Pope calls for talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Pope calls for talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Pope Francis, flanked by children from the five continents, speaks from his studio's window to the faithful gathered for the traditional Sunday's noon blessing in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 01 October 2023
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Pope calls for talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Pope calls for talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia
  • More than 100,000 refugees have arrived in Armenia since Azerbaijan’s military operation to retake control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the UN said on Saturday

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has called for talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia to restore peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, adding that the region was experiencing a humanitarian crisis.

“I have been following the dramatic situation of the displaced people in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days and I renew my call for dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia, hoping that talks between the parties ... will foster a lasting agreement that will put an end to the humanitarian crisis,” the pope said during his Sunday prayer.

More than 100,000 refugees have arrived in Armenia since Azerbaijan’s military operation to retake control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the UN said on Saturday.

The pope also said he was praying for the victims of the explosion at a fuel depot near the city of Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Also on Sunday, Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general issued an arrest warrant for ex-Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan as the first UN mission to visit the region in three decades arrived in the former breakaway state.

Harutyunyan led the breakaway region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but was largely populated by ethnic Armenians, between May 2020 and last month, when the separatist government said it would dissolve itself by the end of the year after a three-decade bid for independence.

Azerbaijani police arrested one of Harutyunyan’s former prime ministers, Ruben Vardanyan, on Wednesday as he tried to cross into Armenia along with tens of thousands of others who have fled following Baku’s 24-hour blitz last week to reclaim control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Harutyunyan and the enclave’s former military commander, Jalal Harutyunyan, are accused of firing missiles on Azerbaijan’s third-largest city, Ganja, during a 44-day war in late 2020, local media reported. 

The clash between the Azerbaijani military and Nagorno Karabakh forces led to the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the region.

The arrest warrant announcement by Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev reflects Azerbaijan’s intention to quickly and forcefully enforce its grip on the region following three decades of conflict with the separatist state.

While Baku has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, many have fled due to fear of reprisals or losing the freedom to use their language and to practice their religion and cultural customs.

In a briefing on Sunday, Armenia’s presidential press secretary, Nazeli Baghdasaryan, said that 100,483 people had already arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, which had a population of about 120,000 before Azerbaijan’s offensive.

Some people lined up for days to escape the region because the only route to Armenia — a winding mountain road — became jammed with slow-moving vehicles.

A UN delegation arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh Sunday to monitor the situation. 

The mission is the organization’s first to the region for three decades, due to the “very complicated and delicate geopolitical situation” there, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Friday.

Local officials dismissed the visit as a formality. 

Hunan Tadevosyan, spokesperson for Nagorno-Karabakh’s emergency services, said the UN representatives had come too late and the number of civilians left in the regional capital of Stepanakert could be “counted on one hand.”


Sicily’s Catania airport reopens after Etna eruption

Sicily’s Catania airport reopens after Etna eruption
Updated 7 sec ago
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Sicily’s Catania airport reopens after Etna eruption

Sicily’s Catania airport reopens after Etna eruption
All flights would resume from 10pm
The airport had suspended all flights earlier Tuesday “due to eruptions and ash emissions“

ROME: The airport at Catania in Sicily, a top Italian tourist destination, reopened late Tuesday afternoon after suspending all flights when an eruption at nearby Mount Etna spewed volcanic ash.
Millions of passengers pass every year through Catania International Airport, which serves the eastern part of Sicily with tourist sites such as Syracuse and Taormina.
“Due to the decrease in volcanic activity, flight operations will resume,” the airport operator wrote on X.
Departures resumed from 6pm (1600gmt), while four arrivals per hour would be allowed from 8pm (1800gmt), it said.
All flights would resume from 10pm (2000gmt), it added.
The airport had suspended all flights earlier Tuesday “due to eruptions and ash emissions.”
That message was posted with a warning image of Mount Etna with the text “high intensity” and “volcanic activity in progress” overlayed.
The National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the ash column had reached an altitude of eight kilometers (five miles).
At 3,324 meters (nearly 11,000 feet), Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years.
Catania airport was last closed on July 5 due to an eruption.

Poll says 32 percent of Ukrainians open to territorial concessions for quick peace

Poll says 32 percent of Ukrainians open to territorial concessions for quick peace
Updated 43 min 30 sec ago
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Poll says 32 percent of Ukrainians open to territorial concessions for quick peace

Poll says 32 percent of Ukrainians open to territorial concessions for quick peace
  • The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology said 55 percent of Ukrainians remain opposed to making any territorial concessions
  • Nearly 29 months since its full-scale invasion, Russia occupies around 18 percent of Ukrainian territory

