Category: Middle East

Al-Nasiri’s notebooks on Iraq, art, and the distraction of the living

Al-Nasiri

Haifa Zankana

Dozens of books are published each year in Iraq, most of them by Americans who were, or still are, serving in the American army. They participated for varying lengths of time, whether directly in the invasion or the fighting, or indirectly, in the ransacking termed ‘the reconstruction of civil society’. These ‘experiences’ are presented, in English, to the world from the perspective of the occupier as liberator bearing the burden of a humanitarian mission or an adventure. Its members are associated by an extraordinary friendship which is misunderstood by the people of the occupied country, and they are there to defend the people from ‘insurgents and terrorists’ or as a military lesson in combatting uprising, which deserves to be taught to future generations of imperialist, expansionist forces.

A simple statistic which invites remark is the number of books published since the 2003 invasion, and even today, in contrast to the scarcity from the pre-invasion period, which laid the groundwork for the largest American military aggression since its defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s. This statistic applies both to Iraqi and Arabic publishing. The number of published books by independent Iraqis about the period following the thirtieth attack after the occupation of Kuwait, and the subjection of Iraq to a combat siege, does not exceed the number of fingers on one hand. Perhaps the closest to the hearts of readers, traversing the borders of Iraq to the world, are the ‘Baghdad Diaries’ by the late artist Nuha al-Radi, which documented, daily, humanly, the comprehensive crimes against the people, crimes which wished to be forgotten, which were disguised under cover of steel, for fear of one day being given responsibility.

This cover can be penetrated from time to time, in the shape of those sticks of dynamite labelled ‘books’. For books, manufactured from paper, have tremendous ability to break fetters, whatever material they are made from. Their strength transcends the limits of place and time, if they are philosophical, creative, literary and artistic works by artists whom ideology has failed to mould, who retain their words and their colours, and independent lives, like chaos that cannot be tamed. Colours here meaning in their ordinary, visual sense, and not metaphorical. In his novel German Lesson published in 1968, the German novelist Siegfried Lenz examined the danger of colour to the Nazi regime. The hero of the novel is a policeman living in a remote German village, whose only concern is the performance of his duties, including when he is ordered to surveil and prevent his childhood friend from painting. The policeman doesn’t understand the reason behind this, or the source of the danger, as his friend draws only abstraact paintings. He asks his friend for an explanation before he arrests him. “It is the colours…It is the colours”, comes the response.

On the strength of colour and the path of a life filled with creativity and love, I am reading Artist’s Notebooks, one of the few books capable of illuminating the period of Iraqi history which some would like to banish to a dark corner, unmentioned. The book is characterised as the product of the life of a complete team, composed of two people who are gathered (I use the present tense purposely) by a lasting love showing genuinely artistic and poetic Iraqi creativity. These two are the late artist Rafa al-Nasiri and his life partner, the poet and art critic May Muzaffar. Muzaffar supervised the preparation of the book with Sonia Timberland, and its introduction and publication in English, in a fine edition whose detailed attention to the value of each colour gradation gives the book vitality. In the introduction to the book, May Muzaffar remains faithful to the idea of artistic connection which she addressed in her book, Modern Art in Iraq: Connection and Differentiation. She applies those ideas this time to the life journey of Rafa al-Nasiri, with its various junctures, and his ‘notebooks’ which include his colour and intellectual diaries across the decades. It is a journey that began, and continued for the two together, on a solid ground “On which was set down a series of great civilisations…It seems that all these civilisations have been rooted in the experience of the Iraqi artist, and deeply etched in his visual memory. This has helped him to adopt a clear intellectual position on art and its many functions,” as Rafa describes in his book, Perspectives and Mirrors: Essays in Visual Art.

Rafa says about the notebooks: “In 1989, I acquired in Beijing a collection of folded notebooks measuring approximately 625x35cm. And after my return to Baghdad, I painted some of these notebooks with my fingers, a Chinese method of ink painting, using acrylic instead of ink. Each notebook is dedicated to a place that I loved, including the Tikrit notebook, the Beijing notebook, the Lisbon notebook, and the Asilah notebook.”

Over the years, the notebooks grew larger, resembling carvings so large the viewer must turn to see the entirety of. They include works celebrating poetry and art, from al-Mutanabbi and al-Wasati, to al-Jawahiri, Mahmoud Darwish, Etel Adnan and May Muzaffar. The Baghdad notebook preserves the city’s art and poetry: “In 1991, during the war, I painted a notebook of the same size, and it is an expression of the protest and resistance, painted in black and brown, of course, with my palms and fingers, which I dipped in colours and struck the paper with quick and emotional movements.” These angry colours, charged with emotion, made al-Nasiri not know sleep, and words appeared. We can almost hear them. They are the voice of an artist screaming amidst the distraction of the living. With black palm and fingers separated by a red-coloured palm, we see “it is a dirty war.” With the explosion of palms coloured black and grey and spatterings of shades of red, we see “Baghdad groaning from her wounds.” The marrying of violet with borders or smears of black are like the effect of depleted uranium, and we see “Baghdad living in terror, horror, panic, fear, anger and hatred… from 11 at night until 4 in the morning. Five hours of shelling and iron and gunpowder between terrifying sounds of the planes and missiles.”

