Turkiye’s Erdogan to discuss grain deal with UN’s Guterres this month

Turkiye’s Erdogan to discuss grain deal with UN’s Guterres this month
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was earlier in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on reviving the grain deal. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 05 September 2023
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Turkiye’s Erdogan to discuss grain deal with UN’s Guterres this month

Turkiye’s Erdogan to discuss grain deal with UN’s Guterres this month
  • Erdogan says the latest UN proposal sought to address some Russian demands
  • Moscow puts two demands forth as “musts” to revive the initiative

ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkiye is in close contact with the United Nations on reviving the Black Sea grain initiative and he will discuss it with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at its general assembly this month, Turkish media reported.
Speaking to reporters after talks in Russia with Vladimir Putin, Erdogan was quoted as saying the latest UN proposal sought to address some Russian demands, and he repeated he believed a solution could be found soon.
Russian demands include a return of its Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT payments system and insuring the ships involved in the grain initiative, he was quoted as saying by TRT, Haberturk, and other Turkish broadcasters.
“On August 28, UN Secretary General Guterres, in the letter he sent, proposed an intermediary mechanism that would result from the SWIFT transaction, not directly SWIFT as the Russians wanted,” Erdogan said. “They said work was underway on the insurance issue too.”
He added that Moscow was putting these two demands forth as “musts” to revive the initiative, and that Putin had told him he would not take steps on this until “Europe keeps the promises they made me,” according to Turkish media.
NATO member Turkiye is seeking to convince Russia to return to the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by Ankara and the United Nations. Moscow withdrew in July, ending a year of protected exports from Ukrainian ports amid the war.
On Monday, Putin repeated that Russia could return to the initiative, but only if the West stopped restricting Russian agricultural exports from reaching global markets.
Erdogan will participate in the G20 summit in India on Sept. 9-10 before attending the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 18-26.
“We will have meetings with Guterres there to discuss these issues,” Erdogan was cited as saying.


Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say
Updated 3 sec ago
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Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another

WASHINGTON: A claim by Yemen’s Houthi group on Saturday that its forces had attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea is false, two US officials told Reuters.
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iran-aligned Houthis first launched drone and missile strikes in the key waterway in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza, where Israel has waged a more than eight-month-old war.
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.
Earlier the Houthi group said its forces had attacked the Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the operation had achieved its objectives successfully without elaborating. The group also said it attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea. It did not say when the attacks took place.
A Houthi statement said the Transworld Navigator took a direct hit from a missile.

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals
Updated 22 June 2024
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Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals
  • Worshippers parade through villages on horseback as part of traditional festivities

CAIRO: As Egyptian pilgrims return from their spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia, waiting families have begun plans for celebrations in homes decorated with special murals.

Festive images depict Hajj symbols such as airplanes, the Kaaba, Mount Arafat, and camels, celebrating the fulfillment of the sacred pilgrimage. 

Emad Abdel Latif, a folklore professor at Assiut University, told Arab News that the “deep-rooted tradition begins as soon as the pilgrim departs for the holy lands.”

He said the homes “are initially painted, typically in blue, and then adorned with murals that symbolize aspects of the Hajj, including the Kaaba and the aircraft transporting the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Abdel Latif added: “This custom also includes inscribing phrases such as ‘Labaik Allahumma Labaik’ (Here I am, O God, here I am), ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), along with wishes for a blessed Hajj and forgiven sins.”

Traditionally, celebrations included a religious ceremony, during which returning pilgrims might parade through their village on horseback, while sweets are distributed among onlookers. 

Said Al-Badri, a mural artist from Giza, described the intricate planning that goes into creating the artworks.

“Depending on the complexity, a single mural can take one to two hours, while a complete home mural might require a full day of work,” he said.

“These murals visually narrate the pilgrim’s journey — boarding the plane, circling the Kaaba, the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa, standing at Mount Arafat, and visiting the Prophet’s tomb. They are enriched with Qur’anic verses and popular phrases of congratulation.”

Al-Badri learnt the art from his father, and has dedicated himself to preserving this cultural tradition.

“Each year, as pilgrims return, I continue this legacy, enhancing our local heritage through these festive decorations,” he said.

Amira Mahmoud’s mother was one of more than 1.8 million people who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The murals “add to our celebration,” she said.

“Our community deeply values these traditions, which embellish our homes, and reinforce familial and communal bonds.”

Mahmoud highlights the significance of these murals in preserving cultural heritage.

“These artworks are more than decorations. They are a vibrant testament to our rich traditions, inviting every returning pilgrim to the heart of community life.”


Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips
Updated 22 June 2024
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Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips
  • The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims
  • Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah.
The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.
A report discussed at the meeting highlighted that the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies that “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Makkah” via official channels.
It emerged that attempts to bypass the official process included trekking through desert paths and the absence of suitable accommodation at other sacred sites, leading to exhaustion among unregistered pilgrims due to severe heat.
Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services.
The prime minister ordered the immediate revocation of these companies’ licenses, referred the responsible people to public prosecution, and imposed fines to benefit the bereaved families of the deceased pilgrims.
During the meeting, measures were discussed to prevent such incidents in the future, including enforcing immediate actions against companies or entities that facilitated these irregular pilgrimages.
Madbouly said that although the official Egyptian Hajj delegation comprises more than 50,000 pilgrims, it was difficult to ascertain the number of unregistered travelers due to the absence of recorded data.
An official source, preferring anonymity, told Arab News that high fatality numbers reported might include many who traveled under visit visas — not Hajj visas.
He suggested that those responsible for “these transgressions face severe repercussions, possibly extending beyond license revocation to criminal prosecution.”
The French news agency AFP reported that the death toll among Egyptian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj had risen to 600, indicating the majority were not part of the official delegation.
Regarding legal responsibilities, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Abul Saud said that travel agencies bear criminal responsibility if they knowingly facilitate these illegal activities.
Conversely, he said that if they were unaware and merely issued visas based on client requests, it would be easier to hold them accountable if it was proven they had explicit knowledge of the pilgrims’ intentions.
Saturday’s discussions also revealed that some companies possibly knew what the unofficial pilgrims planned, while others may have been unaware, issuing visas without knowing the intended misuse.
This situation underscores the complexity of ensuring that all travel facilitators adhere strictly to legal and ethical standards, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and accountability measures to prevent future occurrences.
Officials said that ensuring all travel facilitators adhere to legal and ethical standards required robust oversight and accountability measures.


EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling
Updated 22 June 2024
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EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling
  • The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza

BRUSSELS: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called for a probe into deadly shelling that damaged an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza.


“The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza and led to dozens of casualties. An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on X.


Israel kills Lebanese man ‘responsible for supplying weapons to Hamas’

Israel kills Lebanese man ‘responsible for supplying weapons to Hamas’
Updated 21 min 20 sec ago
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Israel kills Lebanese man ‘responsible for supplying weapons to Hamas’

Israel kills Lebanese man ‘responsible for supplying weapons to Hamas’
  • UN peacekeepers warn against attacks on its sites in Lebanon or along the Blue Line
  • Kuwaiti citizens told by Foreign Ministry to leave Lebanon ‘as soon as possible’
  • Hezbollah tells peace delegations: ‘Don’t tire yourselves out; stop the war in Gaza, and all fronts will calm down’

BEIRUT: Israel faced accusations of violating the rules of engagement on Saturday after a military drone attacked a car in Khiara village in western Bekaa, killing the Lebanese driver.

Khiara, about 24 km from Shebaa Farms on the border and 58 km from Beirut, was targeted for the first time since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

A Lebanese security source said the drone strike on a SUV killed the driver, Ayman Ghotmeh, from Lala village in Bekaa.

Reports in Bekaa suggested that the victim had links with Hamas or was affiliated with a radical group allied with Hezbollah.

The Israeli army later said that Ghotmeh was a commander in the Islamic Group in Lebanon, and “was in charge of supplying Hamas with weapons.”

According to Israeli media outlets, the army also targeted Hamas commander Raed Saad in a strike inside Gaza.

Israeli shelling reached Khiam, the outskirts of Deir Mimas, and Kfarkila amid continued confrontations with Hezbollah on Saturday, while Israeli warplanes struck Yaroun with two air-to-surface missiles, with no casualties reported.

Hezbollah said it struck a building used by Israeli soldiers in the Manara settlement.

It has also been reported that UNIFIL was fortifying its military positions in the border area.

Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL Media Office, said that “the international forces reject the use of UNIFIL locations or nearby areas to carry out attacks through the Blue Line.”

In an official statement, Ardell said: “Since October, we’ve been witnessing many incidents targeting our locations and vehicles from both sides. In some situations, our peacekeepers sustained some injuries, which fortunately weren’t serious.

“We reiterate to all parties that targeting UN locations or using nearby areas to carry out attacks through the Blue Line is unacceptable and constitutes a violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

She added: “We have strong measures in place to ensure peacekeepers’ safety and ability to fulfill their duties. This includes updating our buildings when needed.”

The UNIFIL reaction came as Hezbollah parliamentary bloc member MP Hassan Ezzeddine said all the “pressure and intimidation on Lebanon is aimed at pressuring the resistance.”

Ezzeddine said: “We have faced threats and temptations, the aim of which was to give up our heavy weapons in favor of what we want inside Lebanon, but we refused and continued our path.

“The threats made by the enemy against Lebanon are to stop the front of northern occupied Palestine because this front, by everyone’s admission, especially the enemy’s leaders, is very influential in weakening them, paralyzing their capabilities, and preventing them from defeating Gaza.”

Ezzeddine addressed “all those working behind the scenes, and openly, those delegations coming to Lebanon with various initiatives,” saying: “Do not waste your time and efforts in Lebanon, because they are going in the wrong direction, and do not tire yourselves out.

“There is only one way, and that is to go to Israeli leaders and pressure them to stop their aggression on Gaza. Then, all fronts will calm down.

“But if this enemy continues its aggression and expands the scope of this war, the resistance is ready to fight a battle that may ultimately be decisive.”

The Hezbollah MP’s remarks came as the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised all its citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon due to security developments in the region.

The ministry asked “Kuwaiti citizens already in Lebanon, with no pressing reasons to remain, to leave the country as soon as possible. Those unable to leave must contact the Kuwaiti Embassy in Lebanon immediately via the embassy’s emergency phone number: 0096171171441.”

Kuwait Airways announced an increase in the capacity of its planes heading to Beirut to accommodate passengers wishing to return to Kuwait.

In a statement on its X account, the airline said: “These measures come in coordination with the Foreign Ministry in light of the current circumstances in the region.”