LONDON: A Scottish engineer detained in Iraq over alleged outstanding debt owed to Qatar National Bank has been released and is expected to arrive home this week, The Guardian reported.
Brian Glendinning was intercepted by authorities at Baghdad airport in September after Qatar issued an Interpol red notice for his arrest.
He had been contracted to work at a BP oil refinery in the country.
It was claimed that the 43-year-old owed outstanding payments to QNB. He was subsequently held in an Iraqi prison, with several human rights organizations campaigning for his release.
Detained in Dubai, a campaign group, said that Glendinning was released on Sunday after QNB released a clearance note days earlier detailing that the Scot was no longer sought by Qatar for extradition.
In 2017, Glendinning was sentenced in absentia to two years’ imprisonment for defaulting on a $23,550 debt that he had taken out while living in Doha.
But his family claim that QNB did not inform Glendinning that he had been sentenced.
A crowdfunding campaign established by the family to aid in legal bills has raised more than $36,000.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai and the Interpol and Extradition Reform, or Ipex, initiative, said: “Mr. Glendinning’s lawyer Tahseen Alchaabawi gave us the good news this morning. It was an emotional moment for his family and I couldn’t be happier for the Glendinnings.”
Stirling accused Qatar of consistently abusing the Interpol system, and warned football fans to take precautions when traveling to the World Cup later this month.
She added: “Iraq was furnished with evidence from Qatar National Bank last week to prove the extradition was over bank debt.
“Brian is free due to a combination of lobbying and media efforts, negotiating and settling the debt with QNB and strong diplomatic representations.”
Through Ipex, Stirling plans to launch a class-action lawsuit against Interpol.
Glendinning’s brother John told the BBC that his sibling had been contacted by UK Embassy staff and was now staying in secure accommodation.
However, he described the conditions that his brother endured in the Iraqi prison as “vile.”
He said: “Brian was held in a holding cell with up to 44 people — a mixture of terrorists, drug dealers, people who murdered their own father, using a shotgun.”
“And there was Brian Glendinning, never missed a day of school and arguably on a civil case and held in those conditions.
“The welfare was extremely low. Bottles of water were kept where rats were visible crawling over them. Brown water out the taps for the shower and food was very poor.
“He’s in the hotel now. I’ve seen a photo of him with a beer and I’m so happy he’s free.
“It was really emotional for the family. Even our father teared up and he never cries. Kimberly (Glendinning’s partner), the children, they can breathe again. Now it’s just hours until they are together.”
A Foreign and Commonwealth Development office said that Glendinning was being provided with consular support.
NEW YORK: The international community must honor the climate action pledges it made at last year’s COP27 summit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday.
During his speech at the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, Shoukry warned about the future effects of climate change and said that at the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm Al-Sheikh last year, Egypt “managed to mobilize international consensus to achieve climate justice.”
He said: “We reached balanced decisions based on the agreed-upon responsibilities and principles as per the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and Paris Agreement.”
Shoukry called for the improvement of access to development funding for developing countries, and the creation of a “sustainable and comprehensive mechanism to look into the debts of low-income and middle-income countries in addition to looking into the restructuring of the complex structure of debts.”
The minister criticized what he described as an inadequate response to the climate crisis, saying that “certain countries have reneged on their pledges,” and urged the international community to commit to pledges and agreements reached at COP27, particularly the Loss and Damage Fund.
Water and climate change are undoubtedly linked, Shoukry said, adding that Egypt is in the midst of a severe water crisis that has forced the country to reuse water.
In the same vein, he added that Egypt depends on the Nile River to sustain itself, and strongly condemned any unilateral actions taken regarding transnational bodies of water.
“We refuse any unilateral procedures regarding the management of transboundary water, for example, the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which was created without consultation and without previous adequate studies or even any studies for the impact of other states,” he said.
However, Shoukry expressed his country’s desire to reach an agreement on the operation and filling of the dam that would take into account the needs of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.
He also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Palestine, saying that Egypt supports “the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state … with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.”
Regarding its southern neighbor, the minister called on countries neighboring Sudan to “settle the current crisis and to mitigate the humanitarian repercussions thereof,” adding that Egypt is working to negotiate a cease-fire and political solution to the conflict.
On the global economic stage, Shoukry said that Egypt “looks forward to playing an active role in BRICS to advocate for the interests and aspirations of 30 percent of the global economy in the global south.”
