Global, regional countries react to China-brokered Saudi-Iran agreement

Global, regional countries react to China-brokered Saudi-Iran agreement
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Updated 11 March 2023
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Global, regional countries react to China-brokered Saudi-Iran agreement

Global, regional countries react to China-brokered Saudi-Iran agreement
  • Kingdom, Iran thanked China for its role in negotiations
  • Saudi and Iranian sides also expressed appreciation to Iraq and Oman for hosting previous talks

RIYADH: The US said it was aware of reports that Iran and Saudi Arabia had resumed diplomatic relations on Friday, but referred further details to the Saudis, a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months following years of tensions between the two countries in a China-brokered deal.

“Generally speaking, we welcome any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” John Kirby said. “De-escalation and diplomacy together with deterrence are key pillars of the policy President Biden outlined during his visit to the region last year,” they added.

Kirby added that, while the US welcomed the deal, Washington remained “skeptical” about whether Iran would “meet their obligations.”

The UAE said on Friday it welcomed the agreement, and said it “valued” China's role in the negotiations.

“We believe in the importance of positive communication and dialogue between the countries of the region to consolidate the concept of good neighborliness,” senior government official and advisor to the UAE president Anwar Gargash said.

Qatar’s prime minister and foreign affairs minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani welcomed the announcement during a phone call with Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Qatar News Agency said on Friday.

He also welcomed the reactivation of the security cooperation agreement between the two countries and the general cooperation agreement in the fields of economy, trade, investment, technology, science, culture, sports and youth.

Al-Thani further expressed Qatar's aspiration that this step “contribute to enhancing security and stability in the region, and meet the aspirations of the peoples of the two countries for the benefit of the whole region.”

Iraq and Oman also both welcomed the announcement of the resumption of relations, according to state news agencies in both countries.

Oman “welcomed the trilateral statement on resumption of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran,” a statement carried by Oman News Agency said, while Iraq welcomed “turning a new page” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, its state news agency said.

“This is a win-win for everyone and will benefit regional and global security,” Omani foreign minister Badr Albusaidi said. “We hope in the longer term there’s also potential for increasing economic benefits for all,” he added.

The Bahraini, Algerian, Turkish, Lebanese and Sudanese foreign ministries all released statements welcoming the agreement.

Bahrain said it hoped the agreement would constitute a “positive step towards resolving differences and ending all regional conflicts through dialogue and diplomatic means,” a Bahrain News Agency report said.

The Bahrainis also hoped it would “establish international relations on the basis of understanding and respect, good neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of other countries.”

Kuwait's foreign ministry said the agreement was key to “building trust and developing friendly relations between both countries in a way that serves the interest of the region’s countries and the whole world.”

A Jordanian statement said Amman hoped that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran would contribute to “preserving the sovereignty of countries and non-interference in their internal affairs.”

On Saturday Syria welcomed the agreement saying it would lead to more stability in the region.

In a statetment Syria’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the agreement, calling it an “important step that will lead to strengthening security and stability in the region.”

It added that the agreement would also lead to cooperation that would “reflect positively on the common interests of the peoples of the two countries in particular and the peoples of the region in general.”

After the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit Turkiye and Syria, killing more than 50,000 people including more than 6,000 in Syria, Saudi Arabia was one of several Arab countries that delivered aid to government-held parts of Syria.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with his counterpart Prince Faisal over the phone to commend the decision, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his country welcomed the “accomplishment” and congratulated the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“In a world where we're unfortunately no longer used to receiving good news, this was really really fantastic,” he said in New York. 

“Internationally on a global level, regionally, the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran to re-establish diplomatic relations and within two months to open all the embassies, I cannot underestimate the significance of this achievement,” he added.

The Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi said on Friday he and his organization hoped the agreement would “contribute to enhancing security and peace,” while the Arab Parliament also said it hoped it was a “step toward restoring stability to the region.”

The Muslim World League issued a statement voicing its welcoming of the agreement late on Friday.

Hussain Ibrahim Taha, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said the agreement would contribute to “strengthening the pillars of peace, security and stability in the region” and would “give a new impetus to cooperation” among the member states of the OIC, SPA said.

Taha praised Iraq, Oman, and the leadership and government of China for hosting and sponsoring the talks.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary General, welcomed the agreement on behalf of Antonio Guterres.

“The Secretary General expressed his appreciation to the People's Republic of China for hosting these recent talks and for promoting dialogue between the two countries,” he said.

“The Secretary General also commends efforts by other countries such as the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Iraq in this regard, good neighborly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region. 

“The Secretary General reiterates his readiness to use his good officers to further advance regional dialogue and to ensure durable peace and security in the Gulf region,” he added.

The Saudi and Iranian sides also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Iraq and Oman for hosting rounds of dialogue that took place between both sides during the years 2021-2022, Friday's statement said.

The two sides expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the leadership and government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting and sponsoring the talks, and the efforts it placed towards its success, it added.


Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
Updated 58 min 53 sec ago
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Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
  • Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes
  • Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan

JERUSALEM: Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.
Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.
That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas’ cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.
But Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.
“The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.
He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.
A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a “capitulation to terror,” and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
Updated 29 February 2024
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Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
  • Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them

MOSUL, Iraq: A Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq on Thursday killed two fighters from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Iraqi security sources said.
Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them, two security sources told Reuters.
There has been a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK, YBS and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which are all regarded as terrorist groups by Ankara.


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 29 February 2024
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
  • Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria

Beirut: Israel killed a Hezbollah fighter in a strike on Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also hitting near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks.
Hezbollah holds sway over Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, as well as some regions on the other side of the border including Qusayr, the target of Thursday’s strike.
“An Israeli drone strike on a truck killed a Hezbollah fighter in the Qusayr area near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At the same time, Israeli strikes targeted Syrian air defense and radar sites near Damascus, said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent in Damascus heard faraway explosions.
Syrian state media did not report the strikes.
Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following the eruption of civil war.
Since Syria’s war began in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor, primarily targeting pro-Iran forces, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
But the strikes have multiplied during the almost five-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the Observatory.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
Updated 29 February 2024
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UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
  • UN human rights office had recorded ‘many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces’

GENEVA: UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties,” Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“It is time — well past time — for peace, investigation and accountability.”
Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack sparked an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza, which it says is intended to rescue the remaining hostages and eradicate Hamas. Health authorities in Gaza say some 30,000 people have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk, who was presenting a report on the human rights situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said his office had recorded “many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces.”
He said there were also indications that Israeli forces have engaged in “indiscriminate or disproportionate targeting” in violation of international law.
Israel has said it is doing all it can to minimize harm to civilians.
Turk said Palestinian armed groups launching indiscriminate projectiles across southern Israel and the holding of hostages also violated international humanitarian law.
Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
Turk said the prospect of an Israeli ground assault in the southern border town of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed after fleeing their homes further north to escape Israel’s offensive, “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian, dimension.”
“For my part, I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Turk added that such a ground offensive would incur massive loss of life, increase the risk of atrocity crimes, spur more displacement and “sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid.”