UN Security Council welcomes Yemen truce extension, urges Houthis to reopen Taiz Road

Update People walk outside the gate of the old city of Taiz, Yemen May 24, 2022. (Reuters)
People walk outside the gate of the old city of Taiz, Yemen May 24, 2022. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 04 June 2022

UN Security Council welcomes Yemen truce extension, urges Houthis to reopen Taiz Road

UN Security Council welcomes Yemen truce extension, urges Houthis to reopen Taiz Road
  • Council members also express concern over imminent threat of famine and call on international donors to pledge and deliver aid funding

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Friday welcomed the extension of the truce between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, which was agreed a day earlier.

However, council members expressed concern about grave humanitarian effects of ongoing road closures around Taiz and called on the Iran-backed militia “to act with flexibility in negotiations and immediately open the main roads.”

Taiz governorate has been under siege since 2015, when the Houthis closed main routes and encircled the city center, largely cutting it off from the rest of the country. It remains under siege deespite this week’s extension of a truce between the militia and government forces.

The council members reiterated their appreciation of the steps taken by all sides to uphold the truce, which began on April 2 and has now been extended for another two months. It has led to “real and tangible benefits” for the Yemeni people, they said, including a significant reduction in civilian casualties and the improved flow of humanitarian aid.

In a joint statement, they welcomed the Yemeni government’s flexibility in allowing ships carrying fuel to enter Hodeidah port, and enabling international flights to resume between Sanaa, Amman and Cairo. They also commended regional partners for their support.

The council expressed hope that the truce will lead to “a durable ceasefire and an inclusive, comprehensive political settlement, under the auspices of the UN.” Members again emphasized the importance of a minimum of 30 per cent participation by women in decision-making processes in Yemen, in line with the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, as enshrined in Security Council Resolution 2624, which was adopted this year.

They encouraged all sides in Yemen to continue to engage with the UN’s special envoy for the country and “to negotiate and communicate with each other with a spirit of mutual respect and reconciliation.”

The risk of famine is also a great concern, council members said as they encouraged international donors to fully fund the UN humanitarian response to the crisis.

They also highlighted the need for “an inclusive, comprehensive political settlement to address the humanitarian and economic crises, and to protect civilians.”


'Dire' situation

The spokesperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights also reiterated the commission's repeated request for the reopening of the city, warning that the consequences of the blockade is "dire".

“We urge serious efforts to ensure that roads into the city of Taiz are reopened,” UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell said on Friday.

Residents of Taiz hope UN-sponsored talks in Amman will end in a deal that enables them to go to work and school and facilitate the flow of aid and goods.

Mohsen Al-Najdi, 53, who has blood cancer, has to drive more than three hours along narrow mountain roads to receive chemotherapy in Taiz. Before the Houthis encircled the city, the journey from his rural home took less than an hour.

“Sometimes I miss appointments because of a flat tire or other problems on the bumpy roads ... since treatment is only available until 2 p.m.,” said Najdi, a teacher. “I wanted to go to Cairo but I don’t have the means ... God’s door is always open so maybe a benefactor will help.”

Taiz governorate has a population of 5 million, including 400,000 the city. The Houthis control the governorate’s industrial areas, and the road closures have driven up food and fuel prices and disrupted access to basic services.

“The essentials of normal human life are missing in Taiz whether for education or health services. Many people die while traveling the mountain roads,” said local resident Anisa Al-Yousefi.

Another Taiz resident, Moham- med Mahrous, has not been able to visit relatives for seven years. “It is depressing living under siege even inside the city, as if you are in a big prison,” he said.

(With agencies)

The Hotel Show to take place in Dubai in May

The Hotel Show to take place in Dubai in May
Updated 27 March 2023

The Hotel Show to take place in Dubai in May

The Hotel Show to take place in Dubai in May
  • Three-day exhibition will feature 100 experts and include seminars, meetings and conferences

DUBAI: Around 13,000 people from the hospitality industry are set to gather in Dubai on May 23 for The Hotel Show, Emirates News Agency reported.