Egypt applied to join the economic bloc this year and will become a full member of BRICS in early 2024.
‘This is the best opportunity for peace in Yemen since the war broke out,’ US special envoy tells Arab News
On the sidelines of UNGA, Tim Lenderking discussed how truce might pave the way for an end to conflict
He said “I am 24/7 on Yemen. Yemen is my goal. It is my heart’s mission. It is my team’s mission”
Updated 5 min 11 sec ago
NEW YORK CITY: In their first official visit to Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war erupted in 2014, Houthi envoys arrived in Riyadh last week for five days of talks on a potential agreement that could bring an end to hostilities.
Progress has been reported on many of the main sticking points, including a timeline for foreign troops to leave Yemen, and a mechanism for paying public servants’ salaries. A full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, along with reconstruction efforts, was also among the issues discussed.
Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, praised the meetings — the highest-level, public negotiations with the Houthis in the Kingdom in the past nine years — as “a moment of opportunity.” The Saudi government “welcomed the positive results of the serious discussions.”
But despite the general decline in violence in Yemen, UN officials have cautioned that the situation on the ground remains “fragile and challenging” and “the front lines are not silent.”
According to Timothy Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen since February 2021, Washington is working tirelessly to end the conflict, which has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands, and left 80 percent of Yemen’s population dependent on humanitarian aid.
“I am 24/7 on Yemen. Yemen is my goal. It is my heart’s mission. It is my team’s mission,” Lenderking told Arab News in an interview in New York City on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.
“It’s the (Biden) administration’s mission to see that this terrible war, which has displaced and killed so many people and distracted the region, can be brought to a close in a just and comprehensive manner.”
Although the past year has been marked by both humanitarian challenges and de-escalation in Yemen, Lenderking, a career diplomat whose official title is deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs, has generally voiced optimism since the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels reached a truce agreement in April 2022.
Tim Lenderking said meetings held by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Yemen show the international community’s determination to move the peace process forward.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman reaffirmed the Kingdom’s “commitment to promoting dialogue among all parties” when he met Houthi negotiators during their recent five-day visit to Riyadh.
Last year on the sidelines of the 77th General Assembly, a few months after the truce came into effect, he told Arab News that the benefits accruing to the Yemeni people had opened the door for a durable ceasefire to be agreed in the following months.
“My optimism last year was not misplaced because after the truce we have continued in a period of de-escalation that has lasted 18 months, with no cross-border attacks,” Lenderking said.
“Recall the pace and the fury of those attacks in the earlier days of the war, including more than 400 attacks from Yemen in 2020. The commercial capital’s airport, Sanaa, has been open for commercial flights. Those have expanded from three to six per week.”
Lenderking described the development as “a drop in the bucket,” but added that “it still represents good progress and tangible benefits” for the Yemeni population.
“After all, these are two sides who have been fighting intensely for the past several years. And to have them talking and visiting and spending days in each other’s capitals is a very important development,” he said.
“No one’s saying there is a breakthrough, but it appears that these contacts were positive enough that they will continue. We are very keen to see them drive to positive results, begin to untangle the distrust that has prevailed. They are going to have to live together eventually.”
He added: “The considerable efforts that have been exerted very positively between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, that needs to transition to the UN-led process. We want to move beyond the current truce — which is very positive but not enough — into a durable ceasefire and Yemeni-Yemeni political talks.
“This is how Yemen’s future gets decided. Not by the outside powers. Not by one party in Yemen dictating to another. (It) has to be an inclusive Yemeni-Yemeni process. And there is an international consensus behind this and supporting it.”
Lenderking said that the presence of Rashad Al-Alimi, chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council in several meetings involving the US and the P3 (the three permanent members of the Security Council: US, UK and France) underscored the strong signals of international support for his leadership.
All these factors provide reason to believe that with international backing, progress toward a UN-led initiative and Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue is possible in the near future, he said.
(At the UNGA general debate on Thursday, Al-Alimi urged the international community to do more to stop the flow of arms and resources to the Houthi, and warned that “the institutions of Yemen will not have the necessary resources to deal with these cross-border challenges” if funds are not directed to recognized governmental financial institutions.)
Asked whether the Saudi-Iran rapprochement played a role in bringing the warring Yemeni parties to the present point, Lenderking said that much of the groundwork that was done to achieve and maintain the truce was well in motion even before the Chinese-brokered deal between the two Middle East powers was announced on March 10 this year.
