How GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit charted a path for inter-regional cooperation

Special How GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit charted a path for inter-regional cooperation
Family group photo of leaders participating in the ASEAN-GCC Summit in Riyadh on October 20, 2023. (Front, L- R) Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Crown Prince of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Oman's Deputy Prime Minister of Defense Affairs Sayyed Shihab bin Tarek bin Taimur al-Said. (SPA)
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Updated 21 October 2023
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How GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit charted a path for inter-regional cooperation

How GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit charted a path for inter-regional cooperation
  • Meeting in Saudi capital on Friday was the first meeting of its kind since the establishment of relations in 1986
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman highlighted need to establish a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders

RIYADH/JAKARTA: The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted on Friday a cooperation road map during their inaugural joint summit in Riyadh, which also called for a ceasefire in the wake of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

The gathering of the leaders of the GCC and ASEAN in the Saudi capital was the first top-level engagement between the two blocs since they established relations in 1986, when the GCC Ministerial Council decided to initiate contact with the political and economic union of 10 Southeast Asian nations.

Engagements between the two groupings — which from the GCC side comprise Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, and from the ASEAN side Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines — have been on the rise for the past few years.




UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcome leaders from the ASEAN and GCC prior to the regional blocs’ maiden summit in Riyadh. (SPA)

The two blocs together account for a GDP of about $7.8 trillion and a population of more than 700 million. Their economic growth last year stood far above the global average, with 7.5 percent for the GCC and 5.3 percent for the ASEAN.

“We look forward to strengthening relations with ASEAN nations in various domains,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said as he opened the summit.

With the meeting taking place in the wake of the ongoing Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip, the crown prince reiterated the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of targeting civilians and called for an end to the fighting.




Leaders at the GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the most effective and efficient access for relief supplies, humanitarian aid, and essential services. (SPA)

“As we gather, we are saddened by the escalating violence that Gaza is witnessing today, the price of which is being paid by innocent civilians,” he said, highlighting the necessity to “stop military operations against civilians ... and to create conditions for the return of stability and the achievement of lasting peace that ensures reaching a just solution to establish a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders.”

Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia, which this year holds ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship, thanked Saudi Arabia for “the warm welcome and hospitality,” as he hoped that the new level of cooperation between the countries of the Gulf and Southeast Asia would make them together emerge as a “positive force in the midst of a divided world.”




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcomes Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Riyadh on October 19, 2023, a day ahead of the GCC-ASEAN summit. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace)

He also called on the summit’s participants to address the situation in Gaza.

“Acts of violence must be stopped, humanitarian matters must be prioritized at this moment, and we must prevent the conditions from worsening,” the Indonesian president said.

“We must not forget that the root cause of the problem is the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.”

INNUMBERS

ASEAN is the world’s third most populous economy, following China and India.

ASEAN economic growth projected to slow from 5.6% in 2022 to 4.4% in 2023.

The figure would still be above the global average of 2.7%.

Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister of Malaysia — the country coordinator of the GCC-ASEAN summit — also called all nations to come together to find a long-lasting and just solution to prevent the situation from becoming “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” that could widen into a regional and world conflict.

“The Palestinians must be returned their land, homes and properties,” he said. “They must be allowed to live in peace and dignity in their own sovereign state in internationally recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”




Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (L), the country coordinator of the GCC-ASEAN summit, called all nations to come together to find a long-lasting and just solution to the Palestinian crisis. (SPA)

Israeli has said it will allow aid to enter the besieged enclave, but while trucks loaded with foreign aid have reached Rafah, the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the arrangement brokered by US President Joe Biden has been in a state of limbo.

Participants in the Riyadh summit on Friday addressed both its original agenda to produce a cooperation road map and made a joint statement on the situation in Gaza.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Indonesian FM Retno Marsudi closed the summit by presenting the GCC-ASEAN Framework of Cooperation 2024-2028, which aims to “further strengthen partnership” and “realize the potential for growing cooperation between both sides.”




Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan holds a joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi. (SPA)

Prince Faisal also announced that the summits of GCC-ASEAN leaders will be held every two years to ensure the strengthening of joint cooperation.

The framework covered the areas of counterterrorism, trade and investment, agriculture and food security, energy, tourism, connectivity, as well as culture, information, education, banking and financial services. The regional leaders also agreed to explore joint strategies on micro, small and medium enterprise development policies.

“The ASEAN and GCC cooperation will continue to flourish in the future and together we can create a better region, a better world,” Marsudi said.

“Today we write a new history. A history of a closer relationship between two important regions, between ASEAN and the GCC. Today we build a strong bridge, to connect our two regions and develop cooperation that brings benefit to our people.”

In a joint statement on Gaza, the GCC-ASEAN leaders called for upholding international humanitarian law, particularly the principles and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

They condemned all attacks against civilians, called for a durable ceasefire and for all concerned parties to ensure the most effective access for humanitarian aid.

