20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope
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Young men chat near Al-Mutanabbi street in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Two decades after a U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s capital today is full of life and a sense of renewal, its residents enjoying a hopeful, peaceful interlude in a painful modern history. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope
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Women stand on the "martyrs' bridge" spanning the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope
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Mohammed Zuad Khaman, center, prepares kebabs at his family's cafe in one of Baghdad's poorer neighborhoods along King Ghazi Street on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. Khaman is a talented footballer, but he says he cannot get an opportunity to play in any of Baghdad's amateur clubs because he does not have any "in" with the militia-related gangs that control sports teams in the city. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope
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Noor Alhuda Saad, 26, a Ph.D. candidate at Mustansiriya University who describes herself as a political activist, sits in a Baghdad cafe on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope
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Two students celebrate their graduation at the upscale Qalaat Baghdad restaurant complex built in a former palace of Saddam Hussein along the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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Updated 17 March 2023

20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

BAGHDAD: On the banks of the Tigris River one recent evening, young Iraqi men and women in jeans and sneakers danced with joyous abandon to a local rap star as a vermillion sun set behind them. It’s a world away from the terror that followed the US invasion 20 years ago.
Iraq ‘s capital today is throbbing with life and a sense of renewal, its residents enjoying a rare, peaceful interlude in a painful modern history. The wooden stalls of the city’s open-air book market are piled skyward with dusty paperbacks and crammed with shoppers of all ages and incomes. In a suburb once a hotbed of Al-Qaeda, affluent young men cruise their muscle cars, while a recreational cycling club hosts weekly biking trips to former war zones. A few glitzy buildings sparkle where bombs once fell.
President George W. Bush called the US-led invasion on March 20, 2003, a mission to free the Iraqi people and root out weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein’s government was toppled in 26 days. Two years later, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector reported no stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons were ever found.
The war deposed a dictator whose imprisonment, torture and execution of dissenters kept 20 million people in fear for a quarter of a century. But it also broke what had been a unified state at the heart of the Arab world, opening a power vacuum and leaving oil-rich Iraq a wounded nation in the Middle East, ripe for a power struggle among Iran, Arab Gulf states, the United States, terrorist groups and Iraq’s own rival sects and parties.
For Iraqis, the enduring trauma of the violence that followed is undeniable — an estimated 300,000 Iraqis were killed between 2003 and 2019, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, as were more than 8,000 US military, contractors and civilians. The period was marred by unemployment, dislocation, sectarian violence and terrorism, and years without reliable electricity or other public services.
Today, half of Iraq’s population of 40 million isn’t old enough to remember life under Saddam or much about the US invasion. In dozens of recent interviews from Baghdad to Fallujah, young Iraqis deplored the loss of stability that followed Saddam’s downfall — but they said the war is in the past, and many were hopeful about nascent freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams.
In a marbled, chandeliered reception room in the palace where Saddam once lived, seated in an overstuffed damask chair and surrounded by paintings by modern Iraqi artists, President Abdul Latif Rashid, who assumed office in October, spoke glowingly of the country’s prospects. The world’s perception of Iraq as a war-torn country is frozen in time, he told The Associated Press in an interview.
Iraq is rich; peace has returned, he said, and there are opportunities ahead for young people in a country experiencing a population boom. “If they’re a little bit patient, I think life will improve drastically in Iraq.”
Most Iraqis aren’t nearly as bullish. Conversations begin with bitterness that the ouster of Saddam left the country broken and ripe for violence and exploitation by sectarian militias, politicians and criminals bent on self-enrichment or beholden to other nations. Yet, speaking to younger Iraqis, one senses a generation ready to turn a page.
