US remains committed to engagement in the Middle East, says top official

US remains committed to engagement in the Middle East, says top official
US Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf met with Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis as part of her recent trip to the Middle East. (Photo courtesy of US Embassy in Tunisia)
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Updated 15 September 2022

US remains committed to engagement in the Middle East, says top official

US remains committed to engagement in the Middle East, says top official
  • Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said reaffirming this message was a main focus of her recent tour of the region
  • She said that during visits to Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Palestine she talked with leading officials about a range of local, regional and global issues

WASHINGTON: Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said on Wednesday that a main focus of her recent trip to several Arab countries was to reaffirm American engagement in the Middle East and North Africa.

She added that the aim was to reinforce the regional diplomacy efforts of President Joe Biden and his administration, including the sharing of US priorities, assistance for Washington’s regional partners to resolve conflicts, and a push for economic and political reforms.

Leaf said during a briefing in Washington, attended by the Arab News, that during her tour of Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank in late August and early September she held talks with leading officials about the deescalation of conflicts and other local, regional and global issues.

In Tunisia, she said she discussed with President Kais Saied the political and economic challenges his country is facing. She stressed to him the US commitment to its partnership with Tunisia in support of democratic values and human rights, and the importance of an inclusive process for political and economic reforms.

Also in Tunisia, Leaf held talks with Mohammed Al-Menfi, chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, and Saddek El-Kaber, governor of Libya’s Central Bank. She said she urged them to support a clear path to democratic national elections, along with economic reforms and transparency.

During her visits to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Leaf said she reiterated Biden’s message during his own trip to the region in July that the “US remains unwavering in its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and that the US will work … to strengthen the US-Israeli partnership.”

Washington also remains committed to “keeping alive the vision of a two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, security and prosperity,” she added. “This means working together collaboratively on economic and security issues and reducing unilateral action.”

Leaf said she also followed up on projects Biden has proposed with the aim of improving the Palestinian economic situation. These include Israeli permission for a 4G cellular service for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and an extension of the opening hours for the Allenby Bridge, which connects the Occupied Territories with Jordan and is the only option for international travel for three million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

In addition, Leaf discussed Biden’s proposal for $100 million in US aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem, which is awaiting approval by the US Congress.

It remains unclear, however, how the US will reconcile its vision for two-state solution amid ongoing illegal Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian areas, and Israeli military raids targeting Palestinians. Since its occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has built numerous illegal settlements and is in control of Palestinian land, water resources and airwaves.

During her visit to Amman, Leaf met Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister. She said they discussed bilateral relations and the upcoming signing of a seven-year memorandum of understating that will be largest and longest agreement between the two countries.

Jordan currently receives about $1.6 billion in annual economic and military aid from the US, which makes it the second-largest recipient after Israel.

“The US is committed to economic reform in Jordan while strengthening its resilience and stability and security,” Leaf said

She added that the human rights situation in the country, in particular the arrest of journalists and civil rights activists, forms part of continuing bilateral discussions.

Leaf said that in Iraq she met a number of senior officials, academics, civil society activists and entrepreneurs for discussions about the country’s stability, economic progress and political process.

The US considers Iraq a vital partner, she added, and a strategic framework agreement remains key to relations.

“All of our activities, programs and policies are framed to support Iraq’s sovereignty stability and security,” she said.


Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement
Updated 7 sec ago

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banks will reopen on Monday, with each taking their own measures, the country’s banking association said in a statement on Sunday.
The country’s banks have shut for about five days following a spree of bank hold-ups by depositors seeking access to their savings.


At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran
Updated 11 min 35 sec ago

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates on Saturday urged Iran to return to the Gulf state the three islands it had been illegally occupying for the past five decades.

In an address before the General Debate of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Reem Al Hashimy, UAE's Minister of State for International Cooperation, said Iran's occupation of the three islands was a violation of the sovereignty.

"... we renew our demand for an end to Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa – the UAE’s sovereignty over which is proven by history and international law," Hashimy said.

