Egypt Takes New Step to Become a Regional Energy Hub

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY  OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt Takes New Step to Become a Regional Energy Hub

Thursday, 28 December, 2017 – 12:00
FILE PHOTO: A plant’s gas tanks are seen at the desert road of Suez city north of Cairo, Egypt August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Asharq Al-Awsat

In the coming days Egypt will inaugurate a new wharf for natural gas and petroleum product tankers on the Gulf of Suez.

SUMED, which has operated two pipelines from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, will build the new wharf.

The 2.5 km wharf will have three berths to receive natural gas and petroleum products carriers.

“The country has been building fuelling depots for ships along the Suez Canal and expanding its refining capacity, and has an extensive pipeline network and two idle gas liquefaction plants ready to export new gas as it arrives,” Reuters stated.

SUMED is owned %50 by the Egyptian government, while the rest by Arab oil exporters in the Gulf.

The pipeline is spending $415 million to develop its facilities, including building nine 300,000 cubic meter petroleum storage tanks and loading and offloading facilities.

The tanks are due to be completed by the end of 2018, said SUMED chairman Mohamed Abdel-Hafez.

NBK-Egypt provided $300 million in financing for the project, according to a statement by the bank in May.

Yazidis Accused of Executing Civilians in Nineveh

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Yazidis Accused of Executing Civilians in Nineveh

Thursday, 28 December, 2017 – 12:30
AFP
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

The US-based rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has accused Yazidi fighters in Iraq of forcibly kidnapping and killing 52 civilians from the Imteywit tribe earlier in June.

It said in a report on Wednesday that it has information from relatives of the victims that on June 4 Yazidi forces detained and then executed men, women and children from eight families from the Imteywit tribe.

The families were fleeing fighting between ISIS and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) west of Mosul.

Deputy Governor of Nineveh province Abdulrahman al-Luizi stressed that the massacre had taken place and called for holding the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. However, a Yazidi official from the PMF claimed that the dead were ISIS members.

Yazidi forces were also implicated in two other incidents of enforced disappearances of members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes in late 2017, HRW said.

“Past atrocities against the Yazidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

In early 2017, Yazidi fighters formed the Lalish Brigades and the Ezidkhan Brigades, units under the PMF, a force of the Iraqi prime minister, and therefore part of the state’s armed forces.

Two Yazidi community leaders told Human Rights Watch that the Ezidkhan Brigades were responsible for the abduction and killing of the 52 Imteywit tribe members.

Senior Yazidis have alleged that the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes participated with ISIS in the executions and abuse of Yazidi men and women in August 2014.

Members of the two tribes denied these allegations, claiming the Yazidis were scapegoating them for ISIS atrocities.

“Few months before launching the operation to liberate Sinjar, a Yazidi militia linked to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) northern Sinjar region committed a crime,” Luizi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“After the liberation battles, which were overseen by the PMF in Sinjar and Tal Afar areas, a Yazidi faction, under the umbrella of the PMF, killed 52 people, including 27 women, 10 children and 15 men. They also kidnapped eight farmers from the Arab tribes in another incident and their fate is still unknown,” he further explained.

Citizen’s Account: 700,000 Saudi Families Receive More than USD266

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Citizen’s Account: 700,000 Saudi Families Receive More than USD266

Wednesday, 27 December, 2017 – 12:00
The Citizen’s Account.
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat

A total of 700,000 families received over SAR1,000 (USD266) per family as financial aid through the Citizen’s Account Program, knowing that the second installment will be paid on January 10, 2018.

According to a statement issued by the program, beneficiaries would be those whose applications were completed by December 16. Other installments will be transferred on the 10th of each month unless it falls on a weekend.

The program is still receiving objection applications for ineligible beneficiaries through the e-portal
https://www.ca.gov.sa.

Any person registered in the program can submit an objection over the ineligibility decision through the program e-portal within three months after the result issuance. They can also follow-up on the objection through the portal, text messages and email.

In case the objection was accepted, allowances are paid retroactively from the day of the eligibility result announcement to the objection acceptance day.

In case the applicant did not file an objection at the first place within three months, then he should submit a new registration application through the e-portal.

Eligible beneficiaries should hold the Saudi nationality, except for the daughter/son of the non-Saudi wife/spouse.