Safaa Rashid, 26, is a ponytailed writer who talks politics with friends at a cozy coffee shop in the Karada district of the capital. With a well-stocked library nook, photos of Iraqi writers and travel posters, the café and its clientele could as easily be found in Brooklyn or London.
Rashid was a child when the Americans arrived, but rues “the loss of a state, a country that had law and establishment” that followed the invasion. The Iraqi state lay broken and vulnerable to international and domestic power struggles, he said. Today is different; he and like-minded peers can sit in a coffee shop and freely talk about solutions. “I think the young people will try to fix this situation.”
Another day, a different café. Noor Alhuda Saad, 26, a Ph.D. candidate at Mustansiriya University who describes herself as a political activist, says her generation has been leading protests decrying corruption, demanding services and seeking more inclusive elections — and won’t stop till they’ve built a better Iraq.
“After 2003, the people who came to power” — old-guard Sunni and Shiite parties and their affiliated militias and gangs — “did not understand about sharing democracy,” she said, tapping her pale green fingernails on the tabletop.
“Young people like me are born into this environment and trying to change the situation,” she added, blaming the government for failing to restore public services and establish a fully democratic state in the aftermath of occupation. “The people in power do not see these as important issues for them to solve. And that is why we are active.”
Signs of the invasion and insurgency have been largely erased from Baghdad. The former Palestine Hotel, Ferdous Square, the Green Zone, the airport road pockmarked by IED and machine-gun attacks have been landscaped or covered in fresh stucco and paint.
The invasion exists only in memory: bright orange flashes and concussions of American “shock-and-awe” bombs raining down in a thunderous cacophony; tanks rolling along the embankment; Iraqi forces battling across the Tigris or wading into water to avoid US troops; civilian casualties and the desperate, failed effort to save a fellow journalist gravely wounded by a US tank strike in the final days of the battle for Baghdad. Pillars of smoke rose over the city as Iraqi civilians began looting ministries and US Marines pulled down the famous Saddam statue.
What appeared to be a swift victory for the US-led forces was illusory: The greatest loss of life came in the months and years that followed. The occupation stoked a stubborn guerrilla resistance, bitter fights for control of the countryside and cities, a protracted civil war, and the rise of the Daesh group that spread terror beyond Iraq and Syria, throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
The long, staggeringly costly experience in Iraq exposed the limitations of America’s ability to export democracy and chastened Washington’s approach to foreign engagements, at least temporarily. In Iraq, its democracy is yet to be defined.
Blast walls have given way to billboards, restaurants, cafes and shopping centers — even over-the-top real estate developments. With 7 million inhabitants, Baghdad is the Middle East’s second-largest city after Cairo, and its streets teem with cars and commerce at all hours, testing the skill of traffic guards in shiny reflective caps.
Daily life here looks not so different from any other Arab metropolis. But in the distant deserts of northern and western Iraq, there are occasional clashes with remnants of the Daesh group. The low-boil conflict involves Kurdish peshmerga fighters, Iraqi army troops and some 2,500 US military advisers still in country.
It is but one of the country’s lingering problems. Another is endemic corruption; a 2022 government audit found a network of former officials and businessmen stole $2.5 billion.
Meanwhile, digital natives are testing the boundaries of identity and free speech, especially on TikTok and Instagram. They sometimes look over their shoulders, aware that shadowy militias connected to political parties may be listening, ready to squelch too much liberalism. More than a dozen social media influencers were arrested recently in a crackdown on “immoral” content, and this month authorities said they would enforce a long-dormant law banning alcohol imports.
In 2019-20, fed-up Iraqis, especially young people, protested across the country against corruption and lack of basic services. After more than 600 were killed by government forces and militias, parliament agreed to a series of election law changes designed to allow more minorities and independent groups to share power.
The sun bakes down on Fallujah, the main city in the Anbar region that was once a hotbed for Al-Qaeda of Iraq and, later, the Daesh group. Beneath the iron girders of the city’s bridge across the Euphrates, three 18-year-olds are returning home from school for lunch.
