Israel’s Herzog meets UAE counterpart to push for hostage release
During his meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Herzog underlined ‘the necessity to act in any way possible to free the Israeli hostages’
Since the truce began on Nov. 24, 70 Israeli hostages have been freed in return for 210 Palestinian prisoners
Updated 10 sec ago
DUBAI: Israeli President Isaac Herzog met his Emirati counterpart on the sidelines of UN climate talks on Thursday as part of a diplomatic push to release hostages held by Hamas. Herzog’s visit to the United Arab Emirates comes nearly eight weeks into the Israel-Hamas war and coincides with a day-long extension to a truce that has seen Israeli hostages freed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. During his meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Herzog underlined “the necessity to act in any way possible to free the Israeli hostages held captive by the murderous terrorist organization Hamas,” a statement from his office said. He “appealed” to his Emirati counterpart “to employ his full political weight to promote and speed up the return home of the hostages,” the statement said. In a separate statement on X, formerly Twitter, Herzog said he would hold “a series of diplomatic meetings” in Dubai to push for the release of hostages. More than 140 heads of state and government are due to address COP28 on Friday and Saturday, including Herzog, who is scheduled to make a speech lasting three minutes on Friday. “In my meetings with world leaders I intend to raise the firm demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza,” Herzog said. “In addition, I will detail and emphasize efforts to provide more and more humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza,” he added. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was also scheduled to speak at COP28 but his office said he was no longer going and his foreign minister would take his place. Since the truce began on November 24, 70 Israeli hostages have been freed in return for 210 Palestinian prisoners. Around 30 foreigners, most of them Thais working in Israel, have been freed outside the terms of the deal. Israel has made clear it sees the truce as a temporary halt intended to free hostages, but there are growing calls for a more sustained pause in the conflict. Fighting began on October 7 when Hamas and other militants from the Gaza Strip poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240, according to Israeli authorities. In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and unleashed an air and ground campaign that the Hamas government in Gaza says has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians. The war has cast a shadow over the UN climate talks in Dubai with activists demanding a permanent cease-fire and an end to Israel’s 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. The UAE is one of the few Arab states to recognize Israel, having established ties in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. But it is at pains to show solidarity with Palestinians. It has dispatched a 150-bed field hospital to Gaza and has pledged to take in 2,000 Palestinians, including 1,000 children and an equal number of cancer patients, for treatment.
Jordan’s king calls on Israel to allow more aid into Gaza
“The monarch urged the international aid community to do their bit and save Gazans who have endured a brutal war,” said one delegate who requested anonymity
“People in Gaza need a sustained cease-fire now,” Medecins Sans Frontieres international president
Updated 18 min 50 sec ago
AMMAN/RAFAH: Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday urged UN aid officials and international groups to pile pressure on Israel to allow more aid into the beleaguered Gaza enclave where the humanitarian situation is worsening, officials and aid workers said.
They said the monarch told an emergency meeting in Amman of UN officials, heads of Western non-governmental organizations and representatives of Arab donors it was unacceptable that Israel continued to hold back sufficient aid flows.
“The monarch urged the international aid community to do their bit and save Gazans who have endured a brutal war that has turned their land into an unliveable place,” said one delegate who requested anonymity since deliberations were taking place confidentially as requested by the royal palace organizers.
A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas built around hostage and prisoner releases has allowed substantially more aid into the densely populated territory of 2.3 million people in the past six days. But deliveries of relief including food, water, medical supplies and fuel remain far below what is needed, aid workers say.
“People in Gaza need a sustained cease-fire now. It is the only way to stop indiscriminate killings and civilian injuries and allow for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid on a meaningful scale,” Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) international president Christos Christou said.
“We are already witnessing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions and it will get worse if the violent onslaught resumes,” he told reporters in Amman.
With Israel refusing to allow any aid in through its borders, supplies have been flown and driven into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for delivery to Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
Red Crescent workers unloaded and sorted the latest deliveries of aid at Al Arish airport in northern Sinai on Thursday. A Reuters reporter saw long lines of container and flat bed trucks queued up on the side of the road to Rafah.
Israel has bombarded Gaza in response to an Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed some 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostage.
Gaza health authorities say more than 15,000 people have been confirmed killed in Israel’s attack, about 40 percent of them children, with many more feared dead and lost under rubble.
The Israel-Gaza border is inoperable following the Oct. 7 attack from Gaza, an Israeli official said. Israel had previously called for increasing the amount of aid taken into Gaza from Egypt, including shipments provided by Jordan, said the official, who requested anonymity.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths and senior UNRWA officials attending the Amman conference told delegates it was crucial Israel reopens the Kerem Shalom border crossing that before the war handled more than 60 percent of the truckloads going into Gaza.