Beneficiaries should be permanent residents inside the kingdom and they should not have resided outside of it for more than 90 days in the past 12 months.

Exceptions are made for those who prove that their presence outside the kingdom was for a justified reason. Also, eligible beneficiaries should not be staying at any government shelter or held in any prison.

The Citizen Account is a national program aimed at raising the efficiency of government support for eligible citizens, so that Saudi families are not forced to shoulder the burden of future economic reforms.

Russia Sets up Permanent Military Presence in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Russia Sets up Permanent Military Presence in Syria

Tuesday, 26 December, 2017 – 11:45
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 30, 2017. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Russia’s Defense Minister announced on Tuesday that Moscow has started forming a permanent force at naval and air bases in Syria, reported the RIA news agency.

The bases are located in Tartus naval facility and Hmeimim air base.

RIA news agency quoted Sergei Shoigu as saying: “Last week the Commander-in-Chief (President Vladimir Putin) approved the structure and the bases in Tartus and in Hmeimim (air base). We have begun forming a permanent presence there.”

The Tartus naval facility, in use since the says of the Soviet Union, is too small to play host to larger warships.

According to the RIA report, the agreement will allow Russia to keep 11 warships at Tartus, including nuclear vessels. The agreement will last for 49 years and could be prolonged further.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered on December 11 the withdrawal of his country’s forces from Syria.

Japan Approves Expansion of Missile Defense System to Confront North Korea Threat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Japan Approves Expansion of Missile Defense System to Confront North Korea Threat

Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 – 09:15
The Japanese government approved on Tuesday a decision to expand its ballistic missile defense system to counter North Korea’s missile threat. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

The Japanese government approved on Tuesday a decision to expand its ballistic missile defense system to counter North Korea’s missile threat.

The system will be backed with US-made ground-based Aegis radar stations and interceptors. A proposal to build two Aegis Ashore batteries was approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.

The sites without the missiles will likely cost at least $2 billion and are not likely to be operational until 2023 at the earliest, sources familiar with the plan told Reuters earlier.

The decision to acquire the ground version of the Aegis missile-defense system, which is already deployed on Japanese warships, was widely expected.

“North Korea’s nuclear missile development poses a new level of threat to Japan and as we have done in the past we will ensure that we are able to defend ourselves with a drastic improvement in ballistic missile defense,” Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

North Korea on November 29 tested a new, more powerful ballistic missile that it says can hit major US cities including Washington, and fly over Japan’s current defense shield.

That rocket reached an altitude of more than 4,000 km (2,485 miles), well above the range of interceptor missiles on Japanese ships operating in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea says its weapons programs are necessary to counter US aggression.

The new Aegis stations may not, however, come with a powerful radar, dubbed Spy-6, which is being developed by the United States.

Without it, Japan will not be able to fully utilize the extended range of a new interceptor missile, the SM-3 Block IIA, which cost about $30 million each.

A later upgrade, once the US military has deployed Spy-6 on its ships around 2022, could prove a costly proposition for Japan as outlays on new equipment squeeze its military budget.

Initial funding will be ring-fenced in the next defense budget beginning in April, but no decision has been made on the radar, or the overall cost, or schedule, of the deployment, a Ministry of Defense official said at a press briefing.

Japan’s military planners also evaluated the US-built THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system before deciding on Aegis Ashore.

Separately, Japan’s defense minister said this month Japan would acquire medium-range cruise missiles it can launch from its F-15 and F-35 fighters at sites in North Korea, in a bid to deter any attack.

The purchase of what will become the longest-range munitions in Japan’s military arsenal is controversial because it renounced the right to wage war against other nations in its post-World War Two constitution.

Earlier, Japan and South Korea urged China to do more to “pressure” North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Tuesday.

North Korea has boasted of developing a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the mainland United States in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and international condemnation, including from its lone major ally, China.

“China is currently implementing the United Nations Security Council resolutions (on North Korea), but China can probably do more,” Kono said after talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

“We agreed on the need to put pressure firmly on North Korea.”

The US Navy’s top officer said on Tuesday said that vessels from eastern Pacific could be brought forward to reinforce US naval power in Asia as Washington contends with increased threats in the region.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks, with Trump threatening to destroy North Korea if provoked, while US diplomats have stressed the importance of diplomacy.