The 2nd March entry in the Baghdad notebook includes the figure 43 written in a large childish scrawl, in almost impermeable ink, and four semi-aligned black dots in empty space. In the right corner is a drop of red ink, and beside it the number 91. We read: “forty-three days of war…war…Not the first or the second.. but it is unique war. It is not the third, but it is…war (THE WAR).
It ended… and then began the worst and the darkest.”

What we realise well, now, is that 1991 was the year which prefaced the destruction which Iraq is still living in the shadow of today. So can the artist see beyond what others see?


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

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Washington relying on Moscow to curb Iran’s influence

Al-Hayat – 11th August – Raghida Dergham

For a multitude of national and regional reasons, the Kurdish national aspirations clash with Iranian, Turkish and Arab obstacles. Disputes and clashes are increasing between conflicting projects and the noise of oratory about division in Iraq and sharing in Syria. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has begun building a wall on the Turkish-Iranian border to prevent Kurdish activists from infiltrating Turkey, and has promised another wall on the border with Iraq, similar to the Syrian border wall. Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, explained that he considers it impossible to reconsider the organisation of referendum on the region’s independence, and pledged that he would not allow the Popular Mobilisation Forces, who are supported by Iran, to enter Kurdistan. Barzani spoke about the Iranian project, and said that “the Iranian authorities have openly declared their success in opening a Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut route”. He refused to hold the Kurds responsible for the division of Iraq, noting that “it is a sectarian war, and the [divided Iraqi] state has no sovereignty”.

Regardless of whether the Kurdish independence referendum officially instated the division of Iraq, that division had already come thanks to the war of George W. Bush in Iraq, pro-Tehran former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the sectarian Popular Mobilisation Forces, an Iraqi force after the model of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It was striking this week that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was the first in nearly a quarter-century to withdraw the defence portfolio from the leader of the Revolutionary Guard, instead assigning it to an officer in the regular army. However, this move remains mostly symbolic as long as Iran retains its armed militias and units in Arab lands, given that all of these are under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its extremist, expansionist plans. Henry Kissinger this week warned that Iran’s control over the lands which have been liberated from ISIS could lead to the establishment of a “radical Iranian empire,” resulting in a “territorial belt stretching from Tehran to Beirut”. Trump’s administration is unclear on whether it intends to submit to a radical Iranian imperial belt, or if it would expose it and prevent its establishment in the field. Until now, it appears that the Trump administration has charged Russia with the issue of Iran and its militias in Syria. What is remarkable is the increase in Russian leaks to writers and researchers in Russian intellectual institutions, to produce the idea that Moscow is striving for a political solution in Syria and that its efforts are being hindered by Iran who want to continue the war. Is this a message, or a distribution of roles, or serious disagreements or differences in Russian-Iranian priorities, or is it a result of serious US pressure as a condition of the hoped-for deal between Moscow and Washington?

Expert in Islamic and international affairs Kirill Semonov has written an essay, “Iran hindering Russian solution in Syria”, for the site “Rageopolitica”, which was published by Al-Hayat last Wednesday. That was accompanied by another article by Anton Mardasov, the head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute for Innovative Development, on the same topic, entitled “Tehran is for continuation of the war, Russia is for a political solution”. Generally, the publication of Russian articles with this perspective means either that this is the Russian political mentality, or that this is what the Syrian leadership wish to market for its own political and strategic goals.

The connotation of what Semonov wrote is interesting, as he speaks of Iran’s strengthening of the “Shi’ite Corridor” (between Iran and the Mediterranean, across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) and “the movement of the conflict in Syria to confrontation on a new level”. “Moscow, which is committed to a peaceful compromise in the Syrian conflict, does not want Syria to be gradually transformed into a Shi’ite Iranian colony at the hands of the Ayatollahs, given that the sectarian-ethnic conflict is one of the elements on which Islamist extremist propaganda is based… In public circles, there are obvious indicators of a discrepancy between Russia and Iran.” He noted that Tehran did not call for the meetings which were held in Amman and Cairo, “but the Iranians are capable of thwarting these agreements, and of ratifying separate agreements in Syria, as they did in March with the truce. The blame will fall on Russia, the largest player, and it will be taken that they did not influence their allies in the best manner.” Semonov said that Tehran “wants to continue the fighting”.

