Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit
Morocco Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch receives Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at Rabat-Sale Airport in Rabat, on Feb. 1, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 02 February 2023

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit
  • Sanchez was speaking at a summit in Rabat where the two countries signed as many as 20 agreements to boost trade and investment
  • There have been regular diplomatic crises over Spain's enclaves in Africa

RABAT: Spain and Morocco have agreed to set aside their differences, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Thursday, as they seek to repair a relationship marked by frequent disputes over migration and territory.
Sanchez was speaking at a summit in Rabat where the two countries signed as many as 20 agreements to boost trade and investment, including credit lines of up to 800 million euros ($873 million).
“We have agreed on a commitment to mutual respect, whereby in our discourse and in our political practice we will avoid everything that we know offends the other party, especially regarding our respective spheres of sovereignty,” Sanchez said.
There have been regular diplomatic crises over Spain’s enclaves in Africa, Morocco’s dispute with rebels over the Western Sahara, and the arrival of thousands of illegal migrants in Spain each year through Morocco.
Morocco refuses to recognize Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, but last year the two countries agreed to open the first customs control points between the two.
Madrid says that reflects Rabat’s recognition of the enclaves as foreign territory, but Morocco has not confirmed the development and has given no public statement indicating that its long-held stance that the enclaves should be part of its territory has changed.
Sanchez restored cordial relations with Rabat in March 2022 after he reversed former colonial master Spain’s four-decade policy on the Western Sahara by backing Morocco’s proposal to create an autonomous region.
Forging peace between the neighbors has forced Sanchez’s Socialists into some uncomfortable positions.
Last month, its MEPs voted against a resolution in the European Parliament to call on Morocco to improve its record on press freedom. MEP Juan Fernando Lopez said this week that maintaining cordial neighborly relations sometimes involved “swallowing a toad.”
Spain’s about-turn on Western Sahara drew the ire of Algeria, a Polisario Front ally, which suspended trade with Spain and warned it could cut the flow of natural gas even as it forges closer gas ties with Italy.
In Rabat on Thursday, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch expressed satisfaction at Spain’s support for Morocco’s autonomy plan as the “most credible solution” to resolve the Western Sahara dispute, but did not reference an agreement to set aside all sovereignty disputes.


UK ex-FM: Support for Iraq invasion ‘one of my deepest regrets’

Former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband has described his support for Iraq War as “one of the deepest regrets” of his career.
Former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband has described his support for Iraq War as “one of the deepest regrets” of his career.
Updated 21 sec ago

UK ex-FM: Support for Iraq invasion ‘one of my deepest regrets’

Former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband has described his support for Iraq War as “one of the deepest regrets” of his career.
  • David Miliband: ‘I voted for the war. There’s no question in my mind about quite how serious a mistake that was’
  • ‘Ukraine has enormous poverty and crimes against its own population, but what about Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Palestine?’

LONDON: Former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband has described his support for the Iraq War as “one of the deepest regrets” of his political career, The Observer reported on Sunday.

Speaking at the Hay literature festival in Wales, Miliband said the war had resulted in “real damage” to the West’s moral integrity and claims of promoting international order and justice.

He added that the invasion of Iraq may also undermine anti-Russian stances in the West over allegations of hypocrisy.

“I voted for the war; I supported the government’s position. There’s no question in my mind about quite how serious a mistake that was,” said Miliband, who is now CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

He urged audience members to consider the words of Kenyan President William Ruto, who has encouraged greater attention to be given to other parts of the world, including Palestine and Afghanistan.

Miliband said: “Yes, Ukraine has enormous poverty and crimes against its own population, but what about Ethiopia, what about Afghanistan, what about Palestine?

“And I think that’s what we have to take very, very seriously if we want to understand what’s the role of the West, never mind the UK, in global politics.”

He described the Iraq War as a “strategic mistake,” partly due to the “global lesson that it allowed to be taught.”

Though the Iraq invasion “does not excuse what happened subsequently in Ukraine,” Miliband conceded that potential Western hypocrisy is a “very, very serious point.”

He added: “Ukraine has united the West, but it’s divided the West and wider parts of the world. Forty or 50 countries have refused to join any condemnation (of Russia), not because they support the invasion of Ukraine, but they feel that the West has been guilty of hypocrisy and weakness in dealing with global problems over the last 30 years.”


