Omar al-Bashir attends Islamic summit in Jakarta

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has travelled to Indonesia, defying an international warrant for his arrest, to attend an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit. 

The meeting, which began on Sunday, is dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brings together officials from 57 countries.

Bashir managed to fly under the radar of Indonesian human right activists and NGOs. Last year, he cancelled a trip to attend an Asia-Africa conference in the capital Jakarta after protests by rights groups who wanted the president arrested.

“The same human rights groups now question the morality of this summit – discussing peace and human rights in Palestine – as the topic is being discussed with someone who has been accused of violating the same rights of his own people,” Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reported from the conference venue.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010, accusing him of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

Members of the ICC are obliged to act on arrest warrants. Indonesia is not a member. 


OPINION: Why South Africa let Bashir get away


Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since an army-backed 1989 coup, rejects the ICC’s authority.

But he had not travelled outside the Middle East or Africa since 2011, until he visited China in September to attend celebrations commemorating the end of World War II. China is also not a member of the ICC.

In June, Bashir was forced to flee South Africa after a court ruled he should be banned from leaving pending the outcome of a hearing on his possible arrest. 

At the OIC summit in Jakarta, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo urged Muslim nations to be part of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than part of the problem.

Widodo said on Monday the entire world is concerned by the deterioration of the situation in Palestine. “If the OIC cannot be part of the solution to Palestine, then the OIC becomes irrelevant,” he said.

 Talk to Al Jazeera – Fatou Bensouda: ‘Al-Bashir will be arrested’

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Read More

Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia foreign ministers meet in Indonesia

The foreign ministry said during the meeting on Sunday they discussed a range of issues of bilateral interest as well as issues relating to the Muslim Ummah.

This is the second meeting between the ministers in two months.

Mahmood Ali earlier visited Saudi Arabia in Jan.

The Saudi foreign minister recalled the meeting in Riyadh and said it had “added new impetus to the existing excellent relations between the two brotherly countries”.

Ali also met his counterparts from Palestine and the United Arab Emirates and the Secretary General of the OIC.

The two-day 5th extraordinary OIC summit began on Sunday at the request of the Palestinian President to discuss the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

He attended the Ministerial Preparatory Meeting to the Summit which was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Indonesia.

The meeting finalised a draft resolution and a declaration titled, ‘The Jakarta Declaration on Palestine and Al Quds Al-Sharif’ for adoption by the heads of delegations on Monday.

Read More

Hopes dim for constructing Gaza seaport in near future

Primorsk port 04.jpg

Officials of Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement have been recently talking about the possibilities of constructing a water passage that links the Gaza Strip and Cyprus as one option to ease the mounting humanitarian crisis gripping the coastal enclave.

However, chances for actually building a seaport in Gaza in the near future are very slim, observers say.

No one knows where the much-talked-about seaport will be located, but the Gaza Wharf has witnessed several international attempts to defy a siege imposed by Israel.

The Israelis have foiled all such attempts, including one in May 2010, when the Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish aid flotilla, killing nine activists.

Turkish and Israeli officials recently talked about restoring political and economic ties between the two countries, which were broken following the flotilla attack, and one of Turkey’s conditions is to end the Gaza siege.

Khalil al-Hayyah, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza who has been tracking progress in the talks between Israel and Turkey, said “lifting the Gaza siege would never happen without agreeing on constructing a seaport for the Gaza Strip to link the territory with the entire world.”

FEARS SEAPORT WOULD PERPECTUATE PALESTINE SPLIT

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Fatah Party Central Committee warned on Monday of Israel’s plan to isolate the Gaza Strip from the entire occupied Palestinian territories.

Fatah accused Israel of using various names such as a floating seaport or a sea passage to keep the Palestinian territories in two parts: the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Hani Habib, a Gaza political analyst, told Xinhua that the Israeli terms for constructing a seaport in Gaza “are clearly showing that Israel is determined to keep the internal Palestinian split for ages and to create a new situation for Gaza that keeps it independent and totally isolated.”

ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Economic experts in Gaza said that construction of a seaport in the strip will certainly help revive its economy, creating thousands of jobs during the first year of operation.

