Saudi Arabia Slams Iran’s Ongoing Deception over Nuclear Program

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

 

Saudi Arabia Slams Iran’s Ongoing Deception over Nuclear Program

Tuesday, 12 November, 2019 – 12:45
King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a cabinet meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi government slammed on Tuesday Iran’s ongoing deception related to its nuclear program.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz chaired the cabinet meeting that was held in Riyadh.

The cabinet hailed the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in monitoring the program, condemning Tehran for its stalling and maneuvering in providing necessary information to the watchdog.

Iran must cooperate fully with the agency and respect IAEA inspectors, stressed the cabinet.

Turning to Yemen, it praised the signing of the Riyadh agreement last week between the legitimate government and Southern Transitional Council. King Salman sponsored the deal and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, presided over the signing ceremony that was held in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia continues to support all efforts to achieve the security and stability of Yemen, lauding the parties for prioritizing their nation’s and people’s interests.

The cabinet highlighted Crown Prince Mohammed’s remarks at the signing ceremony in which he said the Kingdom has been keen on aiding the Yemeni people since the eruption of their country’s crisis.

It continues to seek a political solution to the conflict according to the three references and it seeks an end to foreign meddling in its internal affairs and an end to the Iran-backed Houthi coup.

The Riyadh agreement is a major step forward in resolving the conflict, Information Minister Turki al-Shabanah said after the cabinet meeting.

King Salman also briefed the ministers on the telephone call he held with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the message he received from Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.

The cabinet hailed the signing of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the World Economic Forum to establish a Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Kingdom.

“The center will provide space for the development of the mechanisms, plans and applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Kingdom and will contribute to the adoption of technology and best practices in the region and the world,” read a statement after the inking of the deal.

Saudi: GCC Defense Ministers Assert Importance of Protecting Int’l Maritime Navigation

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

 

GCC Defense Ministers Assert Importance of Protecting Int’l Maritime Navigation

Thursday, 31 October, 2019 – 12:30
The 16th meeting of the joint defense council of the GCC defense ministers hosted by Oman in Muscat. (Saudi Ministry of Defense’s Twitter Account)
Muscat – Asharq Al-Awsat
Gulf defense ministers discussed regional developments and conflicts, and their effects and risks on the interests of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, stressing the importance of protecting freedom of international maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf.

The ministers also discussed the impact of regional developments on the security and integral unity of the GCC countries and peoples.

Their statement came during the 16th meeting of the joint defense council of the GCC, hosted by Oman in Muscat. The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Defense Minister Sayyid Bader bin Saud al-Busaidi.

The ministers condemned the September attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, asserting their support to Saudi Arabia and any measures taken to protect its sovereignty, stability, and interests.

GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani, who attended the meeting in Muscat, praised the operation carried out by US forces on Saturday in Syria’s Idlib province, which left ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a number of extremists dead.

The ministers stated that Baghdadi’s death is an important step in eliminating the terrorist organization’s cells.

Zayani also lauded the preparedness of the GCC armed forces to defend their countries and peoples, vowing to further upgrade their defense plans. He also praised the cooperation between GCC armed forces and allied countries.

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

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

 

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 – 10:45
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Fourth National Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the forum’s opening session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 9 2019. (Nasser Nasser/AP)
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
A Palestinian court decision to block access to 59 news websites and Facebook pages has drawn criticism and sparked widespread controversy, anger,x and growing calls for stopping the “gagging” policy.

In a rare move, Abbas’s government called on the attorney general to overturn the latest decision by Ramallah Magistrate’s Court.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that the PA government urged administrators of social media pages and news sites to “follow professional and moral standards in publishing news and media items.”

He stressed the government’s respect for international conventions that guarantee the protection of freedoms and its strong respect for the independence of the judiciary and non-intervention in its affairs.

The decision was made at the request of the Palestinian prosecution.

In its petition to the court, The prosecution argued that the sites disseminate harmful content about the PA and its officials and are likely to be used to incite lawlessness.

The court’s decision was leaked after prosecutors sent it to Internet companies in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate held a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after the news of the blockage was leaked.

Syndicate Head Naser Abu Baker called it a “black day” for the press in Palestine.

“The judiciary must protect freedom in Palestine,” he stated. “It should not restrict it.”

He said that the syndicate appealed against the decision and announced that it is against any previous agreements with the Public Prosecution.

