Egyptian, Spanish FMs hold talks

Special Egyptian, Spanish FMs hold talks
Sameh Shoukry and Jose Manuel Albares in Madrid. (@MfaEgypt)
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Updated 20 April 2022

Egyptian, Spanish FMs hold talks

Egyptian, Spanish FMs hold talks
  • Sameh Shoukry also met with King Felipe VI in Madrid
  • Talks focused on bilateral ties, regional and global issues of common concern  

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares discussed boosting bilateral relations in Madrid. 

Shoukry affirmed his aspiration to see an increase in trade and Spanish direct investments in sectors such as infrastructure, transport, water, renewable energy and electric mobility.

The ministers discussed cooperation over climate change, Egypt’s hosting and presidency of COP27, and Spain’s support for strengthening the partnership between Egypt and the EU. 

Ahmed Hafez, spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, said they also discussed international and regional issues of common concern, including Ukraine, Palestine, Libya, and Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam.

Spain’s King Felipe VI also received Shoukry during his visit. Hafez said the meeting with the king touched on regional and international issues of common interest.


US seeks to keep Yemen-bound ammunition seized from Iran

US seeks to keep Yemen-bound ammunition seized from Iran
Updated 01 April 2023

US seeks to keep Yemen-bound ammunition seized from Iran

US seeks to keep Yemen-bound ammunition seized from Iran

WASHINGTON: The United States is seeking to keep more than 1 million rounds of ammunition the US Navy seized in December as it was in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militants in Yemen, the Justice Department said on Friday.
“The United States disrupted a major operation by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to smuggle weapons of war into the hands of a militant group in Yemen,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“The Justice Department is now seeking the forfeiture of those weapons, including over 1 million rounds of ammunition and thousands of proximity fuses for rocket-propelled grenades.”
US naval forces on Dec. 1 intercepted a fishing trawler smuggling more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets in the Gulf of Oman along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen, the Navy said.
They found more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition; 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition; nearly 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets; and over 2,100 kilograms of propellant used to launch rocket propelled grenades, it said.
The forfeiture action is part of a larger government investigation into an Iranian weapons-smuggling network that supports military action by the Houthi movement in Yemen and the Iranian regime’s campaign of terrorist activities throughout the region, the Justice Department said.
The forfeiture complaint alleges a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons to entities that pose grave threats to US national security.


Russia protests about ‘provocative actions’ by US forces in Syria

Russia protests about ‘provocative actions’ by US forces in Syria
Updated 01 April 2023

Russia protests about ‘provocative actions’ by US forces in Syria

Russia protests about ‘provocative actions’ by US forces in Syria

Russia has protested to the American-led coalition against the Daesh militant group about “provocative actions” by US armed forces in Syria, Tass news agency said on Friday.
Tass cited a senior Russian official as saying the incidents had occurred in the northeastern province of Hasakah. The United States has been deploying troops in Syria for almost eight years to combat Daesh.
Hundreds of Daesh fighters are camped in desolate areas where neither the coalition nor the Syrian army exert full control. Russia — which together with Turkiye is carrying out joint patrols in northern Syria — has agreed special zones where the coalition can operate.
But Russian Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, told Tass that US forces had twice been spotted in areas which lay outside the agreed zones.
“Provocative actions on the part of US armed forces units have been noted in Hasakah province ... the Russian side lodged a protest with the coalition,” he said, without giving details of timing.
Last week the US military carried out multiple air strikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups that it blamed for a drone attack that killed an American contractor at a coalition base in the northeast of the country.
Russia intervened in the Syrian Civil War in 2015, tipping the balance in President Bashar Assad’s favor. Moscow has since expanded its military facilities in the country with a permanent air base and also has a naval base.


Love abounds as Copts join and assist Muslims for iftar in Egypt

Love abounds as Copts join and assist Muslims for iftar in Egypt
Updated 01 April 2023

Love abounds as Copts join and assist Muslims for iftar in Egypt

Love abounds as Copts join and assist Muslims for iftar in Egypt
  • Pope Tawadros II praised for providing food to the poor
  • Hundreds of meals distributed to homes and hospitals

CAIRO: With the advent of Ramadan, several Christian churches and organizations have organized Rahman or Mercy banquets for Muslims at iftar, to foster a spirit of tolerance and unity.

