Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest
A handout picture released on Sept. 5, 2022, shows (L to R) former PM Nouri al-Maliki, head of Iraq's al-Fateh Alliance Hadi Al-Amiri, PM Mustafa Kadhimi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi attend a political meeting at the Governmental palace in Baghdad's Green Zone. (AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

JEDDAH: Iraq on Monday moved closer to a snap parliamentary election after crisis talks in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired a meeting with President Barham Salih, UN representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and representatives from the Iran-backed Coordination Framework political bloc.

They “agreed to form a technical committee comprising the various political forces ... to bridge differences with the aim of reaching early elections,” Al-Kadhimi’s office said after the talks.

Representatives of the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr failed to attend the meeting, but the dissolution of parliament and an immediate election are key demands of Al-Sadr and his bloc.

Al-Sadr and his Iran-backed political rivals have been at odds since parliamentary elections in October last year. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats but failed to form a majority government. Since then Iraq has been mired in political deadlock without a new government, president or prime minister.


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Al-Sadr’s rivals agree in principle to holding early polls but disagree on the mechanism. The cleric is demanding that the judiciary dissolve the legislature but the Coordination Framework insist parliament should convene to do this. The rival camps are also at odds over the electoral law that would govern the polls, which the Coordination Framework wants amended.

Monday’s talks came a week after Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed government headquarters in the capital’s fortified Green Zone and clashed with fighters from the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia. More than 30 Sadrists were killed and hundreds injured in nearly 24 hours of violence that ended when the cleric called on his supporters to pull out.

However, Al-Sadr supporters in the central city of Najaf on Monday pledged allegiance to the cleric and said the fight was far from over. “Blood was spilt, but there is plenty more where that came from,” said Al-Sadr loyalist Moussa Abbas, 21. “For every martyr we lose, 10 will come in his place. The same way they sacrificed themselves for us, we will stand up for them.”

Another Sadrist, Sadeq Jaber, said: “We obey the orders of our leader and commander — whatever he wants, we are ready. All of us, with our children, houses and families, we are all under his command. There will continue to be martyrs as long as this ruling class is in power.”

Fadel Al-Bdeiri, a cleric in Najaf who supports Al-Sadr, said: “The people will either side with the Sadrist movement and wage this battle and secure their demands, or they side with the Framework and remain mired in the status quo. There can’t be a reconciliation between them.”

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears
Updated 02 December 2022

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

CAIRO: The fourth Arab Water Conference titled “Arab Water Security for Life, Development and Peace,” organized by Palestine, the Arab League and the Arab Water Experts Network in Cairo, kicked off on Nov. 30.

The two-day conference was held under the auspices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with the participation of ministers of water resources as well as delegations from Arab countries and concerned regional organizations.

The conference on Wednesday and Thursday included working sessions and presentations of scientific papers dealing with issues related to water scarcity, drought and climate change.

Among the topics addressed were challenges posed by water scarcity and solutions to these, water demand and drought management, climate change, shared water resources and water diplomacy.

The conference also covered water desalination technology, the management of groundwater resources, the financing of and investment in the water sector, and challenges related to water in the Arab region.

Abbas, in a speech delivered on his behalf by Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, stressed that resolving the issue of water shortage in the Arab world requires developing a unified and comprehensive strategy that defends the right to water in the face of occupation, exploitation, or encroachment. It also entails the development of plans to confront water and food deficits due to existing challenges.

Abbas said: “Arab water security poses a major challenge to nearly 453 million Arab citizens, and it is an issue that captures the attention of Arab countries, as represented by the Arab League’s decision to establish the Council of Arab Water Ministers.”

He added that the transnational waters of the Arab world are a matter of security.

“We stand with our brothers in Egypt and Sudan in their demands on everything related to the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and in ensuring that their water, agricultural or energy-related security is not compromised,” Abbas said.

He called for reaching a binding legal agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, in line with the statement issued by the UN Security Council in September 2021, in a manner that perpetuates cooperation and consolidates common interests among the peoples of the region.

He also called for joint Arab cooperation to find alternative sources of water for major projects that benefit everyone in light of the severe water shortage in Arab countries.

Hani Sweilem, Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation, affirmed that the water issue in Egypt is one of the most important pillars of Egyptian national security and a major axis in achieving sustainable development. 

He said Egypt is one of the driest countries in the world, as rainfall in the country is estimated to be 1.3 billion cubic meters annually.

He said 97 percent of Egypt’s water depends on the Nile, which comes from outside its borders.

Over the years, the per capita share of water in Egypt decreased to about 560 cubic meters annually, compared to the global water poverty line, which determines the per capita share at 1,000 cubic meters annually, Sweilem said.

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II
Updated 02 December 2022

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

CAIRO: The Egyptian and Greek air forces carried out the joint air exercise MENA-II with the participation of multirole combat aircraft.

The exercise comes within the framework of supporting and strengthening military cooperation relations with friendly and brotherly countries, said Egyptian military spokesman Gharib Abdel-Hafez.