“What we are looking to see from the Saudi-Iran deal is whether Iran’s posture toward Yemen has changed. Is it moving away from smuggling lethal weapons and aid for the Houthis that fueled the war effort, violating Security Council resolutions? And is Iran going to support a political solution?” Lenderking said.
“We hear that they are moving in this direction. We have seen some positive public statements from Iran. A new posture from Iran toward Yemen supporting the positive trajectory would be well received by the United States.”
The fact that the Houthis have chosen not to resume hostilities despite the lapse of the truce is of great significance, Lenderking said, adding that this could point to a change in the Houthi mindset while the extended phase of de-escalation continues.
He believes the group has demonstrated a refreshing willingness to release detainees and engage in discussions with the opposing party in the context of military committees.
This level of engagement “was not happening at this pace throughout the entirety of the war; this is the best opportunity for peace that Yemen has had since this war broke out almost 10 years ago. And that’s why US efforts are so energetic and so vigorous at this point,” he said.
“Here in New York City, Secretary Blinken (had) at least three meetings that focused on Yemen while he was here. Bear in mind the (extensive list of topics on the) international agenda in New York: climate, Russia-Ukraine, other humanitarian considerations. So, Yemen is getting some time here among world leaders, which we think is very positive.”
Although diplomatic channels between the US and Russia have been all but cut off since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there is no disagreement among the P5 on the way forward in Yemen.
The P5 are united on the need for a political solution, and this unity is a “great asset for us to have,” Lenderking said.
“The Security Council has shown considerable unity, a strong support for (Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen Hans) Grunberg’s efforts, support for (the) humanitarian crisis. This is a blessing. We really have to take advantage of the fact that there is this united positioning between key players.
“We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to support for peace in Yemen. We have to work toward solutions. We have to be very, very aggressive about maintaining what progress we make.”
One of this year’s notable success stories of the multilateral system also has to do with Yemen. The threat of a massive oil spill in the Red Sea had been averted, after more than a million barrels of oil were transferred to a salvage ship from the Safer tanker, a decaying storage vessel that had been moored off the coast of Yemen for years and described as a “ticking time bomb.”
“I think it is an incredible story because (of) an unlikely coalition of private sector, including oil companies, national governments, and a crowdfunding effort that tapped into individuals around the world. School kids in Bethesda, Maryland, sold lemonade because they got swept up by the environmental consequences of this oil spill had it happened,” Lenderking said.
“And it’s kind of a model for cooperation because we worked together to avert a problem before it became a crisis. That doesn’t happen very often on the world stage. Here in New York, nearly every conversation is about something that has happened already and needs to be dialed back. So, this was a terrific effort.”
On the downside, Yemen continues to be one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. In 2023, 21.6 million Yemenis require some form of humanitarian assistance as 80 percent of the population struggles to put food on the table and access basic services. The UN has appealed for funding, with only 30 percent of the target having been met so far.
“Yemen’s economy has been in ruins. The country’s economic capacity has to be revitalized,” Lenderking said. “I think there’s eagerness to do this. We are in regular contact with the international financial institutions ... IMF, World Bank. And then there’s the distrust that has to be worked at through the kind of personal engagement that we’re seeing between the parties that until recently were shooting at each other. They are talking now.
“Now, the common outcome and objective must be peace: a peace agreement, threading together these various positive strands and pushing them with international support under UN leadership. It ultimately falls to the UN to put a roadmap together, capitalize on all of this positive movement and drive it toward Yemeni-Yemeni negotiations.”
Israel foreign ministry congratulates Saudi Arabia on National Day
First time a National Day message had been shared on the English-language account
Updated 35 min 31 sec ago
LONDON: Israel shared a post congratulating Saudi Arabia on the occasion of its National Day on Saturday.
“We send our sincere congratulations to the king, government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the 93rd national day,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement posted to its account on X, formerly Twitter.
“May Allah bring you goodness and blessings, security and prosperity with our wishes for an atmosphere of peace, cooperation and good neighbourliness,” it added in the statement on its English and Arabic-language accounts.
We send our sincere congratulations to the King, Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the ninety-third National Day.
May Allah bring you goodness and blessings, security and prosperity with our wishes for an atmosphere of peace, cooperation… pic.twitter.com/GzVt09c1yg
Lebanon education bosses move to ban book with Israeli flag on cover
Legal measures planned against those who committed fraudulent copying, printing, and distortion of textbook
Updated 23 September 2023
BEIRUT: The Lebanese Ministry of Education has warned schools in Lebanon against adopting copies of the book “National Education and Civic Upbringing” with the Israeli flag on its cover.