Omer Sha’ban, one Gaza economist, told Xinhua that the seaport for Gaza will be the sole sea gate for the establishment of the future Palestinian state once the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

“A seaport is important not only for the Gaza Strip, but also for the West Bank, which basically depends on the Israeli seaports for export and import,” said Sha’ban.

He said constructing and operating a seaport in Gaza “would create 50,000 job opportunities,” resulting in a big jump in the Palestinian economy as a whole and in development in human resources and industry in particular in the Palestinian territories.

The seaport, on the Mediterranean and with access to Suez Canal, would link Gaza with Europe, America, Asia and beyond, he said.

Building a seaport for the Gaza Strip was one condition put forward by Hamas in Egyptian-borkered talks in Cairo to end hostilities following a large-scale military offensive by Israel against Hamas-led militants in the summer of 2014.

According to the August 2014 agreement, Israel and Hamas were to hold indirect talks one month after the ceasefire to discuss issues like constructing a seaport for the Gaza Strip and operating Gaza airport.

The two sides, however, have never met again after that.

The project of constructing a seaport and an airport for the Gaza Strip was part of Oslo Accords that Israel signed with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993.

The airport was built and operated from 1998 until 2000, the year the second Intifada, or Palestinian Uprising, broke out. The radar station and control tower were destroyed by Israeli Air Force in 2001.

The seaport project did start, in July 2000, but stopped soon due to obstruction of the supply of construction materials, and destruction by the Israeli army in late 2000, also due to the Intifada.

In the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, reached after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Israel promised international donors that it will not interfere with operation of the port, but construction never resumed.

SWEET DREAM, BITTER REALITY

Talk of building a seaport has raised expectations that the misery suffered by residents in the enclave might ease after a blockade of nearly 10 years.

“Constructing a seaport for the Palestinians is a sweet dream,” said 65-year-old Abu Sallah Sa’ed, who was sitting on the beach near Gaza Wharf.

“Once it comes true, it will end the crisis and all our daily problems,” he said. “No one wants war. Poverty is the enemy of mankind.”

“A better life without siege is the best guarantee of peace for all our children,” Sa’ed said.

Hussein Rajab, who sells hot drinks at Gaza Wharf, is skeptical.

“I don’t think that one day, there will be a seaport for Gaza,” said the 42-year-old vendor, who peddles coffee and tea from a push cart. “We always dream of having a seaport and see big ships coming and leaving, but this will never happen.”

The ongoing Israeli blockade has thrown the densely populated enclave into humanitarian crises, with widespread poverty and unemployment.

International aid organizations have warned of disasters and collapse in the near future if the situation continues in Gaza.

Abu Jamal Subeih, a Gaza fisherman, was pessimistic that the Palestinians’ lot will improve any time soon.

“I rule out the possibility that Israel would accept the construction of a seaport for Gaza,” he said. “They have been doing this against us for so many years, therefore I don’t believe Israel would let us having our own seaport to connect with the outside world.”
Source: Xinhua

Read More

A Palestinian's dream of reaching the Rio Olympics

It is early morning in Ramallah and Mohammed al-Khatib is busy warming up before a training session at the local school running track.

The 25-year-old aspires to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a professional athlete. He also wants to do it for Palestine.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for Khatib, who plans to run the 100-200m sprint double. The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead and travel for competitions.

Gaza’s crippling infrastructure owing to the blockade means shiny stadiums and modern tracks are out of the question for practice. Israeli forces bombed the enclave’s Palestine Stadium in 2006 and then again during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

“I want to win an Olympic medal for Palestine. I know it’s the hardest thing to do, but I’m going to try,” Khatib told Al Jazeera.

“To represent Palestine at the Olympics is bringing hope to my people.”

The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst. The area remains tense, with illegal settlements dividing the heart of the city between the Israeli-controlled sector known as H2 and H1 for Palestinians.

In West Bank and Gaza, sports enthusiasts are all too familiar with the result of the occupation on their training. Equipment is difficult to obtain and travel restrictions create further obstacles for athletes.

Competing in international games is frustrating for Palestinians because they usually need a two-day head-start to fly from Jordan and back, typically resulting in a lengthy wait at checkpoints.


