Egypt to allow Iranians visas on arrival in Sinai as regional tensions ease

Egypt to allow Iranians visas on arrival in Sinai as regional tensions ease
Relations between Egypt and Iran have generally been fraught in recent decades although the two countries have maintained diplomatic contacts. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 March 2023
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Egypt to allow Iranians visas on arrival in Sinai as regional tensions ease

Egypt to allow Iranians visas on arrival in Sinai as regional tensions ease

CAIRO: Egypt will soon allow Iranians traveling with tour groups to obtain visas on arrival in the south of its Sinai peninsula with a view to extending access to other parts of the country, Egyptian Tourism Ministry officials said.

The decision is part of a series of measures announced on Monday aimed at improving access to visas to boost tourism revenues at a time when Egypt has been struggling economically with an acute foreign currency shortage.

It also comes as some Middle Eastern countries including Egypt are taking steps to ease regional tensions. Egypt’s Sunni Muslim Arab ally Saudi Arabia and Shiite Muslim Iran announced this month that they would restore diplomatic relations.

Cairo has mended a rift with Qatar and is re-establishing ties with Turkiye, another country to benefit from new visa rules with Turkish nationals given expanded access to visas on arrival, according to a Egyptian Tourism Ministry statement.

Among the other new visa rules announced were a $700, five-year multiple-entry visa, which Tourism Minister Ahmed Issa said was aimed at investors and property owners who are based outside Egypt.

On visas for Iranians arriving in South Sinai, home to the highly secured resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Issa said: “We will evaluate the experience of their arrival in South Sinai as a first step, and building on that, we’ll determine if they will be admitted in other places.”

Relations between Egypt and Iran have generally been fraught in recent decades although the two countries have maintained diplomatic contacts.

Tourists from China, which Egypt regards as a market with big potential, and Indians residing in Gulf countries will also be granted visas on arrival.

All new visa rules have been approved in principle and will be put into effect soon, a Tourism Ministry official said.


Turkiye’s top appeals court upholds philanthropist Kavala’s life sentence -media

Turkiye’s top appeals court upholds philanthropist Kavala’s life sentence -media
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Turkiye’s top appeals court upholds philanthropist Kavala’s life sentence -media

Turkiye’s top appeals court upholds philanthropist Kavala’s life sentence -media
ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s top appeals court on Thursday upheld the life sentence for philanthropist Osman Kavala, broadcaster Haberturk and other media reported, while overturning 18-year prison sentences for three others in the same case.
Kavala, 65, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in April 2022, while seven others in the case received 18 years based on claims they organized and financed nationwide protests in 2013.
At the time, the verdict was seen as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan, and the punishment of the government’s perceived foes through the judiciary. All have denied the charges, saying the protests developed spontaneously.
On Thursday, the appeals court upheld the life sentence for Kavala and an 18-year sentence for Can Atalay, who was elected a member of parliament in May, and three others, Haberturk said.
The court overturned 18-year sentences for Mucella Yapici, Hakan Altinay, and Yigit Ekmekci, it said.
The ruling effectively marks the end of the appeals process for Kavala, who has been in detention since 2017. Turkiye’s Constitutional Court previously rejected his appeal too.
Hundreds of thousands marched in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkiye in 2013 as demonstrations against plans to build replica Ottoman barracks in the city’s Gezi Park grew into nationwide protests against Erdogan’s government.
Erdogan has equated the protesters to terrorists, and has personally accused Kavala numerous times of being the financier of the protests.
Ankara’s Western allies, opposition members, and rights groups say Turkish courts are under the control of the government. Erdogan and his AK Party say they are independent.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkiye must free Kavala and others for violations of their rights. Turkiye has not taken any action and now faces possible suspension from the Council of Europe.

