Jordan launches diplomatic drive to end Al-Aqsa Ramadan tensions

A Palestinian man prays in front of the Dome of Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP)
A Palestinian man prays in front of the Dome of Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP)
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Updated 19 April 2022

Jordan launches diplomatic drive to end Al-Aqsa Ramadan tensions

A Palestinian man prays in front of the Dome of Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP)
  • Israeli ambassador summoned for ‘strict and clear condemnation’
  • Palestinians angry over the Israeli police actions last Friday appealed to Jordan to intervene

RAMALLAH: King Abdullah II of Jordan has intensified efforts to end Israeli measures against Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan.

On Monday, he contacted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi, European Council President Charles Michel, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

During the talks, he stressed the need for Israel to end all actions in the mosque.

The king’s efforts came amid growing concerns that provocative behavior by Israel around the Al-Aqsa Mosque could undermine the chances of achieving peace.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that Jordan had summoned the Israeli ambassador to inform him of his Amman’s condemnation of Israeli measures, and on Monday said it summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires.

“We summoned the Israeli ambassador, and we will summon the charge d’affaires to inform him of our strict and clear message in which we condemn the Israeli actions,” said the minister.

He added that Jordan would host a meeting of the Arab League committee next Thursday to confront “illegal Israeli measures” in Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Al-Safadi warned that if Israel did not stop “these illegal measures and their violations,” it would bear responsibility for increasing tensions.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Haitham Abul Ful said the Israeli charge d’affaires was handed a letter, carrying Jordan’s rejection of the “illegal and provocative” measures in Jerusalem and its assaults against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque - Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Abul Ful said that Jordan also demanded Israel respect the freedom of worship and “immediately” cease its assaults and attempts to change the historical and legal status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

“The Israeli actions are a serious escalation and a violation of the international law and Israel's obligations as the occupying power,” the spokesperson said.

The decision to summon the Israeli ambassador comes as national groups in Jordan continue their solidarity with worshipers in Al-Aqsa and their massive demonstrations until the end of Ramadan.

Israel reacted with concern to Jordan summoning its ambassador in Amman on Monday.

Palestinians make up a large percentage of Jordan’s population. Tens of thousands live in refugees camps on the outskirts of Amman and their protests in solidarity with Al-Aqsa may pose a challenge to security and stability.

Although Egypt and Qatar had mediated between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel to prevent further security escalations, Palestinians still believe that only Jordanian pressure can stop further Israeli restrictions in Al-Aqsa during Ramadan.

Israel had asked King Abdullah to mediate with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before Ramadan so that there would be no tension in Jerusalem during the holy month.

King Abdullah visited Ramallah on March 28 to meet Abbas. They agreed to work to calm the situation on the eve of the start of Ramadan.

Before the meeting, he received Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Amman and in the same week Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the Israeli President Isaac Herzog in an attempt to prevent the deterioration of the security situation during the holy month.

Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Awqaf in Jerusalem, a department affiliated with the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Amman that employs 800 people who guard Al-Aqsa, said in an interview with Arab News that the Israeli policy toward Al-Aqsa is “very dangerous.”

He added: “Any Israeli violation will be met with a protest and a strong Jordanian stance from King Abdullah II, because the religious and legal position is that Al-Aqsa Mosque does not accept division or partnership and is the property of Muslims, and any prejudice to that means a violation of the principles on which King Abdullah II was brought up, on the importance of preserving Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem,” he told Arab News.

Palestinians are concerned that Israeli authorities will divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews, as they did several years ago in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

Israel meanwhile closed the Ibrahimi Mosque on Monday and Tuesday in front of Muslim worshipers, in order to enable Jewish worshipers to perform Passover prayers.

Palestinians angry over the Israeli police actions last Friday appealed to Jordan to intervene and questioned King Abdullah’s position on protecting Al-Aqsa.

A number of them wrote posts on social media. One said: “Al-Aqsa Mosque does not need to be carpeted, but rather needs the protection of those who lead it to pray in Ramadan.”

The Hashemites have been the guardians of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem for 100 years. Even after the 1967 war, during which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the Jordanian guardianship of Al-Aqsa remained in place. The position was consolidated during the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty — better known as Wadi Araba — that was signed between the late King Hussein bin Talal and the then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“It is natural to summon the Israeli ambassador in Amman and protest to him, and it is important for the Israeli people to know that there are extremist right-wing Jewish parties that are working to offend them by leading a religious war against Muslims in this country,” said Al-Khattib.

He added: “Any violation of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque concerns the whole world, especially King Abdullah.”

The said added: “We want peace to prevail in this region. It does not harm the sanctities from any side, and that the specter of religious war is kept away from it.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly criticized its Israeli counterpart and refuted Israel’s claim to support freedom of worship.

It said in statement that the Israeli Foreign Ministry “continues to manufacture lies and misinformation about the occupation state’s keenness on freedom of worship in occupied Jerusalem.”

It also noted that “hundreds of videos” had documented cases of worshipers being forced to leave the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as cases of “repression and abuse.”


Egypt retrieves smuggled ancient statue from Switzerland

Egypt retrieves smuggled ancient statue from Switzerland
Updated 13 sec ago

Egypt retrieves smuggled ancient statue from Switzerland

Egypt retrieves smuggled ancient statue from Switzerland
  • Swiss customs found artifact in 2018 during routine inspection
  • From Late Period, it depicts goddess Isis carrying her son Horus

CAIRO: Egypt has recovered from Switzerland an ancient bronze statue taken out of the country illegally. It dates to the Late Period of around 664 to 332 B.C. and depicts the goddess Isis carrying her son Horus.