WATCH: Blind karate kid dreams of representing Palestine


Last May, the Palestinian national football team was held at the Allenby Crossing on the Jordanian border for “security reasons” hours after Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to ease travel restrictions on players.

In 2014, key runners from Gaza including Olympian Nader al-Masri, a veteran of 40 international competitions, were denied entry to the West Bank to participate in the annual Palestine marathon.

“When I think about Israel, I think about injustice and inequality for sure. We share the same land but when you see it so clearly, on one side they have a clean, beautiful football field and the other side, we barely have water to plant our own plants, never mind grass in a football field.

“I find this frustrating and it’s an injustice. This is one of the messages I carry.”

Because there are no professional coaches in the West Bank, Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube.

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

His workouts were limited to the streets or, occasionally, when he was able to get access to the tracks at Birzeit University or the local high school in Ramallah.

“When the tracks weren’t open, I would train on the streets,” he said. “Access to the school was either early in the morning – before classes started around 6am – or after the school day was finished at 4pm, and usually I would have work at this time or I would be tired.”

The asphalt track in Birzeit is only 84m in length and not suitable because it can cause injuries owing to the rough surface.

‘I am so close’

Despite all that, Khatib still persevered.

“I knew I had two options. I would either start blaming the world for not having a decent track or equipment and I would just give up. Or I would try to find my way around it and that’s what I did.”

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds, which is just off the 10.16 seconds required to qualify for the Games.

“I know a lot of athletes in Palestine face all these difficulties and at some point they give up. I almost gave up at one stage, but it’s really just about going forward regardless if I’m crawling,  walking or running.

“I just keep going forward and here I am, I’m so close.”

In order to fulfil his potential and stand a realistic chance, he raised money online by crowdfunding to train with a coach in the US – taking a step closer to qualifying as such opportunities are not readily available in Palestine.

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Through the various sums of foreign aid, which the Palestinian Authority is heavily reliant on, little goes towards sports.

The European Union in January approved a €2m ($2.2m) grant towards social infrastructure for communities in Area C – comprising 60 percent of West Bank land currently controlled by Israeli security forces – but the funds will build schools, roads and water networks.

The Palestine Olympic Committee has been the official body representing these athletes since 1996. It lacks the manpower to establish proper training facilities for athletes but is working with the Olympic representatives to improve facilities across the region.

“There is plenty of help from the International Olympic Committee for funding and training but funding alone doesn’t help,” Susan Shalabi Molano, spokeswoman for the Palestine Olympic Committee, said.

“Imagine if you receive the funds to construct a stadium and then you don’t get a permit from the Israelis to build it. What is the use then? We are trying, though. A little bit is better than nothing. The suffering continues but we are trying.”

Molano said building permission from Israeli authorities is rare and little progress has been made to improve the situation.

“When we want to get players from Gaza, for example, they go through Egypt and meet in some third country where they can train because access to the West Bank isn’t easy. It’s difficult and time-consuming but this is the only solution we have in the end.

“Players are detained or hindered when they move from one place to another and that won’t stop as long we live in these circumstances.”

Other athletes have felt the effect of Israeli occupation on their training. Palestinian swimmer Sabine Hazboun competed in the women’s 50m freestyle at London 2012, finishing with a personal best of 28.28 seconds.

The 21-year-old “met the real world there”, which was a huge contrast from the rundown swimming pools in her hometown of Bethlehem.

Hazboun moved to Barcelona, where she could train at a professional level as there was no sizeable pool available in the West Bank for her to practise in.

“I started swimming aged nine in an 18m pool. It started as a hobby but then I wanted to be more serious and eventually go to the Olympics.

“When I wanted to practise, I saw more obstacles because it’s so difficult, we don’t have the facilities like other countries. We need more gym facilities, we need swimming equipment and experienced coaches,” she said.

For now, back in Ramallah where Khatib prepares for his US trip, qualifying will be a victory against occupation and he isn’t going to put his running shoes down without a fight.

Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera

Read More

A Palestinian's dream of reaching the Rio Olympics

It is early morning in Ramallah and Mohammed al-Khatib is busy warming up before a training session at the local school running track.

The 25-year-old aspires to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a professional athlete. He also wants to do it for Palestine.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for Khatib, who plans to run the 100-200m sprint double. The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead and travel for competitions.

