any concentration of pollutants is detetcted in an effort to protect people’s health, especially those with allergies and respiratory issues.

Highlighting “full transparency through the information and data that is published,” Fouad also talked about the government’s nationwide afforestation program, which will see the number of trees reach 2 million next year.

She revealed plans to rehabilitate Egyptian lakes and stop direct sewage flow into them.

The total number of nature reserves in Egypt currently is 31. Natural reserves are estimated to make up more than 15 percent of the country’s total area.

The idea to establish natural reserves stems from Law 102, passed in 1983.

 


Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts
Updated 06 December 2022

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts
  • An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer
  • The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies

BEIRUT: Commercial brakes produced by a Dutch company to be used in ambulances in Turkiye instead ended up in missiles used by Turkiye in attacks in northeastern Syria, a report released Tuesday said.
Between September 2021 and June 2022, field investigators with London-based Conflict Armament Research analyzed the remnants of 17 air-to-surface missiles used in strikes in northeast Syria, the report said. An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer.
The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies, among them electromagnetic brakes with “markings and characteristics consistent with production by (Netherlands-based company) Kendrion NV,” the report said.
Representatives of Kendrion told researchers that the company had agreed in 2018 to supply 20-25,000 brakes to a Turkish company called FEMSAN, with the stated purpose of using them on blood analysis machines fitted to ambulances, the report said. After being notified that the brakes were being used in military applications, Kendrion said it had cut off its business relationship with the Turkish company, the report noted.
FEMSAN did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while representatives of Roketsan could not be reached for comment.
The research was carried out before the most recent round of Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria, launched last month in response to a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups based in Syria — an allegation that the groups deny. Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also threatened a ground incursion.
The report did not allege that the sellers of the components used in the missiles had violated any laws, noting that “while the EU has had an arms embargo related to Syria itself since 2011, (Turkiye) has never been subject to sanctions at the multilateral level.”
It added that the case “highlights both the critical importance and the relative complexity of commercial due diligence for material of these types” which “may serve multiple purposes, some of which the manufacturer may not even be aware, and which may be extremely sensitive.”


Gaza conservatives win battle to cancel girls’ football match

Gaza conservatives win battle to cancel girls’ football match
Updated 06 December 2022

Gaza conservatives win battle to cancel girls’ football match

Gaza conservatives win battle to cancel girls’ football match
  • Hani Abu Kush, a board member of the Rafah Services Club, said it wanted to hold the match as part of a sporting project.
  • “The match was like a graduation ceremony at the end, but the media uproar made it a big event,” he told Arab News

GAZA CITY: Religious conservatives have forced the cancelation of a football match for young girls in the Gaza Strip, describing it as an attempt to “replace the hijab with shorts.”
The pressure led to the cancelation of the match for girls aged nine to 12 from the Rafah Services Club and the Rafah Youth Club, which was scheduled for Thursday. Scholars and clerics criticized the match, calling it a “moral disgrace.”
Hani Abu Kush, a board member of the Rafah Services Club, said it wanted to hold the match as part of a sporting project.
“This is a project that started several months ago and included training for girls aged nine to 12. The match was like a graduation ceremony at the end, but the media uproar made it a big event,” he told Arab News.
He said that the club currently did not have any girls’ teams and all that was being done for girls was with external funding.
Abu Kush said he understood that holding matches for girls would be objectionable as “we are a conservative society, but this was a match for young children who are not professional soccer players, and there was no reason for all this fuss.”
Majdi Al-Maghrabi, one of the hard-liners in Rafah, wrote on his Facebook page: “We were informed that this match was canceled at the request of the governor of Rafah.”
He added that “we all hope that these women’s teams will be dissolved”, and accused Fatah member Jibril Rajoub of running a “sabotage project for women’s sports in the Gaza Strip, which aspires to lead our girls to replace the hijab with shorts.”
While his comment drew support, others objected by saying “these are just children.”
Palestinian sports in general suffer from a lack of funding and interest, according to those in charge of the clubs in Gaza, and there is not enough funding for the existing men’s teams.
“The current lack of funding and the financial suffering of the clubs in the Gaza Strip prevent them from developing the capabilities of the existing teams, and prevent them from forming women’s teams in the Gaza Strip,” Abu Kush said.
There are no permanent women’s football teams in Gaza unlike in the West Bank, and women from Gaza are not part of the Palestinian national team.
Alaa Al-Amour, a female football coach, told Arab News: “There is a clear lack of interest (from officials) in Gaza for women’s sports. There is no funding, and clubs in the Gaza Strip are not interested in women’s teams. The federation also does not show sufficient interest in supporting women’s teams.
“All the activities that happen for women in Gaza are part of initiatives of civil institutions or projects that are funded by international and external parties only.”
Al-Amour was a coach with a girls’ football team that traveled to Norway recently, and after the end of the funding, training for that team was stopped.
Female players, whether in training or matches, wear modest kits that do not violate the customs and traditions of the Gaza Strip, and the age groups involved do not exceed 17 years, said Al-Amour.
“We face many obstacles, the most important of which is funding, as well as community pressures that sometimes do not allow girls to play football. In addition to that, Israeli obstacles prevent communication between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The last time the team I trained participated in a West Bank match without my participation as a coach.”


