EU envoys ‘gravely concerned’ over crisis in Lebanon

Special EU envoys ‘gravely concerned’ over crisis in Lebanon
Protesters chant slogans as they gather outside the Justice Palace in Lebanon's capital Beirut on September 19, 2022, demanding the release of two people involved in a bank heist the prior week. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2022

EU envoys ‘gravely concerned’ over crisis in Lebanon

EU envoys ‘gravely concerned’ over crisis in Lebanon
  • Saudi Arabia keen on maintaining Lebanese stability, adhering to constitution: Ambassador

BEIRUT: EU member states’ ambassadors to Lebanon on Tuesday told President Michel Aoun of their “grave and growing concerns” over the deepening economic crisis in the country.

During a meeting with Aoun, the EU’s envoy to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, urged the Lebanese leader to immediately implement the reforms needed to resolve the situation.

In a tweet, Tarraf said: “Today, we, the ambassadors of the EU and its member states resident in Beirut, along with the ambassadors of Switzerland and Norway, met with President Aoun to express our grave and growing concern about the current situation in Lebanon.

“We urged the president to do his utmost to support and actively contribute to the implementation of the crucial economic, monetary, and fiscal reforms that Lebanon has committed to.

“Though Lebanon’s context is challenging, immediate measures ... need to be implemented. The time to act is now. The EU and its member states remain ready to support Lebanon in this critical period, politically and financially, in the context of implementing a sound economic recovery plan and an IMF (International Monetary Fund) program,” he added.

On Monday, Aoun and his political team had reiterated their rejection of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s caretaker government taking over the country’s administration in the event of a presidential vacuum because they believed the government to be illegitimate.

Aoun’s office noted that the president had assured the EU ambassadors that he was working on forming a legitimate government that could assume the powers of the president in such an event and was doing all he could to implement economic reforms.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, has held a series of meetings with Lebanese politicians over recent days. He said: “Saudi Arabia is keen on maintaining Lebanese stability and adhering to the Taif Agreement (reached in 1989 to provide the basis for the ending of the civil war and return to political normalcy in Lebanon) and the Lebanese constitution.”

On Monday, he held talks with the head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt and on Tuesday met the leader of the Lebanese Forces party Samir Geagea as part of a political tour ahead of the presidential elections.

Jumblatt said: “We discussed many issues; but Bukhari stressed the Kingdom’s historic keenness on Lebanese stability, the Taif Agreement, and the constitution, and that we, the Lebanese, respect constitutional deadlines and elect a president.”

Geagea said: “We discussed local and regional issues but focused on the Lebanese crisis and talked about the upcoming elections.

“I learned that Saudi Arabia has prepared large aid packages for Lebanon, which require us to have a president, a prime minister, and a government that can be trustworthy, since the Kingdom is unwilling to deal with any Lebanese official involved in financial or political corruption,” he added.

A source in Dar Al-Fatwa told Arab News that the spiritual authority for the Sunni community in Lebanon would be holding a meeting for Sunni MPs on Saturday. Of the 27 in parliament, two had so far declined the invitation, reformist Halime Kaakour and independent Osama Saad.

“This will be the first meeting that brings together Sunni MPs of various political orientations since their victory in the parliamentary elections in May,” the source said.

On Tuesday, the Lebanese pound reached a record low. Banks closed for the second day in a row while the price of goods, especially fuel.

A delegation led by Ernesto Ramirez-Rigo, the IMF’s head of mission for the Middle East, met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whose media office said that they discussed the stages of the dialogue between Lebanon and the IMF and the legislation implemented by parliament.

“Parliament is determined to intensify its work to accomplish what is required of it in terms of reform legislation, and to cooperate with the executive authority in this regard and preserve the rights of depositors,” Berri told the delegation.

After his meeting with the IMF delegation, caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said: “We discussed the reform laws requested by the IMF, specifically the capital control law, banking secrecy law, bank restructuring law, and the 2022 budget.

“The IMF carries a very clear message, which is the urgency in approving these laws; otherwise, we will not be able to move forward to reach a final agreement with the fund.”

Salam told the Associated Press that Lebanon hoped to adopt key reforms demanded by the IMF for a long-delayed but urgently needed bailout before the end of next month if there was a “political will.”

He added: “The IMF and the World Bank believe that Lebanon needs special care to achieve food security, and we will address, during the annual meeting of the World Bank, the need to support Lebanon in the field of food security.”


Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
Updated 05 October 2022

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
  • The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has carried out all of its obligations under the UN-brokered truce and has made “major” concessions to clear the way for its renewal and the end of the war, Yemen’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told reporters in the Moroccan capital Rabat that the Houthis have imposed numerous restrictions and conditions to thwart attempts to extend the truce.

He added that the Iran-backed militia has refused to pay public employees in the areas they control despite having made millions of dollars from the sale of oil ships that entered Hodeidah port during the truce.

“We carried out everything in the armistice agreement and made major concessions. The Houthis erected new roadblocks at every stage of the talks,” the Yemeni minister said, noting that Houthi artillery, explosive-rigged drones, snipers and landmines had killed or injured 1,400 government soldiers and officers, as well as 94 civilians during the truce.

The minister said that the government would only pay public employees in Houthi areas if the militia group would deposit earnings from Hodeidah port into the central bank in accordance with the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement in 2018.

“The Houthis plundered more than 45 billion Yemeni riyals ($18 million) prior to the armistice and have not paid a single riyal in public employee salaries since the signing of the Stockholm Agreement.”

He accused Iran of using the Houthis to further its expansionist goals, vowing to oppose Iran’s attempts to seize control of the country’s resources, including oil.

“The Houthi group imposed the war in order to carry out Tehran's expansionist agenda in the region,” he said. “We will utilize our constitutional right to defend our nation and people, and we won’t let Iran take control of Yemen’s oil riches.”

The international community’s efforts to end the war in Yemen took a major hit this week when the Iran-backed Houthis refused to renew the truce and threatened to target oil ships transporting the country’s oil exports from government-controlled areas.

The Houthis rejected a suggestion to partially ease their siege of Taiz by opening at least one main road leading into and out of the city, and they told UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg that they would agree to renew the truce only if the Yemeni government paid public servants in areas under their control.

The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths.

With the truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been renewed twice, thousands of passengers have been able to fly from Sanaa airport, and more than 50 fuel ships have entered the port of Hodeidah, ending severe fuel shortages in the Houthi-controlled areas.

Similarly, the EU mission in Yemen has blamed the Houthis’ “maximalist demands” for undermining international efforts to renew the truce and has urged warring factions, particularly the Houthis, to cooperate with the UN’s Yemen envoy and de-escalate.

“We urge in particular the Houthis to moderate their demands and to engage constructively with UN special envoy Grundberg so that the truce can continue and develop into an effective ceasefire, paving the way for a comprehensive process leading to peace in Yemen,” the EU mission said in a statement.


Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
Updated 05 October 2022

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
  • The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations
  • Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women

ROME: A top Italian judges’ association has condemned Iran for its crackdown on protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations taking place throughout Iran.

Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women.

Her death has since sparked protests in almost every province of Iran over the policing of personal freedoms.

In its statement, the association expressed its “deep solidarity and closeness to Iranian women, who are demonstrating in many ways to claim their freedom and against an oppression that has lasted for 40 years, putting their own lives at risk.”

Association president, Paola Briguori, described Tehran’s actions as “horrible and unacceptable,” adding that “when fundamental rights are undermined one cannot remain silent waiting for everything to calm down.”

Briguori said the crackdown on demonstrators reflected “the legacy of a regime that constantly violates human rights and freedom of expression, repressing and nullifying women’s rights. It is time to give voice to the disapproval and to say enough.”

President of the Italian National Press Federation, Beppe Giulietti, took part in a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Rome. He said the media had an important role to play in highlighting the situation in Iran and urged news organizations to “give space to those who have no voice today.”


UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights
Updated 05 October 2022

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights
  • The decree law stipulates the right of domestic workers to be paid annual leave of no less than 30 days

ABU DHABI: The UAE has issued a new federal law to strengthen domestic labor rights.

Decree Federal Law No.9 for 2022 covers all aspects of domestic labor law and guarantees the rights of all parties in a relationship, whether workers, employers or recruitment agents, in line with clear standards and frameworks, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Wednesday.

The decree law covers working hours, weekly breaks and leave for domestic workers and affirms the right of domestic workers to a paid day off per week, according to the law’s executive regulations.

The executive resolutions issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization are responsible for working hours and leaves.

The decree law stipulates the right of domestic workers to be paid annual leave of no less than 30 days, said WAM.

