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

Israel, Cyprus, Greek ‘Cooperate from Firefighting to Energy’

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

 

Israel, Cyprus, Greek ‘Cooperate from Firefighting to Energy’

Friday, 22 March, 2019 – 09:30
Israeli PM Netanyahu sits with US Secretary of State Pompeo, Greek PM Tsipras and Cypriot President Anastasiades during their meeting in Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Tel Aviv – Nazir Magally
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, under the supervision and encouragement of the US, as the best and strongest regional association in the world.

He made his comment following a summit he hosted in Jerusalem on Thursday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“This is the sixth summit meeting between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. We began this a few years ago, and it’s blossomed into one of the best regional associations in the world,” said Netanyahu.

He added: “We cooperate in everything, from firefighting and now to energy.”

“We are planning to lay down a pipeline called the East-Med Pipeline, from Israel, through Cyprus, through Greece, to Europe, something that will benefit our economies greatly, provide stability for the region and prosperity to our peoples, but also we think would diversify the energy supplies to Europe,” said Netanyahu.

A source close to Israeli PM said that the summit unveiled a leap in military cooperation among the three countries, to the extent of establishing a joint supervision body in the Mediterranean Sea to protect gas wells.

Anastasiades affirmed Cyprus’ “commitment to promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

“Revisionist powers, like Iran and Russia and China, are all trying to take major footholds in the East and the West. We view the United States, Israel, Cyprus and Greece as great key partners in security and prosperity,” said Pompeo.

In 2015, Israel participated in wide-range military exercises in Greece, including a training against a Russian-supplied S-300 anti-missile system.

European countries signed with Israel in 2017 the joint declaration to enhance the work aimed at extending the sea line to transport Israeli gas to Europe within the next eight years.

The 2,000-kilometer underwater pipeline is intended to have a capacity of 12 billion cubic meters of gas annually. The project includes the construction of a 1,300 km long submarine pipeline from the East Mediterranean gas field to southern Greece, as well as a 600 km long pipeline to western Greece, linking existing pipelines to transport gas to Italy and other EU countries.

Algeria’s Streets See More Protests Against Bouteflika

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

 

Algeria’s Streets See More Protests Against Bouteflika

Friday, 22 March, 2019 – 11:00
Algerians have demonstrated in their tens of thousands against Bouteflika’s bid for another term as president – Photo by AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Thousands of Algerians are demonstrating in the major cities calling for the resignation of, 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

It’s the fifth straight Friday since nationwide anti-Bouteflika protests began Feb. 22 that Algerians have taken to the streets, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Families joined professionals and students in the central squares of Algiers, the capital, holding signs reading “Get Out, Bouteflika” and “No Mandate Extension.”

“Rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said 23-year old Ahmed Khoudja, who was among other protesters who gathered in the city under rain.

Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term, according to Reuters.

But he has stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

Meanwhile, workers of Sonatrach, the national oil company whose executives are close to Bouteflika, held a symbolic sit-in Thursday in solidarity with the protests that span all sections of society including the country’s youth and doctors, according to AP.

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