Bottlenecks and capacity limitations at the Rafah crossing mean it cannot handle more than 200 trucks a day.
“Before the war Gaza used to receive 500 trucks every day. We have never come close to that figure since October 7,” said UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma, the UN aid agency providing aid to Palestinians.
Trucks carrying aid through Rafah have to first go through Israeli inspections at the crossing between Nitzana in Israel and Al-Awja in Egypt, to ensure that only limited supplies of fuel are allowed and prevent what they term dual usage goods from entering.
Israel’s control of the amounts and type of goods entering Gaza has curtailed the aid effort, and its acceptance of only limited supplies of fuel was hampering the health system’s recovery, according to health and aid workers.
Truck drivers on the Egyptian side of the border said they sometimes faced days-long waits at the Nitzana crossing before inspections were completed.
NGOs and UN officials also heard appeals from the monarch to accelerate delivery of aid in Gaza’s north, where the United Nations says access remains limited and most water production plants remain shut due to lack of fuel.
Egypt’s FM expresses confidence in UAE leadership in promoting climate action agenda
Updated 30 November 2023
CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has expressed confidence in the leadership of Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, president of the UN Climate Change Conference, in promoting the climate action agenda and achieving common goals.
He added that last year’s COP27 Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh opened the way for a new era of implementation in the fight against climate change.
Shoukry made his comments at COP28’s opening session in Dubai on Thursday.
He delivered his speech as COP27 president as he handed over Egypt’s conference presidency to the UAE.
Shoukry expressed his gratitude to the state parties, observers, and civil society for their support during his term as the president of COP27.
He acknowledged their assistance during the preparatory stages, the Sharm El-Sheikh conference, and in the following year.
Despite the challenging international context due to COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine, Shoukry said that COP27 had succeeded in building on previous conferences and achieving progress on the global climate agenda.
He said that the summit had paved the way for a new era in the fight against climate change, and spoke of the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund.
Shoukry emphasized the importance of honest assessment of the current situation, given worrying indicators.
He added that developed countries’ climate financing decreased while the developing countries’ financing needed to increase due to high financing costs.
It was noted there had been an increase in the exploration and production of fossil fuels, particularly coal, in countries that had previously pledged to reduce or eliminate use of coal.
The minister warned that these indicators could have significant negative consequences on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
ATHENS: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Spanish-American philosopher’s George Santayana’s poignant quote is still relevant nearly a century after he wrote it as the list of full-blown and low-intensity conflicts worldwide grows longer every year.
The unprecedented violence seen in the continuing war between Israel and Hamas has claimed the lives of more than 15,000 civilians, destroyed nearly the entirety of Gaza’s north, and displaced 1.7 million Palestinians inside Gaza as well as half a million Israelis, mainly along the border with Lebanon.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child solemnly marked World Children’s Day on Nov. 20, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and reiterating that “thousands of children are dying in armed conflict in many parts of the world, including in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Haiti, Sudan, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.”
With new wars beginning, other wars entering their 10th year or longer, and still others intensifying, the horrifying bloodshed in Gaza may be indicative of what some analysts and observers warn is a period of increasing violence worldwide.
The 2023 Global Peace Index report, compiled by the think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, stated that “over the last 15 years the world has become less peaceful,” recording “deteriorations in peace” in 95 of the 163 countries covered.
The report, which uses dozens of metrics to determine how peaceful a country is, identified several worrying trends. The GPI recorded an uptick in violence in conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Mali, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Ukraine, with conflicts characterized by the increasing use of drone attacks and delivery of weapons to armed groups by large- and mid-size powers.
Sudan, the Sahel and beyond
The conflict in Sudan has been the bloodiest African conflict on record this year, with fighting beginning in April when clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces culminated in an all-out war. The UN estimates that about 4.3 million people were internally displaced and more than 1.1 million have fled the country into neighboring Chad, Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan since the fighting began.
In October, Martin Griffiths, UN undersecretary-general, said that the violence had claimed 9,000 lives, with reports of sexual violence on the rise.
Fighting in Sudan may be the spark for the regional powder keg of instability, with Robert Wood, the US alternate representative for special political affairs, telling the UN Security Council in May that military forces and police from both Sudan and South Sudan have been deployed in the border region of Abyei, which is claimed by both sides.
Last week, gunmen attacked villages in the disputed region, killing at least 32 people. While regional officials told the Associated Press news agency that the clashes eventually ceased, simmering ethnic tensions in regional countries may also rear their heads.
In February of this year, yet another African conflict led to deaths and waves of refugees when the Somaliland National Army and forces of the autonomous Khatumo State clashed in the Las Anod region. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported the killing of hundreds and the displacement of between 154,000 and 203,000 people, about 100,000 of whom fled into neighboring Ethiopia.