Trump on Monday unveiled a new national security strategy, again saying Washington had to deal with the challenge posed by North Korea’s weapons programs.

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 – 11:30
Some 26 people were killed and 23 missing in the Philippines due to landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Tropical Storm Kai-Tak. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

At least 26 people were killed in the Philippines in landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, authorities said on Sunday.

Some 23 were missing in the eastern Philippines a day after the storm pounded the archipelago nation.

Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

“There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies,” Sofronio Dacillo, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP.

Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television. He said 23 people were missing.

The national disaster risk reduction agency could not immediately confirm if the 26 deaths in Biliran included the initial three fatalities it reported on Saturday.

Kai-Tak weakened on Sunday afternoon, with gusts of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour, and was reclassified as a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said.

But disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible and said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.

“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told AFP from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon.

The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces.

The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year.

Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday’s storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 meters (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.

“The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office, told AFP.

Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban’s districts were flooded.

Heavy rains and large waves have stranded at least 11,000 people in various ports in the region, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. More than 10,000 people have fled to evacuation centers, local media reported.

Several provinces were placed under storm warning signals, where heavy rains may persist, the weather bureau said.

OIC Summit Stresses Rejection of US Decision on Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

OIC Summit Stresses Rejection of US Decision on Jerusalem

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 – 10:45
Asharq Al Awsat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed Muslim leaders on Wednesday stressing that a US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a crime which showed that Washington can no longer be an honest broker in Middle East peace talks.

During an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Turkey, Abbas said President Donald Trump was giving Jerusalem away as if it were an American city.

“Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine,” he said, adding Trump’s decision was “the greatest crime” and a flagrant violation of international law.

Wednesday’s summit was hosted by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who has piercingly slammed the United States for its stance on Jerusalem.

“I invite all countries supporting international law to recognize Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine. We cannot be late any more,” Erdogan told leaders and ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries.

He described Trump’s decision last week as a reward for Israeli actions including occupation, settlement construction, land seizure and “disproportionate violence and murder”.

“Israel is an occupying state (and) Israel is a terror state,” he said.

Jerusalem, cherished by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, is home to Islam’s third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in an action not recognized internationally.

Ahead of the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Muslim nations should urge the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state within its pre-1967 borders.

He said this week Turkey was not seeking sanctions in response to the US move, but wanted the summit to issue a strong rejection of the US decision.

Trump’s announcement last week prompted an outpouring of anger in the Muslim and Arab world, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the Jewish state and show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The decision sparked protests in Palestinian territories, with four Palestinians killed so far in clashes or Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza and hundreds wounded.
US ‘BIAS’

The Trump administration says it remains committed to reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its decision does not affect Jerusalem’s future borders or status.

It says any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem, and ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.

Abbas told the leaders in Istanbul that Washington should no longer play a role in the peace talks.

“It will be unacceptable for it (the United States) to have a role in the political process any longer since it is biased in favor of Israel,” he said. “This is our position and we hope you support us in this.”

King Abdullah of Jordan told the Istanbul summit that he rejected any attempt to change the status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The summit was also attended by leaders including Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. Rouhani tweeted that Trump’s decision showed the United States had no respect for Palestinian rights and could never be an honest mediator.

Riyadh, Beijing Launch Digital Silk Road Initiative

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Riyadh, Beijing Launch Digital Silk Road Initiative

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 – 12:15
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for Saudi Planning and Development Dr. Mohammed al-Mishaigeh revealed that his country has embarked on transformation programs and developing young talents and establishing innovation labs during his participation in the World Internet Conference, which concluded Monday in Wuzhen City, east China.

Mishaigeh said that the Kingdom and China have also launched Digital Silk Road initiative, and he called on the Chinese to boost partnerships and benefit from Saudi investment and geographical capabilities to transfer knowledge and achieve progress in the field of technology, which the Kingdom is betting on as a knowledge and economic resource.

He pointed out that the city of NEOM will be the focus of artificial intelligence, automation, manufacturing and renewable energy in the world.

Speaking at the conference, Mishaigeh said that his country has started implementing the desired social and economic transformation led by Vision 2030, which aims to bring about profound changes that will extend to many aspects of life reaching the lead in all aspects.