The training included the implementation of a number of theoretical lectures to unify concepts, refine skills, and coordinate the management of joint operations in various methods of modern air combat.

Multirole fighters from both sides carried out joint sorties to train in attacking hostile targets and defending vital assets efficiently.

The training showed the extent to which the participating personnel have reached a high level of professionalism in carrying out all tasks, Abdel-Hafez said. 

The training “reflects the extent to which the air forces of both countries possess advanced human and technical capabilities that qualify them for joint action under various circumstances,” he added.

According to the Egyptian military, the training is an extension of a series of joint exercises being conducted in light of the Egyptian and Greek armed forces’ growing partnership and military cooperation in a variety of fields.

The MEDUSA-12 drills lasted several days in the Mediterranean Sea last month, and forces from Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and the US took part.

Observers from the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Germany, France, Romania, Congo, and Morocco were also present.

In August, Egyptian and Greek naval forces engaged in a joint exercise in the Mediterranean, within the range of the Egyptian Northern Fleet.

According to the Egyptian military, the drills contributed to exchanging joint experiences with Greek naval forces, and helped both sides achieve common aims and maintain maritime security and stability in the region.

Tunisia’s spicy harissa gets UNESCO heritage status

Tunisia’s spicy harissa gets UNESCO heritage status
Updated 02 December 2022

Tunisia’s spicy harissa gets UNESCO heritage status

Tunisia’s spicy harissa gets UNESCO heritage status
  • Harissa is a paste made with sun-dried hot peppers, freshly prepared spices and olive oil

TUNIS: UNESCO has added Tunisia’s spicy national condiment harissa to its list of intangible cultural heritage, saying it was part of the North African country’s identity.

The UN’s cultural agency is meeting in Morocco to examine proposals for its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which aims to protect cultural traditions, practices and knowledge.

“Just inscribed on the #IntangibleHeritage List: Harissa, knowledge, skills and culinary and social practices,” it tweeted on Thursday.

Harissa is a paste made with sun-dried hot peppers, freshly prepared spices and olive oil, which preserves it and slightly reduces its spiciness. 

It is found in almost every restaurant in Tunisia and also exported worldwide.

Tunisia’s application for the status notes that harissa is “an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society,” usually prepared in a family or community setting.

“Harissa is used as a condiment, an ingredient, and even a dish in its own right, and is well-known throughout Tunisia, where it is consumed and produced, particularly in the regions where chilli peppers are grown,” it said.

“It is perceived as an identifying element of national culinary heritage, and a factor of social cohesion.”

The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to safeguard and raise awareness about the “intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned.”

UNESCO stresses that the list honors traditions, practices and knowledge and all such forms of culture that are “human treasures” that must be protected.

On Wednesday, the organization also recognized French baguettes, adding them to more than 530 items on the list.

Lebanese parliament fails for 8th time to elect new president

Lebanese parliament fails for 8th time to elect new president
Updated 02 December 2022

Lebanese parliament fails for 8th time to elect new president

Lebanese parliament fails for 8th time to elect new president
  • UN official Filippo Grandi promises to help issue of Syrian refugees
  • ‘We are working with Damascus regime to remove serious obstacles,’ Grandi says

BEIRUT: Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged the international community to cooperate to help end the Syrian refugee crisis as parliament failed for the eighth time to elect a new president, further exacerbating his country’s political and economic strife.

Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled the ninth election session for next Thursday.

Mikati met the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Thursday, and said: “The UN Human Rights Office and other relevant international organizations must coordinate with the Lebanese government through its competent bodies to solve this dilemma.

“This issue puts more pressure on Lebanon, since the country no longer has the financial, service and political capacity to bear the repercussions.

“The priority at this stage is to return the Syrian refugees successfully to their country after the situation there stabilizes.”

The delegation that accompanied Grandi on his visit to Beirut included UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative in Lebanon Ayaki Ito and UN Deputy Special Coordinator in Lebanon Imran Riza.

It is estimated there are about 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, about 880,000 of whom are registered with the UNHCR. Some 400,000 are workers.

Lebanon had aimed to deport 15,000 Syrian refugees per month, but lists were not approved, some families backed out of returning through fear, and international organizations warned of the forced return of refugees before security was established in Syria.

Mikati warned about two months ago that Lebanon could “take an undesirable position for Western countries by expelling Syrian refugees through legal means, if the international community does not cooperate.”

Grandi stressed the enormous challenges facing Lebanon following his meeting with Mikati.

He said: “Hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrians and other refugees is a very stressful responsibility for the country.

“We discussed future prospects, and I expressed to him (Mikati) that the UN will continue its support, including humanitarian support for the Lebanese people and everyone living in the country.

“The OHCHR is responsible for the refugees, and we continue to mobilize international resources for them and for those who want to return to Syria.”

Grandi praised Lebanon’s support for the voluntary return of refugees.

He said: “We are working with the Syrian regime to remove the serious obstacles that have accumulated over the years that prevent people from returning.

