Tunisia recalls Morocco envoy in Western Sahara row

Tunisia recalls Morocco envoy in Western Sahara row
Western Sahara's "Polisario front" independence movement leader Brahim Ghali (C-L) attends the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Tunisia (AFP).
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Updated 27 August 2022

Tunisia recalls Morocco envoy in Western Sahara row

Tunisia recalls Morocco envoy in Western Sahara row
  • Tunisian President Kais Saied had hosted Polisario chief Brahim Ghali who arrived in Japanese-African investment conference
  • Morocco earlier withdrew its Tunis ambassador and canceled its participation in the conference

TUNIS: Tunisia said Saturday it would recall its ambassador from Morocco for consultations, a day after the kingdom did the same in response to Tunisia’s president hosting the Polisario movement’s head.
The Polisario wants an independent state in the Western Sahara, a vast stretch of mineral-rich desert which Morocco sees as a sovereign part of its own territory.
Tunisian President Kais Saied had on Friday hosted Polisario chief Brahim Ghali who arrived to attend the Japanese-African investment conference TICAD.
In response to what it called a “hostile” and “unnecessarily provocative” act, Morocco immediately withdrew its Tunis ambassador for consultations and canceled its own participation in the high-profile conference.
On Saturday the Tunisian Foreign Ministry voiced its “surprise” at Morocco’s reaction.
“Tunisia has maintained its total neutrality on the Western Sahara issue in line with international law,” it said in a statement.
“This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
Saied spent much of Friday welcoming African leaders arriving for the TICAD conference, including Ghali who is also president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Morocco accused Tunisia of “unilaterally” inviting the Polisario chief “against the advice of Japan and in violation of the process of preparation and established rules.”
But Tunisia said Saturday the African Union had issued a direct invitation to the SADR, a member state, to join the conference, noting that it had attended previous such gatherings — alongside Morocco.
The move came as French President Emmanuel Macron visited Morocco’s arch-rival and Polisario backer Algeria for a three-day visit aimed at healing ties with the former French colony.
It is not the first time that Ghali’s travels have sparked Moroccan anger.
In April 2021, he headed to Spain to be treated for Covid-19, sparking a year-long diplomatic row between Spain and the North African kingdom.
That only ended after Madrid dropped its decades-long stance of neutrality over the Western Sahara — a former Spanish colony — and backed a Moroccan plan for limited self-rule there.
The Polisario had waged an armed struggle before agreeing to a cease-fire in 1991 on the promise of a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, which has never happened.
The African Union’s chairman Macky Sall, in a speech to TICAD delegates on Saturday, said he “regretted the absence of Morocco.”
“We hope that this problem will find a solution for the smooth running of our partnership” between Africa and Japan, he said.


Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
Updated 2 min 35 sec ago

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
  • An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century

PANAMA CITY: Iranian naval ships will be allowed to sail through the Panama Canal as long as they abide by international norms, Panamanian authorities said Tuesday following reports that Tehran was sending vessels to the strategic waterway.

An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century, and Washington has warned that it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activity in the Western Hemisphere.

Citing an 1977 international treaty, which handed control of the canal to Panama and established its neutral status, the Panama Canal said the waterway must “remain safe and open for the peaceful transit,” provided that ships abide by global safety norms, pay tolls and not commit any hostile acts.

“Based on the aforementioned regulations, the Panama Canal Authority has the obligation to allow the passage of any vessel that meets all these requirements,” the agency said in a statement.

Local media have been reporting on the imminent arrival of Iranian Navy ships.

The newspaper La Estrella de Panama wrote on January 13 that Teheran plans to position its warships in the Panama Canal as it seeks to boost its presence in Latin America.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush added fuel to the fire when, in a Washington Post column on January 16, he accused Panama of helping Iran evade Western oil sanctions.

“Without Panama’s support, the Iranian regime would face significant hurdles in smuggling its oil and gas around the world,” wrote Bush, who is the brother and son of two American presidents.

Last week, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Washington is keeping a close eye on Teheran’s naval activities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We continue to have a number of tools in our tool belt available to hold the Iranian regime accountable,” Patel told reporters.

The United States completed the canal in 1914 and opened military bases to protect it.

The 1977 treaty paved the way for the handover of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.

More than 14,000 vessels went through the 80-kilometer (50 mile) waterway in 2022, according to the Panama Canal Authority. The canal accounts for five percent of world maritime trade.


Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch
Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch
  • “She (Griner) wants to be a part of this like no one else,” Taurasi said
  • Griner has said she'll play for Phoenix again this season, although she's still an unsigned free agent

DUBAI: Brittney Griner texted her good friend Diana Taurasi on Tuesday asking how the USA Basketball training camp was going.
Griner was back in Arizona, choosing to skip the camp in Minnesota so she can be with her partner and recover from her time in a Russian jail.
She returned to the US in December after a dramatic prisoner swap.
“She wants to be a part of this like no one else,” Taurasi said. “So, she’ll get there eventually. She’ll find her footing.”
Taurasi said the two talk regularly now that Griner is home in Phoenix. They work out together as well as chat and text each other often.
“We’ve been on the court together working out. We’ve sat down and talked for hours,” Taurasi said. “It’s been really nice to reconnect. It’s good to see her smile. Good to give her a hug. Know she was alive and still had the ability to be thankful and happy.”
There was a time during Griner’s 10-month ordeal in Russia that the 40-year-old Taurasi wasn’t sure she’d ever see her friend again.
“Every single day we suffered and hoped she’d be back and not until I saw her did I really believe it. And just to see her smile, just to see her free, was really emotional for everyone,” Taurasi said. “And we knew, at the same time, the minute she got into that plane and we got to Phoenix, there was going to be a whole new set of challenges, a whole new reality, a whole new way of living life for BG.”
Griner has said she’ll play for Phoenix again this season, although she’s still an unsigned free agent. She hasn’t talked about her international future and potentially playing for the US at the Olympics next year in Paris. She has helped the US win two gold medals at the Olympics already.
USA Basketball coach Cheryl Reeve said Monday that she hasn’t talked to Griner yet, but the organization made it clear that she could take all the time she needed to decide if she wanted to play for the US again.
“We’ve missed her and when she’s ready we’ll welcome her back,” Reeve said.


‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy
Updated 12 min 31 sec ago

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

RIYADH: The US Embassy in Riyadh welcomed US Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the US Transportation Command, as she met female members of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, saying that it supports women’s empowerment as a Vision 2030 goal.

Van Ovost, who is on a tour of the Kingdom, expressed her happiness at exchanging ideas and sharing experiences with Saudi Arabian Armed Forces female members.

“Ending my day energized after speaking with Saudi Armed Forces service members. We talked about one of my favorite things — mentorship. No one overcomes challenges alone. We all need someone to help us stay with it, remain confident, and provide opportunities to let us shine,” Van Ovost tweeted with photos of her meeting, which was retweeted by the US Embassy.

US Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the US Transportation Command, interacts with female members of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces. (Supplied)

The US Embassy also tweeted: “Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost @USTRANSCOM_CDR Commander, US Logistics Command @US_TRANSCOM focuses on women’s empowerment and STEM education. The US government proudly supports women’s empowerment as a Saudi Vision 2030 goal.”

She also visited Prince Sultan Military Air Base and the Apple Developer Academy in Riyadh, which is supporting female developers and entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.

“#TogetherWeDeliver! @usairforce Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost,@USTRANSCOM_CDR, visited #TeamPSAB, where she learned more about the 378th AEW mission, our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia, and engaged with US service members who keep the mission successful,” tweeted the embassy.

In another tweet the US Embassy said: “Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost @USTRANSCOM_CDR Commander of the US Logistics Transport Command @US_TRANSCOM toured the Apple Developers Academy @ADA_TWQ during her visit to the headquarters of Princess Noura University @_PNU_KSA. The US Government proudly supports women’s empowerment.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arab News sister publication, Van Ovost said that her first visit to Riyadh as commander of US Transportation Command focused on consolidating the strong relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense, in the national interest of Saudi Arabia and the US, as well as to achieve security goals.

The US Central Command is working with Saudi Arabia to establish an integrated air defense system to counter missiles and unmanned aircraft, among other technological initiatives, she said.

Van Ovost described US military relations with the Kingdom as solid, saying that the two countries fought side by side during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, and that their partnership is a cornerstone of security and stability in the Middle East.


New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students
Updated 19 min 5 sec ago

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

JEDDAH: Integrated solutions provider Johnson Controls Arabia has announced its participation as founding partner in Saudi Arabia’s new Future Industrialists initiative.

Implemented by the Association for Distinguished Initiatives, General Directorate of Education in Jeddah, and the Industrial Council of the Chamber of Commerce in Jeddah, the company announced that it was supporting the scheme as part of its strategic commitment toward empowering young talent in the Kingdom.

The initiative will involve more than 10,000 male and female high school students competing in three categories for awards worth SR100,000 ($26,650).

Thirty student winners will be offered summer internships at the manufacturing plants of companies taking part in the initiative — including the YORK Manufacturing Complex — and training sessions will be run for 1,000 students.

Johnson Controls Arabia provides services including heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, fire and security systems, and building management systems and controls throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.

Mohanad Al-Shaikh, chief executive officer of Johnson Controls Arabia, said: “We are proud to be the founding partners of the Future Industrialists initiative as part of our ongoing commitment and efforts toward fueling innovation and sustainability, especially in the development of talent and future leaders, in partnership with the public sector.

“As a leader in the vital industrial sector on a local and global level, we will be introducing students to the latest innovative and integrated industrial processes and mechanisms used at our YORK Manufacturing Complex, YORK’s largest manufacturing facility in the region.

“Johnson Controls Arabia continues to work toward its long-term objectives of shaping and preparing students with the needed skills and experience to excel in the competitive industrial labor market,” he added.

The Future Industrialists initiative’s creative category award will recognize students who present distinctive ideas to raise a factory’s financial or marketing productivity through the suggestions of quality products.

The discoverer category will reward students with ideas for improvement of daily operations, productivity, and quality assurance, while the ambassador class will celebrate those who develop interesting content on factory output, distinctive products, and the company’s role in servicing the community.

Targeting students at public secondary schools in Jeddah, the initiative aims to broaden young talents’ vision and knowledge through conducting field visits and training at local firms and manufacturing facilities, while educating them on the Kingdom’s industrial potential, mainly in Jeddah.

In alignment with Vision 2030 goals, the Future Industrialists initiative aims to boost the economy through motivating students to join the industrial sector in partnership with the private sector.


GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
Updated 6 min 34 sec ago

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
  • Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK
  • Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi met with the British ambassador to Riyadh Neil Crompton on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the two officials discussed the latest regional and international issues, and Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK.

The head of the Gulf bloc also pointed out that he was looking forward to the success of the third round of Free Trade Agreement negotiations which will be held in Riyadh in March.

Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC which is Britain’s fourth largest trading partner.