Iran seized the three islands in November 1971 shortly after British forces were pulled out. The islands are all located in the Strait of Hormuz between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

"Despite the UAE’s sincere calls to peacefully resolve this conflict over the past five decades, we stress here that Iran has not responded. We will never relent in voicing our claim to these islands either through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice, as is our legitimate right," Hashimy said.

Iran has been accused by its Arab neighbors and members and the West of seeking to destabilize the region by funding and arming its proxy militias, including the Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Houthis of Yemen, and other militants in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq.

On Sunday, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called for strengthening international cooperation to achieve stability and peace in the region and achieve the aspirations of people, according to a statement on the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Both officials discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries to achieve their common interests. They also exchanged views on regional and international developments and reviewed several issues on the agenda of the General Assembly.

 

 


Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank
Updated 25 September 2022

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

NABLUS: Israeli troops killed a Palestinian militant in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian sources said, with Israel’s army saying soldiers fired on “armed suspects” during a routine patrol.
The army said that “hits were identified” after soldiers fired toward “armed suspects driving in a vehicle and a motorcycle” near Nablus in the northern West Bank, an area that has seen near daily violence in recent months.
The Palestinian health ministry named the man killed as Saed Al-Koni.
A loose coalition of fighters called “The Lions Den” that has recently emerged in Nablus claimed Koni as one of their members.
Among the members of this group was teenager Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, who has become a folk hero on social media since his killing by Israeli forces in August. Pendants of Al-Nabulsi are on sale in the markets of Nablus Old City.
Koni’s death was the second in the Nablus area in the past two days.
On Saturday, a Palestinian driver was killed by Israeli troops after what the army called an “attempted ramming attack,” but which Palestinians said was a traffic accident.
The army said soldiers and police opened fire on a vehicle after the driver “attempted to run them over” during a patrol outside Nablus.
The Palestinian foreign ministry described Muhammad Ali Hussein Awad, 36, as a “defenseless Palestinian” who was not “posing any danger.”
“The Israeli police deliberately shot Awad, with the aim of killing him, after his vehicle collided with a police vehicle in a traffic accident,” the ministry said.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six Day War of 1967.
Israeli forces have faced criticism over their frequent use of lethal force in response to perceived threats.
Israel is on high alert ahead of the Jewish high holiday season which begins on Sunday evening with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
Since March, Israel has launched hundreds of raids in the northern West Bank, including Nablus and nearby Jenin, in pursuit of individuals it accuses of involvement in deadly attacks targeting Israelis.
The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians.


President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen
Updated 25 September 2022

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

Dubai: Head of the Presidential Leadership Council in Yemen, Rashad al-Alimi, discussed on Saturday peace efforts with Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's meetings.
Alimi welcomed the role of the UN and its secretary general’s efforts to stop the war in Yemen and to alleviate the severity of Yemen's crisis, state news agency SABA reported.
Alimi discussed the latest developments in Yemen, economic, service and right reforms adopted by the Presidential Council and the government..
The secretary general confirmed the commitment of the UN in supporting the presidential council and the government and mobilizing necessary resources to alleviate humanitarian suffering.
He also confirmed employing all efforts to tighten the truce and renewing it, resuming the political process and enabling Yemeni people to build their state.


German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 25 September 2022

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit
  • Scholz is scheduled to visit Qatar before going back to Berlin on Sunday night

DUBAI: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in the UAE Saturday night on the second leg of a two-day tour to the Gulf region.

Scholz was welcomed by the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, and several officials at the Presidential Terminal of the Abu Dhabi International Airport, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

Earlier, Scholz left Saudi Arabia after meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both leaders reviewed aspects of Saudi-German relations and areas of partnership between the two countries, in addition to discussing prospects for bilateral cooperation and opportunities for its development in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Scholz, accompanied by a large delegation that includes representatives of several economic sectors, is scheduled to visit Qatar before going back to Berlin on Sunday night.