US envoy hopeful over Lebanon-Israel sea border talks

US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. (REUTERS)
US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 August 2022

US envoy hopeful over Lebanon-Israel sea border talks

US envoy hopeful over Lebanon-Israel sea border talks
  • Atmosphere positive, all attendees satisfied with meeting, deputy speaker says
  • President Aoun promises to provide right conditions to elect successor at Army Day celebrations

BEIRUT: Amos Hochstein, US special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, on Monday expressed optimism that Lebanon and Israel could move toward a maritime border deal to settle competing claims over offshore gas fields.

“I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress, as we have over the last several weeks, and I look forward to coming back to the region and being able to make the final arrangements,” Hochstein said.

This came after his second visit to Beirut in less than two months, carrying an Israeli proposal in response to a demarcation offer made by Lebanon.

On Monday, he met with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon Nabih Berri at the presidential palace.

I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress, as we have over the last several weeks, and I look forward to coming back to the region and being able to make the final arrangements.

Amos Hochstein, US special envoy

He also met separately with caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, who called the progress made in talks “potentially exceptional.”

Leaked information suggested Hochstein informed the political leaders of the Israeli response to the Lebanese position that adheres to the demarcation of the border on the basis of Line 23, with Lebanon obtaining the entire Qana field, resulting in a zigzagged demarcation line, without including the Karish gas field.

Hochstein reportedly conveyed an Israeli proposal to include parts of an area north of Block No. 8, based on calculating the median line between Lebanon and Cyprus, which was rejected.

Lebanese optimism over progress was evident in President Aoun’s speech to a Lebanese military delegation he met later that day for the Army Day celebrations.

“There is no room for despair in light of the harsh conditions we live in, and God willing, something positive will come out of the maritime border demarcation issue,” he said.

Bou Habib said that Hochstein had pointed out that the Lebanese position was largely unified.

“There is tremendous and remarkable progress, and the negotiations have not ended yet, but they are progressing,” he said, stressing that without an agreement, no one could extract gas in the area.

Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Elias Bou Saab was also present at the meeting with Hochstein, as was the Director General of the Lebanese General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, considered close to Hezbollah.

However, Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun did not attend the meeting.

A technical team from the army adheres to the demarcation of the border according to Line 29, based on British documents, which, if approved, gives Lebanon part of the Karish field.

But Lebanon has not amended its border demarcation decree, submitted to the UN years ago, which relies on Line 23, as President Aoun believes that Line 29 “remains subject to negotiations.”

Bou Saab said after the meeting: “The atmosphere is positive and everyone is satisfied with the meeting. Hochstein did not suggest that we share the wealth, and Lebanon renewed its demand for its entire blocks.”

It was also leaked that the Lebanese side proposed that it could start the process of exploration of the Qana field provided Israel acknowledged Lebanon’s right to it, but Hochstein replied that he would discuss it with the Israelis and come back with an answer.

The Amal Movement, headed by Berri, said in a statement after the Hochstein meeting: “It is necessary for the government to ask exploration companies not to delay and carry out their operations.”

Prior to their meeting with Hochstein, President Aoun, Berri and Mikati took part in Monday’s 77th Lebanese Army Day celebration and the graduation ceremony of officers from the defense and security services.

A total of 95 officer cadets graduated from the Military College with the rank of lieutenant in the naval, air, and land forces, including a very remarkable number of female officers, eight officers from the Internal Security Forces with the rank of lieutenant, and six officers from State Security and others from General Security.

During his speech at the ceremony, his last before his term ends in October, Aoun said: “Despite the betting that the parliamentary elections will not happen, Lebanon has a new parliament.”

Aoun added: “Unfortunately, some are betting again on a presidential vacuum. Out of respect for my constitutional responsibilities, I reiterate that, as I was committed to holding the parliamentary elections, I will work with all my strength to provide the appropriate conditions to elect a new president who will continue the arduous reform process that we have begun.

“This can only be achieved if Parliament — speaker and MPs — assume their responsibilities in choosing the right man for the job.”

Aoun added: “The failure to form a government is caused by the lack of the necessary factors and criteria that make it an effective government, able to carry out its responsibilities, present, and future.

“Failure to form a government exposes the country to further turmoil and deepens economic and financial difficulties. The responsibility of those concerned is essential in preventing the country from being exposed to further deterioration.”


UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
Updated 18 sec ago

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
  • Emirates records top results in 4 out of 5 key pillars in this year’s report

ABU DHABI: The UAE has been ranked as the sixth best destination in the world for expatriates in 2022, according to InterNations.

In the annual Expat Insider survey, the German research firm examines every aspect of the expat experience in 181 countries.

The firm’s rankings are based on a range of factors, including language, bureaucracy, professional prospects, leisure options, travel, transport, job satisfaction, safety, healthcare, digital life, housing, wages and job safety, InterNations said.

This “Expat Insider 2022” report included the overall rankings of expatriate destination countries in terms of quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and the availability of basic essentials.