Since October 7, when the Gaza-based militant group Hamas attacked Israel, the Palestinian territory has been cut off from electricity, water, food, fuel, and medicine supplies amid daily Israeli airstrikes that have already killed over 4,100 people.

Prince Faisal said that GCC-ASEAN leaders reached a consensus over the need for a ceasefire and humanitarian access.

“I hope that working together, we will be able not just to help the pathway to peace, but also the prosperity for our part of the world and ASEAN,” he said.

“The only way to end the cycle of violence is through a lasting resolution to the conflict.”

Opinion

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The GCC-ASEAN declaration called for “all concerned parties to ensure the most effective and efficient access for humanitarian aid, and relief supplies and other basic necessities and essential services, as well as the restoration of electricity, water, and allow the unhindered delivery of fuel, food, and medicine throughout Gaza.”

The summit’s call to implement a ceasefire and allow delivery of humanitarian aid and supplies was a “welcome move and will help end the bloodshed and stop the killings and injuries to civilians,” Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, professor of international law at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“It is time to stop the deaths and injuries and destruction resulting from this conflict, which is what this summit aims to effect.”

 

 


Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
  • An Iranian source briefed on the matter said Iran had informed the US through diplomatic channels that included Qatar, Turkiye and Switzerland about the scheduled day of the attack, saying it would be conducted in a manner to avoid provoking a response
  • Israel has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD/DUBAI: Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi officials said on Sunday that Iran gave wide notice days before its drone and missile attack on Israel, but US officials said Tehran did not warn Washington and that it was aiming to cause significant damage.
Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria.
Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory, though a young girl was critically injured and there were widespread concerns of further escalation.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Sunday that Iran gave neighboring countries and Israel’s ally the United States 72 hours’ notice it would launch the strikes.
Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry said it had spoken to both Washington and Tehran before the attack, adding it had conveyed messages as an intermediary to be sure reactions were proportionate.
“Iran said the reaction would be a response to Israel’s attack on its embassy in Damascus and that it would not go beyond this. We were aware of the possibilities. The developments were not a surprise,” said a Turkish diplomatic source.
One senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration denied Amirabdollahian’s statement, saying Washington did have contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries but did not get notice 72 hours in advance.
“That is absolutely not true,” the official said. “They did not give a notification, nor did they give any sense of ... ‘these will be the targets, so evacuate them.’“
Tehran sent the United States a message only after the strikes began and the intent was to be “highly destructive” said the official, adding that Iran’s claim of a widespread warning may be an attempt to compensate for the lack of any major damage from the attack.
“We received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss. This was basically suggesting that they were finished after this, but it was still an ongoing attack. So that was (their) message to us,” the US official said.
Iraqi, Turkish and Jordanian officials each said Iran had provided early warning of the attack last week, including some details.
The attack with drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles risked causing major casualties and escalating the conflict.
US officials said on Friday and Saturday they expected an imminent attack and urged Iran against one, with Biden tersely saying his only message to Tehran was: “Don’t.”

ESCALATION
Two Iraqi sources, including a government security adviser and a security official, said Iran had used diplomatic channels to inform Baghdad about the attack at least three days before it happened.
The exact timing of the attack was not disclosed at that point, but was passed to Iraqi security and military authorities hours before the strikes, allowing Baghdad to close its airspace and avoid fatal accidents.
“The government clearly understood from the Iranian officials that the US military in Iraq was also aware of the attack in advance,” said the Iraqi security official.
A senior Jordanian official said Iran had summoned Arab envoys in Tehran on Wednesday to inform them of their intention to carry out an attack, though it did not specify the timing.
Asked if Iran had also given details about the targets and kind of weapons to be used, the Jordanian source did not respond directly but indicated that that was the case.
An Iranian source briefed on the matter said Iran had informed the US through diplomatic channels that included Qatar, Turkiye and Switzerland about the scheduled day of the attack, saying it would be conducted in a manner to avoid provoking a response.
How far escalation can be avoided remains in question. Biden has told Israel the United States will not join any Israeli retaliation, the US official said.
However, Israel is still weighing its response and will “exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” Israeli minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday.

 


Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

JERUSALEM: The first direct attack on Israel by Iran has shaken Israelis and left them fearful that a bigger war is looming.
While the population has long been used to sirens warning of attacks from Hamas, the hundreds of drones and missiles sent from Iran over Saturday night marked a new element in the over-lapping Middle East conflicts.
Israel reported modest damage on Sunday after the military said it shot down almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran.
But the attack still rattled Israelis, whose army has fought Hamas for years in Gaza but never engaged in direct warfare with regional superpower Iran. Iranian weapons and interceptors could be seen flashing over the sky at night.

I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop no.

