Talks boost diplomatic reconciliation between Turkiye and Egypt

Talks boost diplomatic reconciliation between Turkiye and Egypt
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry greets his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Cairo on Mar. 18, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 18 March 2023
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Talks boost diplomatic reconciliation between Turkiye and Egypt

Talks boost diplomatic reconciliation between Turkiye and Egypt
  • Turkiye will upgrade its diplomatic relations with Egypt to the ambassadorial level “as soon as possible,” Cavusoglu said
  • Last month, Turkish companies reportedly pledged to invest about $500 million in Egypt to help the country overcome its financial crisis

ANKARA: After the meeting of Turkish and Egyptian foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday — the first such visit after a decade of strained ties — the question now is: How might this dialogue translate into action?
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry discussed several issues, including Libya — where they support opposing sides, Cyprus and maritime disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A possible delimitation of maritime boundaries between Turkiye and Egypt in the East Med remains the most critical shared interest between the two countries. If settled, it could be a game-changer for the region.
Turkiye will upgrade its diplomatic relations with Egypt to the ambassadorial level “as soon as possible,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkiye has hosted several dissident Egyptians, including activists, since late 2013, but they are not eligible for full refugee status.
Last month, Turkish companies reportedly pledged to invest about $500 million in Egypt to help the country overcome its financial crisis. Turkish companies are active in the textile, iron and steel, glass and domestic-appliance sectors in Egypt.
Dalia Ziada, director of the Cairo-based MEEM Center for Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Studies, told Arab News: “Despite their common history and culture, Egypt and Turkiye have several differences in terms of political ideology. Seeing them coming together today to overcome these differences and find a way to compromise, based on their bilateral and regional interests, is phenomenal, and should be applauded and encouraged.
“The diplomatic upgrade of relations between the two countries is one step in that direction. However, what we really need most in the next phase is people-to-people diplomacy. What really matters will be seen in the long term. State leadership can change at any moment, but the people will always remain.”
Turkiye is no longer a political safe haven for Egyptian dissidents. Several were arrested by Turkish authorities for social-media posts and broadcasts supporting calls for anti-government protests in Egypt. Since 2021, Ankara has been urging Egyptian opposition media channels operating in Turkiye to tone down their criticism of the Egyptian government. Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Egyptian satellite TV channel Mekameleen TV moved its operations from Turkiye last year.
“Turkish authorities officially prevented them from using Turkish territory as a launchpad to attack the Egyptian state,” Ziada said. “That was a great step. These opposition groups are mainly financially supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is becoming weak because of several divisions in its leadership and between the leadership and the grassroots (supporters),” she added.
Ismail Numan Telci, deputy director at Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, said the normalization of ties between the two countries would increase their mutual diplomatic roles and influences in the region.
“It will also enable them to develop their economic and military potential. It will help Turkish companies to be more active in some sectors in Egypt and facilitate the trade of Turkish goods to Egypt,” he told Arab News, adding that he believes the two countries are likely to reach an understanding on the East Med and energy routes.
He continued: “I think that Egypt can revise its stance on Libya following its high-level consultations with Turkiye, because both countries give priority to regional stability and the promotion of peace. Therefore, they can reach a consensus on the Libyan conflict and work together toward this goal.”
 


Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
Updated 02 March 2024
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Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
  • UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of the Palestinians wounded in the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy said Friday that more than 80 percent had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there was heavy shooting by Israeli troops.
At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others injured Thursday, according to health officials, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy. Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a crowd surge that started when desperate Palestinians in Gaza rushed the aid trucks. Israel said its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.
Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.
He couldn’t address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted.
Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the majority of the injured taken there had gunshot wounds in the upper part of their bodies, and many of the deaths were from gunshots to the head, neck or chest.
The bloodshed underscored how the chaos of Israel’s almost 5-month-old offensive has crippled the effort to bring aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, a quarter of whom the United Nations says face starvation.
The UN and other aid groups have been pleading for safe corridors for aid convoys, saying it has become nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, including crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys.
UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October. UN agencies haven’t delivered aid to the north in more than a month because of military restrictions and lack of security, but several deliveries by other groups reached the area earlier this week.
The United Nations says a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people still being treated for injuries Friday from Thursday’s chaotic aid convoy scene.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several European leaders have called for an independent, credible investigation into what happened.
Acknowledging the difficulty of getting aid in, United States President Joe Biden said Friday the US soon will begin airdropping assistance to Gaza and will look for other ways to get shipments in, “including possibly a marine corridor.”
The announcement came hours after a Jordanian plane over northern Gaza dropped packages attached to parachutes, including rice, flour and baby formula.
“Innocent lives are on the line, and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there,” Biden said. “We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”
Aid officials have said airdrops are an incredibly expensive way of distributing assistance.
“I don’t think the airdropping of food in the Gaza Strip should be the answer today. The real answer is: Open the crossing and bring convoys and bring meaningful assistance into the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Thursday.
Thursday’s convoy wasn’t organized by the UN Instead, it appeared to have been monitored by the Israeli military, which said its troops were on hand to secure it and ensure it reached northern Gaza.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday’s convoy was also “coordinated and deconflicted with the Israeli authorities” because they control Gaza.
“We’ve been trying to do that every day,” he said. “We have not been successful every day.”
Thursday’s shooting and bloodshed raise questions about whether Israel will be able to keep order if it goes through with its postwar plans for Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put forward a plan for Israel to retain open-ended security and political control over the territory — an effective reoccupation — after Hamas is destroyed. Under the plan, Palestinians picked by Israel would administer the territory, but it’s uncertain if any would cooperate.
That would leave Israeli troops — who, throughout the war, have responded with heavy firepower when they perceive a possible threat — to oversee the population during the massive postwar humanitarian and reconstruction operation envisioned by the international community.
Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 others. Since the assault began, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.
Despite international calls to allow more aid in, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,228, with another 71,377 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
Thursday’s bloodshed took place as a convoy of around 30 trucks entered Gaza City before dawn.
Many of the wounded described a scene of desperation and chaos, with people climbing on the moving trucks to get bags of flour when Israeli troops began shooting, including from a tank.
“I was holding a bag of flour on my way home. They shot me in the right foot and in the left foot. Shells were fired above our heads, gunfire,” said Sameer Salman, who was being treated in Kamal Adwan.
The Israeli military said dozens of the deaths were caused by a stampede and that some people were run over by trucks as drivers tried to get away.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, said Israeli troops guarding the area fired shots “only toward a threat after the crowd moved toward them in a way that endangered them.” He said the troops “didn’t open fire on those seeking aid.”
 

 


Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought
Updated 02 March 2024
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Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought
  • The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars

TUNIS: Tunisia has raised its drinking water prices by up to 16 percent, the official gazette said on Friday, in response to a drought that has lasted five years.
After years of drought, average rainfall has increased in recent months but government officials said this week that Tunisian dams have only reached 35 percent of their stock capacity.
The North African country last year imposed a quota system for drinking water and a ban on its use in agriculture. Since last summer, it has been cutting off water supplies at night.
The price of water will be unchanged for small consumers.
Those whose consumption exceeds 40 cubic meters face about 12 percent increase to 1.040 Tunisian dinars ($0.33) per cubic meter and consumers of between 70 and 100 cubic meters per quarter will pay 13.7 percent more at 1.490 dinars per cubic meter with immediate effect.
The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars.
Tunisia has launched water desalination plants to try to make up for the country’s lack of dams and the impact of climate change.

 


Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case

Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case
Updated 02 March 2024
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Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case

Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case
  • Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week said Israel is disregarding the ICJ’s interim order by limiting humanitarian aid to Gaza

THE HAGUE: Nicaragua on Friday accused Germany of facilitating “genocide” in Gaza in a case started in the International Court of Justice, by giving support to Israel and suspending funding of the UN Palestinian refugee agency.
Through those measures, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case has failed in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide,” Nicaragua argued in a filing published by the Hague-based court.
Nicaragua was asking the court to take a swift interim stance against Germany before the case was given in-depth study by judges.
The lodging of the case follows the ICJ saying on January 26 that Israel must do everything to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and take “immediate” measures for aid provisions.
That interim order was given as the court moves to weigh in full a case lodged in December by South Africa alleging that Israel was engaged in genocide in Gaza.
Israel has dismissed South Africa’s case as a “grossly distorted story.”
ICJ rulings are legally binding but the court has no enforcement mechanism.
Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week said Israel is disregarding the ICJ’s interim order by limiting humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Accusations from Israel that staff from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, took part in the October 7 Hamas attacks against Israeli communities prompted several countries, including Germany, Britain, Japan and the United States, to suspend their funding.
On Friday, the European Commission emphasized that it was maintaining its funding of UNRWA while reviewing arrangements in light of the Israeli allegation.
The commission said it was releasing 50 million euros ($54 million) to the UN agency next week with a further 32 million euros to follow later.
Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 that Israel says are presumed dead.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza on Friday gave the death toll in the strip from the unrelenting Israeli retaliation as 30,228, mostly women and children.
On Friday a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office OCHA said that “if something doesn’t change, a famine is almost inevitable” in the besieged territory.
 