The three-day exhibition, which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, coincides with a regional expansion in hospitality investment led largely by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia alone needs to accommodate the 100 million tourists it hopes to attract by 2030 with a hotel pipeline valued at $110 billion, while the UAE hospitality market is expected to expand by 25 percent over the same period adding a further 48,000 rooms to its room stock” Elaine O’Connell, vice president of design and hospitality at DMG Events, said. 

“This offers unprecedented opportunity for developers, equipment and product suppliers, designers and operators,” she added.

Through conferences and seminars, the exhibition will provide insight into regional hotel prospects. Meanwhile, over 100 experts will take the stage at the event. 

This year, the event’s profile will include new content and features in three key industry verticals: Hospitality technology, operating equipment & supplies, and food and beverages. 

O’Connell said: “For years, the Middle East has been a change influencer for the sector and its willingness to quickly address game-changing issues signals that it intends to retain that mantle. 

“Coupled with the excitement around ongoing regional developments, the growing regional drive to net zero, increasing data regulation and the need to meet rising consumer demands for greener facilities and services, the region, and The Hotel Show Dubai, are again at the fulcrum of sectoral change.”

The UAE Professional Housekeepers Group Meeting will also be held at the exhibition, with in-depth discussions and tutorials on maintaining excellence in the face of changing market conditions, including changing guest expectations, emerging technologies, techniques, regulations, and products. 

In addition, nine culinary teams from the region’s top hotels will compete over three days to create a stunning five-course meal in the hopes of winning the coveted title of Hotel Culinary Team of the Year.

UN rights investigator says EU aided and abetted abuse of migrants in Libya

UN rights investigator says EU aided and abetted abuse of migrants in Libya
Updated 27 March 2023

UN rights investigator says EU aided and abetted abuse of migrants in Libya

UN rights investigator says EU aided and abetted abuse of migrants in Libya

GENEVA: A member of the UN fact-finding mission to Libya investigating rights abuses said on Monday that European Union support for Libyan authorities that stop and detain migrants had “aided and abetted” the commission of rights violations against migrants.
“We’re not saying that the EU and its member states have committed these crimes. The point is that the support given has aided and abetted the commission of the crimes,” Chaloka Beyani said in a news conference while unveiling the mission’s report.

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM
Updated 27 March 2023

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM
  • ‘We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,’ Antonio Tajani tells conference attended by Arab News
  • Rome striving to ensure Tunisia ‘doesn’t become a failed state,’ pushing for IMF loan

ROME: The international community runs the risk of “having the Muslim Brotherhood create instability” in Tunisia if the country is not promptly granted “substantial financial help,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said at a conference attended by Arab News.

“We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,” he added, saying Tunisia is on the verge of “economic collapse,” and negotiations for a loan of nearly $1.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund have “stalled” over President Kais Saied’s recent policies.

Elected in 2019, Kais dissolved Parliament in July 2021, reformed the country’s constitution to increase his presidential powers, and then held a referendum followed by parliamentary elections with a very low turnout.

At the beginning of this year he cracked down on dissent, arresting politicians, labor union members, judges and members of civil society.

The economic situation in Tunisia is dire, leading more and more people to try to reach Italy on small boats.

Tajani said Italy is “the most interested” in ensuring that “Tunisia solves its problems and doesn’t become a failed state.”

He added that the Italian government has been working hard to ensure that the IMF and the World Bank help Tunisia.

“But there’s a problem: The IMF, with the support of the US, says, ‘You first carry out reforms, and then we’ll give the money.’ On the other hand, the Tunisians say, ‘First the money and then the reforms’,” he said.

“This is why we propose that the IMF gives immediately a first tranche of money; the rest of the loan can be paid in line with the progress of reforms.”

Tajani said the international community “can’t afford to make the mistake of leaving Tunisia to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Stefania Craxi, president of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Italian Senate, told Arab News: “The Muslim Brotherhood will prosper if the grant doesn’t come and the economy keeps going down.”

She added: “It’s right for the IMF to ask for reforms, but they must grant the loan before the worst happens. That money must come now.”