“What is required now is for the court to cancel this decision and amend the law on cyber crimes with respect to freedom of information.”

Abu Baker described the decision to block websites as a blow to the government and its efforts to establish media freedoms.

In this context, Palestinian officials and factions rejected the “gagging” policy.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.

“Blocking access to websites or imposing other measures that prevent access to information or restrict freedom of expression are in complete contradiction with the Palestinian Basic Law,” she stressed in a statement.

 

UAE Adopts 122 Economic Activity of 100% Foreign Ownership

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

 

UAE Adopts 122 Economic Activity of 100% Foreign Ownership

Wednesday, 3 July, 2019 – 11:45
Dubai Cabinet Meeting chaired by Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (WAM)
Dubai- Asharq Al-Awsat
UAE’s cabinet approved a decision allowing foreign investors in the sectors and economic activities eligible of ownership up to 100 percent in the UAE.

A statement issued by the government said that the decision aims to support the country’s growth environment and reaffirm its position on the global arena as a hub for investment.

The cabinet meeting was chaired by Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid announced the decision in a tweet on his account, saying: “we approved 100% foreign ownership in 122 economic activities in fields including agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, e-commerce, transportation, arts, construction and entertainment.”

The Prime Minister declared that local governments will identify relevant ownership percentages in every activity, indicating that the goal is to stimulate, facilitate and activate business, open and expand new economic sectors, attract new investors and talents, and enhance global competitiveness of the national economy.

“We also approved a benefit-transfer scheme among the country’s pension funds. We want to facilitate procedures for our citizens to move between federal and local sectors and civil and military sectors, and vice versa. We are united to serve one country and one goal.”

As a result, a total of 122 economic activities across 13 sectors were specified to be eligible for up to 100 percent foreign ownership such as renewable energy, space, agriculture, and manufacturing Industry.

The decision provides investors with an opportunity to acquire various shares in a number of economic activities including the production of solar panels, power transformers, green technology, and hybrid power plants, according to WAM.

Areas of foreign ownership also include transport and storage, which allows investors to own projects in the field of e-commerce transport, supply chain, logistics, and cold storage for pharmaceutical products.

Other areas of ownership by foreign investors include hospitality and food services, information and communications, as well as professional, scientific and technical activities, thereby allowing for ownership in laboratories for research and development in biotechnology.

The list also includes administrative services, support services, educational activities, healthcare, art and entertainment, and construction.

In other governmental affairs, the cabinet adopted the restructuring of the Education and Human Resources Council, chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

It also approved the decision to finance the funding of federal universities and colleges based on performance results for the academic year 2018-2019, aiming to increase financial planning efficiency and implementation of the budget.

The cabinet reviewed a number of reports of the Higher Committee to measure compliance with international standards for combating money laundering and combating terrorism financing and corrective actions.

Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions

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

 

Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 – 10:00
Gaza fishing boats. (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED ABED)
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel announced Tuesday it had eased fishing restrictions off the blockaded Gaza Strip after a ceasefire with Hamas ended a deadly escalation earlier this month.

Israel extended the fishing limit to up to 15 nautical miles, said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

The move restores the fishing zone to the limits set in April ahead of Israel’s general election.

Gaza fishing union official, Zakaria Bakr, however told AFP on Tuesday morning it had yet to be informed of any changes.

COGAT did not provide further details, but in April the limit was set at six nautical miles in the north near the Israeli border, 12 off central Gaza and 15 in the south near the Egyptian border, according to the fishing union.

Israel banned fishing completely when the two-day flare-up of violence began earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following the truce, AFP said.

According to the news agency, the 15-nautical-mile limit is the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities did not say the move was linked to the truce reached earlier this month with Hamas.

But Palestinian officials said at the time of the May 6 ceasefire that it included Israel taking steps to ease its blockade.

Israel media reported late Monday that the ceasefire, brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, is a six-month deal that includes the expansion of the fishing zone as well as the transfer of medicines and other aid to Gaza.

Negotiations are to also take place on issues including Gaza’s severe electricity shortage and border crossings, the reports said.

In return, Hamas would calm protests along the border and halt maritime demonstrations aimed at breaking the blockade.

According to AFP, Hamas denied the reports and Israel did not immediately comment.