 


Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza

Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza
Updated 02 March 2024
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Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza

Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza
  • Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to Hamas’ public messaging on the hostages, casting it as psychological warfare

CAIRO: Seven hostages who have been held in Gaza were killed as a result of the Israeli military’s bombardment of the enclave, Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam brigades said on Friday.
He did not include details, like a timeline, backing up the claim.
The Al-Qassam brigades claimed that the number of hostages killed due to Israel’s military operations in Gaza has now exceeded 70 captives, Abu Ubaida added in a statement on Telegram.
Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to Hamas’ public messaging on the hostages, casting it as psychological warfare.
Israel’s military campaign follows Hamas militants’ killing of 1,200 people in southern Israel and the abduction of at least 250 on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
During a week-long truce in late November, Hamas freed more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages in exchange for Israel releasing about 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas at the outset of the war threatened to execute hostages in retaliation for Israeli military strikes, and Israel has accused it of having executed at least two of the dead hostages recovered by the Israeli military.

 


Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate

Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate
Updated 02 March 2024
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Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate

Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate
  • Iran has also been badly affected by international sanctions that have led to an economic crisis
  • Fearing escalation, Iraq asked Iran to help rein in groups

TEHRAN: Iranians voted on Friday in elections for parliament and a key clerical body, amid fears of a low turnout and with conservatives expected to tighten their grip on power.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for a strong turnout, was the first to cast his ballot. He vote at a polling station in central Tehran, state television reported.
The elections are the first in Iran since widespread protests erupted after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.
Since the last elections, Iran has also been badly affected by international sanctions that have led to an economic crisis.
More than 61 million of Iran’s 85 million people are eligible to vote for members of parliament as well as the clerics of the Assembly of Experts, which selects Iran’s supreme leader.
There were fears of a low turnout, however, after a state TV poll found more than half of respondents were indifferent about the elections.
“Suppose that I vote: what would it change?” asked a 21-year-old from Kurdistan province who gave her name only as Hanna, for fear of reprisals. “They (the elected officials) do not respect their promises.”
Her comments were echoed by Hashem, a 32-year-old from the southwestern province of Khuzestan. “The problem with the elections is that people are not happy with this system because of the political and economic situation,” he said.
Another voter, Moradiani from south Tehran, said she would heed Khamenei’s call to vote.
“The leader said that participating in the elections is an obligation,” she said, “just as it is obligatory for us to pray.”
Polls closed at midnight (2030 GMT), after voting hours were extended several times during the day, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Local Fars news agency estimated the turnout to stand at “more than 40 percent.”
“The plan to boycott the elections, designed by foreign enemies and their internal supporters, failed with the participation of around 25 million people,” it said, without elaborating

Iran’s last parliamentary election in 2020 saw turnout of 42.57 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Hadi Tahan Nazif, spokesman for the Guardian Council which vets candidates, voiced optimism about Friday’s turnout, saying it was “even better” than four years ago.
Khamenei had on Friday appealed for people to vote, saying: “Onlookers from all over observe the affairs of our country; make (Iran’s) friends happy and ill-wishers disappointed.”
The supreme leader had previously warned that Iran’s “enemies want to see if the people are present.” Otherwise, he added, “they will threaten your security in one way or another.”
Those watching, he said, included the United States, “most of the Europeans, evil Zionists, capitalists and big companies.”
Iran considers the United States, its Western allies and Israel “enemies” of the state and accuses them of seeking to intervene in its internal affairs.
On the eve of the elections, the United States said they would be unfair.
“I have no expectation that Iran’s elections will be free and fair, and I suspect that a great number of Iranians have no expectation that those elections will be free and fair,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington.
Candidates for parliament are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose members are either appointed or approved by the supreme leader.
They have approved a total of 15,200 candidates, out of nearly 49,000 applicants, to run for seats in the 290-member parliament.
Conservatives and ultra-conservatives, who hold 232 out 290 seats in the 2020 parliament after reformist and moderate candidates were disqualified, are expected by analysts to dominate once again.
A coalition of parties called the Reform Front said it would not take part in “meaningless, non-competitive and ineffective elections.”

Former Iranian president, the reformist Mohammad Khatami, was quoted in February by the conservative Javan daily as saying that Iran was “very far from free and competitive elections.”
Conservatives are also expected to maintain a firm grip on the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body exclusively made up of male Islamic scholars.
A total of 144 candidates are running but many hopefuls were disqualified, including moderate former president Hassan Rouhani.
The Israel-Hamas war has sent tensions in the region soaring, with pro-Tehran groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen all involved in clashes with either Israel or its Western allies.
The elections also take place amid crippling international sanctions and mounting economic hardship in Iran, where inflation has hovered around 50 percent and the rial has sharply depreciated against the dollar.
“The prices are extremely high and continue to increase,” Masoumeh, a 40-year-old housewife, told AFP in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar ahead of the vote.
“I don’t think that the representatives who will be elected will be able to improve this situation.”