US mediator to be informed of unified Lebanese stance on maritime rights

US mediator to be informed of unified Lebanese stance on maritime rights
Lebanon’s caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad, gestures as he meets with US senior adviser for energy security Amos Hochstein in Beirut on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 June 2022

US mediator to be informed of unified Lebanese stance on maritime rights

US mediator to be informed of unified Lebanese stance on maritime rights
  • Tensions mount amid dispute over drilling between Lebanon and neighbor Israel

BEIRUT: On Monday, a few hours before the arrival of Amos Hochstein, the US mediator in the indirect negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel, President Michel Aoun confirmed to the UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon Joanna Wronecka that the “Lebanese side will inform Hochstein of a unified stance regarding the proposals to resume these negotiations that preserve Lebanon’s rights.”

Talks between the two neighbors stopped after Israel rejected a Lebanese proposal to consider Line 29 as a negotiating line, and after the Lebanese rejected the Israeli Line 1 and Hof Line proposals.

Wronecka expressed the willingness of the UN to contribute to resuming the negotiations, praising the “wisdom of President Aoun and his role in this critical period of the history of Lebanon.”

The president told a delegation of lawmakers: “(Israel) is acting contrary to international laws and resolutions, taking advantage of the silence of the international community regarding its violations of the UN Security Council resolutions.”

Aoun denied “any connection between the demarcation negotiations and the issue of leasing gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan, or the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.”

The president added that “drilling in Block 1 stopped due to unconvincing reasons presented by the drilling company,” noting that “there were international pressures on it to prevent it from continuing to drill.”

He said he would lead the negotiations, and “upon reaching an agreement the Council of Ministers will have to approve it and refer it to Parliament according to the procedures, which is something that did not occur with Line 29.”

Reports circulating in Lebanon suggest that Hochstein had already sent a proposal to the Lebanese government last March to demarcate the maritime borders based on drawing Line 23 in a zigzag in order to give Lebanon the whole of the Qana field.

The delegation Aoun addressed had asked him to swiftly amend decree 6433, issued in 2011, which adopted Line 23 as the base to start negotiations with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders, and to send it to the international agencies according to the rules, in order to fix Line 29 as the border line with Israel, giving Lebanon an additional area of 1,430 square kilometers according to a study by the Lebanese Army.

Lebanon invited Hochstein to Beirut against the backdrop of the arrival of the Energean liquified natural gas production unit to Karish field, in the disputed maritime area between Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanon wishes to “continue the indirect Lebanese-Israeli negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders as soon as possible, in order to prevent any escalation that could jeopardize stability in the region.”

Gen. Joseph Aoun confirmed on Monday during a meeting with officers of the General Staff that “the army’s mission regarding demarcation of the maritime borders was concluded upon the end of its technical mission,” adding that he stands “behind the political authority in any decision that it takes.”

On Sunday, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force Aviv Kochavi threatened to create “a border belt of fire on the border villages of south Lebanon and massive destruction in the whole country if war breaks out.”

This declaration came against the backdrop of a hardened stance by Hezbollah over the past few days, based over fears Israel might start drilling in the disputed Karish field.

Coinciding with the arrival of the US mediator to Lebanon, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti confirmed that a UNIFIL patrol was intercepted on Sunday by a group of villagers.

Tenenti said that “our patrols always perform their duties without interceptions or threats except in rare cases, and this is not the first time that our forces become subject to an aggression attempt.”

The interception, which is the fourth this year for UNIFIL units, targeted a Spanish patrol that was carrying out a routine activity in its zone of deployment in the eastern sector, south of the Litani river.

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors
Updated 15 sec ago

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors

Lebanon set for $1.5 billion cash boost from influx of 700,000 visitors
  • Despite session boycott, Lebanese Cabinet approves $35m spending on medicines, assistance for military, pensioners

BEIRUT: Lebanon was on Monday preparing for a much-needed $1.5 billion cash injection with tourist chiefs predicting an influx of around 700,000 visitors over the coming days.

With the festive holiday season fast-approaching, hoteliers were reporting an upsurge in bookings on last year as the country temporarily began to put its economic and political woes to one side.

Decorative lights and trees, traditional markets, music festivals, and other popular events and activities were set to lift the nation’s gloom as Lebanese, expats, and foreign trippers were expected to flood into Beirut and coastal resorts.

And there was even some cheer on Monday from Lebanon’s caretaker Cabinet after it accepted a request for the central bank to release $35 million to buy medicines for dialysis and cancer patients, milk for children, plus financial assistance for the military and pensioners.

However, the Cabinet session was not held without acrimony as ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement boycotted the meeting over the continued political deadlock in Lebanon.

Addressing the session, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “We can no longer spend money to help cancer and dialysis patients. Do they (the FPM) want us to commit a collective crime?

“If that is what they are asking, then we won’t assume our responsibility and let everyone assume the consequences of their actions.