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

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

 

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 10:45
Police walk outside the international terminal as they patrol Sydney Airport. AFP file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The lawyer of an Australian-Lebanese dual citizen on trial for an alleged plot to bring down an Emirati passenger plane said Saturday that her client has been ordered released on bail by a Lebanese military court.

Joceline Adib al-Rai, lawyer of Amer Khayat, said the court’s decision was delivered a day earlier. Prosecutors can appeal.

Khayat has rejected the charges.

Lebanese authorities have held Khayat in detention since 2017. They have accused him of planning to blow up an Etihad airline flight that was supposed to travel from Sydney to the United Arab Emirates.

Khaled and Mahmoud, two of Khayyat’s brothers, are on trial in Australia for plotting to blow up the plane with bombs hidden inside a Barbie doll and meat grinder.

Australian authorities say Amer Khayyat had no knowledge of his brothers’ plot.

Khaled’s sentence hearing has been set for July 26. The charges carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The jury is still deliberating a verdict for Mahmoud.

Another brother was unaware that he was carrying a bomb, disguised as a meat mincer, in his luggage, as he tried to check in at the airport, Australian police have said.

Saudi Arabia Nominated For ICAO Membership

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

 

Saudi Arabia Nominated for ICAO Membership

Friday, 3 May, 2019 – 10:00
Arab Civil Aviation Organization extraordinary general assembly in Rabat. Asharq Al-Awsat
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that the Kingdom is among Arab states nominated for membership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The voting results of the extraordinary general assembly of the Arab Civil Aviation Organization in Rabat showed that Saudi Arabia remained on the list of states seeking ICAO’s membership, GACA said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

The Kingdom’s delegation in Rabat was chaired by Transport Minister Assistant Abdulhadi bin Ahmed al-Mansouri who delivered a speech expressing Saudi Arabia’s pride in its vital role in the air transport industry.

Mansouri noted that the voting results assert the Kingdom’s remarkable and influential position in the region and the world, saying the Saudi political and economic role has made it among the top 20 influential countries in the global economy.

The statement said that during the Rabat meeting, it was agreed that the Kingdom would be among the nominees for ICAO’s membership given its huge contribution to international civil aviation, and technical and financial support to ICAO in order to achieve the organization’s strategic goals.

The importance of Arab cooperation in air transport lies in joint action to unify procedures and keep ongoing communication to meet the highest safety standards for this vital sector that is a key driver for the economy in the region, read the statement.

Further, this sector plays a significant role in the economies of states and has a direct impact on progress that governments seek to achieve.

World Bank Warns Of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

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

 

World Bank Warns of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

Thursday, 18 April, 2019 – 09:15
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The World Bank said that the Palestinian economy is now facing a severe shock in regard of public finances as a result of Israel’s approach over tax revenues, calling for an urgent resolution of the crisis before it deepens.

This came in a report that the World Bank has prepared on Wednesday and is due to be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its next meeting in Brussels on 30 April.

The report quoted Anna Bjerde, World Bank Acting Country Director for West Bank and Gaza and Director of Strategy and Operations for the Middle East and North Africa Region, as saying: “The economy, which in 2018 saw no real growth, is now facing a severe fiscal shock because of the standoff over clearance revenue transfers.”

Bjerde stressed that “Urgent resolution is needed to prevent further deterioration of economic activity and living standards. Clearance revenues are a major source of budgetary income and the ongoing standoff is felt by all segments of the population in what is already a weak economy.”

In February, Israel decided to deduct around $10 million a month from the revenues — the sum the PA paid families of prisoners or prisoners themselves serving time in Israeli jails — prompting the Palestinians to refuse any funds at all.

“Against a background of declining aid flows, the recent standoff stemmed from Israel’s unilateral deduction of US$138 million from the PA’s clearance revenues in 2019 to offset estimated payouts to Palestinian martyrs and prisoners’ families,” the report noted.

According to the World Bank, “the clearance revenues, collected by Israel and transferred to the PA monthly, amount to 65 per cent of the PA’s total revenues. In response, the PA rejected the diminished transfers and was forced to cut the wage bill by 30 per cent, reduce expenditures in social assistance, and borrow more from local banks. If not resolved, the standoff will increase the financing gap from US$400 million in 2018 to over US $1 billion in 2019.”

“The dual-use goods system in its current application limits economic diversification and sustainable growth in the Palestinian territories. A revamp of the application of the restrictions on dual-use goods is critically needed,” added Bjerde.