Notably, the Saudi participating delegation has visited the Huawei Research Center in Shanghai to learn about the latest technologies in infrastructure, smart cities and the Chinese experience in enabling the digital economy in the indoor environment.

On the sidelines of the conference, the delegation held a meeting with the National Development and Reform Commission, during which a mechanism was discussed to activate the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties in January 2016 on promoting the development of the Digital Silk Road as well as a review of the Chinese experience in building smart cities.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has participated in the World Internet Conference, which was organized by Chinese Electronic Space Administration and Zhejiang Province’s Government with participation of leading figures from governments, international organizations, companies, competent technical sector departments as well as non-government relevant agencies.

Iran & Hezbollah Prove They Don’t Give A Damn About Lebanon’s Laws

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Investigates Visit of Iraqi Militia Leader to the South

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 – 10:30
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks after a cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/ File Photo
Beirut- Caroline Akoum

The appearance of the head of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia during a visit to Lebanon’s border with Israel, accompanied by Hezbollah fighters, sparked a wave of anger, especially as it came shortly after the government announced the adoption of a policy to dissociate the country from external conflicts.

In a video released on Saturday, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iraqi paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, declared his readiness “to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause”, just four days after the Lebanese political parties announced the adoption of the policy of “dissociation” from external and regional conflicts.

The video showed an unidentified commander, presumably from Hezbollah, gesturing toward military outposts located along the borders, while Khazali was talking to another person through a wireless device, telling him: “ I am now with the brothers in Hezbollah in the area of Kfarkila, which is a few meters away from occupied Palestine; we declare the full readiness to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered the security apparatus to conduct the necessary investigations into the presence of the Iraqi leader on the Lebanese territories, which he said violated the Lebanese laws.

Presidential sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that President Michel Aoun has requested further information about the video, while military sources denied that Khazali has entered the Lebanese territories in a legitimate way.

“The entry of any foreigner to this border area requires a permit from the Lebanese Army, which did not happen,” the sources said, stressing that Khazali has entered the area illegaly.

A statement issued by the premier’s office said: “Hariri contacted the concerned military and security officials to conduct the necessary investigations and take measures to prevent any person or party from carrying out any military activity on the Lebanese territory, and to thwart any illegal act as shown in the video.”

The Lebanese prime minister also ordered that Qais Al-Khazali would be banned from entering Lebanon again, the statement added.

Iraq Holds Military Parade Celebrating ISIS Defeat  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iraq Holds Military Parade Celebrating ISIS Defeat

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 – 10:00
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers a speech in Baghdad, Iraq, December 9, 2017. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS
Baghdad- Asharq Al Awsat

An Iraqi military parade celebrating final victory over Islamic State is underway in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, Reuters quoted an Iraqi military spokesman as saying on Sunday.

Almost one year after the launch of military operations from Mosul, north Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Saturday that his country’s forces have “completely controlled” the Syrian-Iraqi borders, declaring that the war against ISIS has officially ended.

“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I, therefore, announce the end of the war against ISIS,” Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

The Prime Minister added that Iraq’s enemy “wanted to kill our civilization, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time.”

In another speech delivered at the Defense Ministry in the presence of representatives from the entire armed forces, Abadi announced that Iraq’s next battle would be to defeat the scourge of corruption.

“Weapons should only be in the state’s hands,” Abadi confirmed.

He said that the rule of law and respect for it are the way to build the state and achieve justice, equality, and stability, adding that the unity of Iraq and its people is the most important and greatest accomplishment.

Authorities in Iraq announced a public holiday on Sunday “to celebrate the victory.”

The prime minister’s declaration came three years after the militant group captured some third of Iraq’s territory.

Meanwhile, Naim el-Kaoud, leader of the al-Bounmar tribes in Anbar told Asharq al-Awsat on Saturday the “battles that continued following the liberation of Rawa, including the western desert, were now completed and the area is now combined to the entire border with Syria after clearing ISIS militants.”

For his part, Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on jihadist groups, told Asharq Al-Awsat that although the terrorist group was military defeated in Iraq, ISIS would still hold some pockets in some Iraqi areas.

He said that around 800 fighters were still present in the country, especially in east Tigris, and the Hamrin Mountains.