If the service period is less than a year and more than six months, workers are entitled to two days leave every month, and the employer can specify the start date of the annual leave.

Moreover, the decree law says if domestic workers wish to travel to their home countries on annual leave, employers must cover the cost of their return tickets once every two years.

The decree law affirms the right of domestic workers to sick leave for a period not exceeding 30 days during a contractual year, whether continuous or intermittent if the need for this leave can be proven by a medical report issued by an approved national health authority.

Furthermore, the decree law affirms the right of domestic workers to change their employer based on the requirements set in their contracts and if they have fulfilled their obligations to the original employer, according to the conditions and procedures included in the resolution of the ministry.

The decree law stipulates that the employer will inform the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization about any violations committed by a domestic worker against applicable laws.

Recruitment agents must administer the necessary medical examinations for domestic workers within a period not exceeding 30 days before their entry into the country, the decree law confirmed.

They must treat domestic workers in a humane way, not expose them to violence, and raise their awareness of the relevant authorities they must contact if their rights are violated, stressed the decree law.

The law also prohibits recruiting or temporarily hiring domestic workers without obtaining a license from the ministry, according to the executive regulation of the decree law and the ministry’s resolutions.

If domestic workers are recruited or employed on a temporary basis, they cannot be discriminated against based on by race, religion, nationality, social class or disability. Sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal, is prohibited, along with people being forced to work or do any actions that fall in the category of human trafficking.

The law, which was issued on Sept. 9, will come into force three months after the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.


Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force
Updated 05 October 2022

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force
  • Basij militia used to suppress widespread protests in Iran

RIYADH: Iranian teenage girls have heckled a member of the regime’s feared Basij paramilitary force, in a protest stemming from the death of a young woman at the hands of Iran’s morality police.

A video shared on social media shows the girls waving their headscarves in the air and chanting “get lost, Basiji” at the man who was meant to address a crowd of demonstrators. Unconfirmed reports said the video was taken in Shiraz on Tuesday.

The protest came in the third week of unrest over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, days after she was arrested by morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, in Tehran for allegedly wearing an incorrect headscarf. Her family say she was beaten in custody. Authorities claim she had a heart attack.

The Basij is a wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been designated as a terrorist organization by several states, including Saudi Arabia. Its members have been used against the ongoing protests, in which scores of people have died.

Many of the demonstrations are being led by women and girls, who have been flouting the law on compulsory headscarves in a symbolic show of their opposition to the regime.

A second video posted online this week showed a man yelling “death to the dictator” as girls, who had removed their headscarves, walked through traffic in the northwestern city of Sanandaj. An elderly woman was seen clapping in solidarity as the girls chanted “freedom.”

In a third clip, a teacher appeared to threaten students with expulsion if they did not cover their heads as they took part in a sit-down protest in a schoolyard.

Footage reportedly shot in Karaj meanwhile showed girls chasing a man, believed to be a member of the security forces, as he rode a motorcycle.


Jordan, Oman deepen ties as ministers agree education, science, tourism programs

Jordan, Oman deepen ties as ministers agree education, science, tourism programs
Updated 05 October 2022

Jordan, Oman deepen ties as ministers agree education, science, tourism programs

Jordan, Oman deepen ties as ministers agree education, science, tourism programs
  • Ministers agreed on programs for higher education, scientific research, and innovation between next year and 2025

MUSCAT: Jordan and Oman’s foreign ministers have signed agreements to deepen ties in education, science, and tourism.

Jordan’s Ayman Safadi on Wednesday met his Omani counterpart Badr Albusaidi in Muscat to follow up on recent talks between King Abdullah II and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, the Jordan News Agency reported.

The ministers signed executive programs for higher education, scientific research, and innovation between next year and 2025, and another on tourism cooperation up to 2026.

Safadi and Albusaidi also discussed preparations for Jordanian-Omani Joint Higher Committee meetings in Amman next year, as well as a business forum to be held on the sidelines.

Jordanian royals visit the National Museum of Oman and the House of Musical Arts at the Royal Opera House in Muscat. (Petra News Agency)

King Abdullah, accompanied by Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, visited the National Museum of Oman and the House of Musical Arts at the Royal Opera House in Muscat.

The royals were given an overview of the museum’s collections and artifacts and also attended a performance by the Royal Guard of Oman band.