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger
Updated 27 March 2023

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger
  • The law revives the electoral law of 2018 and sweeps away one of the gains of the mass protest movement which shook Iraq

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament voted Monday to restore electoral laws that were scrapped after 2019 anti-government demonstrations, sparking anger from independent lawmakers who see it benefiting larger parties.
The law, which parliament said in a statement was “adopted” without detailing the votes, revives the electoral law of 2018 and sweeps away one of the gains of the mass protest movement which shook Iraq.
After the protests, a new system favored the emergence of independent candidates, with some 70 independents winning seats in the 329-member parliament in the last legislative elections in 2021.
Parliament is dominated by the Coordination Framework, an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shiite factions, from whose ranks Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani emerged.
The new law removes 83 electoral districts and creates 18 seats, one for each of Iraq’s provinces.
This “makes it easier for top party politicians to win seats,” analyst Sajad Jiyad said on Twitter.
Conversely, it will make it “harder for candidates in smaller parties and independents to compete” because they will be running at a provincial rather than a local level, he added.
During the debate, which ran from Sunday into the early hours of Monday, several angry independent lawmakers were expelled from the debating chamber, according to videos they filmed themselves.
The law also replaces a first past the post system with proportional representation.
Overall, the changes will benefit the larger parties and make it possible “for their candidates who didn’t get enough votes initially to win seats,” Jiyad added.
“Independent candidates will no longer have any hope of obtaining representation in parliament,” said Alaa Al-Rikabi, an independent lawmaker. “They will be crushed.”
But Coordination Framework lawmaker Bahaa Al-Dine Nouri welcomed the change, arguing that it will “distribute the seats according to the size of the parties.”
Nouri said this will “lead to the formation of a government within the time limits set by the constitution” to avoid the endless standoffs that followed the 2021 election.
The new law will apply to the next legislative elections, the date of which has not yet been set.
It will also apply to provincial elections slated for November 6, to be held in 15 of the 18 Iraqi provinces, excluding the three provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, regional elections will take place on November 18 under a separate electoral system.

Israel’s Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul after mass protests

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem amid protests
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem amid protests
Updated 27 March 2023

Israel’s Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul after mass protests

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem amid protests
  • Reports of Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition risked breaking apart
  • Head of Israel’s top trade union calls for an immediate ‘general strike’