Gaza’s crippling infrastructure owing to the blockade means shiny stadiums and modern tracks are out of the question for practice. Israeli forces bombed the enclave’s Palestine Stadium in 2006 and then again during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

“I want to win an Olympic medal for Palestine. I know it’s the hardest thing to do, but I’m going to try,” Khatib told Al Jazeera.

“To represent Palestine at the Olympics is bringing hope to my people.”

The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst. The area remains tense, with illegal settlements dividing the heart of the city between the Israeli-controlled sector known as H2 and H1 for Palestinians.

In West Bank and Gaza, sports enthusiasts are all too familiar with the result of the occupation on their training. Equipment is difficult to obtain and travel restrictions create further obstacles for athletes.

Competing in international games is frustrating for Palestinians because they usually need a two-day head-start to fly from Jordan and back, typically resulting in a lengthy wait at checkpoints.


WATCH: Blind karate kid dreams of representing Palestine


Last May, the Palestinian national football team was held at the Allenby Crossing on the Jordanian border for “security reasons” hours after Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to ease travel restrictions on players.

In 2014, key runners from Gaza including Olympian Nader al-Masri, a veteran of 40 international competitions, were denied entry to the West Bank to participate in the annual Palestine marathon.

“When I think about Israel, I think about injustice and inequality for sure. We share the same land but when you see it so clearly, on one side they have a clean, beautiful football field and the other side, we barely have water to plant our own plants, never mind grass in a football field.

“I find this frustrating and it’s an injustice. This is one of the messages I carry.”

Because there are no professional coaches in the West Bank, Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube.

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

His workouts were limited to the streets or, occasionally, when he was able to get access to the tracks at Birzeit University or the local high school in Ramallah.

“When the tracks weren’t open, I would train on the streets,” he said. “Access to the school was either early in the morning – before classes started around 6am – or after the school day was finished at 4pm, and usually I would have work at this time or I would be tired.”

The asphalt track in Birzeit is only 84m in length and not suitable because it can cause injuries owing to the rough surface.

‘I am so close’

Despite all that, Khatib still persevered.

“I knew I had two options. I would either start blaming the world for not having a decent track or equipment and I would just give up. Or I would try to find my way around it and that’s what I did.”

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds, which is just off the 10.16 seconds required to qualify for the Games.

“I know a lot of athletes in Palestine face all these difficulties and at some point they give up. I almost gave up at one stage, but it’s really just about going forward regardless if I’m crawling,  walking or running.

“I just keep going forward and here I am, I’m so close.”

In order to fulfil his potential and stand a realistic chance, he raised money online by crowdfunding to train with a coach in the US – taking a step closer to qualifying as such opportunities are not readily available in Palestine.

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Through the various sums of foreign aid, which the Palestinian Authority is heavily reliant on, little goes towards sports.

The European Union in January approved a €2m ($2.2m) grant towards social infrastructure for communities in Area C – comprising 60 percent of West Bank land currently controlled by Israeli security forces – but the funds will build schools, roads and water networks.

The Palestine Olympic Committee has been the official body representing these athletes since 1996. It lacks the manpower to establish proper training facilities for athletes but is working with the Olympic representatives to improve facilities across the region.

“There is plenty of help from the International Olympic Committee for funding and training but funding alone doesn’t help,” Susan Shalabi Molano, spokeswoman for the Palestine Olympic Committee, said.

“Imagine if you receive the funds to construct a stadium and then you don’t get a permit from the Israelis to build it. What is the use then? We are trying, though. A little bit is better than nothing. The suffering continues but we are trying.”

Molano said building permission from Israeli authorities is rare and little progress has been made to improve the situation.

“When we want to get players from Gaza, for example, they go through Egypt and meet in some third country where they can train because access to the West Bank isn’t easy. It’s difficult and time-consuming but this is the only solution we have in the end.

“Players are detained or hindered when they move from one place to another and that won’t stop as long we live in these circumstances.”

Other athletes have felt the effect of Israeli occupation on their training. Palestinian swimmer Sabine Hazboun competed in the women’s 50m freestyle at London 2012, finishing with a personal best of 28.28 seconds.

