Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

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

 

 

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 10:45
French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey warned France that it is pointless to maintain its military presence in Syria to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters according to state news agency Anadolu.

Cavusoglu hit out at France’s “support” of the YPG, which he said was “no secret”, pointing to a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron had held on Friday with the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF).

The YPG serves as the military backbone of the SDF.

Turkey views the YPG as terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

France is part of the international anti-terrorism coalition led by the US in Syria and Iraq. It dispatched military pilots and artillery soldiers to carry out bombings. Several sources also reported the deployment of French special forces in Syrian territory, but Paris has not confirmed this information.

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 US ground forces that had been in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the SDF.

The shock move put allies on the backfoot, with Macron on Sunday saying: “An ally must be reliable”.

On Sunday, Macron avoided commenting on the demands made by two representatives of the “Syrian Democratic Council” after Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

He summed up by the situation by announcing Paris “regrets” the US decision, given that the mission to terminate ISIS was not over yet, adding that the SDF should not be abandoned and allies should not be “left in the middle of the road.”

France confirmed it will remain in the alliance despite the US withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will intervene in the coming months against ISIS and the YPG.

‘Hezbollah’ Exploits Disputes in The Mountain to Reshuffle Druze Alignments

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

 

‘Hezbollah’ Exploits Disputes in The Mountain to Reshuffle Druze Alignments

Sunday, 9 December, 2018 – 10:15
A Druze woman (L) walks with a Christian woman in the village of Brih, Lebanon April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
Beirut – Wajdi Al-Aridi
The events of the Mountain and developments in the town of Jahilia last week have reshuffled political alignments and divisions among Druze leaders, reminiscent of the post-2005 period.

In this regard, a minister of the Democratic Gathering bloc, headed by MP Taymor Jumblatt, noted that “Hezbollah” wanted to reunite the March 8 Coalition’s Druze officials, after they were divided during the parliamentary elections, which would lead to the fortification of its internal situation through the realignment of its allies.

This means the return of communication between the head of the Tawheed Party, Wiam Wahhab, and the Democratic Party President, MP Talal Arslan, Hezbollah’s rival allies.

The minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Quite frankly, the party [Hezbollah] entered the Sunni house through some figures, and today it is seeking to enter the Mountain through its allies to send a message to the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt.”

The minister asserted that Hezbollah, through its current policies, was seeking to tighten the grip on Lebanon, with Iranian support, in the wake of the new sanctions imposed by the United States against Tehran and the party.

“Through Hezbollah, Iran is maneuvering a political and security exercise on the Lebanese territory, trying to make this country a platform for the exchange of messages through its allies,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering bloc MP Henry Helou told Asharq Al-Awsat that the bloc’s recent meeting, which was held in Jumblatt’s presence, was aimed at taking a series of steps and measures that would fortify the mountain security at the social and living levels, after the recent developments.

As for Jumblatt’s fears that some figures would seek to restrict his role and enter his region, Helou underlined that no one was capable of curbing Jumblatt’s influence.

“He is a Druze and patriotic leader. Al-Mukhtara has its Arab and national role,” he stated.

Women to Get Equal Representation in UAE’s FNC as per President’s Directives

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

 

Women to Get Equal Representation in UAE’s FNC as per President’s Directives

Sunday, 9 December, 2018 – 10:30
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan among members of the Federal National Council (FNC) (WAM)
Abu Dhabi – Asharq Al Awsat
Women’s representation in UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) will be increased to 50 percent in the coming parliamentary term, as per the directives of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In a step reflecting the country’s future approach aimed at achieving full empowerment of Emirati women and emphasises their pioneering and effective role in all vital sectors of the UAE.

The President’s directives include doubling the current percentage of women’s representation in the Council from 22.5 percent to 50 percent in the coming parliamentary term, aiming to place UAE in top positions worldwide in terms of representation of women in parliament, reported Emirati News Agency (WAM).

This will enable the UAE women to achieve, in a record time, what has been achieved by their international counterparts in decades.

The National Council is comprised of 40 members, and the number of women will increase from nine to twenty next year. The Council discusses general issues such as bills and government budgets.

Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, voiced his support for the plans to further improve gender parity in government.

He noted that this “is a great leap forwards in cementing the legislative and parliamentary role of women in our nation’s development.”

“Women are half of our society: they should be represented as such,” said Sheikh Mohammed in a tweet.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, congratulated Emirati women on the decision.

“We congratulate the Emirati women on raising their representation in the Federal National Council. This is an additional step to enhance their role and contribution to national decision-making,” he asserted.

The Crown Prince described women as the partners and supporters in the process of building and development as well as “a role model in giving and excellence.” He added that women proved effective in various work fields, wishing them all the success.

Half of the Council’s members are elected by electoral bodies whose members are nominated by the rulers of the various emirates, while the other half is appointed.

Elections for a new set of FNC members will be held next year. Currently, there are nine women members, representing 20 per cent of the 40 available seats.

