Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal

Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal
1 / 3
A project to develop the southern sector of the canal will improve navigational safety and increase the number of ships that can use the vital link. (Twitter: @SuezAuthorityEG)
Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal
2 / 3
Fishermen in boats sail across the Suez Canal near Ismailia, eastern Egypt, on January 9, 2023. (AFP)
Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal
3 / 3
A project to develop the southern sector of the canal will improve navigational safety and increase the number of ships that can use the vital link. (Twitter: @SuezAuthorityEG)
Short Url
Updated 13 January 2023

Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal

Egypt cited for efforts to improve navigation in Suez Canal
  • Visit included an inspection of improvement works on a section of the canal

CAIRO: A top US official has praised efforts by Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority to improve navigation in the waterway and ensure the safe passage of ships.

Mira Resnick, US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, was speaking during her first official visit to the canal.

Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, received her at the Guidance Building in Ismailia.

The visit included an inspection of improvement works on a section of the canal.

Rabie said that Resnick’s visit reflects the long-standing cooperation between Egypt and the US concerning the waterway, which has a key role in serving global trade.

A project to develop the southern sector of the canal will improve navigational safety and increase the number of ships that can use the vital link, he said.

Completion of a maritime safety and security system will also strengthen navigational and rescue services.

Resnick praised the efficiency of the Suez Canal Authority in managing the crisis that unfolded when the giant container ship Ever Given ran aground in 2021.

The accident “showed the whole world the importance of the canal, and its ability to deal with emergency situations and challenges,” she said.

 

 


US officials, Syria experts urge Biden administration to resist any Assad normalization process

The letter came amid a growing sense among many that Assad is slowly being welcomed back into the fold by other leaders
The letter came amid a growing sense among many that Assad is slowly being welcomed back into the fold by other leaders
Updated 57 min 17 sec ago

US officials, Syria experts urge Biden administration to resist any Assad normalization process

The letter came amid a growing sense among many that Assad is slowly being welcomed back into the fold by other leaders
  • Charles Lister, coordinator of the joint letter, said the official US message is ‘We will never normalize and we discourage normalization,’ but this is not the same as ‘Don’t you dare normalize’
  • The letter also highlighted the need for a formal ceasefire in Syria, which the signatories said would allow for a more efficient and coordinated aid effort and could ignite a political process

LONDON: A group of American former officials and experts on Syria have written to US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging their administration to push back against any efforts to normalize the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The signatories to the letter include former US special envoys to Syria Frederic Hof, James Jeffrey and Joel Rayburn; Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the former chief of US Central Command; John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA; and William Roebuck, the former US deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.

The missive outlines their concerns about Biden’s strategy for Syria, where a brutal civil war raging since 2011 has left half a million people dead and millions displaced in one of the world’s worst refugee crises.

“Unconditional regime normalization is not inevitable,” according to the authors of the letter. “Opposing regime normalization in word only is not enough, as tacitly allowing it is short-sighted and damaging to any hope for regional security and stability.”

Biden has previously indicated that the US will not normalize the Syrian regime and will not encourage its partners or other nations to do so. It comes amid a growing sense among many that Assad is slowly being welcomed back into the fold by other leaders, regionally and globally.

“(The US) message is, ‘We will never normalize and we discourage normalization,’” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at Middle East Institute and coordinator of the letter. “None of that is, ‘Don’t you dare normalize with the regime.’”

The letter also highlighted the need for a formal ceasefire in Syria, which the authors said would allow for a more efficient and coordinated aid effort and could ignite a political process. Any normalization of the Assad regime, they added, would erode the “international community’s capacity to shape a political process aimed at meaningfully resolving the crisis.”

They continued: “None of the issues that caused the Syria conflict have been resolved, most notably Assad regime atrocities, and inability or refusal to reform.

“Many of the conflict’s symptoms are worsening, from human suffering, industrial-scale drug trafficking, refugee flows, terrorism, geopolitical conflict and ethnic and sectarian hostilities.

“The Biden administration’s foreign-policy priorities of great-power competition, international and Middle East stability, human rights, humanitarianism, or combating food insecurity are insufficiently advanced through the current Syria policy.”

Lister said that regional moves to normalize relations with the Assad regime are inevitable because the US and its allies have been lackluster and are “nowhere to be seen” when it comes to the Syria crisis. If the West is not willing to push for accountability and justice over Assad’s atrocities, he asked, “why should regional states?”

The letter also includes a number of recommendations, including an alternative strategy for humanitarian aid to the Syrian people in the aftermath of the Feb. 6 earthquakes that hit the north of the country and neighboring Turkiye, and increased pressure on the governments of other countries to repatriate the thousands of their citizens who fought alongside Daesh and are now detained, with their families, in Syrian camps.

Prominent Emirati professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said he believes the regional approach to Syria, while differing from the US and European policy, will ultimately win out through a process of re-engagement with Damascus.

He said a rapprochement could benefit the region because “more Arab presence probably will translate into less Iranian presence” in the corridors of power in Damascus, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported.