In 2004, this bridge was the site of a gruesome tableau. Four Americans from military contractor Blackwater were ambushed, their bodies dragged through the streets, hacked, burned and hung as trophies by local insurgents, while some residents chanted in celebration. For the 18-year-olds, it’s a story they’ve heard from their families — distant and irrelevant to their lives.
One wants to be a pilot, two aspire to be doctors. Their focus is on getting good grades, they say.
Fallujah today is experiencing a construction renaissance under former Anbar Gov. Mohammed Al-Halbousi, now speaker of Iraq’s parliament. He has helped direct millions of dollars in government funding to rebuild the city, which experienced repeated waves of fighting, including two US military campaigns to rid the city of Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group.
Fallujah gleams with new apartments, hospitals, amusement parks, a promenade and a renewed gate to the city. Its markets and streets are bustling. But officials were wary of letting Western reporters wander the city without an escort. The AP team’s first attempt to enter was foiled at a checkpoint.
The prime minister’s office intervened the next day, and the visit was allowed, but only with police following reporters at a distance, ostensibly for protection. The disagreement over security and press access is a sign of the uncertainty that overhangs life here.
Still, Dr. Houthifa Alissawi, 40, an imam and mosque leader, says such tensions are trifling compared with what his congregation lived through. Iraq has been engulfed in war for half of his life. When the Daesh group overran Fallujah, his mosque was seized, and he was ordered to preach in favor of the “caliphate” or be killed. He told them he’d think about it, he said, and then fled to Baghdad. He counted 16 killings of members of his mosque.
“Iraq has had many wars. We lost a lot — whole families,” he said. These days, he said, he is enjoying the new sense of security he feels in Fallujah. “If it stays like now, it is perfect.” ___
Sadr City, a working-class, conservative and largely Shiite suburb in eastern Baghdad, is home to more than 1.5 million people. In a grid of thickly populated streets, women wear abayas and hijabs and tend to stay inside the house. Fiery populist religious leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, 49, is still the dominant political power, though he rarely travels here from his base in Najaf, 125 miles to the south. His portraits, and those of his ayatollah father, killed by gunmen in Saddam’s time, loom large.
On a clamorous, pollution-choked avenue, two friends have side-by-side shops: Haider Al-Saady, 28, fixes tires for taxis and the three-wheeled motorized “tuk-tuks” that jam potholed streets, while Ali Al-Mummadwi, 22, sells lumber for construction.
Thick skeins of wires hooked up to generators form a canopy over the neighborhood. City power stays on for just two hours at a time; after that, everyone relies on generators.
They say they work 10 hours every day and scoff when told of the Iraqi president’s promises that life will be better for the young generation.
“It is all talk, not serious,” Al-Saady said, shaking his head. Sadr City was a hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment, but Al-Saady — too young to remember the fallen dictator — nevertheless expressed nostalgia for that era’s stability.
His companion echoes him: “Saddam was a dictator, but the people were living better, peacefully.” Dismissing current officials as pawns of outside powers, Al-Mummadwi added, “We would like a strong leader, an independent leader.”
When news spread recently that a musician born and raised in Baghdad whose songs have gotten millions of views on YouTube would headline a rap party hosted at a fancy new restaurant in western Baghdad, his fans shared their excitement via texts and Instagram.
Khalifa OG raps about the difficulties of finding work and satirizes authority, but his lyrics aren’t blatantly political. A song he performed under strobe lights on a grassy lawn next to the Tigris mocks “sheikhs” who wield power in the new Iraq through wealth or political connections.
Fan Abdullah Rubaie, 24, could barely contain his excitement. “Peace for sure makes it easier” for young people to gather like this, he said. His stepbrother Ahmed Rubaie, 30, agreed.
The Sunni-Shia sectarianism that led to a pitched civil war in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, with bodies of executed victims turning up each morning on neighborhood streets or dumped into the river, is one of the societal wounds that the rappers and their fans want to heal.
“We had a lot of pain ... it had to stop,” Ahmed Rubaie said. “It is not exactly vanished, but it’s not like before.”
Secular young people say that unlike their parents who lived under Saddam, they’re not afraid to make their voices heard. The 2019 demonstrations gave them confidence, even in the face of backlash from pro-religious parties.