Erdogan seeks third decade of rule in Turkish runoff

Erdogan seeks third decade of rule in Turkish runoff
Updated 28 May 2023

Erdogan seeks third decade of rule in Turkish runoff

Erdogan seeks third decade of rule in Turkish runoff
  • More than 64 million people are eligible to cast ballots
  • Challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu described the runoff as a referendum on the country’s future

ISTANBUL: Turkiye voted Sunday in a historic runoff that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan entered as the firm favorite to extend two decades of his Islamic-rooted rule to 2028.
The NATO member’s longest-serving leader defied critics and doubters by emerging with a comfortable lead against his secular challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the first round on May 14.
The vote was nonetheless the toughest Erdogan has faced in one of the country’s most transformative eras since its creation as a post-Ottoman republic 100 years ago, resulting in its first-ever presidential runoff.
Kilicdaroglu cobbled together a powerful coalition of Erdogan’s disenchanted former allies with secular nationalists and religious conservatives.
Opposition supporters viewed it as a do-or-die chance to save Turkiye from being turned into an autocracy by a leader whose consolidation of power rivals that of Ottoman sultans.
But Erdogan, 69, still managed to come within a fraction of a percentage point of winning outright in the first round.
His success came in the face of one of the world’s worst cost-of-living crises — and with almost every opinion poll predicting his defeat.
“I’m going to vote for Erdogan. There is no one else like him,” 24-year-old Emir Bilgin said in a working-class district of Istanbul where the future president grew up playing street football.
Kilicdaroglu re-emerged a transformed man after the first round.
The former civil servant’s old message of social unity and democracy gave way to desk-thumping speeches about the need to immediately expel migrants and fight terrorism.
His right-wing turn was targeted at nationalists who emerged as the big winners of the parallel parliamentary elections.
The 74-year-old had always adhered to the firm nationalist principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the military commander who formed both Turkiye and Kilicdaroglu’s secular CHP party.
But these had played a secondary role to his promotion of socially liberal values practiced by younger voters and big-city residents.
Analysts question whether Kilicdaroglu’s gamble will work.
His informal alliance with a pro-Kurdish party left him exposed to charges from Erdogan of working with “terrorists.”
The government portrays the Kurdish party as the political wing of outlawed militants.
And Kilicdaroglu’s courtship of Turkiye’s hard right was hampered by the endorsement Erdogan received from an ultra-nationalist who finished third two weeks ago.
Erdogan has been lionized by poorer and more rural swathes of Turkiye’s fractured society because of his promotion of religious freedoms and modernization of once-dilapidated cities in the Anatolian heartland.
“It was important for me to keep what was gained over the past 20 years in Turkiye,” company director Mehmet Emin Ayaz told AFP before voting for Erdogan in Ankara.
“Turkiye isn’t what it was in the old days. There is a new Turkiye today,” the 64-year-old said

West anticipate vote result  
The political battles are being watched closely across world capitals because of Turkiye’s footprint in both Europe and the Middle East.
Erdogan’s warm ties with the West during his first decade in power were followed by a second in which he turned Turkiye into NATO’s problem child.
He launched a series of military incursions into Syria that infuriated European powers and put Turkish soldiers on the opposite side of Kurdish forces supported by the United States.
His personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has also survived the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine despite Western sanctions against Moscow.
Turkiye’s troubled economy is benefiting from a crucial deferment of payment on Russian energy imports, which helped Erdogan spend lavishly on campaign pledges this year.
Erdogan also delayed Finland’s membership of NATO and is still refusing to let Sweden join the US-led defense bloc.
The Eurasia Group consultancy said Erdogan was likely to continue trying to play world powers off each other should he win.
“Turkiye’s relations with the US and the EU will remain transactional and tense,” it said.

Impact on economy  
Turkiye’s unraveling economy will pose the most immediate test for whoever wins the vote.
Erdogan went through a series of central bankers until he found one who started enacting his wish to slash interest rates at all costs in 2021 — flouting the rules of conventional economics in the belief that lower rates can cure chronically high inflation.
Turkiye’s currency soon entered a freefall and the annual inflation rate touched 85 percent last year.
Erdogan has promised to continue these policies, despite predictions of economic peril from analysts.
Turkiye burned through tens of billions of dollars while trying to support the lira from politically sensitive falls ahead of the vote.
Many analysts say Turkiye must now hike interest rates or abandon its attempts to support the lira — two solutions that would incur economic pain.
“The day of reckoning for Turkiye’s economy and financial markets may now just be around the corner,” analysts at Capital Economics warned.