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a delay in his judicial overhaul plan Monday, saying he wanted to give time to seek a compromise over the contentious package with his political opponents.
Netanyahu made the announcement after two days of large protests against the plan.
“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address.
Striking a more conciliatory tone than in previous speeches, he said he was determined to pass a judicial reform but called for “an attempt to achieve broad consensus.”
Immediately after Netanyahu’s statement, the head of the country’s largest trade union said it would call off a general strike that threatened to grind Israel’s economy to a halt.
Netanyahu spoke after tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside parliament and workers launched a nationwide strike Monday in a dramatic escalation of the mass protest movement aimed at halting his plan.
The chaos shut down much of the country and threatened to paralyze the economy. Departing flights from the main international airport were grounded. Large mall chains and universities closed their doors, and Israel’s largest trade union called for its 800,000 members to stop work in health care, transit, banking and other fields.
Diplomats walked off the job at foreign missions, and local governments were expected to close preschools and cut other services. The main doctors union announced that its members would also strike.
The growing resistance to Netanyahu’s plan came hours after tens of thousands of people burst into the streets around the country in a spontaneous show of anger at the prime minister’s decision to fire his defense minister after he called for a pause to the overhaul. Chanting “the country is on fire,” they lit bonfires on Tel Aviv’s main highway, closing the thoroughfare and many others throughout the country for hours.
Demonstrators gathered again Monday outside the Knesset, or parliament, turning the streets surrounding the building and the Supreme Court into a roiling sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags dotted with rainbow Pride banners. Large demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other cities drew thousands more.
“This is the last chance to stop this move into a dictatorship,” said Matityahu Sperber, 68, who joined a stream of people headed to the protest outside the Knesset. “I’m here for the fight to the end.”
Netanyahu spent the day in consultations with his aides and coalition partners before announcing the delay. Earlier, some members of his Likud party said they would support the prime minister if he heeded calls to halt the overhaul.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been one of the strongest proponents of the plan, announced after meeting with the prime minister that he had agreed to a delay of at least a few weeks.
He said Netanyahu had agreed to bring the legislation for a vote when parliament reconvenes for its summer session on April 30 “if no agreements are reached during the recess.”
Netanyahu gave no timeline for a compromise to be reached in his speech, but expressed hope that the nation would heal and that people would enjoy the upcoming Passover holiday.
The speech appeared to calm tensions, but it did not resolve the underlying tensions behind the protests. Even before he spoke, the grassroots anti-government protest movement said a delay was would not be enough.
“A temporary freeze does not suffice, and the national protests will continue to intensify until the law is rejected in the Knesset,” organizers said.
The plan — driven by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and his allies in Israel’s most right-wing government ever — has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises.
It has sparked sustained protests that have galvanized nearly all sectors of society, including its military, where reservists have increasingly said publicly that they will not serve a country veering toward autocracy.
Israel’s Palestinian citizens, however, have largely sat out the protests. Many say Israel’s democracy is tarnished by its military rule over their brethren in the West Bank and the discrimination they themselves face.
The turmoil has magnified longstanding and intractable differences over Israel’s character that have riven it since the country was founded. Protesters insist they are fighting for the soul of the nation, saying the overhaul will remove Israel’s system of checks and balances and directly challenge its democratic ideals.
The government has labeled them anarchists out to topple democratically elected leaders. Government officials say the plan will restore balance between the judicial and executive branches and rein in what they see as an interventionist court with liberal sympathies.
At the center of the crisis is Netanyahu himself, Israel’s longest-serving leader, and questions about the lengths he may be willing to go to maintain his grip on power, even as he battles charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate affairs. He denies wrongdoing.
On Monday afternoon, Netanyahu issued his first statement since he fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, urging against violence ahead of a planned counterprotest in Jerusalem organized by ultranationalist supporters of the judicial overhaul.
Some 20,000 right-wing Israelis attended the counter demonstration, which also took place near parliament and passed without violence.”They won’t steal the election from us,” read a flyer for event, organized by Religious Zionist party.
“I call on all protesters in Jerusalem, right and left, to behave responsibly and not act violently,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
The firing of Netanyahu’s defense minister at a time of heightened security threats in the West Bank and elsewhere, appeared to be a last straw for many, including apparently the Histadrut, the country’s largest trade union umbrella group, which sat out the monthslong protests before the defense minister’s firing.
“Where are we leading our beloved Israel? To the abyss,” Arnon Bar-David, the group’s head, said in a rousing speech to applause. “Today we are stopping everyone’s descent toward the abyss.”
On Monday, as the embers of the highway bonfires were cleared, Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, called again for an immediate halt to the overhaul.
“The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society — all are under threat,” he said. “Wake up now!”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the crisis was driving Israel to the brink.
“We’ve never been closer to falling apart. Our national security is at risk, our economy is crumbling, our foreign relations are at their lowest point ever. We don’t know what to say to our children about their future in this country,” Lapid said.
The developments were being watched by the Biden administration, which is closely allied with Israel yet has been uneasy with Netanyahu and the far-right elements of his government. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the United States was “deeply concerned” by the developments.
The architect of the plan, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a popular party member, had long promised he would resign if the overhaul was suspended. But on Monday, he said he would respect the prime minister’s decision should he halt the legislation.
Netanyahu’s dismissal of Gallant appeared to signal that the prime minister and his allies would barrel ahead. Gallant was the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against the plan, saying the deep divisions threatened to weaken the military.
And Netanyahu’s government forged ahead with a centerpiece of the overhaul — a law that would give the governing coalition the final say over all judicial appointments. A parliamentary committee approved the legislation on Monday for a final vote, which could come this week.
The government also seeks to pass laws that would would grant the Knesset the authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.
A separate law that would circumvent a Supreme Court ruling to allow a key coalition ally to serve as minister was delayed following a request from that party’s leader.