The 21-year-old “met the real world there”, which was a huge contrast from the rundown swimming pools in her hometown of Bethlehem.

Hazboun moved to Barcelona, where she could train at a professional level as there was no sizeable pool available in the West Bank for her to practise in.

“I started swimming aged nine in an 18m pool. It started as a hobby but then I wanted to be more serious and eventually go to the Olympics.

“When I wanted to practise, I saw more obstacles because it’s so difficult, we don’t have the facilities like other countries. We need more gym facilities, we need swimming equipment and experienced coaches,” she said.

For now, back in Ramallah where Khatib prepares for his US trip, qualifying will be a victory against occupation and he isn’t going to put his running shoes down without a fight.

Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera

Read More

What the Israeli-Turkish reconciliation says about Gaza

The oft-postponed and much discussed reconciliation between Turkey and Israel appears to be approaching its endgame. The strictly bilateral understandings on compensation and an apology by Israel for the deadly assault on the Mavi Marmara passenger ship almost six years ago have been finalised.

As both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently got elected for the office, there is no question about their power and influence in the foreseeable future. Like it or not, if there is to be an agreement, Erdogan and Netanyahu will have to overcome their mutual antipathy in pursuit of a mutually advantageous strategic payoff.

The long-awaited rapprochement now centres on an unlikely competition for advantage in the all but abandoned Gaza Strip, against a background defined by the regional fallout from Turkey’s mistakes in Syria and the slow if deliberate turnaround in Israel’s view of the permanence of Hamas’ presence.

Closing Mavi Marmara file

Turkey has long insisted that closing the file on the Mavi Marmara should include an end to Israeli restrictions on trade with Gaza.

In this context Turkey has demanded, and Israel has rejected, “unrestricted access” to Gaza for Turkish assistance and trade.


ALSO READ: Gaza Flotilla – a war crime, but a minor one


For many years, Turkey has tried to play an economic role in Palestine, both in Gaza and more successfully in the West Bank. To that end, the Turkish think-tank the Center for Multilateral Trade Studies at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), together with the powerful Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), has recently prepared an ambitious $5bn Gaza reconstruction plan, that includes a port.

“We have made a strategic plan,” explained Guven Sak, the foundation’s managing director who prepared the report. “A Gaza port will be one of the most important projects of this plan.”

In Israel, the prospect of a port in Gaza has travelled a tortuous road. When Hamas first raised the idea of rebuilding the simple port destroyed by Israel during the Second Intifada, it was dismissed as impossible.

Now after many years and much conflict, the issue has been placed squarely on the desk of Netanyahu.

The engine driving this change is, as always, Israel’s security establishment.

After Hamas established uncontested control of Gaza in June 2007, Israel, together with the international community, adopted a draconian policy of restricting imports into Gaza and banning all exports, in the hope of fatally weakening the Islamist government.

Eight years and three wars later, Hamas is still in the chair, presiding over a besieged population of close to two million people and is heading full steam in a race to the bottom.

Gaza – and Palestine as a whole – is paying an extraordinary price for this policy. According to the Untied Nations, Gaza will be “uninhabitable” by 2020 if current conditions persist.

The UN report didn’t reveal anything that Israel’s defence and intelligence officials – the architects of this policy – do not already know. But they now warn that Palestinians will not be the only ones to pay the price for Gaza’s engineered descent into penury.


OPINION: The future of Gaza looks bleak


At a recent closed briefing on Gaza by the head of Israeli military intelligence, Major General Herzl Halevi reportedly said that, “If there won’t be improvement [in Gaza], Israel will be the first to feel it when things explode”.

Halevi explained that the critical difference between Hamas’ military capabilities, which continue to increase, and its intentions. Hamas, he said, does not want another round of hostilities with Israel and is working to prevent rocket fire into Israel. Gaza’s reconstruction, he told the Knesset, is the best way to prevent another war.

A feasible port of Gaza

In recent weeks numerous reports, inspired by progress with Ankara and the dawning realisation that Israeli security can be improved by opening Gaza to trade and commerce, have highlighted the role of a Gaza seaport as the keystone of a new, more benevolent, if self-interested, strategy.