Miseries pile up for West Bank refugees as UNRWA workers’ strike continues

Miseries pile up for West Bank refugees as UNRWA workers’ strike continues
Updated 28 May 2023

Miseries pile up for West Bank refugees as UNRWA workers’ strike continues

Miseries pile up for West Bank refugees as UNRWA workers’ strike continues
  • Environmental and health disaster feared as piles of garbage accumulate on streets
  • The UNRWA administration requires urgent intervention to resolve the dispute with the staff and restore life to normal in the camps

RAMALLAH: Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank face a summer littered with waste due to an ongoing strike, sparking fears about disease outbreaks.

Piles of garbage have accumulated as more than 3,600 UN Relief and Work Agency workers have been on strike since Feb. 20.

Camp residents, who number about 960,000, continue to complain about their dire living conditions, which has also affected healthcare provision and impacted the education of 50,000 students.

The UNRWA claims that it does not have enough funds to raise the salaries of its workers and meet their demands.

The lack of garbage collection, combined with the halting of healthcare services, could lead to an environmental and health disaster with summer approaching, locals fear.

Youssef Baraka, from the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, told Arab News: “The refugee always pays the bill ... and we live in difficult conditions due to the continuation of the strike.

“Our children are without education, and our patients are without treatment.”

He said that individual efforts were being made to help patients with treatment and provide medical supplies, and that residents were trying to rid camps of garbage themselves where possible.

Taysir Nasrallah, from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, in the northern West Bank, told Arab News that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had set up a committee to meet with the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to find a quick solution to the crisis.

“The UNRWA administration requires urgent intervention to resolve the dispute with the staff and restore life to normal in the camps,” he told Arab News.

The UNRWA was set up in 1949 by the UN General Assembly to assist and protect Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Walid Masharqa, from the Jenin camp, said rubbish was piling up and sewage was seeping into the streets, while many basic medicines for chronic diseases are not currently available to residents.

“What is the fault of the Palestinian refugee, in the existence of wars and other humanitarian disasters in the world, for UNRWA to spoof its services to the Palestinian refugees?” Masharqa said to Arab News.

The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to provide services to refugees in the camps, he added.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UNRWA in the Middle East, told Arab News that talks were continuing with the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization to solve the strike problem.

Abu Hasna expects all parties to reach a solution soon.

He said that the UNRWA had approved an allowance of $268 for 300 of its employees in East Jerusalem due to its high prices, and employees in the West Bank were demanding the same.

But he said the UNRWA budget was unable bear the additional cost, as its funds have an annual deficit of $70 million.

Abu Hasna referred to the tremendous Saudi support for UNRWA, as it funded it for over 10 years with $1 billion, built entire cities and neighbourhoods and dozens of schools in the Gaza Strip, and saved UNRWA several times from collapse.

“King Salman personally established support for UNRWA since he was the governor of the Riyadh region and president of the Association for the Support of the Palestinian People, and the position of Saudi Arabia in strong support for UNRWA is considered a motivating factor for other countries to support UNRWA,” Abu Hasna told Arab News.

 


Iraq unveils $17bn transport project linking Europe and Mideast

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends a meeting with Transport Ministry representatives in Baghdad on Saturday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends a meeting with Transport Ministry representatives in Baghdad on Saturday.
Updated 27 May 2023

Iraq unveils $17bn transport project linking Europe and Mideast

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends a meeting with Transport Ministry representatives in Baghdad on Saturday.
  • Once completed, the $17 billion project known as the ‘Route of Development’ would span the length of the country, stretching 1,200 km from the northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Saturday presented an ambitious plan to turn itself into a regional transportation hub by developing its road and rail infrastructure, linking Europe with the Middle East.
Once completed, the $17 billion project known as the “Route of Development” would span the length of the country, stretching 1,200 km  from the northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south.
Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani announced the project during a conference with Transport Ministry representatives from Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkiye and the United Arab Emirates.
“We see this project as a pillar of a sustainable non-oil economy, a link that serves Iraq’s neighbors and the region, and a contribution to economic integration efforts,” Al-Sudani said. While further discussions are required, any country that wishes “will be able to carry out part of the project,” the Iraqi parliament’s transport committee said, adding the project could be completed in “three to five years.”
“The Route of Development will boost interdependence between the countries of the region,” Turkiye’s ambassador to Baghdad Ali Riza Guney said, without elaborating on what role his country would play in the project.
War-ravaged and beset by rampant corruption, oil-rich Iraq suffers from dilapidated infrastructure.
Its roads, riddled with potholes and poorly maintained, are in terrible condition.
Those connecting Baghdad to the north cross areas where sporadic attacks are still carried out by remnants of the Daesh group.
Al-Sudani has prioritized the reconstruction of the country’s road network, along with upgrading its failing electricity infrastructure.
Developing the road and rail corridor would allow Iraq to capitalize on its geographical position, with the aim of making the country a transportation hub for goods and people moving between the Gulf, Turkiye and Europe.
Work has already started to increase capacity at the commercial Port of Al-Faw, on the shores of the Gulf, where cargo is to be unloaded before it embarks on the new road and rail links.
The project also includes the construction of around 15 train stations along the route, including in the major cities of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and up to the Turkish border. The Gulf, largely bordered by Iran and Saudi Arabia, is a major shipping zone, especially for the transportation of hydrocarbons extracted by countries of the region.
Zyad Al-Hashemi, an Iraqi consultant on international transport, cast doubt on the plan to develop the country into a transportation hub, saying it lacks “fluidity.”
“Customers prefer to transport their goods directly from Asia to Europe, without going through a loading and unloading process,” that would see containers moved between ships and road or rail, he said.
Transport is a key sector in the global economy and Iraq’s announcement is the latest in other planned international megaprojects, including China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” announced in 2013 by its President Xi Jinping.
The planned works in that project would see 130 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa connected through land and sea infrastructure providing greater access to China.