Maya Morsi, president of Egypt’s National Council for Women, praised Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, for providing food to help the poor, and his supervision of the packing of the cartons that are titled “Love Never Falls.”

Morsi posted on her Facebook account, saying: “Love never falls. Pope Tawadros II helps collect charitable donations for distribution in Ramadan. We are in a bond until doomsday.”

Last week, Pope Tawadros II participated in the preparation of Ramadan food aid as part of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s charity drive, through several programs and institutions affiliated with the Pontifical Office for Projects.

In the city of Luxor, in southern Egypt, a number of Copts set up daily Ramadan iftar tables.

Romani Ramzi Ajaibi, one of the organizers of the iftar project, said 10 years ago he started with a number of his brothers and other relatives to provide food for iftar, a tradition initiated by his father.

Ajaibi told Arab News: “The organization of the banquet confirms that the Coptic and the Muslim are brothers in one homeland. Everyone is currently fasting, with some minor differences between them.”

He explained: “The iftar banquet table contains all meals daily, including meat and poultry, and professional chefs working in hotels are used to prepare it. And more than 500 meals are provided for hospital patients.”

Bishoy Ramzy, another organizer, told Arab News: “There are other meals that are distributed to the poor daily and delivered to their homes by those who are ashamed to go to the iftar banquet table (to take charity).”

Ramzi stressed: “I believe that compassion and cohesion between Muslims and Christians only generate love among all.”

In Alexandria Governorate, in northern Egypt, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI in the El-Zawaida area, east of Alexandria, distributed 250 bags of Ramadan necessities to the most vulnerable families in the Montazah neighborhood.

Yones Adeeb, pastor of the Catholic Church in Hurghada, a Red Sea Governorate city, also joined Muslims for iftar, taking food to people on the streets. Adeeb participates regularly in Islamic celebrations, including distributing sweets on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

Adeeb said: “This year, we prepared Ramadan bags to distribute to the needy, as the blessed month of Ramadan carries spiritual and humanitarian meanings.”

“I always share iftar with our Muslim brothers on the first days of Ramadan.”

 


UN raises quarter of $1bn Turkiye quake funds target

Ozlem Yildirim with her child at a banana plantation in the quake-hit town of Samandag, southern Turkey, where she lives. (AFP)
Ozlem Yildirim with her child at a banana plantation in the quake-hit town of Samandag, southern Turkey, where she lives. (AFP)
Updated 01 April 2023

UN raises quarter of $1bn Turkiye quake funds target

Ozlem Yildirim with her child at a banana plantation in the quake-hit town of Samandag, southern Turkey, where she lives. (AFP)
  • Saudi Arabia, US, Kuwait, European Commission, UN’s emergency fund CERF top five donors
  • Donors pledged 7 billion euros to help Turkiye and Syria recover, although Ankara has set the bill for rebuilding at well over 10 times that figure

GENEVA: The UN said on Friday it had so far raised a quarter of the money it needs for relief work in Turkiye after the earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people.

Donors have so far contributed $268 million to the $1 billion flash appeal issued by the UN following the 7.8-magnitude quake on Feb. 6 and its aftershocks that devastated swaths of southeast Turkiye and parts of war-torn Syria.
The UN humanitarian agency’s spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva that the initial emergency phase had ended.
“Now we are involved in the humanitarian emergency phase, where we look at what the survivors need,” he added.
On Feb. 16, the UN launched an appeal for $1 billion to help more than 5 million people in Turkiye during the first three months after the quake.
The US, Kuwait, the European Commission, the UN’s emergency fund CERF and Saudi Arabia are currently the top five donors.
Laerke said UN and other humanitarian agencies had reached more than 4.1 million people with basic household items and clothes.
Of those, almost 3 million have been reached with emergency food aid.

HIGHLIGHT

The 7.8-magnitude quake on Feb. 6, and its aftershocks, killed more than 55,000 people and left many more in dire conditions.