KYIV: Nearly a third of Ukrainians would accept some territorial concessions to Russia for a quick end to the war, a more than three-fold increase over the past year, although most still oppose giving up any land, a poll showed on Tuesday.
The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology said its poll of 1,067 people on Ukrainian-held territory from May 16-22 found that 32 percent would agree to some form of territorial concessions, up from just 10 percent a year earlier and 19 percent at the end of last year.
It said 55 percent of Ukrainians remain opposed to making any territorial concessions.
Nearly 29 months since its full-scale invasion, Russia occupies around 18 percent of Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean peninsula it seized in 2014. Kyiv’s troops have been on the back foot this year facing a Russian offensive after their counteroffensive failed to make significant gains last year.
The survey did not ask those polled what territorial concessions they would be open to or how large they should be. KIIS said those polled did not necessarily see concessions as equating to recognizing the territory as Russian.
“For example, some people are ready to postpone the liberation of certain territories until the future at a better time,” KIIS said in a statement with its findings.
Russia in 2022 unilaterally declared it had annexed the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which it partially controls.
In remarks published alongside the survey, KIIS’s executive director, Anton Hrushetskyi, said Ukrainians remained against the idea of reaching a peace settlement with Russia at any cost.
“It’s ... important that in the context of possible ‘concessions’, Ukrainians are against ‘peace on any terms’,” he said.


Digital Cooperation Organization calls for urgent talks on recent global IT outage implications

Digital Cooperation Organization calls for urgent talks on recent global IT outage implications
Updated 23 July 2024
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Digital Cooperation Organization calls for urgent talks on recent global IT outage implications

Digital Cooperation Organization calls for urgent talks on recent global IT outage implications
  • The DCO, which includes Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and 14 other states, is the world’s first standalone intergovernmental body on digital economy
  • The DCO secretariat states the high level of impact the world witnessed as a result of the outage is ‘alarming’ and requires ‘agile’ cooperation

RIYADH: The Digital Cooperation Organization’s (DCO) General Secretariat said in a statement that it will hold urgent discussions with its Member States and digital economy experts to address the implications of the global IT outage that disrupted vital operations around the world, affecting critical business sectors like aviation, banking, broadcast media, software providers, and more.
The DCO General Secretariat states that “the high level of impact the world witnessed as a result of the unfortunate outage is alarming and indicates the dire need for a more effective and agile international digital cooperation.” The incident raised questions on continuity and sustainability in a world rapidly moving toward being highly dependent on digital channels and platforms. It is very crucial that the international community develops proper policies and protocols to mitigate the risks of such incidents and ensure the continuity of essential operations.
To this end, the DCO General Secretariat has called for an urgent deliberation for its Member States and digital economy experts to capture the lessons learned from this incident, assess its impact on national digital transformation plans in Member States, and plan practical steps to ensure that relevant stakeholders across sectors are aligned and ready to deal with such mishaps.
The Digital Cooperation Organization is the world’s first standalone international intergovernmental organization focusing on the acceleration of the growth of an inclusive and sustainable digital economy. It is a global multilateral organization founded in November 2020 that aims to enable digital prosperity for all.
The 16 DCO Member States include the Kingdom of Bahrain, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Djibouti, the Republic of The Gambia, the Republic of Ghana, the Hellenic Republic (Greece), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Kuwait, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sultanate of Oman, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the State of Qatar, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — collectively representing nearly $3.5 trillion in GDP and a market of nearly 800 million people, more than 70 percent of whom are under the age of 35.


US Secret Service chief resigns following Trump assassination attempt

US Secret Service chief resigns following Trump assassination attempt
Updated 23 July 2024
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US Secret Service chief resigns following Trump assassination attempt

US Secret Service chief resigns following Trump assassination attempt
  • Cheatle faced bipartisan condemnation when she appeared before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee on Monday
  • Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers called on her to resign

WASHINGTON: U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle resigned after the agency came under harsh scrutiny for its failure to stop a would-be assassin from wounding former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally, the White House said on Tuesday.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for the protection of current and former U.S. presidents, faces a crisis after a gunman was able to fire on Trump from a roof overlooking the outdoor rally in Butler, Pennsylvania on July 13.
Cheatle faced bipartisan condemnation when she appeared before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee on Monday, declining to answer questions from frustrated lawmakers about the security plan for the rally and how law enforcement responded to the suspicious behavior of the gunman.
Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers called on her to resign.
Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, was grazed in the right ear and one rallygoer was killed in the gunfire. The gunman, identified as a 20-year-old Thomas Crooks, was shot and killed by s Secret Service sniper.
"While Director Cheatle’s resignation is a step toward accountability, we need a full review of how these security failures happened so that we can prevent them going forward," James Comer, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement. "We will continue our oversight of the Secret Service."
Cheatle, who has led the agency since 2022, told lawmakers she took responsibility for the shooting, calling it the largest failure by the Secret Service since then-President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981.
The Secret Service faces investigations from multiple congressional committees and the internal watchdog of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, its parent organization, over its performance. President Joe Biden, who has ended his reelection campaign, has also called for an independent review.
Much of the criticism has focused on the failure to secure the roof of an industrial building where the gunman was perched about 150 yards (140 m) from the stage where Trump was speaking.
The rooftop was declared outside the Secret Service security perimeter for the event, a decision criticized by former agents and lawmakers.
Cheatle held a top security role at PepsiCo when Biden named her Secret Service director in 2022. She previously served 27 years in the agency.
She took over following a series of scandals involving the Secret Service that scarred the reputation of an elite and insular agency.
Ten Secret Service agents lost their jobs after revelations they brought women, some of them prostitutes, back to their hotel rooms ahead of a trip to Colombia by then-President Barack Obama in 2012.
The agency also faced allegations that it erased text messages from around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those messages were later sought by a congressional panel probing the riot.