Israel tensions ease as Netanyahu pauses judicial overhaul

Israel tensions ease as Netanyahu pauses judicial overhaul
Updated 28 March 2023

Israel tensions ease as Netanyahu pauses judicial overhaul

Israel tensions ease as Netanyahu pauses judicial overhaul
  • Embattled leader acknowledges divisions roiling the nation, announces delay for the legislation
  • Critics say the legislative package would hobble the country’s system of checks and balances

TEL AVIV: Israel’s political factions opposed to embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began setting up negotiating teams Tuesday after he paused a controversial judicial overhaul plan that had set off unprecedented street protests and a spiraling domestic crisis.
But compromise seemed elusive as the standoff remains over the fundamental issue of what kind of country Israel should be — and positions only appear to have hardened. Three months of demonstrations against the overhaul plan intensified this week and Israel’s main trade union declared a general strike, leading to chaos that shut down much of the country and threatened to paralyze the economy.
Netanyahu in a prime-time speech on Monday night acknowledged the divisions roiling the nation and announced a monthlong delay for the legislation.
He said he wanted “to avoid civil war” and would seek a compromise with political opponents. Netanyahu spoke after tens of thousands of people demonstrated outside the parliament building in Jerusalem.
His announcement appeared to calm some of the tensions that have fueled months of unrest. But it failed to address the underlying issues that have polarized Israelis. Netanyahu leads the most right-wing government in Israeli history and and his allies have vowed to enact the legislation.
A flurry of phone calls between rival opposition leaders followed Netanyahu’s announcement and lasted into Tuesday morning, with several working groups named as the protests subsided and Israel’s largest labor union called off its general strike.
“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue,” Netanyahu said in his speech. He vowed to reach a “broad consensus” during the summer session of parliament, which begins on April 30.
The country’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, said pausing the legislative blitz was “the right thing” and offered to oversee the negotiating teams. He spoke in separate phone calls with Netanyahu, opposition leader Yair Lapid and National Union Party Chairman Benny Gantz, his office said.
“This is the time for frank, serious and responsible discussion that will lead urgently to calming spirits and lowering the flames,” Herzog said.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist who has pushed for quick passage of the package, said it ““will pass,” though he would respect the delay. “No one will scare us,” he tweeted.
Critics say the legislative package would hobble the country’s system of checks and balances. Protesters vowed to intensify their demonstrations.
The overhaul would give Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his allies the final say in appointing the nation’s judges. It would also give parliament, which is controlled by his allies, authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.
Netanyahu has argued that the overhaul is needed to rein in a liberal and overly interventionist court of unelected judges. But his opponents say the package would concentrate too much power in the hands of Netanyahu’s allies. They also say that he has a conflict of interest as a criminal defendant.
Large swaths of Israeli society and governments around the world condemned the overhaul. Business leaders, top economists and former security chiefs have all come out against the plan, saying it is pushing the country toward an autocracy. Fighter pilots and military reservists have threatened not to report for duty, and the country’s currency, the shekel, has tumbled in value.
Tens of thousands of people, largely secular, middle-class Israelis, have regularly joined mass protests against it.
The situation escalated on Sunday night after Netanyahu abruptly fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had urged him to put his plan on hold, citing concerns about damage to the Israeli military.
Chanting “the country is on fire,” furious protesters lit bonfires on Tel Aviv’s main highway, closing the thoroughfare and many others throughout the country for hours. Demonstrators continued Monday outside the Knesset, or parliament, turning the streets surrounding the building and the Supreme Court into a roiling sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags dotted with rainbow Pride banners.
Departing flights from the main international airport were grounded, stranding tens of thousands of travelers. Large mall chains and universities closed their doors, and the union called for its 800,000 members to stop work in health care, transit, banking and other fields.
Israel’s Palestinian citizens have largely sat out the protests. Many say Israel’s democracy is tarnished by its military rule over their brethren in the West Bank and the discrimination they themselves face.
Even with the big issues standing, officials inside and outside Israel signaled relief that the pause had bought some time.
“I had a nice night of sleep last night, thank God,” US Ambassador Tom Nides said Tuesday on Israel Army Radio. “This morning I’m optimistic and I applaud the move.”


Photographer Platon and UN produce film to humanize refugees and shed light on their plight

Photographer Platon and UN produce film to humanize refugees and shed light on their plight
Updated 28 March 2023

Photographer Platon and UN produce film to humanize refugees and shed light on their plight

Photographer Platon and UN produce film to humanize refugees and shed light on their plight
  • The 18-minute movie, ‘Portrait of a Stranger,’ features interviews with more than 20 refugees who fled conflicts and persecution in various parts of the world
  • It premiered at the Movies That Matter International Human Rights Film Festival, which is taking place this week in The Hague

THE HAGUE: British photographer and storyteller Platon and the UN Refugee Agency have unveiled a collaborative film and multimedia project that explores the plight of refugees.

“Portrait of a Stranger,” an 18-minute film that features interviews with more than 20 refugees who fled conflicts and persecution around the world, premiered at the Movies That Matter International Human Rights Film Festival, which is taking place this week in The Hague, the Emirates News Agency reported.

