Qatar FM meets UN, US officials to discuss Yemen humanitarian situation, Safer tanker

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman meets David Gressly, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, and US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking. (QNA)
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman meets David Gressly, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, and US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking. (QNA)
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Updated 15 April 2022

Qatar FM meets UN, US officials to discuss Yemen humanitarian situation, Safer tanker

Qatar FM meets UN, US officials to discuss Yemen humanitarian situation, Safer tanker

LONDON: Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman reiterated on Thursday that the only way to resolve the Yemeni crisis is through negotiations between Yemeni parties.
His comments came during a meeting with David Gressly, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, and US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, state-run Qatar News Agency reported.
During the meeting, they reviewed the latest developments in Yemen, especially the humanitarian situation, and discussed the latest developments regarding the dilapidating floating Safer oil tanker that is moored in the Red Sea north of the port city of Hodeidah.

Sheikh Mohammed said that intra-Yemeni negotiations should be held in accordance with the outcomes of the national dialogue, the Gulf initiative and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution No. 2216, stressing Qatar’s firm position on Yemen’s unity and territorial integrity.
Lenderking’s visit to Doha comes a day after he met with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, during a visit to the Gulf state.


Ankara, Damascus discuss potential normalization after years of broken in ties

Ankara, Damascus discuss potential normalization after years of broken in ties
Updated 12 sec ago

Ankara, Damascus discuss potential normalization after years of broken in ties

Ankara, Damascus discuss potential normalization after years of broken in ties
  • Turkey will continue to temporarily provide security in some northwestern territories in Syria if they normalize bilateral relations, analyst tells Arab News

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s revelation that he met his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad last October on the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement summit hinted at the possibility of Ankara and Damascus seeking political rapprochement after 11 years of a rupture in ties. 

Cavusoglu reportedly talked with his counterpart in Serbia’s capital Belgrade about the need to come to terms with the opposition and the Assad regime in Syria for a lasting peace. 

The Turkish foreign minister emphasized that his country supported Syria’s territorial integrity as “the border integrity, territorial integrity and peace of a country next to us directly affect us.”

The pro-government Turkiye newspaper recently claimed that Assad and Erdogan may hold a telephone conservation after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed this during his recent meeting with Erdogan in Sochi. However, Cavusoglu denied rumors about any talks between the Syrian and Turkish presidents.

Having conducted four cross-border military operations in Syria since the start of civil war in 2011 to clear its border from terror groups, Turkey also has a significant military presence through observation posts in northern parts of the country. 

Since 2017, Turkey, Iran and Russia have come together through Astana meetings to try to bring the warring sides in Syria toward finding a permanent solution to the war. 

It is not a secret that the Turkish and Syrian intelligence services have been communicating. 

However, as Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, the latest signs of a potential normalization of bilateral ties has angered opposition groups who held mass protests in several areas of northern Aleppo to demonstrate their objections, fearing renewed diplomatic contact with the Assad regime. 

Turkey’s bid for peace with the Assad regime might also have repercussions for the fate of more than 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey who have become a domestic politic issue due to the economic hardship the country is facing. 

Before the outbreak of the civil war, Turkey and Syria had close relationships at the top level, often exemplified by the famous summer holiday of Syrian President Bashar Assad with his family at Turkey’s Aegean resort town of Bodrum where he also met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2008. 

“Given the durability of the Assad regime, Ankara has to have a modus vivendi of sorts; in fact, it exists already at the level of intelligence agency chiefs,“ Rich Outzen, senior fellow at Atlantic Council and Jamestown Foundation, told Arab News.  

“The political risk for President Erdogan of a rapid or warm reconciliation is incredibly high, though, so the understanding is likely to be incremental and limited,” Outzen said.  

According to Outzen, botching re-engagement would mean compromising the viability of the Turkish-protected safe zone, leading to a new waves of refugees, or inviting new massacres by Assad among populations Ankara wants to protect and to remain in place. 

“Yet the lack of a modus vivendi is also not sustainable over the long-term, because inevitably pressure will grow internationally and within Turkey for Turkish forces to have a pathway to withdrawal, even if the pathway is measured in multiple years,” he said. 

For that reason, Outzen thinks that fears of a rash or rapid reconciliation or re-engagement are overstated. 

“Putin, of course, pressures Erdogan to re-engage, but Erdogan will in my view resist any but the minimum measures to maintain his own freedom of maneuver in Syria,” he said. “As this week’s protests in the Safe Zone demonstrate, going too fast in this process can prompt a backlash among Syrians in northern Syria and perhaps ultimately in Turkey.” 

According to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute, while Turkey’s endgame in Syria is an Erdogan-Assad handshake, Ankara and Damascus are moving northwestern Syria into a frozen conflict.  

“I don’t think that an arrangement between Turkey and Syria will result in a complete reset of two countries borders and border affairs because many of the Syrians who live in the zones controlled by Turkish-backed forces have been already effectively cleansed by Assad, in some cases twice,” he told Arab News.

“There is zero chance that they would stay in Assad regime-controlled Syria if both leaders shake hands or make exchanges of territories,” he said. 