 


Officials: UN chief ‘shocked’ by letter from Sudan’s military ruler demanding removal of UN envoy

Officials: UN chief ‘shocked’ by letter from Sudan’s military ruler demanding removal of UN envoy
Updated 27 May 2023

Officials: UN chief ‘shocked’ by letter from Sudan’s military ruler demanding removal of UN envoy

Officials: UN chief ‘shocked’ by letter from Sudan’s military ruler demanding removal of UN envoy
  • “The Secretary-General is shocked by the letter he received this (Friday) morning,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
  • According to the official, Burhan accused Perthes of “being partisan,” and that his approach in pre-war talks between the generals and the pro-democracy movement helped inflame the conflict

CAIRO: The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “shocked” by a letter from Sudan’s military ruler, demanding the removal of the UN envoy to the country, Sudanese and UN officials said Saturday.
The letter by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s top military official and head of the ruling Sovereign Council, comes as Sudan plunged into further chaos after worsening tensions between military rivals exploded into an open fighting last month.
“The Secretary-General is shocked by the letter he received this (Friday) morning,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “The Secretary-General is proud of the work done by (UN envoy) Volker Perthes and reaffirms his full confidence in his Special Representative.”
Dujarric didn’t reveal the contents of the letter. However, a senior military official said Burhan’s letter asked Guterres to replace Perthes who was appointed to the post in 2021.
According to the official, Burhan accused Perthes of “being partisan,” and that his approach in pre-war talks between the generals and the pro-democracy movement helped inflame the conflict. The talks had aimed at restoring the country’s democratic transition which was derailed by a military coup in Oct. 2021.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
Perthes declined to comment neither on the letter.
Burhan accused Perthes last year of “exceeding the UN mission’s mandate and of blatant interference in Sudanese affairs.” He threatened to expel him from the country.
The ongoing fighting broke out in mid-April between the military and the powerful Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Both Burhan and Dagalo led the 2021 coup that removed the western-backed government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The fighting centered in the capital of Khartoum, which was turned into a battleground along with its sister city of Omdurman. The clashes also spread elsewhere in the country, including the war-wracked Darfur region.
The conflict has killed hundreds of people, and wounded thousands of others, and pushed the country to near collapse. It forced more than 1.3 million out of their homes to safer areas inside Sudan, or to neighboring nations.
Sexual violence including rape of women and girls, a common practice in Sudan’s wars and political upheavals, were reported in Khartoum and Darfur since the fighting began.
The Combating Violence Against Women Unit, a government-run group, said on Friday it received reports of at least 24 cases of sexual attacks in Khartoum, and 25 other cases in Darfur.
The unit, which tracks violence against women across the country, said most of survivors reported that the attackers were in RSF uniform and in areas in Khartoum controlled by RSF checkpoints.
The RSF didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Both warring parties have agreed on a weeklong cease-fire, brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia. However, the truce, which is scheduled to expire Monday night, did not stop the fighting in parts of Khartoum and elsewhere in the county.
Residents reported sporadic clashes Saturday in parts of Omdurman, where the army’s aircrafts were seen flying over the city. There was also fighting reported in Al-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur.
Burhan’s letter came after the UN envoy accused the warring parties of disregarding the laws of war by attacking homes, shops, places of worship and water and electricity installations.
In his briefing to the UN Security Council earlier this week, Perthes blamed the leaders of the military and the RSF for the war, saying that they have chosen to “settle their unresolved conflict on the battlefield rather than at the table.”