Jeremy Smith, Resident of Tzur Hadassah

“I think it was quite scary when we started hearing booming in the middle of the night, and we did not know what it was. I mean, we knew what it was, but we didn’t know to what extent it would be,” said Jerusalem resident Cecile Smulowitz.
“But thank God the Israeli army came through, and so far it’s quiet, and we hope it will continue that way.”
Iran mounted its attack in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, which killed 13 people. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attack but is widely believed to have done so.
Following Iranian senior leader Ali Khamenei’s promise to hit back, Israelis were put on high alert.
Iran warned Israel and the US on Sunday of a “much larger response” if there was any retaliation for its mass drone and missile attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly told the world that Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state, vowed Israel would achieve victory.
The threat of open warfare erupting between Iran and Israel and dragging the US into the conflict has put the region on edge.
Some Israelis said they did not want an escalation, but with the stakes so high, they are nervous despite having the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the region.
“I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop now,” said Jeremy Smith, 60, a resident of Tzur Hadassah.
“I imagine Israel will respond because, I mean, our whole country was covered in missiles and drones. So what can you do? But we have to stop it somehow.”
Before the Iranian attack, Israeli authorities had instructed the public not to hold large gatherings, to close all schools and venues for children’s camps during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and to close some beaches and travel sites.
“We didn’t want the war with Hamas. They attacked us. We don’t want a war with Iran, they attack us,” said Jerusalem resident Amy Friedlang Morgans, 71.
“We don’t want a war with Iran. They, somehow, cannot accept Jewish people living here. This is our homeland. It’s written in the Bible.”
The Iranian attack took place against the background of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, in which Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry figures.

 


Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
Updated 15 April 2024
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Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
  • Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said

CAIRO: British security firm Ambrey said on Sunday that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) near Eilat, stating that it assessed the UAV was launched from Yemen.
Ambrey said it also observed unprecedented levels of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)interference off Eilat and neighboring Aqaba, Jordan, on Sunday.
“These were due to electronic warfare counter-measures,” the statement said.
“A Sa’ar 6-class corvette successfully intercepted a UAV that approached Israeli territory from the southeast using the ‘C-Dome’ Defense System earlier this evening,” the IDF posted on X.
Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said.
Eilat has been a frequent target for launches by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as a show of support for Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza and is also backed by Iran.

 


US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
Updated 15 April 2024
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US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
  • The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: A US judge has tossed out a series of civil lawsuits against a Libyan military commander who used to live in Virginia and was accused of killing innocent civilians in that country’s civil war.
At a court hearing Friday, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case alleging war crimes committed in Libya, even though the defendant, Khalifa Haftar, has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital as an exile from the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar. In 2022, Brinkema entered a default judgment against Haftar after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions about his role in the fighting that has plagued the country over the last decade.
But Haftar retained new lawyers who persuaded the judge to reopen the case and made Haftar available to be deposed. He sat for two separate depositions in 2022 and 2023 and denied orchestrating attacks against civilians.
Once a lieutenant to Qaddafi, Haftar defected to the US during the 1980s. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.
He returned to Libya in 2011 to support anti-Qaddafi forces that revolted against the dictator and killed him. During the country’s civil war, he led the self-styled Libyan National Army, which controlled much of the eastern half of Libya, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He continues to hold sway in the eastern half of the country.
In the lawsuits, first filed in 2019, the plaintiffs say family members were killed by military bombardments conducted by Haftar’s army in civilian areas.
The lawsuits also alleged that Haftar and his family owned a significant amount of property in Virginia, which could have been used to pay off any judgment that would have been entered against him.
While the lawsuits were tossed out on technical issues over jurisdiction, one of Haftar’s lawyers, Paul Kamenar, said Haftar denied any role in the deaths of civilians.
“He’s not this ruthless figure that everyone wants to portray him as,” Kamenar said in a phone interview Sunday.
Faisal Gill, a lawyer for plaintiffs in one of the three lawsuits that Brinkema tossed out Friday, said he plans to appeal the dismissal.
Mark Zaid, lawyer for another set of plaintiffs, called Brinkema’s ruling perplexing and said he believes that the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case had already been established at an earlier phase of the case.
“A US citizen committed war crimes abroad and thus far has escaped civil accountability,” Zaid said Sunday in an emailed statement.
In court papers, Haftar tried to claim immunity from the suits as a head of state. At one point, the judge put the cases on pause because she worried that the lawsuits were being used to influence scheduled presidential elections in Libya, in which Haftar was a candidate. Those elections were later postponed.


Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah

Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah

Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah
  • The move comes just days after the army pulled out all troops from southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis, leaving just one brigade to carry out operations across the Palestinian territory

JERUSALEM: Israel said Sunday that Hamas is holding hostages in Rafah in southern Gaza, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to launch a ground invasion despite international outcry.
“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza... We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a briefing.
In a separate statement, the army said it was calling “approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gazan front.”
It did not specify whether the brigades would be deployed inside Gaza.
The move comes just days after the army pulled out all troops from southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis, leaving just one brigade to carry out operations across the Palestinian territory.