Cagaptay thinks that Turkey will recognize Assad’s sovereignty over the area, but will continue to temporarily provide security as well as law and order in some in northwestern territories in Syria, while also keeping millions of Sunni Arabs Assad does not want and has no interest in making full citizens again. 

“Assad may even come back to border stations with the Syrian republic flag and might begin to provide some of the social services,” he told Arab News. 

For Cagaptay, the big favor that Turkey is doing for Assad is keeping Syrians refugees inside the country and in northwest Syria under Turkish control, and not forcing them to return to Syria. 

“That is a huge favor to Assad because he used the war in Syria for ethnic engineering. Before the war, Sunni Arabs constituted over two-thirds of the Syrian population, but now they are under half. In return for that favor, Assad can propose to re-ingest the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG under his control. It is a good deal for Erdogan and Turkey,” he said.  

Turkey considers the YPG a national security threat and the extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. 

For Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based analyst, the possibility of re-engagement with the Assad regime will be used for domestic consumption ahead of the approaching election term scheduled for June 2023 at a time of deepening economic turmoil in Turkey.

“There is significant external pressure to make this reconciliation happen, while the economic burden of hosting millions of Syrian refugees inside Turkey and the rising cost of deploying military officers to the observation posts in Syria also make this issue financially important for the internal dynamics,” he told Arab News. 

Turkey has about 5,000 troops within the areas it controls in Syria, along with some 8,000 soldiers around rebel-held Idlib province, whose maintenance is costing Ankara billions of dollars and risks confrontations with Assad and foreign powers over territory violation. 

“Although the rapprochement cannot happen overnight, it is significant that the ruling government as well as the opposition parties have begun discussing it,” Sezer said. 

Erdogan recently hinted at a fresh operation into Syria to create a 30 km-deep safe zone from the border to push back Kurdish militants, but any military activity does not look imminent following several warnings from regional powers.


Lebanon denounces the use of its airspace to bomb Syria

Israeli F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over the beach in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 5, 2022. (AFP
Israeli F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over the beach in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 5, 2022. (AFP
Updated 13 min 43 sec ago

Lebanon denounces the use of its airspace to bomb Syria

Israeli F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over the beach in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 5, 2022. (AFP
  • Israeli warplanes targeted sites in the Damascus countryside and the coastal governorate of Tartus on Sunday

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday condemned “the recent Israeli attack on Syria, and the Israeli enemy’s use of the Lebanese airspace to bomb Syrian territory.”

The previous evening, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported: “Israeli planes bombed sites in the Damascus countryside and the coastal governorate of Tartus, via the Lebanese airspace.”

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry warned of “the consequences of this aggressive behavior and the continuous violation of Lebanese sovereignty in a flagrant breach of international law and treaties.” It added that it “will file a complaint to the (UN) Security Council.”

Aug. 12 marked the 16th anniversary of the approval of UN Resolution 1701, which was designed to end hostilities following Israeli aggression against Lebanon in 2006.

Marking the anniversary, Fouad Siniora, who was Lebanon’s prime minister at the time, said: “Resolution 1701 protected Lebanon and settled the issue of sovereignty in the south in favor of the Lebanese state in the face of the aggressions and ambitions of the Israeli enemy.

“The implementation of Resolution 1701, 16 years ago, stopped the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, preceded by the unanimous decision adopted by the Lebanese Cabinet based on the National Accord document, the constitution and the seven points document regarding the deployment of the Lebanese army in the entire south, after being prohibited from doing so for more than 30 years.”

Siniora added that the Resolution 1701 “confirmed Resolution 1559 in preventing illegal weapons on Lebanese soil, and Resolution 1680 calling for the demarcation of the borders of Lebanon.”

He recalled the great support his country had received at the time from the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, to help rebuild in record time the infrastructure and public facilities that had been destroyed by Israel.

Siniora also accused Hezbollah, without explicitly naming the group, of “seeking to cause more trouble for the Lebanese and the state, including implicating Lebanon in military confrontations and risks that Lebanon cannot confront or bear.”

The condemnation by Lebanese authorities of Sunday’s Israeli attack coincided with visit to Syria on Monday by Issam Sharafeddine, the Lebanese caretaker minister of the displaced. He was leading a ministry delegation in discussions with Syrian authorities about the repatriation of refugees who have been living in Lebanon since the beginning of the civil war.

He met a number of Syrian officials, including Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf and Interior Minister Mohammed Khalid Al-Rahmoun. The two sides reportedly discussed a plan for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country in “a safe and dignified” way.

Makhlouf said: “Syria’s doors are open for the refugees’ return and the state is ready to provide them with everything they need, from transportation to hospitalization and education. Syrian authorities will secure water and electricity to the liberated areas and will provide shelters for those whose homes have not been rebuilt yet.”

Authorities in Lebanon want 15,000 Syrian refugees to return home each month, a target that will require the cooperation of the Syrian government. The Lebanese government estimates there are about 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including 880,000 who are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, along with others who have entered the country, legally or illegally, to work.