“It broke a wall that was there before,” Ahmed Rubaie said.
Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, took office in October. A former government minister for human rights and governor of Maysan province, southeast of Baghdad, he won support from a coalition of pro-Iranian Shiite parties after a yearlong stalemate. Unlike other Shiite politicians who fled during the Saddam era, he never left Iraq, even when his father and five brothers were executed.
Working in a former Saddam palace that US and British officers and civilian experts once used as headquarters for their frenetic attempts at nation-building, Al-Sudani still grapples with some of the issues that plagued the occupiers, including restoring regional relations and balancing interests among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. He said building trust between the people and government will be his first priority.
“We need to see tangible results — job opportunities, services, social justice,” Al-Sudani said. “These are the priorities of the people.”
One of the Shiite militias that took part in that campaign against the Daesh group is Ketaib Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Battalions, widely viewed as a proxy for Iran and a cousin to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. It also is part of the political coalition that established Al-Sudani’s government.
Ketaib Hezbollah’s spokesman, Jafar Al-Hussaini, met AP at an outdoor restaurant in Baghdad’s Dijlas Village, an opulent, 5-month-old complex of gardens, spas and a dancing fountain overlooking a bend in the Tigris, an idyllic Xanadu that looks like a transplant from uber-wealthy Dubai.
Al-Hussaini voiced optimism for the new Iraqi government and scorn for the United States, saying the US sold Iraq a promise of democracy but failed to deliver infrastructure, electricity, housing, schools or security.
“Twenty years after the war, we look toward building a new state,” he said. “Our project is ideological, and we are against America.”
Far from such luxury, 18-year-old Mohammed Zuad Khaman, who toils in his family’s kebab café in one of Baghdad’s poorer neighborhoods, resents the militias’ hold on the country because they are an obstacle to his dreams of a sports career. Khaman is a talented footballer, but says he can’t play in Baghdad’s amateur clubs because he does not have any “in” with the militia-related gangs that control sports teams in the city.
He got an offer to train in Qatar, he said, but a broker was charging $50,000, far beyond his family’s means.
War and poverty caused him to miss several years of school, he said, and he’s trying to get a high school degree. Meanwhile, he takes home about $8-$10 a day wiping tables and serving food and tea. He is among those Iraqis who would like to leave.
“If only I could get to London, I would have a different life.”
In contrast, for Muammel Sharba, 38, who managed to get a good education despite the war, the new Iraq offers promise he did not expect.
A lecturer in mathematics and technical English at the Middle Technical University campus in Baquba, a once violence-torn city in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, Sharba left in 2017 for Hungary, where he earned a Ph.D. on an Iraqi government scholarship.
He returned last year, planning to fulfil his contractual obligations to his university and then move to Hungary permanently. But he’s found himself impressed by the changes in his homeland and now thinks he will stay.
One reason: He discovered Baghdad’s nascent community of bicyclists who gather weekly for organized rides. They recently rode to Samarra, where one of the worst sectarian attacks of the war happened in 2006, a bombing that damaged the city’s 1,000-year-old grand mosque.
Sharba became a biking enthusiast in Hungary but never imagined pursuing it at home. He noticed other changes, too: better technology and less bureaucracy that allowed him to upload his thesis and get his foreign Ph.D. validated online. He got a driver’s license electronically in one day. With infrastructure improvements, he’s even seen some smoother roads.
Security in Diyala isn’t perfect, he said, but it’s less fraught than before. Not all his colleagues are as optimistic, but he prefers to focus on the glass half-full.
“I don’t think European countries were always as they are now. They went through a long process and lots of barriers, and then they slowly got better,” he said. “I believe that we need to go through these steps, too.”
On a recent evening, a double line of excited cyclists threaded a course through the capital’s busy streets for a night ride, Sharba among them. They raised neon-green-clad arms in a happy salute as they headed out.
As daylight ebbed into a crimson sunset, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Iraq, like them, could be on the way to a better place.

