US envoy cautiously optimistic about Yemen peace prospects but says challenges persist

US envoy cautiously optimistic about Yemen peace prospects but says challenges persist
Children walk near damaged cars in the Houthi-besieged city of Taiz, Yemen's third city. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2022

US envoy cautiously optimistic about Yemen peace prospects but says challenges persist

US envoy cautiously optimistic about Yemen peace prospects but says challenges persist
  • Lenderking said recently extended truce is the best hope for an end to the war but that all involved in the conflict must honor their commitments
  • He urged this period of relative calm to be used to tackle “the ticking time bomb” of oil tanker FSO Safer

CHICAGO: The UN-brokered truce in Yemen still faces serious challenges but its continuation offers the best hope for a permanent end to the seven-year war in the country, Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, said on Tuesday.

The truce began on April 2 and was renewed on June 2 for another two months. Last week, US President Joe Biden said he was encouraged by the extension. He also thanked the leaders of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan and Egypt for their efforts to help restore normal daily life in the country, including the resumption of daily international flights to and from Sanaa, and encourage investment.

But Lenderking said that all parties, including the Houthis and their Iranian backers, must fulfill their commitments under the truce. The Houthis continue to hold hostage a number of Yemenis; 14 people were detained in December, including one who died in custody.

“I was very pleased that Iran welcomed the truce. That was a very good sign,” Lenderking said. “The United States would like to see Iran play a positive role in Yemen. Hitherto, they have not done so. On the contrary, they have fueled the conflict.

“They (Iran) have armed and trained and encouraged the Houthis to fire at civilians targets in their own country and in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. They have helped smuggle lethal material into Yemen.

“This is not the direction that Yemen needs to go. Yemen is trying to turn a corner away from a devastating conflict and move toward peace. So let Iran support that effort and that is something we would welcome.”

Lenderking said that the support of the Biden administration “has been indispensable” and, although mostly taking place behind the scenes, it has played a “pivotal role” in building an international consensus to help prevent those who “want to destabilize this conflict” from doing so.

“I think that the president taking the risk of prioritizing the Yemen conflict among others has born fruit and I think the international community has responded very well to United States leadership and diplomatic engagement on this file,” he added.

“I think our engagement with the Saudis, with the government of Oman and with the UAE in particular have been very strong and very impactful.”

He also praised Jordan for the support it has provided and said he remains optimistic about the prospects for lasting peace because of the overall progress made over the past few months, including the continuing truce.

“At the start of the year we saw over 400 attacks from Yemen into Saudi Arabia,” Lenderking said. “We had the January attacks on civilian targets in the UAE. Indeed, things looked very, very dire.

“But a number of factors came into play: I think strong diplomatic engagement, I think the fact that the Houthis were not able to take Marib over the course of a year and a half, despite the tremendous resources that they threw at that particular conflict.

“We have by no means achieved peace. We have not ended this war. We have to use the current momentum to push forward to reach into these other areas: a durable truce, political talks. These are the ways and the channels through which we get an ultimate end of the conflict.”

Lenderking said an important goal is to help Yemen’s government restore and improve basic services and economic stability for the people of the country. He highlighted the humanitarian contribution made by the US, which he said totals “about $4.5 billion over the term of the conflict.”

Another challenge that remains, he added, is the fate of the oil tanker FSO Safer. It has been moored in the Red Sea off the west coast of Yemen since the start of the conflict without maintenance and its condition has deteriorated, raising growing fears of a devastating oil spill. International donors have pledged more than $33 million to fund emergency work by a team of experts to make the vessel safe but officials said much more is needed to avert an environmental crisis that could undermine the peace efforts.

“Let’s use this period of relative calm and confidence-building to get the ticking time bomb which is the Safer tanker, with its 1.1 million barrels of oil, offloaded onto a safer vessel so we can avert an economic and humanitarian and economic disaster in the Red Sea,” Lenderking said, adding that there is concern about the possibility of an explosion.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
Updated 11 August 2022

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
  • Italian Embassy: Project will improve housing for vulnerable people affected by port blast

LONDON: The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Program for Human Settlements have signed an agreement in Beirut to finance the rehabilitation of the public park of the Mar Mikhael train station in the Lebanese capital.

The program will also restore some of the housing damaged by the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The Italian Embassy in Beirut reported the signing, hosting a ceremony at the Italian diplomatic headquarters in Baabda. It was attended by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere.

The project, titled “Ensuring safe public spaces and adequate housing for all within the city of Beirut,” is being funded by the agency and will be implemented by the UN program alongside Lebanese authorities.

The embassy said the project will improve “housing conditions for vulnerable populations affected by the explosion of the port of Beirut, in particular in the vicinity of the old Mar Mikhael railway station.”

It added that the project intends to increase “access to safe and inclusive public spaces within the railway station, also revitalizing the urban fabric of the city.”

Bombardiere said: “This project will allow the citizens of Beirut to rediscover the old Mar Mikhael railway station and its historical relevance.

“At the same time, we continue our commitment to respond to basic needs, such as social housing, restoring the cultural and social fabric of the districts most affected.”


Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
  • Civilians gather outside bank in support of gunman
  • Bank's lawyer claims efforts under way to reach a negotiated conclusion

BEIRUT, LEBANON: A gunman has entered a Beirut bank in Al Hamra Street demanding his savings are released so he can pay his father’s hospital bills.
The man, named as Bassam Sheikh Hussein, 42, says his money has been withheld as part of measures taken by the Banque du Liban  (Federal Bank of Lebanon) since 2019.

It is understood that the man took eight hostages, six employees and two customers.

On entering the bank, witnesses said the man poured gasoline into the bank hall on Thursday morning and pulled out a gun threatening to burn himself and kill those in the bank unless he was given the $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital costs.

The security services have cordoned off the area where crowds have gathered - some shouting their support of the gunman and even calling him a “hero”..

Later in the afternoon people became increasingly impatient, and warned the Lebanese minister of interior that any attempt to enter the bank by force to bring the gunman out would be met with a violent response by civilians at the scene.

 

Customers who were inside the bank when the gunman stormed it said, he had had an account with the bank, containing $210,000 and was demanding they release $2,000.

It is understood the gunman told customers to leave the bank and kept the employees inside.

Shortly after the siege began the gunman was seen leading an elderly man from the branch, before letting him go.

Hasan Moghnieh, head of the depositors’ association, told Arab News that the gunman had originally demanded $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital bill.

But when the bank refused, he demanded the whole $210,000 balance.

“The bank brought $10,000 as a settlement to give it to the gunman, but he refused,” Moghnieh added.

“Now further negotiations are underway.”

He said he did not know the gunman personally, but added: “By negotiating with him, it became clear that he is serious about his threats and he is ready for ‘collective damage.’"

Outside pople gathered in the area in solidarity with the gunman chanting: “Down with the rule of the bank.”

They told media at the scene that the siege was an inevitable outcome of government’s actions that had ultimately led to millions of people’s finances being frozen by the banks.

And they warned that their could be repeats of the siege in the future unless something was done - later warning that any attempts to the end the siege by force by security would be met with civil unrest.

A number of customers who had gathered in the area shouted to the media that they supported the actions of the gunman, stressing that they too wanted their money.

Mughniyeh said the gunman “fired two shots inside the bank,” adding that the man was with his brother who also holds money in the branch.

He said the gunman justified the siege as the only way he could get his money.”

Some of the gunman’s supporters said he might be protected under Lebanese laws permitting citizens to protect themselves, their possessions and money by force.