The Lebanese government has complained about the “weak” financial aid provided by the UN in comparison to the country’s needs in light of the severe economic crisis it has been grappling with for more than three years.


US: Only way to return to nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon extraneous demands

US: Only way to return to nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon extraneous demands
Updated 47 min 15 sec ago

US: Only way to return to nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon extraneous demands

US: Only way to return to nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon extraneous demands
  • The US will provide its views on the EU's final draft to save the nuclear deal privately, Price said

LONDON: The only way to achieve a mutual return to the Iran nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon its “extraneous demands,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.

He added that “if Iran cannot accept a mutual return to the JCPOA, the US is equally prepared to continue vigorous enforcement of our sanctions.”

Price also said the US will provide its views on the European Union’s final draft to save the nuclear deal privately and directly to the bloc’s High Representative Josep Borrell.

Iran’s foreign minister said Monday that Tehran expects a revived agreement on its nuclear program in the next few days.

Hossein Amirabdollahian said three outstanding issues were holding up a new deal but he expected the US to show flexibility in resolving them.


EU joins protests over Israeli decision to demolish Palestinian Bedouin school

EU joins protests over Israeli decision to demolish Palestinian Bedouin school
Updated 15 August 2022

EU joins protests over Israeli decision to demolish Palestinian Bedouin school

EU joins protests over Israeli decision to demolish Palestinian Bedouin school
  • Palestinian politician Mustafa Al-Barghouthi told Arab News that Israel does not take the EU seriously

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have expressed anger over an Israeli court decision to demolish a school serving a Palestinian Bedouin community east of Ramallah in the West Bank that was built with EU financial support early this year.

The school was built in mid-January, and served 17 students and children of the Bedouin community from the first to the sixth grade.

More students were expected to attend the school in the coming year. The only other school available to the Bedouin community is 11 km away.

The Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission, in cooperation with a Palestinian legal body, succeeded in obtaining a decision from the Israeli court in Jerusalem not to demolish the school for 10 days after the civil administration staff of the Israeli authorities stormed the area and announced its intention to carry out the demolition.

On Aug. 12, representatives, ambassadors and consuls of the EU visited the school to show solidarity with the students and protest against the court’s decision.

Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, the EU’s representative in Palestine, said: “This is not the first visit in which we meet to protest against the decisions of the occupation. Israel, as the occupying power, must respect the right to education under international law and relevant international conventions, and guarantee the right of Palestinian children to reach their schools easily.”

He described the decision to demolish the school as “illogical,” adding that it is a clear violation of all international obligations and amounts to forced displacement.

Palestinian politician Mustafa Al-Barghouthi told Arab News that Israel does not take the EU seriously.

Barghouthi said that that the circumstances surrounding the school demolition reveal the EU’s double standards over Ukraine and what is happening in Palestine, adding that Israel understands only the language of force, and does not respect human rights or the rights of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh affirmed his rejection of the Israeli court decision.

“The Israeli occupation’s decision to demolish the Ein Samiya school comes within the framework of the war on Palestinian identity, and within the framework of frantic attempts to the family education,” he said during the Cabinet session on Monday.

“The halt to the completion of the construction of the Ein Samiya school and the attempts to impose the Israeli curriculum on Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem are two sides of the same coin.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Education also condemned the Israeli court’s decision.  

A ministry spokesman, Sadiq Al-Khaddour, said that the decision aims to displace Palestinians from their lands.

Israel’s targeting of Ein Samiya school is part of an attack on Palestinian national identity and education in all areas, he said.

The ministry said that it is looking at mechanisms to stop the demolition, in cooperation with friends, partners, organizations and international bodies.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities canceled the licenses of six Palestinian private schools in Jerusalem for teaching the Palestinian curriculum instead of the Israeli version.

“We will defend our Palestinian curriculum and the right of our children to education in all regions,” Shtayyeh said.

 


Canada, Egypt discuss aspirations to boost bilateral cooperation 

Canada, Egypt discuss aspirations to boost bilateral cooperation 
Updated 15 August 2022

Canada, Egypt discuss aspirations to boost bilateral cooperation 

Canada, Egypt discuss aspirations to boost bilateral cooperation 
  • Foreign Affairs minister says Egypt hopes Canada will increase investments in the country

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry met with Canadian Minister of International Development Harjit Sajan on Sunday to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations and other topics of common interest, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reported.

Shoukry emphasized the remarkable increase in cooperation between the two countries in recent years and discussed with Sajan the importance of developing relations across various fields, including health, rural development, women’s empowerment and capacity-building within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals framework.

The two parties also discussed ways to address developmental and economic challenges at the international and regional levels. 

Shoukry expressed Egypt’s desire to increase the volume of existing projects and, indirectly, Canadian investment in the country.

As the president-designate of the upcoming UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, or COP27, Shoukry reviewed the most recent developments concerning Egypt’s hosting of the conference in Sharm El-Sheikh this November. 

He reiterated Egypt’s vision for COP27, which focuses on moving from promises to actual implementation of initiatives, building on the momentum gained at COP26 to mobilize support for global climate action.