Mexico was ranked first in 2022, followed by Indonesia in second, Taiwan in third, Portugal in fourth, and Spain in fifth.

While ranking sixth overall, UAE also ranked highly in four out of five key pillars and 11 out of 17 indexes.

It revealed that 94 percent of those surveyed felt safe in the UAE, while 86 percent were satisfied with the available government services.

Furthermore, 90 percent of respondents said that they can use cashless payments in the UAE.

Regarding health, 78 percent of respondents emphasized the ease of access to healthcare services in the country, while 79 percent of those surveyed said that living in the UAE improved their professional prospects.

About 85 percent of those polled said that not knowing the local language was not a barrier, and 83 percent of people said that administrative procedures are “simple and straightforward.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of people said the process of finding housing in the UAE was simple.

Lastly, 83 percent respondents said that it was simple to apply for a resident visa, making the UAE the world leader in this area.

 


Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
Updated 17 August 2022

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
  • Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, spent 11 days in intensive care being treated for burns to her entire body
  • Husband arrested as he was planning to flee the country

DUBAI: A pregnant Lebanese woman who was badly beaten and set on fire by her husband because she would not have an abortion died in hospital on Wednesday.
Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, lost her fight for life at Al-Salam Hospital in northern Lebanon where she had been for the past 11 days.
A doctor from the hospital said on Tuesday that Khodor was admitted on Aug. 6 and had been receiving treatment for burns to her entire body.
He added that her unborn child died in the womb and had to be surgically removed, and described Khodor’s chances of survival as “very bleak.”
A family friend, Abdul Rahman Haddad, told Arab News that Khodor died on Wednesday. A hospital official confirmed the news and said her body had already been claimed by her family.
According to local media reports, Khodor’s husband, identified only by the initials A. A., beat his wife because she refused to abort their unborn child.
He was reported to have said the couple — who came from a poor background in the northern city of Tripoli — could not afford to raise it.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV on Tuesday, Khodor’s aunt said: “When she refused to abort the baby, he took her home and set her on fire using the gas cylinder.”
Haddad said A. A. had been arrested by Lebanese Internal Security Forces as he was planning to flee the country.
Prior to her death, Khodor’s family made several appeals for financial support to help pay for her hospital treatment, which included multiple operations and blood transfusions.
 


Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
Updated 17 August 2022

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
  • The absence of al-Sadr's bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's effort to resolve the 10-month crisis
  • Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year's parliamentary elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s caretaker prime minister called a meeting of senior political leaders and party representatives Wednesday, seeking a way out of a monthslong crisis amid a power struggle between rival Shiite blocs. But the party of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr did not attend the gathering.
The absence of Al-Sadr’s bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s effort to resolve the 10-month crisis.
Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year’s parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the October vote but failed to form a majority government.
His bloc later resigned from parliament and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.
Leaders of Iran-backed Shiite groups, Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish political blocs, and the head of the country’s High Judicial Council attended Wednesday’s meeting, as did the UN special representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
After the meeting, a statement from Al-Kadhimi’s office said the discussions focused on possible solutions to the political crisis, prioritizing the maintaining of peace among Iraqis. Al-Sadr last Wednesday gave the judiciary a week to dissolve the legislature, to which it responded saying it has no authority to dissolve parliament.
On Saturday, he called on his followers to be ready to hold massive protests all over Iraq but then indefinitely postponed them after Iran-backed groups called for similar rallies the same day, saying he wants to preserve peace and that “Iraqi blood is invaluable” to him.
Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals from the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
Updated 17 August 2022

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
  • Iran called on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows”

DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.


Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
Updated 17 August 2022

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties”
  • But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause”

JERUSALEM: Israel and Turkey announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties on Wednesday, following years of strained relations between the Mediterranean nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel.”
Lapid’s office said the diplomatic development will see ambassadors and consuls general posted to the two countries once more.
The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to mend ties, with reciprocal visits by top officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties.”
But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause.”
Cavusoglu in May became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years, during a trip which also saw him meet the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.
During a landmark visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara two months earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed their meeting marked “a turning point in our relations.”
Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into Gaza in 2010.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when ambassadors were withdrawn once again over the killing of Palestinians. More than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests from 2018 to 2019.
Reconciliation publicly got underway after Herzog took office in July 2021.
The Israeli president on Wednesday said the full renewal of ties “will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism, and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples.”
Despite the diplomatic differences in recent years, trade had continued and Turkey has remained a popular destination for Israeli tourists.
Israel however warned its citizens to return home in June, citing an Iranian assassination plot against its nationals in Istanbul.
Lapid then thanked Ankara for its cooperation on the issue and Israelis swiftly resumed their Turkish holidays.
Israel has been wary of upsetting regional allies over its decision to strengthen ties with Turkey, with Herzog dispatched to Cyprus and Greece ahead of his Ankara trip.
Turkey has meanwhile been keen to stress that its normalization with Israel could yield benefits for the Palestinians.
“As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians,” Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.