Gulf Cooperation Council renews commitment to nuclear weapon-free Middle East

Gulf Cooperation Council renews commitment to nuclear weapon-free Middle East
Abdulaziz Alwasil, the permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN. (@ksamissionun/File)
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Updated 15 November 2022

Gulf Cooperation Council renews commitment to nuclear weapon-free Middle East

Gulf Cooperation Council renews commitment to nuclear weapon-free Middle East
  • Saudi envoy Abdulaziz Alwasil, speaking on behalf of the GCC, stressed the need for full and free access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy
  • He was speaking at the third Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

NEW YORK CITY: Gulf Cooperation Council member nations on Monday vowed to work together “and spare no effort” to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, while acknowledging that it will require the “political will” of all parties.

They also underscored “the legitimate right of states to peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” in line with the aims of the UN’s landmark 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, and called for full access to such technology, free of additional obligations.

Through its three pillars — prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons, the destruction of the existing nuclear arsenals, and promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy — the NPT has been the cornerstone of global non-proliferation efforts for more than half a century.

Speaking on behalf of GCC countries, Abdulaziz Alwasil, the permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, expressed concern at “ongoing clandestine nuclear activities in the Middle East” and the fact that there are “certain nuclear facilities that are not controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

This, he said, constitutes a “disservice to the goal of” achieving a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, will “weaken the efforts made toward confidence building,” and will “threaten international and regional peace and security.”

Alwasil was speaking during the third session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was established in 2018 by a UN General Assembly resolution.

A resolution on a Middle East zone free of WMDs was adopted at an NPT review conference in 1995 and further developed in 2010. Alwasil said that the outcomes of these two review conferences remain “the main benchmark to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.”

Israel, a nuclear power, is not a party to the NPT. Iran is a signatory but the IAEA has for months expressed concern about the removal of the agency’s monitoring equipment from Iranian nuclear facilities and the blocking of access to key sites in the country where enrichment of uranium is believed to have taken place.

Just three days ago, the US, UK, France and Germany called on the board of the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to pass a resolution reflecting the “essential and urgent” need for Iran to explain why traces of uranium have been found at three sites that were declared as being part of its nuclear research, Reuters reported.

The draft text of the resolution also notes that the board “expresses profound concern that the safeguards issues related to three undeclared locations remain outstanding due to insufficient substantive cooperation by Iran.”

Alwasil highlighted the importance of ensuring that all nuclear facilities are subject to the IAEA’s safeguards regime “to ensure that no unannounced nuclear activities are taking place in the region.”

Later, speaking on behalf of his own country, Alwasil said that Saudi Arabia has worked with “sisterly Arab countries to issue a General Assembly resolution that called for holding a meeting that will lead to a legally binding instrument to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery.”

He added: “My country supports all efforts aimed at establishing such a Middle East free zone, and our cooperation with the countries of the region to achieve that desired objective.

“Building trust measures and good neighborliness are important pillars to establish such a region and bring about regional peace and security.”

Reiterating the importance of securing the political will to achieve this goal, Alwasil said: “The continued clandestine nuclear activities in the Middle East, as well as nuclear facilities outside the supervision of the IAEA. would not serve the purpose of establishing such a free zone. It will instead lead to threats to international peace and security.”

He added: “The challenges facing the Middle East require concerted efforts to deescalate and build trust and express the goodwill among all countries of the region, to ensure peaceful coexistence and achieve development and prosperity for all peoples.

“The continued Israeli nuclear facilities outside the scope of monitoring by the IAEA, as well as the other clandestine nuclear activities, necessitate that we ensure these are for peaceful purposes and this is a real concern.

“We must ensure the peaceful nature of all nuclear activities in the region as a first step to achieving our primary objective, which is the establishment of a Middle East free zone.”

Alwasil said that Saudi Arabia, which actively participated in the previous two Conferences on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, welcomes an exchange of ideas and expertise on the legal framework for discussing this issue.

He also called for an exchange of ideas with countries that have already succeeded in achieving the goals of WMD-free zones in their regions, including in Africa, Latin America and Asia.


Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks
Updated 02 December 2022

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks
  • Turkiye is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters
  • Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier said operations against Daesh had not stopped

QAMISHLI: The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed group that helped defeat Daesh terrorists in Syria, has stopped all joint counter-terrorism operations as a result of Turkish bombardment on its area of control, a spokesman said Friday.
Turkiye has ramped up its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters that it dubs terrorists but which make up the bulk of the US-supported SDF.
The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources away from protecting a prison holding Daesh fighters or targeting Daesh sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Aram Henna told Reuters that “all coordination and joint counter-terrorism operations with the coalition” as well as “all the joint special operations we were carrying out regularly” had had been halted.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier told reporters that operations against Daesh had not stopped.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi earlier this week told Reuters he wanted a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments along the border.
“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkiye,” he said. “Turkiye has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyzes the positions of other countries.”


UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens
Updated 02 December 2022

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens
  • The third housing package of 2022 coincided with the UAE’s 51st National Day celebrations
  • UAE president earlier waived off over $146 million of debts for 1,214 Emirati citizens

DUBAI: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has ordered disbursement of housing loans worth $817 million for 1,900 Abu Dhabi citizens.

The third housing package of 2022 coincided with the UAE’s 51st National Day celebrations, marked on Dec.2, bringing the total value of housing support this year to almost $2 billion that benefitted over 4,000 citizens.

“It reflects the leadership’s commitment to ensuring social stability, enhancing living standards and enabling citizens to raise strong and stable families that will benefit the future of the UAE,” said a statement on Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The package includes housing loans, and the exemption of the retired and families of deceased borrowers in Abu Dhabi from loan repayments.

Ahead of the National Day, the UAE president earlier waived off over $146 million of debts for 1,214 Emirati citizens.

The Non-performing Debt Relief Fund said it would settle money owed by Emiratis in 17 banks, WAM earlier reported.


OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause
Updated 02 December 2022

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) welcomed the UN General Assembly’s adoption of five crucial resolutions on Palestine and the Middle East, including a text that calls on Israel to cease all actions aimed at ‘altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.‘
The Assembly adopted resolutions related to the mandate and work of the Committee on the “Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Division of Palestinian Rights in the United Nations Secretariat,” the media program on the Palestinian cause and the basic principles of a “peaceful solution” to the Palestinian cause.
It also adopted a resolution to commemorate Nakba Day, when Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948 following the foundation of Israel.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said, during the debate that Israeli exceptionalism has only emboldened Israel’s worst instincts, a UN Assembly noted.
“Today the Assembly will finally acknowledge the historical injustice that befell the Palestinian people, adopting a resolution that decides to commemorate in the Assembly Hall the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakba,” it added.
The OIC praised the positions of the countries that contributed to sponsoring and supporting these resolutions, affirming their commitment to international law and in line with their historical positions based on the principles of truth, justice and peace, state news agency SPA meanwhile reported.


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.