The report stressed that “The Palestinian economy has witnessed low growth rates that are not able to keep up with the growth in population, resulting in an increase in unemployment and deteriorating living conditions. The absence of growth in the past year is mainly attributed to the steep deterioration in Gaza, where more than half of the population is unemployed and economic activities contracted by 7 per cent in 2018—the deepest economic downturn Gaza has witnessed that is not a result of a conflict. However, growth in the West Bank has also slowed below its recent trends.”

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

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

 

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

Friday, 5 April, 2019 – 10:45
(Image from Arabic Website/ no caption)
Cairo – Waleed Abdurahman
Ailed by losing its final Syria stronghold, in the eastern town of Baghouz, ISIS is pinning high hopes on its outlandish and radical edicts, or fatwas, to prop up its comeback. A recently published Global Fatwa Index (GFI) document, prepared by Egypt’s Dar El-Ifta (an educational institute and a center for Islamic legal research), broke down the transformation ISIS literature and religious fatwas have undergone over the last few years.

Early fatwas issued by the group were violent in calling for “garnering support” enough to materialize a so-called Islamic caliphate. During its prime on the Syria-Iraq theater, ISIS guidance worked to uphold the status quo by encouraging members to plunder and violate international conventions on human rights.

With the caliphate going into decline, the group’s edicts started to tilt towards desperation, at times taking stock in labeling “patience” as virtuous and defeat as a “test of will.” It also focused on promising a martyr’s heaven to its scattered and discombobulated fighters.

The GFI report reaffirmed that the fatwas suggest the group’s ‘clinical death,’ especially that they are almost entirely focused on combating despair that is dousing its supporter base. ISIS has gone from missionizing and authorizing its recruits to plunder and enforce their radical ideology to asking them to donate and give up their lives in exchange for the caliphate’s rebirth.

At least 30% of recent edicts called for overthrowing Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, under whose leadership ISIS had fallen flat on its face. Another 25% urged for donations and 20% ordered persistence among “believers.”

But these are hardly as shocking as the 15% of total decrees recently issued and that absolve ISIS supporters from the responsibility to defend their comrades, especially those who are pursued by security agencies abroad.

ISIS expansionist and pro-jihad edicts represented a shy 5% of total laws dished out by the group’s leaders.

Among the key factors that led to lethally slashing ISIS influence and consequently defeating the group, according to the GFI, is the killing of 30% of its fighters in battle and the fierce anti-terror crackdown it faces worldwide.

International security services taking down 25% of ISIS’ social media accounts coupled with adherents losing faith in the group’s leaders, has also left ISIS in the face of a double whammy. The group’s rift with other terror groups and dried funding has also steered ISIS into a tight corner, making it easier to defeat.

Saudi Arabia Brings Back 1,127 Historic Relics Home

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

 

Saudi Arabia Brings Back 1,127 Historic Relics Home

Thursday, 4 April, 2019 – 10:45
A diverse collection of historic metal coins (Arabic Website)
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi Arabia has succeeded in retrieving over 1,000 precious relics that date back to different times in the Kingdom’s history.

In a press statement, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) confirmed retrieving 1,127 heritage artifacts from the United States in coordination with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

SCTH Director General of Archiving and Protecting Antiquities Naif Al-Qannour, for his part, confirmed that the commission, in cooperation with its partners, is relentlessly pouring efforts into the recovery of valuable national antiquities whether they are found inside or outside the kingdom.

Al-Qannour added that many of the objects had been voluntarily handed over to the Kingdom by relatives of US citizens who worked in Saudi Arabia during the 60s.

Split into two groups, the cited relics were retrieved over different phases—with 247 items being handed over by US citizen Mark Gold Smith and another 880 items by Carol Mussman.

Even though their historic worth is equally incalculable, the relics differed in the periods of history to which they belonged.

Abdul Aziz Al-Dayel, head of the retrieved relics department, said SCTH experts are tasked with sorting, photographing and documenting the historic objects before finally enlisting their entry to the commission’s national relics register.

The distinctive pieces will be showcased at the restored relics pavilion in the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, he added.

An SCTH awareness campaign has been set up to promote the importance of returning heritage artifacts and offer financial rewards to those who return items or report them lost or stolen.

Until this very day, more than 53,000 pieces have been recovered from inside and outside the Kingdom