Italy pledges cash to support Tunisia amid uncertainty

Italy pledges cash to support Tunisia amid uncertainty
Updated 19 sec ago

Italy pledges cash to support Tunisia amid uncertainty

Italy pledges cash to support Tunisia amid uncertainty
  • Rome pushing IMF to bail out Tunisia amid concerns over energy, migration
  • Italian government ‘in constant contact’ with Tunisian President Kais Saied

London: Italy will invest €110 million ($118.4 million) in Tunisia in a bid to shore up stability in the North African country, its foreign minister announced.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Council in Brussels, Antonio Tajani said the money would be transferred via the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and that he hoped further funding would be approved by the International Monetary Fund.

Italy has been pushing the IMF to unblock a $1.9 billion loan to Tunisia over fears that it could be destabilized without financial assistance, with significant consequences for Italy’s energy supplies and the flow of migration to Europe.

“We are in constant contact with the Tunisian government,” Tajani said. “I hope that the IMF will reach an agreement with the Tunisian President Kais Saied to ensure stability.”

International opposition to bailing out Tunisia centers around fears that Saied, who has drawn ire over constitutional changes, crackdowns on political opponents and his recent rhetoric about sub-Saharan migrants in his country, cannot be trusted to agree to significant reforms, let alone enforce them.

“It is important that reforms are made because funding is linked to reforms, and to prevent (Islamist) terrorism from appearing in North Africa,” Tajani said. “The fundamental problem is that of stability in North Africa and Tunisia.”

Tunisia is vital to Italy’s energy security, as part of the route of the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline, which delivers gas to Italy and Central Europe from Algeria.

In 2022, the EU granted €300 million for the construction of an €850 million electricity interconnector project, ELMED, to link Italy to Tunisia’s growing solar farm industry.

Tunisia is also the staging post for significant numbers of migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Italian peninsula from North Africa.

Saied recently prompted a surge in sub-Saharan migrants leaving his country for Europe after accusing them of changing “the demographic composition” of Tunisia and alleging they were responsible for an uptick in crime.

This in turn has resulted in numerous people suffering violence or facing eviction and deciding to cross the Mediterranean.

Data from the Italian Ministry of the Interior indicates that crossings from Tunisia to Italy are up 788 percent from the same period last year, with 12,083 people landing on Italian shores from Jan. 1 to March 13 — a third of the total number who made the trip in 2022.

Laurence Hart, director of the International Organization for Migration’s Mediterranean coordination office, told Italian outlet Agenzia Nova that migrants who would once have found work in Tunisia were being lured to Europe by the country’s growing instability and hostility and by the promises of people-traffickers.

“Migrants leaving Tunisia come from very specific countries, which, looking at the statistics…are the Ivory Coast and Guinea. These are countries with which Tunisia has an agreement on visa-free arrivals,” he said. 

“On the one hand, this stimulates regular migration, because many sub-Saharan (Africans) are regularly employed in the various sectors of the Tunisian economy. On the other, it obviously leaves room for many intermediaries who play on the lack of information or on distorted information for their own personal gain.”

UAE president pardons more than 1,000 inmates ahead of Ramadan

UAE president pardons more than 1,000 inmates ahead of Ramadan
Updated 21 March 2023

UAE president pardons more than 1,000 inmates ahead of Ramadan

UAE president pardons more than 1,000 inmates ahead of Ramadan

ABU DHABI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered the release of 1,025 prisoners serving various sentences in the UAE, ahead of Ramadan, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohamed’s annual pardon ahead of Ramadan aims to “enhance family cohesion”, the report explained, adding that it created a happier environment for the wives and children of those released as well as enabling them to pursue successful social and professional lives in the future.

