Aggression against Gaza represents a turning point in history of region: Arab League chief

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing on May 30, 2024. (AP)
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing on May 30, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Aggression against Gaza represents a turning point in history of region: Arab League chief

Arab League chief speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum
  • Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League was committed to making all efforts to build a promising future for both Arab and Chinese societies

CAIRO: Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the aggression against Gaza for more than eight months “marks a turning point in our region’s history.”

He said that there was “a deep sense of frustration over the international community’s inability to halt this massacre.”

Aboul Gheit was speaking at the opening session of the 10th ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing.

The forum —  founded in 2004 in Cairo — includes members of the Arab League. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony.

Leaders from Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and the UAE were also present.

Aboul Gheit said: We value China’s role and steadfast support for the just cause of the Palestinian people, their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state.”

He urged China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to play a more significant role in reinforcing the global consensus on the two-state solution, leading to a reliable and irreversible path to establishing an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League and its member states aimed to enhance regional stability by working to contain existing crises, settle them peacefully, and reduce escalation through balanced relations with neighboring countries based on non-interference in internal affairs and mutual respect.

He reaffirmed the league’s support for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintaining a firm commitment to the one-China principle.

Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League was committed to making all efforts to build a promising future for both Arab and Chinese societies.

“We aim to advance the strategic partnership between the Arab countries and China for a better future, strengthening cooperation mechanisms and finding political solutions to issues of mutual concern on regional and international fronts.”

Aboul Gheit said that China had “an illustrious presence in world history that we deeply respect and appreciate. Its profound influence on the world’s present and future is evident and highly valued. Moreover, China’s experience achieving renaissance and progress is greatly admired in our Arab world.”

The Arab League chief said: “Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of establishing the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. 

“This forum marked a significant milestone in the history of relations between the two sides, placing these relations within a comprehensive institutional framework, thus ensuring their development and future potential.

“Since its inception, the forum has become a success story in international multilateral cooperation, evidenced by the various mechanisms, memorandums and frameworks it has produced to facilitate collaboration across political, economic, social and development fields.” 

Aboul Gheit said that the first Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2022 marked a qualitative shift in Arab-Chinese relations.

This summit signaled the beginning of a pivotal phase in the history of relations between the Arab world and China.

“The outcomes and agreements from this summit laid a strong foundation for mutual benefit, and we are committed to continuing efforts to implement them,” Aboul Gheit said.

He called for institutionalizing the Arab-China summit and holding regular sessions to enhance progress and allow for continuous monitoring and development of cooperation programs.


UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
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UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: ‘If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system’
  • Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack
GENEVA: The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Monday called on partners to fight back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded as it provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and across the region.
“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva had no immediate comment.
Lazzarini said the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel’s offensive, was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks.”
“In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed,” he said.
“More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking United Nations protection...Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
Lazzarini said the agency was being subjected to a “concerted effort” to dismantle it, including through legislative initiatives threatening to evict the agency from its compound and labelling UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding.
Lazzarini said that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
“The agency’s ability to operate beyond August will depend on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget,” he said.
Established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
Updated 41 min 11 sec ago
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Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
  • Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.

CAIRO: Reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Hamas and Fatah officials told Reuters on Monday.
After hosting a meeting of Palestinian factions in April, China said Fatah — which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas — and Hamas had expressed the will to seek reconciliation through unity talks in Beijing. Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.


Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
Updated 24 June 2024
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Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
  • Sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment

Tehran: Iranians broadly deplore Western sanctions that have battered the economy, but the country’s six presidential candidates offer differing solutions — assuming the winner gets a say on foreign policy.
Punishing US sanctions, reimposed following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, have brought years of economic hardships, fueling political malaise and wide popular discontent.
With the June 28 snap election fast approaching, debates between the candidates vying for Iran’s second-highest office have featured a key question: should Tehran mend ties with the West?
Under the late president Ebrahim Raisi, who died last month in a helicopter crash, Western governments have expanded sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as well as its support for militant groups across the Middle East and for Russia in its war in Ukraine.
The sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment and a record low for the Iranian rial against the US dollar.
At Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazaar, shopkeeper Hamid Habibi, 54, said years of sanctions “have hit people very hard.”
“Sanctions should be removed and ties mended with the US and European countries,” he said.
In two televised debates focused on the economy ahead of the presidential polls, “almost all the candidates explained that the sanctions have had devastating effects,” said Fayyaz Zahed, a professor of international relations at the University of Tehran.
“It is crucial to resolve this issue to alleviate the people’s suffering,” he said.
While the six contenders — five conservatives and a sole reformist — have all vowed to tackle the economic hardships, they offered varying views on Iran’s relations with the West.
“If we could lift the sanctions, Iranians could live comfortably,” said reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian, considered one of three frontrunners.
Pezeshkian, who is backed by key reformist groups in Iran, called for “constructive relations” with Washington and European capitals in order to “get Iran out of its isolation.”
On the campaign trail, he had the support of Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former foreign minister who helped secure the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and insists it had positive impact on the Iranian economy.
Since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, Iran has gradually reduced its commitment to its terms, meant to curb nuclear activity which Tehran has maintained was for peaceful purposes.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the deal have long stalled as tensions between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly flared.
Former president Hassan Rouhani, whose government negotiated the deal, said the sanctions cost Iranians “$100 billion a year, directly or indirectly, from the sale of oil and petrochemicals and the discounts they give” — in reference to preferential trade with China, a signatory to the 2015 agreement.
Ultraconservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator, has called for Tehran to press ahead with its long-running anti-Western policy.
“The international community is not made up of just two or three Western countries,” Jalili has repeatedly said in debates and campaign rallies.
He said Iran should bolster its ties with China and Russia, and forge stronger relations with Arab countries, particularly regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the incumbent parliament speaker, has offered a more pragmatic approach, saying Iran should negotiate with Western countries only if it stands to gain an “economic advantage.”
Ghalibaf called for increasing Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, a strategy he said was already “forcing the West to negotiate with Iran.”
Zahed, the international relations professor, said Jalili has positioned himself as “the most inflexible candidate on the diplomatic level.”
In any case, the expert added, the next president will have limited say over strategic issues in the Islamic republic where supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, wields ultimate authority.
On Saturday, Khamenei urged the candidates to avoid making any remarks that would “please the enemy” — in reference to the West, mainly the United States.
The president “could only influence foreign policy” if he “earned the trust” of Khamenei and Iran’s most influential government institutions, Zahed said.


EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war
Updated 24 June 2024
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EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU countries adopted sanctions against six people in Sudan on Monday over the war between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has engulfed the country.
The listings include a general commanding the RSF in West Darfur, who the EU Council said is responsible for committing atrocities, instigating ethnically motivated killings, sexual violence and the looting and burning of communities.
They also include the RSF’s financial adviser, as well as a prominent tribal leader of the Mahamid clan affiliated with the RSF in West Darfur.
On the side of the Sudanese army, sanctions target the director of Defense Industry Systems and the commander of the Sudanese Air Force for their responsibility in the “indiscriminate aerial bombing of densely populated residential areas,” the EU Council said.
Former Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmed Karti Mohamed is also listed.
The six are now subject to an asset freeze and travel ban in the 27-nation European Union.


Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah

Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah
Updated 24 June 2024
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Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah

Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah
  • Israeli military said that the strike targeted Mohammad Salah, who it said was responsible for developing Hamas weaponry
  • killing of Hani Al-Jaafarawi brought the number of medical staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct 7 to 500

CAIRO: An Israeli air strike at a medical clinic in Gaza City killed the director of Gaza’s Ambulance and Emergency Department, the enclave’s health ministry said, while Israel’s military said the strike had killed a senior Hamas armed commander.
The health ministry said the killing of Hani Al-Jaafarawi brought the number of medical staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct 7 to 500. At least 300 others have so far been detained.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the strike targeted Mohammad Salah, who it said was responsible for developing Hamas weaponry.
“Salah was part of a project to develop strategic weaponry for the Hamas terrorist organization, and he commanded a number of Hamas terrorist squads that worked on developing weapons,” it said.
More than eight months into the fighting, international mediation backed by the United States has so far failed to bring a ceasefire agreement. Hamas says any agreement must bring an end the war, while Israel says it will agree only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas is eradicated.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli forces which took control of the eastern, southern, and central parts of the city pursued their raid into the western and northern areas, said residents, describing heavy fighting.
On Sunday, residents had said Israeli tanks had advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons’ camp in the northwest of Rafah, forcing many families to leave northward to Khan Younis and to Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, the only city in the enclave where tanks have not yet invaded.
“The situation in Tel Al-Sultan, in western Rafah, remains very dangerous. Drones and Israeli snipers are hunting people who try to check on their houses, and tanks continue to take over areas overseeing Al-Mawasi further west,” said Bassam, a resident of Rafah.
“We know about people killed in the streets and we know and we see that dozens of houses had been destroyed by the occupation,” he told Reuters via a chat app.
Israel denies targeting civilians and blames Hamas for provoking civilian casualties by fighting among them, which Hamas denies.
The Israeli military said forces continued “intelligence-based targeted operations” in Rafah, locating weapons and rocket launchers and killing militants “who posed threats to them.”
In the north of the enclave, where Israel had said its forces completed operations months ago, residents said tanks had pushed back into Gaza City’s Zeitoun suburb and were pounding several areas there.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has left Gaza in ruins.
Since early May, fighting has focused on Rafah, on Gaza’s southern edge where around half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people had been sheltering after fleeing other areas.
Netanyahu said the phase of intense fighting against Hamas would end “very soon,” but that the war would not end until the Islamist group no longer controls the Palestinian enclave.
In an interview with Israel’s channel 14, he said forces based in Gaza would be freed to move to the north, where Israel has warned of a potential full-blown war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which has struck the border region in what it says is solidarity with the Palestinians.
“After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of the forces north. And we will do this,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 14.