“We have made some progress, but there is still more work for people to be confident in making the decision to return.

“There are many challenges in Syria as well, and I have always referred to the Security Council resolution, which stipulated the need for early recovery in Syria, and we must work with donors in this regard.”

Lebanese MPs failed to elect a new president on Thursday, despite 111 out of 128 attending the eighth election session.

MP Michel Moawad received 37 votes, while 52 blanks were cast by Hezbollah and its allies.

The MPs of Hezbollah and its allies left the voting hall as the second round lost its quorum.

Moawad said: “I do not reject dialogue and extend my hand to all parties to work together under the umbrella of the constitution.

“A president who forms an extension of the existing approach, or the so-called gray president who softens the edges, will deepen the collapse.”

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid
Updated 59 min 48 sec ago

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid
  • Israel strips human rights defender Salah Al-Hamouri of his Jerusalem residency, plans to deport him to France

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians on Thursday and injured two others during a West Bank arrest raid that sparked gun battles, confirmed Palestinian medical sources.

The Jenin city refugee camp raid at dawn also resulted in the arrest of nine people. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned of the severe consequences of the Israeli killings. He called on the world’s countries to intervene.

A general strike to mourn the two who were killed, Mohammed Al-Saadi and Naim Al-Zubaidi, was declared in the city.

According to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, eight Palestinians have been killed and 10 injured in the West Bank during the past 72 hours.

Shtayyeh accused Israeli forces of “benefiting from the absence of accountability and punishment, under an international policy based on double standards.”

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, governor of Jenin, told Arab News that an atmosphere of pain, anger and sadness has overwhelmed the city due to the actions of the Israeli army, which “violates Palestinian lands and commits cold-blooded killing.”

He told Arab News that 54 Palestinians had been killed in Jenin since the beginning of this year.

Most of them were not involved in stone-throwing incidents, and they were not armed. Dozens were wounded, and many others have been detained.

“This is targeted killing and systematic state terrorism against the Palestinians,” the governor told Arab News.

Israeli armed forces issued an alert for expected rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel following the murder of the Jenin Brigade commander in Thursday’s early morning raid.

The Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission said that Israeli security authorities and settlers carried out 833 attacks against Palestinians during November.

It said the aggressive acts ranged from direct assaults on citizens to vandalism, land razing, the confiscation of property and more.

The attacks were concentrated in the Ramallah governorate with 170 attacks, followed by the Hebron governorate with 140, then the Nablus governorate with 111, said the commission.

In another development, Israeli authorities have decided to deport Palestinian prisoner Salah Al-Hamouri from East Jerusalem to France after the expiration of his detention on Sunday, Dec. 4.

Israelis arrested Al-Hamouri on March 22, and since then, he has been under administrative detention with no trial or known charge.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Israeli authorities to free Al-Hamouri and cancel their decision to deport him.

Activists said that Palestinian human rights defender Al-Hamouri “is at imminent risk of deportation” after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected on Nov. 30 an appeal against the Interior Ministry’s decision to revoke his Jerusalem residency status on the grounds of “breach of allegiance.”

This decision leaves Al-Hamouri with no legal status in Jerusalem. He will thus likely be deported on Sunday to France, as he also has French citizenship, human rights activists said.

“Salah Al-Hamouri’s case illustrates so many of the restrictive measures Israel is employing against Palestinians, including human rights defenders,” Jessica Montel, executive director of human rights organization HaMoked, told Arab News.

Among these are the “invasive surveillance technology, the criminalization of human rights organizations, the use of administrative detention, and the revocation of Jerusalem residency,” she said. “This is outrageous.

“As a member of the indigenous population of Jerusalem, Al-Hamouri owes no allegiance to the state of Israel. The fact that his residency was revoked largely based on secret evidence only exacerbates the injustice.”

Hassan Al-Hamouri, 66, father of Salah Al-Hamouri, told Arab News that the Israeli police summoned him on Nov. 29 and asked him not to raise Palestinian flags when receiving Salah on Sunday and not to organize official receptions.

He also said that the number of those receiving him should not exceed 20 at his house. 

Following this, Salah’s lawyer, Leah Tsemel, tried to talk to the police officer to find out what happened, but he refused to inform the lawyer anything.

The family later learned that Salah would be deported to France if he was released from Hadarim prison on Sunday.

Israeli authorities had previously deported Salah’s wife, who was pregnant in 2016, to France.

Palestinian human rights activists are concerned about Israel’s resumption of the deportation policy against Palestinians after it had been halted for many years.

Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News in a phone interview that deportation is the “harshest deterrent punishment practiced against Palestinian prisoners and citizens.

“Al-Hamouri is not accused of practicing violent acts against Israel, but rather he is a human rights activist and an administrative detainee without a specific charge. If such a person is expelled, what about the rest of the Palestinian prisoners?” 

Activists say 4,700 Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli prisons, while the number of Palestinians detained in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has reached 6,300 since the beginning of the year.