Its creators said it seeks to reframe the narratives surrounding people who are forced to flee their homes, while also examining the universal desire to be free, safe, respected and valued, and to belong.

The refugees who appear in the film represent a diverse range of ages, nationalities, ethnicities and personal circumstances. Audiences are asked to look beyond the differences between people and instead focus on what we have in common.

“Living in exile may be their life circumstance but it is not what defines them,” said Platon. “I hope the images and voices of the refugees in this film will help audiences focus on the shared humanity that unites us, rather than the barriers that divide us — not only for these particular refugees but for all people forced to flee around the world.”

In 2022, more than 100 million people were displaced, globally.

“This film and these images are powerful reminders of who refugees really are,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “They are people like your neighbor, your friend, your colleague, like you and me, each with our own personality, our hopes, our dreams.

“By amplifying the voices of refugees, the film offers an important reality check to counter the negative public discourse we often hear about people forced to flee.”


US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks – White House

US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks – White House
Updated 28 March 2023

US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks – White House

US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks – White House
  • Syria’s foreign ministry on Sunday condemned the US air strikes
  • ‘There’s been no change in the US footprint in Syria as a result of what happened the last few days’

WASHINGTON: The United States will not back away from its nearly eight-year-old deployment to Syria, where it is battling the remnants of Daesh, despite attacks on US forces there last week by Iran-backed militia, the White House said on Monday.
A one-way attack drone struck a US base in Syria on March 23, killing an American contractor, injuring another and wounding five US troops.
That triggered US retaliatory air strikes and exchanges of fire that a Syrian war monitoring group said killed three Syrian troops, 11 Syrian fighters in pro-government militias and five non-Syrian fighters who were aligned with the government.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said he was not aware of any additional attacks over the past 36 hours but cautioned, “We’re going to stay vigilant.”
Kirby also referred to President Joe Biden’s remarks on Friday, in which Biden warned Iran that the United States would act forcefully to protect Americans.
“There’s been no change in the US footprint in Syria as a result of what happened the last few days,” Kirby said, adding the mission against Daesh would continue.
“We’re not going to be deterred ... by these attacks from these militant groups.”
Syria’s foreign ministry on Sunday condemned US strikes, saying Washington had lied about what was targeted and pledging to “end the American occupation” of its territory.
Iran’s foreign ministry also condemned the strikes, accusing US forces of targeting “civilian sites.”
US forces first deployed into Syria during the Obama administration’s campaign against Daesh, partnering with a Kurdish-led group called the Syrian Democratic Forces. There are about 900 US troops in Syria, most of them in the east.
Prior to the latest spate of attacks, US troops in Syria had been attacked by Iranian-backed groups about 78 times since the beginning of 2021, according to the US military.
Iran has been a major backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad during Syria’s 12-year conflict.
Iran’s proxy militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah and pro-Tehran Iraqi groups, hold sway in swathes of eastern, southern and northern Syria and in suburbs around the capital, Damascus.

 


Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault 

Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault 
Updated 28 March 2023

Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault 

Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault 
  • International envoys criticize militia attacks and call for de-escalation

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Yemen’s presidential council has promised to confront the “terrorist” Houthis and called for resistance as international envoys criticized the militia’s renewed assault.

The council, chaired by Rashad Al-Alimi, said the latest Houthi attacks, primarily in Marib and Shabwa, demonstrated that the militia had no wish to end the war. It promised to thwart their advances and said it would help people in Houthi-controlled areas to resist their domination.

“The council urged the international community to recognize the gravity of this terrorist escalation, with the continuous smuggling of additional Iranian weaponry to militias, and the disastrous consequences for world peace and security,” the council was quoted by the SABA news agency as saying.

It did not specify how it would respond but pledged to “take all steps necessary to protect public interests and deter terrorist groups.”

The eight-man presidential council has faced increasing public pressure to launch counter-strikes since the militia attacked oil installations in Hadramout and Shabwa provinces last year.

The Houthis have made minor advances in Shabwa and Marib since early last week, targeting government forces with heavy weaponry and explosive drones.

The Houthis seized some villages in Marib’s Hareb and Shabwa’s Merkhah Al-Ulya districts before government troops received reinforcements and pushed them back.

The militia also attempted to assassinate Taiz Governor Nabeil Shamsan, targeting his car with artillery and missiles on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Western ambassadors in Yemen have condemned the renewed attacks and urged the Houthis to de-escalate and comply with efforts to end the war.

Richard Oppenheim, the British ambassador, said the militia must “cease their provocative actions and show genuine commitment to peace in Yemen.”

Steven Fagin, the US ambassador, said: “We condemn the recent Houthi escalation in Taiz and Marib, which led to fatalities, and express our condolences to the victims' families. 

“The Houthis must stop exacerbating Yemenis’ suffering and support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

Yemeni government officials say that the Houthi escalation coincided with the eighth anniversary of the Arab coalition’s military intervention to show that they had not been defeated.

“The Houthis took advantage of the anniversary of Decisive Storm and Ramadan to demonstrate their might,” a Yemeni government official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Arab News.