Anatomy of a disaster
Two decades later, Iraqis are still paying the price for Bush's ill-judged war


Israel repeals law that banned four West Bank settlements

Israel repeals law that banned four West Bank settlements
Updated 21 March 2023

Israel repeals law that banned four West Bank settlements

Israel repeals law that banned four West Bank settlements
  • The original law, passed in 2005, mandated the evacuation of four Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank along with Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: Israeli parliament on Tuesday repealed legislation that ordered the evacuation of four settlements in the occupied West Bank, one of the first major moves by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition.
The original law, passed in 2005, mandated the evacuation of four Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank along with Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The repeal would allow Jewish residents to return to these settlements on condition of approval by the Israeli military.
Since the 1967 war, Israel has established around 140 settlements on land Palestinians see as the core of a future state. Besides the authorized settlements, groups of settlers have built scores of outposts without government permission.
Most world powers deem settlements built in the territory Israel seized in the 1967 war as illegal under international law and their expansion as an obstacle to peace, since they eat away at land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Yuli Edelstein, head of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, hailed the move as “the first and significant step toward real repair and the establishment of Israel in the territories of the homeland that belongs to it.”

Anatomy of a disaster
Two decades later, Iraqis are still paying the price for Bush's ill-judged war

Jordan says Israel disavows behavior of top minister over flag of expanded borders

Jordan says Israel disavows behavior of top minister over flag of expanded borders
Updated 52 min 10 sec ago

Jordan says Israel disavows behavior of top minister over flag of expanded borders

Jordan says Israel disavows behavior of top minister over flag of expanded borders
  • Inciteful rhetoric: The UAE also condemned finance minister Bezalel Smotrich’s statements

Jordan said it has received assurance from Israel that the behavior of a top cabinet minister, who spoke at a podium adorned with an Israeli flag that appeared to include Jordan, did not represent their position, an official source said on Tuesday.

The source told Reuters that top Israeli officials rejected Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s move during a speech on Monday, and said that they respected Jordan’s borders and Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan. Smotrich heads a religious-nationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition.

The UAE on Tuesday condemned the finance minister’s statements as well as his use of a map of Israel that includes lands from Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation affirmed the UAE’s rejection of inciteful rhetoric and all practices that contradict moral and human values and principles, state news agency WAM reported.

The ministry stressed the need to confront hate speech and violence and noted the importance of promoting the values of tolerance and coexistence to reduce escalation and instability in the region, the report added.

The Arab League also condemned the Israeli minister's statements. The Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine to the Arab League, Saeed Abu Ali, said in a statement these statements by Smotrich represent a racist and colonial stance, and considered the statements a blatant threat to peace and security in the region.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League stressed the need to be alert to the seriousness of these Israeli policies and the importance of confronting them with firm international stances and measures in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Amman late on Monday summoned the Israeli ambassador in Jordan and said Smotrich’s move was a provocative act by an “extremist” and “racist” minister that violated international norms and Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel.

“These statements are provocative, racist and come from an extremist figure and we call on the international community to condemn it,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at a news conference.

Safadi received a call from Israel’s national security adviser, assuring him that Israel — which shares the longest border with its neighbor to the West of the Jordan River — respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, the source said.

Smotrich made the speech as Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for de-escalation talks ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday.

Arab League chief, Russian deputy FM discuss regional issues, Ukraine war

Arab League chief, Russian deputy FM discuss regional issues, Ukraine war
Updated 21 March 2023

Arab League chief, Russian deputy FM discuss regional issues, Ukraine war

Arab League chief, Russian deputy FM discuss regional issues, Ukraine war

CAIRO: Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday expressed his concerns at mounting violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

His comments regarding Israeli government actions came during a meeting in Cairo with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Their discussions also centered around other regional issues and Arab-Russian relations.

Aboul Gheit’s spokesman, Jamal Rushdi, said Bogdanov outlined Moscow’s stance on Syria, Yemen, Libya, and the economic and presidential vacancy crises in Lebanon. Iranian and Turkish policies toward the Arab region were also discussed.

Separately, during his assessment of an Arab strategic report by the Egyptian Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Aboul Gheit said the conflict in Ukraine and rivalries between the US and China were among the most alarming issues since the end of World War II.

“The Arabs are cautious in dealing with the Ukrainian crisis and its effects.

“All of this does not miss China, which is building a large naval power capable of competing with America in the Pacific Ocean and perhaps the world,” he added.