Current chairperson and speaker of the FNC is Amal al-Qubaisi, who became the first woman leader of a national assembly in the UAE and Arab world three years ago. Qubaisi was also the first woman elected to the FNC in 2006

Qatar Announces Withdrawal from OPEC

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

 

Qatar Announces Withdrawal from OPEC

Monday, 3 December, 2018 – 11:15
Qatar’s Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi. (Reuters file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Qatar announced on Monday that it was quitting OPEC from January 2019.

Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi told a news conference that Doha’s decision “was communicated to OPEC” but said Qatar would attend the group’s meeting on Thursday and Friday, and would abide by its commitments, reported Reuters.

He said Doha would focus on its gas potential because it was not practical for Qatar “to put efforts and resources and time in an organization that we are a very small player in.”

Al-Kaabi stressed the decision was not political but related to the country’s long-term strategy and plans to develop its gas industry.

Qatar had been a member of OPEC for 57 years.

Israel Releases Jerusalem Governor, 9 Fatah members

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

 

Israel Releases Jerusalem Governor, 9 Fatah members

Monday, 3 December, 2018 – 10:00
Gheith and members from Fatah movement warmly welcomed after their release. AFP
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat
Jerusalem magistrate court released on Sunday Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Governor Adnan Gheith and nine activists of Fatah movement, but it banned them from entering the West Bank for two other weeks.

The prosecution confirmed that their arrest was due to their “involvement in military activities serving the interests of PA security services” and their role in pursuing Palestinians who sell real estate to Jews.

The prosecutor spoke about Gheith and his colleagues’ role in arresting one of the Palestinians, who was suspected of selling real estate to settlement associations, and torturing him in intelligence prisons in Ramallah.

He said that the Israeli government decided to fight this phenomenon and punish every Palestinian who contributes to it.

In addition to releasing Gheith, the court decided to release Hatem Mahlus, Alaa Abu al-Hawa, Amer Awwad, Khalil Bashir, Mohammad al-Qaq, Ahmad Mustafa, Iyad Hadra, Hadi Mahmoud and Hussam Abu Isnineh.

According to the lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Mohammad Mahmoud, the court decided to release Geith and the rest of the detainees because their arrest turned into a major political scandal.

Notably, these arrests have raised a wave of public protests in Jerusalem and its environs.

Administrative and educational cadres and students of al-Umma Secondary School in Al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, organized Sunday morning a rally to express solidarity with Governor Gheith.

They raised banners calling releasing Gheith and all the other prisoners.

In addition, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education circulated an order in schools throughout the governorates to organize a silent sit-in for three minutes in support for Jerusalem’s governor and his fellow detainees.

It also asked these schools to use the school radio to talk about the detainees and the role of the students in defending Jerusalem and its Arabism.

Turkish Annual Inflation Falls 1.44% in November

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

 

Turkish Annual Inflation Falls 1.44% in November

Monday, 3 December, 2018 – 11:00
Vendors arrange fruits and vegetables at a green grocery in central Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Istanbul- Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey’s consumer price index fell 1.44 percent month-on-month in November, official data showed on Monday, bringing the annual inflation rate down from a 15-year high as a stronger lira, tax cuts, and discounted products helped to trim prices.

A plunge in the lira’s value fueled the inflation surge this year, triggering a massive central bank rate hike, but one analyst said the sudden downturn in prices now brought with it the risk of an early loosening in monetary policy.

As it grapples with high inflation, one of the main economic concerns for investors, the central bank has at the same time faced pressure from President Tayyip Erdogan, a self-described “enemy” of interest rates, to lower borrowing costs to spur growth.

Year-on-year, consumer inflation stood at 21.62 percent in November, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed. A Reuters poll forecast a 0.75 percent monthly decrease in November and annual inflation of 22.6 percent.

In its battle against inflation, Ankara has cut taxes on consumer products such as vehicles, furniture and white goods and encouraged shops to offer at least 10 percent discounts until the end of the year.

“Tax cuts for automotive, white goods and furniture sectors were the key factor bringing down inflation,” said Muammer Komurcuoglu of Is Investment. “We expect a limited increase in December inflation as the initial impact of tax cuts wane.”

Transportation prices slid 6.46 percent while food and non-alcoholic beverage prices fell 0.74 percent, the data showed. The producer price index fell 2.53 percent in November for an annual rise of 38.54 percent.

Stoked by the weak lira TRYTOM=D3, whose decline against the dollar this year peaked at 47 percent in August, inflation surged to 25.24 percent in October.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said the downward trend in inflation would continue.

“We will continue to carry forward the structural steps that we have started in the fight against inflation with all our ministries,” Albayrak said on Twitter.

The lira has recovered in recent months after a massive 6.25 percentage point rate hike in September and an improvement in relations with the United States. It was steady at 5.2 against the dollar on Monday, still down more than 26 percent this year.