The book, which was reprinted by an unidentified publishing house for sale in the markets, had a picture of the UN building printed on its cover with the Israeli flag appearing among the flags of other countries.
The ministry monitored the copying and reprinting of textbooks issued by the Educational Center for Research and Development, including “National Education and Civic Upbringing.”
However, printing and distribution of official schools is restricted to the Educational Center for Research and Development based on the constitution and the Taif Agreement.
The press office of Education Minister Abbas Al-Halabi said that he had decided to take legal measures and prosecute “all those who committed fraudulent copying, printing, and distortion of the unified education textbook and violated the exclusive right of the Educational Center for Research and Development to reproduce the national textbook series.”
The minister called on the security authorities to take action to prevent this, which was mainly caused by the economic conditions, the decline in the value of the Lebanese pound against the dollar, and the failure of any company or publishing house to participate in the tenders designated for printing the national book.
Dr. Hiam Ishaq, head of the Educational Center for Research and Development, told Arab News that legal prosecutions had previously taken place against publishing houses that produced textbooks illegally some time ago, and warnings and rulings were implemented against them.
However, the owner of this publishing house repeated the violation — this time with a grave error related to the existence of an Israeli flag on the cover of the book.
The preparation of the textbook is subject to educational specifications stipulated in the documents of the Educational Center for Research and Development.
Dr. Ishaq said that the National Education textbook ranges from the first grade of basic education to the high school grade.
“The National Educational Center for Research and Development announces tenders for applicants from publishing houses wishing to print the textbook and the Ministry of Education buys it from them,” Ishaq said.
“But with the collapse of the Lebanese pound, and the fact that the state deals in the Lebanese pound only, no publishing houses applied this year to print the textbook.
“Previously, UNICEF printed textbooks for the past two years, but it informed us that this year it had no budget for this matter.
“It used to ask students in public schools who received textbooks for free to recycle them by giving them to students who would move to the same grade, with the exception of practical books that could not be recycled.
“In light of the chaos, publishing houses decided to print the textbooks and sell them, and this is against the law and violates intellectual property and the legal right to production.”
According to Ishaq, the National Educational Center for Research and Development is turning to the e-book for publication— a project that has moved to the application stage.
“The problem lies in the fact that not all public-school students have a device to use this application, and we may resort to a PDF version of the lessons required of the students.”
Aswan governorate launches tourism app for ‘the best winter resort in the world’
Attia claimed that Aswan is “one of the best governorates in the field of tourism, and the best winter resort in the world”
The new app, he explained, allows tourists to access “all necessary information, such as tourist places, hotels, and hospitals”
Updated 23 September 2023
CAIRO: The Egyptian Governorate of Aswan in Upper Egypt has rolled out a new app to serve tourists.
According to Aswan Gov. Major General Ashraf Attia, the application been well-received so far. “It has significantly contributed to facilitating (tourists’) trips, saving both time and effort,” he said in a video published by the Information and Decision Support Center of the Council of Ministers and on his official Facebook page.
Attia claimed that Aswan is “one of the best governorates in the field of tourism, and the best winter resort in the world.”
The new app, he explained, allows tourists to access “all necessary information, such as tourist places, hotels, and hospitals.”
He continued: “The reaction we have received from tourists who have downloaded the application has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly during meetings with tourists in floating or fixed hotels, or during tours. The program has achieved great success.”
Bassem Halaqa, the head of the Tourism Workers Syndicate, highlighted the assistance the application has provided to Russian tourists, who currently make up the majority of visitors to Egypt, saying it had “significantly eased navigation” around Aswan.
“It underscores the importance of Russian tourists in supporting and revitalizing the tourism sector due to the close geographical proximity between Russia and Egypt, the availability of economical flights, and balanced prices for the services they receive,” he said.
Halaqa noted that Russia is cold for most of the year, and Egypt serves as a “warm haven” for Russian tourists.
“They particularly enjoy Aswan and the beaches of the Red Sea in Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh,” he said. “Some (like) to take day trips to visit the antiquities in Aswan and Luxor or travel to Cairo and Giza.”
Halaqa said that proposals to allow closed residential buildings to be converted into hotels are currently under consideration at the Ministry of Tourism. The initiative will focus not only on luxury tourism, but on two- and three-star accommodation as well, he added.