And 1.6 million have received water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance.
The EU hosted a conference in Brussels earlier this month to raise money for reconstruction, the longer third phase.
Donors pledged 7 billion euros to help Turkiye and Syria recover, although Ankara has set the bill for rebuilding at well over 10 times that figure.
The UN has a twin flash appeal for Syria to help survivors over the first three months, which has raised $364 million of the $398 million requested.
Some 1,177 UN relief trucks have so far entered northern Syria from Turkiye.
“Since last month, we and our partners have provided shelter support, including tents, to nearly 100,000 people.
“Partners have also distributed more than 850,000 ready-to-eat food rations and over 1 million hot meals to people across affected areas,” Laerke said.
Meanwhile, the earthquake damaged more than 20 percent of Turkiye’s agricultural production, the UN’s food agency said.
The Food and Agriculture Organization said initial assessments in Turkiye revealed “severe damage to agriculture, including crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as rural infrastructure in affected areas.”
“The earthquake severely impacted 11 key agricultural provinces affecting 15.73 million people and more than 20 percent of the country’s food production,” it said in a statement.
“The earthquake-affected region, known as Turkiye’s ‘fertile crescent’, accounts for nearly 15 percent of agricultural GDP and contributes to almost 20 percent of Turkiye’s agrifood exports.”
It estimated the quake had caused $1.3 billion in damage, through the destruction of infrastructure, livestock and crops, and $5.1 billion in losses to the agricultural sector.
When the earthquake hit, buildings collapsed, crops were damaged and animals were killed, but the resulting devastation also created shortages of barns, food and vaccines for livestock that survived.

 


After being fired, Israel’s defense minister caught in limbo

Yoav Gallant. (AP)
Yoav Gallant. (AP)
Updated 01 April 2023

After being fired, Israel’s defense minister caught in limbo

Yoav Gallant. (AP)
  • Gallant is still on the job as his boss Prime Minister Netanyahu never even sent him a formal termination letter

JERUSALEM: Five days ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to fire his defense minister set off a wave of spontaneous mass protests and a general strike that threatened to paralyze the country, forcing the Israeli leader to suspend his divisive plan to overhaul the judicial system.
But Netanyahu never even sent Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a formal termination letter, a spokesperson for Netanyahu said. As of Friday, Gallant — whose criticism of Netanyahu’s planned judicial changes led to his dismissal — was still on the job. Gallant’s aides said it was business-as-usual at the Defense Ministry.
As local media this week crackled with reports of Netanyahu considering whether to replace Gallant with stalwarts of his right-wing Likud party, Gallant remained in limbo — and even so, the public face of his ministry.

SPEEDREAD

Gallant greeted the Azerbaijani foreign minister, toured two military bases and attended Tuesday’s security Cabinet meeting this week.

He greeted the Azerbaijani foreign minister, toured two military bases and attended Tuesday’s security Cabinet meeting this week.
On Thursday, Gallant attended a celebration ahead of the Jewish Passover holiday with the director of the Shin Bet security service, his office said, releasing a photo of him smiling beside Director Ronen Bar.
“We have a duty to calm the spirits in Israeli society and maintain an inclusive and unifying discourse,” Gallant said at the holiday toast.
The questions swirling around the fate of Israel’s crucial Defense Ministry — which maintains Israel’s 55-year-old military occupation of the West Bank and contends with threats from Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and the Gaza Strip’s militant Hamas rulers — reflects the tensions tearing at Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition after one of the most dramatic weeks for Israel in decades.
It’s also a leadership test of Israel’s longest-serving premier as he governs a deeply polarized country and faces charges of corruption.
Netanyahu’s decision to pause plans to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court in the face of the country’s biggest protest movement underscores the complex juggling act that the prime minister must perform in holding together his governing coalition, experts say.
On one hand, Netanyahu must please his far-right and religiously conservative coalition partners — supporters of the judicial overhaul — who vaulted him to power even as he stands trial.
But he also must weigh grave concerns over the plan from Israel’s closet ally, the United States, as well as anger from more moderate politicians and, significantly, dissent from within Israel’s military over fears the national crisis could threaten the country’s security. A growing number of military reservists had declined to report for duty in protest of the measures, raising concerns that the crisis could harm Israel’s military capabilities.
Netanyahu’s office declined to comment further on Gallant’s unresolved situation. But the conflicting pressures have resulted in an impasse over Gallant’s future and who serves as defense minister.
“Netanyahu has extremists surrounding him and they want to see blood, they want to see Gallant removed,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Those politicians include far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezazel Smotrich, who received outsized power in coalition deals that persuaded them to join the government.