Emirati and Malaysian trade ministers discuss boosting economic ties

Emirati and Malaysian trade ministers discuss boosting economic ties
Updated 28 September 2023
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Emirati and Malaysian trade ministers discuss boosting economic ties

Emirati and Malaysian trade ministers discuss boosting economic ties
  • Officials reviewed status of negotiations for a UAE-Malaysia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
  • UAE is Malaysia’s second-largest commercial partner in the Middle East

LONDON: Thani Al-Zeyoudi, the Emirati minister of state for foreign trade, and Tengku Zafrul Aziz, the Malaysian minister of investment, trade and industry, discussed ways boost trade and investment ties between their countries. Their meeting took place during a visit to the UAE by a delegation of senior trade officials from Malaysia.

During the talks, Al-Zeyoudi praised the existing strong relations between the nations and reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to expanding the opportunities available to the business communities in both, the Emirates News Agency reported on Thursday.

They also reviewed the status of negotiations to develop a UAE-Malaysia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The meeting was the second between the ministers since discussions about the agreement began during a visit by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Khaled bin Mohammed, to Kuala Lumpur in May.

Their first meeting took place in Jakarta during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business and Investment Summit in early September, and the talks reflect the UAE’s desire to strengthen its ties with Malaysia and the wider ASEAN bloc, officials said.

“Malaysia is a valued partner for the UAE in an increasingly important region, one which shares our vision of leveraging global trade to accelerate growth and diversify the economy,” Al-Zeyoudi said.

“Malaysia’s support for open, rules-based trade, transparent dispute-resolution mechanisms and a greater voice for the developing world in trade policy will help deliver a conference of lasting impact,” he added.

Tengku Zafrul said: “We are keen to bolster our ties with the UAE, a nation that continues to gain importance as a strategic trading partner for Malaysia.

“Situated at the crossroads between East and West, the UAE offers immense opportunities for our exporters and their efforts to expand into global markets.”

The ministers commended recent growth in non-oil bilateral trade, which reached a total value of more than $2.226 billion during the first half of 2023. They also expressed the aim of increasing foreign direct investment.

The UAE is Malaysia’s second-largest commercial partner in the Middle East, accounting for 32 percent of its total trade with Arab countries.


 

 

 


US imposes fresh round of sanctions over instability in Sudan

US imposes fresh round of sanctions over instability in Sudan
Updated 28 September 2023
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US imposes fresh round of sanctions over instability in Sudan

US imposes fresh round of sanctions over instability in Sudan
  • Sanctions target former Sudanese official and two companies, including one based in Russia

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a former Sudanese official and two companies, including one based in Russia, that it accused of exacerbating instability in Sudan as fighting has killed thousands and displaced millions of civilians.
The action is the latest round of sanctions imposed by Washington after war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in mid-April over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the army, four years after long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in a popular uprising.
“Today’s action holds accountable those who have undercut efforts to find a peaceful, democratic solution in Sudan,” the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement.
“We will continue to target actors perpetuating this conflict for personal gain.”
The Treasury said it targeted Ali Karti, the foreign minister under Bashir, and became leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement after Bashir was toppled in 2019.
He is a prominent figure among loyalists and veterans of Bashir’s rule who have maneuvered to protect their interests and regained some leverage after a 2021 coup by the army and the RSF.
Also hit with sanctions was GSK Advance Company, a Sudan-based company the Treasury said has been used as a procurement channel for the RSF.
GSK worked with Russia-based military supply company Aviatrade, also targeted on Thursday, to arrange the procurement of parts and supplies, as well as training, for drones previously purchased by the RSF, the Treasury said.