“If they want the country to collapse completely, I will not contribute to the crime of killing patients.”

Although the upcoming holiday season would provide a welcome cash boost, most experts said the revenues would act only as painkillers for the country’s ailing economy unless followed by a political breakthrough.

But in downtown Beirut decorative streetlights raised spirits among

the thousands of visitors flocking to markets selling food, drink, toys, books, and flowers.

One shopper said: “Beirut doesn’t fall, and these activities encourage the re-opening of the markets. People need to feel alive again.”

In Achrafieh, Sassine Square was being trimmed up in readiness for the holidays with traders planning to erect a Christmas tree alongside stalls selling festive products.

Preparations were also in full swing for the Beirut Chants music festival. The free event will run over 26 days in churches and souks around the capital and artistic director, Toufic Maatouk, said the festival, now in its 15th year, had received support from foreign ambassies and the participation of Lebanese bands.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud said a host of activities had been lined up for visitors to the city.

Officials at Rafic Hariri International Airport noted that many Lebanese expats, especially from the Gulf region, were returning to spend the festive period with their families.

The airport, that has been acting as a transit point for football fans heading to Qatar for the World Cup, had also seen some supporters opting to stay in Lebanon on their way back from the tournament.

Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents, said flights were fully booked from Dec. 10 to 25 with the number of Arab tourists on the rise, particularly from Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Abboud added that bookings had increased by 38 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has predicted that around 700,000 tourists will arrive in the country over the coming days.

Pierre Achkar, chairman of the Lebanese Federation for Tourism and president of the Hotel Owners Association, expected hotel bookings to reach 60 percent.

Many luxury hotels are still undergoing restoration following the Beirut port blast, but the iconic Phoenicia hotel recently celebrated its reopening.

And on Beirut waterfront, close to the explosion site, the Arab Cultural Club and Syndicate of Publishers Union in Lebanon has inaugurated the 64th edition of the Beirut International and Arab Book Fair with more than 133 publishers taking part.

Salwa Siniora, head of the Arab Cultural Club, said: “Enlightened intellectuals have a prominent role to play in shaping the destiny of the nation, and that knowledge and intellect are the flame that will remove the abhorrent blackness impeding visibility and the creative imagination.”

But signs of the ongoing crises in the country remain prominent with another protester staging a sit-in at a Lebanese bank, this time in Antelias, demanding the release of savings.


Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
Updated 05 December 2022

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
  • Team of 30 psychologists, specialists will provide support to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti charity is offering psychological aid and emotional support for victims of wars and crises in the Middle East.

The International Islamic Charity Organization charity has established a team of 30 psychologists and specialists who will provide support in three refugee-hosting countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Othman Al-Asfour, head of the lICO Tarahum team, said that the initiative affirms an integral part of social and psychological support in humanitarian aid.

Psychologist Dr. Shereefa Al-Khamees stressed that refugees were in urgent need of psychological aid as much as handouts and donations.

The psychological health of the affected is very delicate and requires thorough treatment and support, Al-Khamees added.


Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
Updated 05 December 2022

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, Algerian president witness signing of two agreements and three MoUs
  • Governments instructed to take steps to boost investment, commercial opportunities in both countries

ALGIERS: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune have launched a new phase of bilateral relations.

The leaders held talks on Sunday in Algiers to discuss boosting Jordanian-Algerian cooperation in politics, economics, trade, investment, and defense, Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both sides, also affirmed interest in maintaining coordination and consultation on Arab causes and other issues of mutual concern. 

King Abdullah reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the need to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights. 

He called for a just and comprehensive peace plan based on the two-state solution which establishes an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He also reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the historical and legal status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Following the meeting, the leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement on visa exemptions for diplomatic passport-holders, as well as a cooperation program between Jordan News Agency and the Algerian Press Service. 

Three memorandums of understanding on political consultations, cooperation between the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and the Algeria Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, and the mutual recognition of maritime qualification certificates for seafarers, education programs, and maritime training between the two countries were also signed.

King Abdullah and President Tebboune further instructed their governments to take the necessary steps to encourage investors and businesses to explore investment and commercial opportunities in both countries. 

They were also directed to move forward with agreements that would expand collaborations in health care, energy, medical tourism, hotels, transportation, aviation training, higher education, and cultural exchange between universities. 

Economists have praised the outcomes of King Abdullah’s state visit to Algeria.

Jordanian Senator Mazen Darwazah said that Jordanian investment in Algeria has gradually increased over the last two decades, with the drug industry spending nearly $1 billion.

Jordanian-Algerian Business Council Coordinator Khaled Al-Soub said that Algerian law allows Jordanian investors to expand their projects and acquire shares from foreign partners. 

Energy expert Hashem Akel said that Algeria was rich in petrol and natural resources and hoped that energy imports from the country would increase after Jordan receives preferential prices.


Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 05 December 2022

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 05 December 2022

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.