Wael Gad, Egypt’s ambassador to Switzerland, received the statue, which was kept at the embassy in preparation for its return to the country.

In November 2018, Swiss customs officials discovered the statue during a routine inspection.

An Egyptian committee of experts confirmed that the seized statue was surreptitiously excavated and smuggled out of the country.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said the efforts were indicative of “the utmost importance that Egypt attaches to … recovering smuggled antiquities and returning them to the homeland.”

Earlier this month, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recovered 16 artifacts from the US. This was in coordination with Egypt’s foreign ministry and New York’s public prosecutor.

“During the past year, Egypt recovered more than 5,300 antiquities from America, France, Spain and Canada,” said Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, general supervisor of the administration of recovered antiquities at the Supreme Council of Antiquities.


Pope Francis to visit Bahrain in November: Vatican

Pope Francis to visit Bahrain in November: Vatican
Updated 27 min 45 sec ago

Pope Francis to visit Bahrain in November: Vatican

Pope Francis to visit Bahrain in November: Vatican

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will in November visit Bahrain, home to the biggest Catholic church in the Arabian peninsula, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Francis, 85, will be the first pope ever to visit the majority-Muslim Arabian Gulf country, according to Vatican News.

He has been under doctor’s orders to slow down, after suffering from a painful knee that has forced him to use a wheelchair and cancel some events.

Francis will visit the capital of Manama and city of Awali during the November 3 to 6 trip, and will attend the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.”

Further details of the visit — the 39th international trip of Francis’s papacy — will be released at a later date.

But the pontiff is likely to visit the cavernous Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, in Awali, which opened its doors last year.

The modern-style church lies about 1.6 kilometers from a large mosque and a stone’s throw from an oil well, in the south of the state.

It was built to serve the country’s 80,000 or so Catholics, mainly workers from Asia, mostly India and the Philippines.

The pontiff received Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa at the Vatican in 2014.

The pair discussed “peace and stability in the Middle East” and the Christian community’s positive contribution to the country, the Holy See said at the time.

The trip comes on the back of another journey to a Muslim-majority country, following Francis’s visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month.


Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM
Updated 28 September 2022

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

DUBAI: Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met with Japan’s Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The crown prince discussed the depth of Bahrain-Japan relations, emphasizing Bahrain’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations between the two nations.

Kishida and Prince Salman also agreed to explore opportunities that would aid the advancement of Bahrain and Japan’s strategic partnership in various fields.

The two leaders discussed the latest regional and international economic developments, and issues of common interest.

Bahrain’s PM attended ABE Shinzo’s state funeral on Tuesday and extended condolences to Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, and their family.

 

*This article was originally published on Arab News Japan.  


Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return
Updated 28 September 2022

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return
  • Kuwait has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962
  • Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait will hold its most inclusive elections in a decade Thursday with some opposition groups ending a boycott after the oil-rich country’s royal rulers pledged not to interfere with parliament.
The polls are the sixth in 10 years, reflecting the repeated political crises that have gripped the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.
The elections come after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.
Several opposition MPs had been on strike in protest at delays to parliamentary sessions and the failure to form a new government. A core source of friction is MPs’ demand for ministers from the royal family to be held accountable for corruption.
Kuwait, which borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran and is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962.
But when he dissolved parliament, Sheikh Meshal promised there would be no interference by authorities in the election or the new parliament.
“We will not interfere in the people’s choices for their representatives, nor will we interfere with the choices of the next National Assembly in choosing its speaker or its committees,” the crown prince said.
“Parliament will be the master of its decisions, and we will not be supporting one faction at the expense of another. We will stand at the same distance from everyone.”
Opposition figures have stayed out of elections over the past 10 years, accusing executive authorities of meddling in the workings of parliament.
One of them, People’s Action Movement candidate Mohammad Musaed Al-Dossari, said he had been persuaded to stand again by the crown prince’s promises.
Sheikh Meshal’s speech “reassured” Kuwaitis and “encouraged the political groups and MPs who had been boycotting to return to run in the elections,” Al-Dossari said.
Thursday’s vote also comes after the country’s emir issued an amnesty last year for political opponents who had been tried on various charges.
Some 305 candidates, including 22 women, are competing for 50 seats in five constituencies. Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.
Women represent 51.2 percent of the 795,920 voters. About 70 percent of the population of around 4.2 million is made up of expatriates.
While the last elections were affected by anti-coronavirus measures, this time candidates have been able to open electoral offices and hold live hustings. Security services have stepped up their monitoring of vote-buying.
The election results are expected to be announced on Friday. The opposition, mostly Islamist politicians, won 24 seats out of 50 in the last polls.


Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone
Updated 28 September 2022

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone
  • Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government

BAGHDAD: Supporters of Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr again stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone government area Wednesday as the Iraqi parliament holds session on the resignation of its speaker.
Associated Press journalists saw those supporting Sadr waving flags as security forces gathered around them.
Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government. His followers stormed the parliament in late July to prevent their rivals from Iran-backed Shiite groups from forming the government.
With ensuing rallies, clashes with security forces, counter-rallies and a sit-in outside parliament, the government formation process has stalled.
Al-Sadr has now been calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections and has been in a power struggle with his Iran-backed rivals since the vote.