Ethiopia itself is already plagued by a litany of conflicts and unrest, including intense violence between the country’s many ethnic groups, which has led to an uncountable number of deaths and the internal displacement of about 4.38 million people, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spilled over into 2023, with the UN reporting that more than 6.5 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the conflict, which began in February 2022. In mid-November, the UN also stated that at least 10,000 civilians had been killed in the conflict, and a month earlier published a statement adding that civilians in areas lost by Ukraine “face torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, and arbitrary detention.”
The year saw Ukrainian forces begin a counteroffensive against Russian troops, primarily in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. At the same time Israeli bombs pummeled Gaza, dozens of media reports from both Russian and Ukrainian outlets documented the use of cluster munitions as well as the killing of several civilians, including children, with missile strikes.
The conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has waxed and waned since the late-1980s, intensified to an unprecedented level in late September. Azerbaijan claims Nagorno-Karabakh, an area located inside its territorial boundaries. The region was governed and inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians who created a breakaway state known as the Republic of Artsakh in 1991.
An offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh was launched on Sept. 19, and after only one day, the self-proclaimed republic dissolved itself. The decision led to a mass exodus from the region, with UN observers reporting in October that about 100,000 ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh had been displaced.
This followed UN reports from August that a blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia proper, had led to acute shortages in food, medicine and other critical items, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the region.
In Syria, while conflict in the country has been raging for more than a decade, the past four years have seen repeated attacks against the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration, the anti-Daesh Global Coalition-backed entity that governs the country’s north and east.
Just two days before the current war between Israel and Hamas erupted in Gaza, more than 43 aerial strikes targeted the north, according to the local war monitor Rojava Information Center.
This latest attack on civilian infrastructure is just the most recent tragedy in a series of invasions of the Syrian north, in Afrin in 2018 and Ras Al-Ain in 2019, with a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party cited as the target of the onslaught.
The former operation displaced between 200,000 and 300,000 people — many of whom had already fled to the relative safety of Afrin at the start of the Syrian crisis — while the 2019 invasion displaced 160,000 more.
The latest strikes, which claimed a total of 48 lives, targeted water, gas, oil and electricity facilities across the country’s north, leaving millions in the region without power, fuel or water for over a week, compounding crises caused by the region’s already-weakened infrastructure and a practical embargo from all sides.
The US has had some 900 troops stationed in the northeast alongside an unknown number of security contractors ever since the defeat of Daesh in 2019.
In Myanmar, a lesser-known conflict has been raging since 2021, when the country’s military carried out a coup d’etat and established a military junta. Last year, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said that the military crackdown on protests had killed 2,000 and displaced more than 700,000.
The UN reported in November of this year that fighting between armed groups and Myanmar’s armed forces had spread into the country’s east and west, with urban fighting and aerial strikes growing in frequency and intensity.
Intensified conflict has led to a new wave of displacement, with more than 200,000 forced to flee their homes between Oct. 27 and Nov. 17. The UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September, citing incidences of indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes, executions of prisoners of war and civilians alike, and the burning of civilian villages.
In Gaza, a ceasefire came into effect on Nov. 24, marking the entry of the first aid convoys into the war-ravaged enclave from Egypt. Israel began releasing Palestinian prisoners while Hamas started to release hostages, which included Israelis as well as foreign workers.
Though media outlets have reported that both sides are willing to extend the truce, there is concern that the humanitarian pause may indeed be just a pause.
On Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, declared that Israel’s war against Hamas would resume once the release of Israeli hostages was secured, leaving the looming threat of more destruction hanging over the heads of millions in Gaza.
The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
EU unveils strategy for strengthening long-term relations with Turkiye
Modernizing existing customs union agreement with Ankara catalyst for progress across all other domains: analyst
Updated 30 November 2023
ANKARA: The EU on Wednesday set out the state of play of its political, economic, and trade relations with Turkiye in a strategic move aimed at ironing out long-standing disagreements between the neighbors.
Against the backdrop of shifting geopolitical dynamics, the EU report was published on the same day that NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels and discussed the progress of Sweden’s accession to the intergovernmental military alliance.
It is expected that Ankara will ratify its protocol on the issue “within weeks.”
The EU initiative aims to invigorate crucial areas of collaboration and develop trust in light of ongoing security and geopolitical challenges.
In the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Turkiye’s role in the Black Sea as a NATO ally was strongly emphasized by High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell in his opening remarks introducing the joint communication on Turkiye.
He also noted the need to ensure a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean as a strategic goal of the EU.
In a statement, the EU delegation to Turkiye said: “(The EU) retains a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkiye.”