Pro-Palestinian Turks gather on the fourth anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident. [AP]

For more than a year, Israeli security and trade officials have studied the numerous security and administrative aspects of a Palestinian seaport, defining at least five options and outlining the security and operational challenges that each presents. The options range from an offshore port and airport on the Dutch model, to privileged use of the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of al Arish.

Senior Israeli military officers are confident that security issues regarding the port’s administration can be addressed, and they made clear that the security implications of a seaport are manageable. What is now required is for Israel’s politicians, notably Netanyahu and his minister of security, Moshe Yaalon, to address the issue.

Hamas’ political leadership, which has long understood both the strategic and political advantages of a maritime outlet, has made supportive noises.


OPINION: No more flotillas


“The Strip needs and wants a seaport, and that issue has also been conveyed to the Turks. The siege on Gaza will not be lifted without the establishment of a seaport,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said at a recent symposium in Turkey.

“What does the world fear? That we’ll smuggle weapons? We have no intention to smuggle weapons and the world is invited operate any monitoring mechanism it wishes on this port,” he added.

The Egypt factor

Egypt is the other key player contesting for influence in Gaza. In Cairo, two views prevail: One opposes a seaport if Hamas is to reap the benefits promised by an end to the siege. The other favours any move – including a port – that reflects Israel’s continuing responsibility for Gaza’s welfare and security as the internationally recognised occupying power.

Trumping each view is the continuing antipathy between Ankara, which has yet to recognise the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government, and Cairo, which opposes Erdogan’s support for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and his desire to be viewed as Hamas’ patron and Gaza’s saviour.

However, a tentative engagement between the rivals, hastened by regional upheavals, may occur at the April Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul.

If Erdogan and Sisi can resolve their differences and end their zero-sum game in Gaza, another impediment to Israel’s endorsement of a Mediterranean seaport in Palestine will be removed.

Geoffrey Aronson writes about Middle Eastern affairs. He consults with a variety of public and private institutions dealing with regional political, security, and development issues.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

Read More

Iran: GCC's terrorist label for Hezbollah is a mistake

Iran’s deputy foreign minister has said that a decision by a Saudi-led bloc of Gulf Arab states to label the Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organisation was a “mistake”.

Iranian state TV on Thursday quoted Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying that the Gulf Cooperation Council’s move would undermine peace in the region and the unity of Lebanon.

He said it was a “new mistake” by the GCC and that Iran was “proud” of Hezbollah.

On Wednesday, GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said that the six Gulf monarchies took the decision because “the [Hezbollah] militia recruited young people [from the Gulf] for terrorist acts”. 


OPINION: Lebanon and Saudi Arabia’s love and hate relationship


Hezbollah, a Shia political organisation with an armed wing, fights in neighbouring Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad. 

The Sunni-dominated GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Gulf nations have taken a series of measures against Hezbollah since Saudi Arabia last month halted a $4bn programme funding French military supplies to Beirut.

Hezbollah is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year. The two nations are on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Announcing the military funding cut last month, a Saudi official said that the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.

Riyadh would be conducting “a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic”, the unnamed official told the AFP news agency.

He specifically cited Lebanon’s refusal to join the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after demonstrators set fire to its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia cleric

‘Spare Lebanon’

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at Saudi Arabia during a televised speech on Tuesday. 

“The kingdom is trying to put pressure on the Lebanese to try to silent us but we will not be silent on the crimes the Saudis are committing in Yemen and elsewhere,” Nasrallah said. 

“Does Saudi Arabia have the right to punish Lebanon, its state and its army because a certain party has decided to raise its voice?” he asked.

“If they have a problem with us, let them keep it with us, and let them spare Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Nasrallah added.

Jamal Abdullah, head of the Gulf Studies Unit at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, said he did not believe that the Gulf decisions targeted Lebanon as a whole.

“The relations between Gulf states and Lebanon are governed by diplomatic norms and strong links from their shared membership in the Arab League,” Abdullah said.

The GCC supported Hezbollah throughout the past three decades in its resistance against Israel. However, the bloc has always condemned Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria.

“This was a milestone in the nature of the relationship between Hezbollah and Gulf countries,” Abdullah said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Read More