Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador

Special Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also expected in the coming months to reciprocate a March visit to Ankara by his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog. (AFP)
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Updated 06 October 2022

Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador

Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador
  • Ankara appoints new envoy 4 years after last was expelled
  • Ambassador knows region, has experience: Analyst

ANKARA: Turkey has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, as both countries move to end four years in the diplomatic wilderness.

Sakir Ozkan Torunlar has been named to fill the role left empty after the two regional powers expelled each other’s ambassadors in 2018 in a row over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests on the Gaza border.

His appointment comes weeks after Israel named career diplomat Irit Lillian as its new ambassador to Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also expected in the coming months to reciprocate a March visit to Ankara by his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog.

Contrary to expectations, Torunlar is not a political appointee and is an experienced career diplomat. He was consul-general in Jerusalem and ambassador to Palestine between 2010 and 2014, and was awarded the Order of the Jerusalem Star by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel is expected to endorse Torunlar’s appointment.

Selin Nasi, a non-resident scholar in Eliamep’s Turkey Program, said that Ankara’s choice was positive for Israel.

“Previously, the foreign ministry was planning to appoint Turkey’s pro-government SETA Foundation foreign policy director, Ufuk Ulutas,” she said, who she added was seen in Israel as a “controversial figure” for his “anti-Israeli views” and lacked diplomatic experience.

Upcoming domestic elections in both countries had accelerated the reconciliation process, she said.

“Given the upcoming parliamentary elections in November, the Israeli side in a way tried to consolidate the process by naming its ambassador in advance, preventing possible interference of domestic politics,” she told Arab News.

“Turkey has also entered the election season. The government is trying to balance domestic concerns with its commitment to restoring ties with Israel,” said Nasi.

Experts say that Turkey and Israel want to deepen their cooperation in tourism, energy, agriculture, water technology, trade and defense.
 

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Nasi said defense cooperation had ground to a halt after the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship headed to Gaza as part of a “freedom flotilla.” Nine crew members died in the attack.

“The docking of the Turkish frigate Kemalreis at Haifa port on the sidelines of a NATO drill for the first time since the Mavi Marmara, indicates a possible thaw in this area as well. It will take time to repair broken trust,” she said.

Both countries’ opposition to the Iranian regime is also expected to push Turkey and Israel closer, she added.

“More importantly, as two militarily strong actors in the region, these two countries have the power to shift the balances on the ground when they cooperate.”

However, Nasi warned that Turkey’s ties with Hamas would be closely monitored by Israel and that domestic politics “may still interfere in the normalization process.”

According to an annual public opinion poll by the Mitvim Institute, an Israeli foreign policy think tank, 72 percent of respondents wanted strengthened relations with Turkey. The figure was up 12 percentage points on the poll last year.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said the choice of career diplomats by both sides was a good start to better relations as careful and skillful diplomacy was needed.

“There are a few challenges ahead: Elections in Israel, growing tensions in the West Bank, elections in Turkey.”

However, she said that a decision earlier this year to discuss an update to a 1996 free trade agreement was “a good opportunity to see where to expand the already flourishing trade relations between the countries.”

Turkey’s resumption of full diplomatic ties with Israel could also improve Ankara’s image in Washington, which has been damaged by its arms deals with Russia and squabbles in NATO.

The rapprochement is also expected to boost the Turkish tourism industry, Lindenstrauss added. “Israeli tourists are once again flocking to Turkey and we will soon see the return of Israeli airlines to Turkey,” she said.


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 14 sec ago

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the Abu Dhabi event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.


Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
  • Espionage group linked to IRGC gains access to emails of 3 victims

LONDON: Iran-backed hackers have staged a targeted campaign against more than a dozen high-profile human rights activists, journalists, academics and government officials, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization found that a coordinated phishing attack had been launched by an Iran-linked hacking entity known as APT42, believed to be a cyberespionage group.

The HRW report said that two of its employees were targeted, alongside 18 other people, resulting in the hacking of emails belonging to three individuals.

APT42 gained access to the emails, cloud storage, calendars and contacts of a US newspaper correspondent based in the Middle East, a Gulf-based women’s rights activist as well as a refugee advocate in Lebanon.

HRW said that the phishing attack was launched via WhatsApp, with 15 of the targets receiving suspicious messages between September and November this year.

The message, disguised as a conference invitation, allowed APT42 to gain access to the Google accounts of the three victims after they were invited to enter their two-factor authentication details on false pretenses.

Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy.

Since 2010, hackers and espionage groups linked to the regime in Tehran have successfully hacked and leaked the data of government, military and business targets around the world.

In September, APT42 members were sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

Google as well as cybersecurity businesses Recorded Future and Proofpoint have said that APT42 operates on behalf of Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Mandiant said that the group’s activities were directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

APT42 uses sophisticated social engineering strategies in disguising phishing attempts, HRW said.

In gaining the trust of victims, APT42 members use the real information of conference organizers to create fake accounts and contact high-profile activists and officials.

Previous attacks have seen the group impersonate members of the Munich Security Conference and the G20 Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia to contact targets and launch phishing attacks.

Abir Ghattas, information security director at HRW, said: “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups.

“This significantly increases the risks that journalists and human rights defenders face in Iran and elsewhere in the region.”

She added: “In a Middle East region rife with surveillance threats for activists, it’s essential for digital security researchers to not only publish and promote findings, but also prioritize the protection of the region’s embattled activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”


Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’

CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.


Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
Updated 23 min 49 sec ago

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
  • 1500tasvir Twitter account shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas like Tehran’s Bazaar
  • Amusement park in Tehran was earlier closed because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly

DUBAI:  Iranian shops shut their doors in several cities on Monday, following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters seeking the fall of clerical rulers, with the head of the judiciary blaming “rioters” for threatening shopkeepers.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in police custody, posing one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for flouting the strict hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarfs.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that an amusement park at a Tehran shopping center was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.
The reformist-leaning Hammihan newspaper said that morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran, where the force has been less active over recent weeks.
Iran’s public prosecutor on Saturday was cited by the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency as saying that the morality police had been disbanded. But there was no confirmation from the Interior Ministry and state media said the public prosecutor was not responsible for overseeing the force.
Last week, Vice President for Women’s Affairs Ensieh Khazali said that the hijab was part of the Islamic Republic’s general law and that it guaranteed women’s social movement and security.
In the shop protests, 1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos on Monday of shut stores in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Shiraz.
Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said that “rioters” were threatening shopkeepers to close their businesses and added they would be swiftly dealt with by the judiciary and security bodies. Ejei added that protesters condemned to death would soon be executed.
The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement praising the judiciary and calling on it to swiftly and decisively issue a judgment against “defendants accused of crimes against the security of the nation and Islam.”
Security forces would show no mercy toward “rioters, thugs, terrorists,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the guards as saying.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency confirmed that a jewelry shop belonging to former Iranian football legend Ali Daei was sealed by authorities, following its decision to close down for the three days of the general strike.
Similar footage by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts was shared of closed shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil and Lahijan.
Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw also reported that 19 cities had joined the general strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.


Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock
Updated 05 December 2022

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock
  • Framework agreement to adopt a ‘balanced’ foreign policy

CAIRO: Sudanese political parties signed a framework deal on Monday that provides for a two-year civilian-led transition towards elections and would end a standoff triggered by a coup in October 2021.

The deal — the first of at least two planned accords — was signed by Sudan’s ruling generals, Abdel-Fattah el-Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and the leaders from Sudan’s largest pro-democracy group, Forces of Freedom and Change, at the Khartoum’s Republican Palace.

The framework agreement puts an emphasis on a unified professional national army and will be committed to criminalize military coups, the parties said at the ceremony. 

The framework agreement will also adopt a “balanced” foreign policy that serves the interests of Sudan. 

It also set the transitional period at two years from the moment a prime minister is appointed. The agreement will expand the powers of the prime minister during the transitional period. 

Sudan has been gripped in a deep political crisis since a coup a year ago. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power in October 2021, derailing a rocky transition to civilian rule that had started after the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The past year has seen near-weekly protests and street clashes that have claimed 120 lives, a spiralling economic crisis and a rise in ethnic violence in several remote regions.

Divisions among civilian groups have deepened since the coup, with some urging a deal with the military while others insist on "no partnership, no negotiation".

The announced deal was negotiated in the presence of officials from the United Nations, African Union, the regional IGAD bloc and Western diplomats.

It is based on a proposal by the Sudanese Bar Association, said a statement by the main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, which was ousted in the coup.

In a first phase, "the framework agreement lays the groundwork for establishing a transitional civilian authority," said the FFC.

– with AFP and AP