Syrian beekeepers battle both war and climate change

Syrian beekeepers battle both war and climate change
Updated 28 September 2023
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Syrian beekeepers battle both war and climate change

Syrian beekeepers battle both war and climate change
  • Rankus was once renowned for its honey, but was hard hit by fighting between government forces and rebels
  • Damiriya can barely afford to tend to his hives, donated by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to help Syrian beekeepers

RANKUS, Syria: Syrian beekeeper Ibrahim Damiriya struggles to produce honey from his hives on parched land near the capital Damascus after years of war, economic collapse and worsening climate change impacts.
“The war bled us dry. We could barely keep our beekeeping business afloat, and then the insane weather made things worse,” the 62-year-old in a beekeeping suit told AFP as he examined meagre honey stocks inside the hives.
Before Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, Damiriya owned 110 hives in Rankus, a village near Damascus that was once filled with apple orchards.
But now a combination of fighting, severe drought and a gruelling economic crisis have left him with a mere 40 hives in semi-arid lands, decimating his honey yield.
Rankus was once renowned for its honey, but was hard hit by fighting between government forces and rebels that caused widespread destruction, pushing many residents to flee.
Damiriya can barely afford to tend to his hives, donated by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to help Syrian beekeepers.
“If we keep suffering from climate change and rising prices, I might have to abandon my profession,” Damiriya said with a sigh.
Since 2011, Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and caused an acute economic crisis, exacerbated by severe Western sanctions.
Recent years have also battered Syria with heatwaves, low rainfall and more forest fires.
A 2019 United Nations report found that fighting had practically wiped out hives, with bombs contaminating the environment and pesticide misuse and a proliferation of parasites speeding up their decline.
Syria used to be home to 635,000 hives before the war, but their numbers had dwindled to about 150,000 at the height of the conflict in 2016, said Iyad Daaboul, the Damascus-based president of the Arab Beekeepers Union.
Today that number has risen back up to 400,000, he said. However, the hives yield only 1,500 tons of honey per year — half of the country’s pre-war production.
Unusually cold springs and drought have had an adverse effect on the flowers that bees feed on.
“Extreme weather conditions have greatly affected bees, especially during spring — the most important time in their life cycle,” said Daaboul.
The number of beekeepers has nearly halved from 32,000 before the war to around 18,000 today, he said.
Another threat to the bees is the forest fires which have become more common as temperatures rise.
Fires “have destroyed more than 1,000 hives on Syria’s coastal mountains and stripped bees of large foraging areas,” Daaboul said.
Rising temperatures and desertification have taken a toll on Syria’s greenery, destroying many of the plants on whose flowers the bees feed and squeezing the once-thriving agriculture sector.
Damascus ICRC spokesperson Suhair Zakkout told AFP that “Syria’s agricultural production has fallen by approximately 50 percent over the last 10 years” because of war and climate change.
Despite being one of the countries most badly affected by global warming, Syria has lacked the funds it needs to tackle environmental issues, Zakkout said.
Climate change has devastated farmer Ziad Rankusi’s apple orchards, which have also been greatly thinned by illegal logging as people struggle to keep warm during the winter amid recurrent fuel shortages.
Rankusi, who is in his 50s, used to tend more than 1,000 trees on his land, but just 400 survive, and they are drying out in the heat.
“For about five years, we have had unprecedented droughts and desertification, and this year the spring was unusually cold. The fruit perished,” said the farmer.
“When trees and flowers disappear, bees can no longer feed. They either migrate or die.”


World Court to hear Syria torture claims on Oct. 10-11

World Court to hear Syria torture claims on Oct. 10-11
Updated 28 September 2023
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World Court to hear Syria torture claims on Oct. 10-11

World Court to hear Syria torture claims on Oct. 10-11
  • The hearing at the Peace Palace will mark the first time an international court has looked at alleged abuses committed in Syria during 12 years of conflict

AMSTERDAM: The World Court will hear on Oct. 10 and 11 a request by the Netherlands and Canada that it orders Syria to cease all acts of torture and arbitrary detention, as part of a case alleging the country has breached a UN anti-torture treaty.
The hearing at the Peace Palace, the court’s seat in The Hague, will mark the first time an international court has looked at alleged abuses committed in Syria during 12 years of conflict.
Syria’s government and President Bashar Assad have rejected accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings in a war that the United Nations has said claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.