Witnesses question Israeli claims after killing of Palestinian

Witnesses question Israeli claims after killing of Palestinian
Updated 06 December 2022

Witnesses question Israeli claims after killing of Palestinian

Witnesses question Israeli claims after killing of Palestinian
  • Ammar Mefleh, 22, shot dead at point-blank range by officer following scuffle
  • Mefleh grabbed the rifle but then dropped it, at which point the officer drew his pistol and shot him at close range, killing him

LONDON: Witnesses to the killing of a Palestinian have questioned the accounts of Israeli authorities, who say an officer killed the 22-year-old in self-defense, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Ammar Mefleh was shot dead by an officer at point-blank range in the West Bank on Friday. The killing has sparked widespread condemnation in Palestine, with the UN envoy to the region tweeting that he was “horrified” over Mefleh’s death.

The incident occurred when Mefleh allegedly stabbed the officer in the face following a scuffle.

However, witnesses told the BBC that the man only punched the officer and that there was no knife involved.

It is unclear based on witness testimony and video evidence what led to the incident, but the actions of the officer have been praised in Israel and condemned by Palestinians.

Footage of the incident shows the Israeli officer restraining Mefleh in a headlock, with the latter escaping and trying to seize the policeman’s gun.

Mefleh grabbed the rifle but then dropped it, at which point the officer drew his pistol and shot him at close range, killing him.

Witness Nader Allan told the BBC: “I was standing over there next to the butcher. A settler’s car stopped. I’m not sure if he hit the (Palestinian) guy’s car, or if the guy was walking in the street.

“They started yelling at each other and I heard a shot. The settler shot the guy (Mefleh) in the face. He was bleeding and he fell on the floor.”

Following that initial incident the Israeli officer arrived, eventually leading to Mefleh’s death, Allan said.

Mahmoud Abed, another witness, said he investigated the sound of gunshots after the Israeli driver opened fire.

He added: “We found a guy on the floor with his face covered in blood. A policeman came from far away. He looked at him and kicked him, then the policeman said something on the radio.”

Both witnesses said despite being wounded by the initial shooting, Mefleh confronted the officer who arrived at the scene. This is what led to the scuffle, they added.

Bahaa Odeh, a third witness, said: “Because of how upset I got from what I saw I started shouting at the soldier telling him ‘you’re despicable … there was no danger to your life, why did you kill him?’

“I told him ‘you are a coward … you killed him because he punched you. He has a right to defend himself’.”

As a result of Mefleh’s death, confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli authorities later descended into violence.

In the West Bank this year, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed, almost entirely by Israeli forces.