The EU document’s foreign policy section indicates the trajectory that bilateral ties may take. Notably, the EU has resolved to regularly engage in “structured dialogues” with Ankara on foreign policy and regional matters.
As part of the recalibration, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan was set to receive invitations to the informal six-monthly gatherings of EU foreign ministers — known as the Gymnich meetings — when pertinent discussions arise.
Despite missing out on the most recent Gymnich meeting in August, Turkiye could rekindle high-level dialogues on shared interests such as energy, de-escalation in the East Mediterranean, refugee management, and counterterrorism amid a volatile security climate.
Turkiye will also be encouraged to further contribute to the EU’s missions and operations regarding its common security and defense policy and to adopt a more constructive approach to the EU-NATO strategic partnership, in an apparent reference to the Swedish accession bid.
Dr. Bahadir Kaleagasi, president of the Paris Bosphorus Institute, told Arab News that there was enough historical evidence to argue that the more Turkiye was excluded from the EU’s sphere of influence, the more it became part of the problems, which in turn nourished populist demagogy and threats to Western democracy.
He said: “The report is presented as a set of proposals that will not constitute an alternative to the membership process or a search for a new institutional framework. On the contrary, it aims to be practical, realistic, and constructive.
“However, other proposals covering an updated customs union together with green and digital transition policies, provided that they are initiated without blocking pre-conditions, would certainly positively impact both foreign policy alignment and the rule of law reforms,” he added.
On migration management and the EU’s financial support for refugees, a key aspect of EU-Turkiye relations, especially since 2016, the document urged Turkiye to intensify efforts to curb irregular migration by dismantling criminal smuggling networks and bolstering border defenses. Simultaneously, Brussels pledged to sustain financial aid for refugees in Turkiye.
Kaleagasi noted that the current migration governance framework was unsustainable, and that efficient management hinged on rejuvenating the economic dimension of the relationship, aligning with shared global competitiveness objectives.
“Modernizing the existing EU-Turkiye customs union agreement stands as a catalyst for progress across all other domains,” he said.
Turkiye is the EU’s seventh-biggest trading partner, while the EU is the first for Turkiye. Bilateral trade this year surpassed 200 billion euros ($218.5 billion), a record.
Brussels has also agreed to resume negotiations on a modernized EU-Turkiye customs union, provided Ankara supported efforts to fight against the evasion of European sanctions against Russia.
Turkiye-EU relations have been troubled by several difficulties since accession negotiations opened in October 2005. Both sides have mostly disagreed on foreign policy decisions with only around 10 percent of policies being aligned in 2023.
Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, director of European Neighborhood Council, told Arab News: “Between 2016 and 2022, the EU and Turkiye relations faced their worst period in recent history. That is changing now because of structural reasons like the war in Ukraine and the EU and Turkiye’s increasingly aligned policies in Central Asia and terms of connectivity and supply chains.”
He predicted further improvements soon, including customs union reform, provided Turkiye did not cross any “red lines” in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Vesterbye said: “The most important elements of the joint communication are allowing Turkiye back into Gymnich discussions and opening the highest level of dialogue with fellow NATO and European partner Turkiye, including Hakan Fidan and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Now it’s up to especially the French and Turkish representatives to carefully think and coordinate about a common European security architecture, which will need to include a larger framework for EU-Turkiye under differentiated accession.
“France is by far the most important EU member for advanced military technology, potential sales of fighter jets or ground-to-surface missiles, nuclear power, military capabilities abroad, etc.
“The same goes for France: despite Turkiye’s worrying levels of religiously radical policy support abroad, it nevertheless has a great ground power, Muslim credibility, and significant on-the-ground experience, size, and unique geo-strategic location.
“It’s like two alpha males; they usually compete with each other, but if they manage to unite, they are far stronger together,” Vesterbye added.
But he pointed out that the process of aligning the foreign and security policies of Turkiye and the EU would require a lot of effort, time, and constant high-level and technical coordination, as well as taking risks and building trustworthy institutional security structures to keep each side in check.
In this respect, the EU’s foreign and security policy missions abroad will play a key role in establishing institutional ties between Brussels and Ankara.
Vesterbye said: “The EU and Turkiye already had many common EU military missions, so building on those will prove important, and the next steps should be further Turkiye involvement in decision-making, funding, and contribution while tackling the Cyprus issue, which would progressively lead to the full inclusion of Turkiye into the EU security apparatus.
“If Turkiye wants to progress into the next level of technology, economic growth, and large-scale policy in Central Asia, it, together with its natural geographic ally Europe, will need to walk, and vice versa, if the EU wants to become a truly geopolitical force it can only do so with the inclusion of Turkiye,” he added.
EU leaders still have to adopt the plan during their summit in Brussels on Dec. 13.