Turkey’s economy is seen shrinking 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter and officially entering a recession – defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth – in the first three months of 2019, a Reuters poll showed in October.

As the economy slows and inflation falls, prospects for further rate hikes are now off the table, said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

“With political pressure on the central bank to loosen policy likely to mount, there’s a growing risk that policymakers decide to loosen policy even earlier, and more aggressively, than we currently anticipate,” he said.

AN F.U. Statement To The World: Saudi Crown Prince Arrives in Argentina

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

 

Saudi Crown Prince Arrives in Argentina

Wednesday, 28 November, 2018 – 10:15
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, arrived in Argentina on Wednesday after leaving Tunisia on the last leg of his Arab tour.

Upon leaving Carthage Presidential Palace, the Crown Prince was seen off by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

At the Presidential Airport, the Crown Prince was also seen off by Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and a number of senior officials, it said.

Crown Prince Mohammed will attend the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of this week.

His Arab tour included Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Tunisia.

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

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

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

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

 

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 – 09:30
The Palestine Liberation Organization office is seen in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2017. (File Photo: Reuters)
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun
The Palestinian leadership supports any Russian move to revive the political process in order to bring an end to the Israeli occupation, said Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Youssef.

Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, Abu Youssef stated that the PLO is confident of any role played by Russia and hopes that there will be a serious approach to starting a path leading to ending the occupation.

“We asked its (Russian) officials to join forces with most of the world’s countries in order to block US decisions against the Palestinian people and their rights,” asserted Abu Yusuf.

He described Russia as a “friendly country” of the Palestinians that has always supported the rights of the Palestinian people.

He explained that “basically we were looking forward to an effective Russian role within the mechanism of an international alternative to the path of the previous settlement, which was exclusively sponsored by the United States.”

“We expect Russia, China, the EU to be a major part of the international mechanism. We want an international role in the face of the deal of the century.”

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would be ready to host a meeting between Palestinians and Israel and to act as a mediator.

“It is impossible to create stability in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq, without a solution to the oldest regional problem, the Palestinian problem,” Lavrov said on his trip to Rome.

“We support the need for a resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We confirm again our offer from several years ago to host a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preconditions,” asserted the Russian Minister.

It is not clear if Lavrov’s statement meant that Russia would play a role in the political process or merely an attempt to bring the views closer and break the deadlock.

A few weeks ago, Russia’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, confirmed his country’s support for the initiative proposed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold an “international peace conference.”

Bogdanov praised “Abbas’ wise stances that support stability in the region on the basis of the international legitimacy resolutions.”

The Russian official reiterated his country’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to determine their fate and to establish an independent state on the 1967 border, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas is seeking to launch an international peace conference, which will result in an international mechanism involving the quartet committee, including the United States, and European and Arab states, consisting of five or seven states under the umbrella of the United Nations, which is at the heart of a political process with the Palestinians and Israelis.

Abbas tried to convince France of his initiative, but French President Emmanuel Macron was not convinced, unlike his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who launched a two-phase conference in 2016 and 2017.

The Palestinian President personally worked to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch an international peace conference using his influence in the region.

The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow Abed al-Hafeez Nofal said that Russia, and not just the US, now has an effective role in the region due to the great changes that have taken place in the Middle East.

US officials said President Donald Trump wanted to see the plan executed in February, but his advisers would prefer a more cautious approach, given the political crisis that swept through Israel over the past week.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that reaching peace is currently impossible and that Trump should focus his energy elsewhere until the Palestinians are ready to compromise.

“I think, personally, it is a waste of time,” Shaked said.

Abbas has repeatedly declared that he would not even listen to the plan after the US declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy to the city, and other decisions taken by the US administration against the Palestinian Authority.

Israel says Washington is the only country capable of overseeing negotiations.

Lebanese Detained in Iran Congratulates Top Officials on Independence Day

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

 

Lebanese Detained in Iran Congratulates Top Officials on Independence Day

Friday, 23 November, 2018 – 08:45
Prime Minister Saad Hariri meets a delegation from Zakka’s hometown of Kalamoun, April 23, 2018. (Dalati Nohra/HO)
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese detainee in Iran, contacted President Michel Aoun, congratulating him on Independence Day, and hoping that the “aspirations of the Presidency to have a protective umbrella above every Lebanese would be realized in the new year,” according to a statement issued by Zakka’s family.

Zakka also contacted the head of Parliament, saying that he hoped “Speaker Nabih Berri would raise the issue of his continued arbitrary detention during his next visit to Iran.”

According to the statement, the Lebanese detainee has also managed to contact Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri from his underground detention cell, hoping that this occasion “would achieve the Premiership’s aspirations of being a father to the Lebanese, to protect them wherever they are and to defend their rights, especially in international forums…and to vote in the United Nations for the benefit of the Lebanese people.”

Zakka was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in the capital, Tehran, in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit Iran.