Indonesian Ulama Council urges government to protect consumers from Israeli products

Indonesian Ulama Council urges government to protect consumers from Israeli products
Updated 23 July 2024
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Indonesian Ulama Council urges government to protect consumers from Israeli products

Indonesian Ulama Council urges government to protect consumers from Israeli products
  • New data shows there has been growth in Indonesia’s trade with Israel
  • Top religious body suggests use of consumer protection law to contain the activity

JAKARTA: The Indonesian Ulama Council called on the government on Tuesday to protect consumers from products linked with Israel, as imports have grown despite there being no diplomatic relations between Jakarta and Tel Aviv.

Indonesia has been among the most vocal countries in demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and a stop to international military support and weapons sales to Tel Aviv, especially since the beginning of the deadly Israeli invasion of Gaza. 

Campaigns calling for the boycott of companies that have direct or presumed links with Israeli institutions have also been regular events in the country, where many people see Palestinian statehood as mandated by their constitution.

In this context, many were shocked when the latest data from the country’s Central Statistics Agency showed increasing economic ties with Israel, with imports to Indonesia amounting to more than $35 million between January and May.  

While the amount is not significant in Indonesia’s overall trade volume, it is nearly four times higher than the $8.85 million recorded in the same period in 2023 and surpasses last year’s total of $21.9 million. The official data also showed exports to Israel from Indonesia had by May reached more than $66 million.

The growing trade volume made national headlines earlier this month, prompting calls on the government to act. 

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on matters relating to trade, and the Ministry of Trade did not respond to questions on commercial relations with Israel, the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, which is the top religious body in the country, said that the trade links “must be stopped.”

The MUI’s chair of foreign relations, Dr. Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim, told Arab News that the government must protect Indonesian consumers under the existing laws. 

“We have the Consumer Protection Law, so the government should follow it to protect consumers from Israeli products, whatever they may be,” he said. 

Weeks after the beginning of Israel’s invasion, the MUI issued a fatwa, or a religious decree, prohibiting Indonesian Muslims from buying products that had any links to Israel.

“Any trade will surely yield profits, and whatever the value of our import from Israel, of course there are profits involved. This financial gain is what could potentially play an important role in funding Israel’s main programs right now,” Hakim said. “Since Israel’s current main agenda is to finish Palestine, let’s not support that.” 

Israel’s ground and air attacks in the past nine months have killed more than 39,000 Palestinian citizens in Gaza, according to official estimates, though a study published in the Lancet journal earlier this month estimated the actual death toll could reach in excess of 186,000 people. 

“The existence of trade relations, especially their growth, gives room for Israel to try other channels of relations with Indonesia, and that is dangerous. It will weaken Indonesia’s spirit in defending Palestine.”

Members of Indonesia’s civil society have also been calling on the government to halt trade ties with Israel. 

“For me, this is a hypocritical double standard. On the one hand, the government is condemning the zionist’s genocide and urging for a ceasefire, but continuing with trade relations on the other,” Muhammad Anshorullah from the Jakarta-based Aqsa Working Group, told Arab News.

“I am urging the government … to also take firm steps … stop trade ties with zionist Israel.”

Cecep Jasim, who coordinated a thousands-strong march for Gaza in West Java last November, said that commercial ties with Israel contradicted Indonesia’s stance on Palestine. 

“We urge a stop to all trade activities with Israel … The government must firmly refuse all kinds of relations with zionist Israel, so that Indonesia will not be seen as having a foot in both camps for their own gain,” he said. 

The Indonesian chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which calls for economic and trade pressure in opposition to Israel, also protested against Indonesia-Israel trade ties. 

“BDS rejects Indonesia’s trade relations with Israel in all its forms, that’s clear. We demand that the Ministry of Trade put an end to it… With regard to the growing volume, this is extremely regrettable, especially as it is happening in the middle of an ongoing genocide, such growth should not be happening and it must be corrected,” BDS Indonesia head, Muhammad Syauqi Hafiz, told Arab News. 

“Indonesia shouldn’t be satisfied with its existing stance, it’s not enough. There must be more, a policy escalation to also try and stop Israel, not just merely defending Palestine. That’s how it should be if Indonesia is sincere in its commitments.” 

Media Wahyu Askar, director of public policy at the Center of Economic and Law Studies, said that Indonesia was not dependent on Israeli products and could find substitutes from other countries.

“The government should seriously consider the calls to boycott products affiliated with Israel and even products from Israel, because such calls for boycott are extremely effective to pressure the private sector to stop working with Israel,” he told Arab News, adding that it “would not have any significant negative impact on the Indonesian economy.”

Indonesia’s imports between January and May 2024 were worth about $91 billion, which means imports from Israel — most of which took place through third countries — made up less than 0.05 percent.

But for Israel, Indonesia has a “strategic value,” Askar said. 

“In the next few years, it is expected that Israel will continue to find ways to influence Indonesia’s political economy and normalize trade relations in order to gain global influence,” he said.