What is particularly notable is that the Russian expert in Idlib himself called on “Russia and Turkey to hasten an agreement on measures to support the moderate opposition in its struggle against extremists in Idlib, before Tehran and Damascus begin to attack Idlib under the pretext that extremist positions are being reinforced”. He concluded saying “Iran sees that the solution requires overcoming the armed opposition and wants Russia to support it in this endeavour. However, Moscow desires a peaceful political resolution”.

As for Anton Mardasov, he opens his article stating “Tehran is striving to drag Moscow towards a new round of civil war”. He pointed to the proximity of Russian and Iranian goals at the beginning of the Russian intervention in Syria, “but the gap between the two countries has gradually started to widen as Russia seeks to negotiate a stable ceasefire with the armed Syrian opposition”. Mardasov spoke of the Russian-Iranian rivalry east of Aleppo, where Moscow hopes to “spread security and stability”, as he says, while “Tehran has begun to consolidate its power and expand the ranks of loyal militias”. The opening of Iranian religious centres in Aleppo “is fueling the conflict on the basis of ethnicity and religion”.

These messages, perhaps, are directed at Washington, to impress Russian difficulties in containing Iran’s ambitions, and to force Trump’s administration to recognise the high cost if Russia decided to sever its ground alliance with Iran, and the price in the Crimea, where Moscow insists that Washington recognise that it has recovered Russian territory. Moscow differs from Tehran in how the Russians approach their messages, since the Iranian plan in Syria is very different from the Russian. Moscow is not prepared to dispense with its strategic relationship with Tehran unless it is fully sure that the Iranian plan will plunge it into the quagmire of civil war in Syria, nor is it prepared for a Russian-American deal.

Washington is relying on Russia to curb the Iranian hegemony in Syria, either since it trusts that Moscow is able to do so, if it desires, or because it sees that the problem is a Russian problem, and not an American one. The most important thing currently for the Trump administration is the longed-for crush of ISIS and its like, in partnership with anyone, and then some, for every recent incident. The Syrian regime forces’ recovery of Deir az-Zour and its surrender of the Syria-Iraq border to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raised no American objections. The impression given is that Washington pretended not to notice, and tacitly approved of it. Deir az-Zour is an important region for the corridor connecting Tehran and the Mediterranean, and even now, Washington has not implemented any actual steps to oppose the establishment of a “Persian Crescent” which it and Israel claim to oppose.

Confidence in the US is low for all those who cooperate with it, and all sides are prepared for the possibility that the US will dispense with them once American goals are achieved – such is the American reputation. The mainly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces believe that its interests require a focus on preserving Kurdish territories through mutual understandings with Damascus and Moscow. A deal with Bashar al-Assad is certain to rely on American promises, which may fluctuate with the relationship with Turkey.

Thus the Syrian Democratic Forces aspire to a deal in which they hand over Raqqa to regime forces in exchange for a promise by al-Assad for an autonomous Kurdish administration in Syrian Kurdish territories. The Kurds question the American pledges and complain that America’s priority with the Kurds will be within the remit of the relations with NATO member Turkey, which Washington may need to control Iranian expansion in the Middle East, and to determine the fate of Idlib, as some claim.

Russia fears that Tehran and Damascus will exploit the situation in Idlib with an armed attack, resulting in a new alliance between the moderate opposition and the extremists. The Russian idea is to charge the moderate opposition with eliminating the extremist opposition, as they want to block any Iranian efforts or regime adventures in Idlib. Turkey has a number of links to the fate of Idlib, as it is accused of offering safe harbour to extremists therein. Russia is currently attempting to coordinate with Turkey, giving the impression of a dispute with Iran, but these are merely temporary transitional partnerships on the Syrian battlefields.

So far, despite Russia’s acknowledgement of differences with Iranian plans, there have been no signs of any qualitative shift in the Iranian-Russian alliance towards a strategic break. As long as Washington gets along with any alliance in Syria under the banner of fighting terrorism – a label mainly adopted by Damascus – Russia will take the lead on managing developments, determining whether rapprochement with Turkey or divergence from Iranian plans in Syria are in its interest, developments which determine the fate of the Syrian opposition as a whole. Thus the Kurds and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces turn are inclining toward Russia. However, in the end Iran is not a transient issue in the fate of Syria, and its cross-border plans need Syrian territory. The execution of these plans will not be stopped without a Russian-American-Israeli resolution, which remains to be adopted.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Statement by Speaker of the House of Representatives: rest assured that we will provide medical care to victims of the Hurghada incident

Hurghada stabbing

Doctor Ali Abdel Aal

Hisham Abd al-Jalil – Al-Youm al-Sabi’ – 20th July 2017

Doctor Ali Abdel Aal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has visited the German tourists injured in the Hurghada terrorist attack in the Nasser Institute Hospital. He was accompanied by Deputy Secretary-General of the House, Mohammad Nasir, Mohammad al-Suwaidi, head of the Egypt Support Coalition, MP Sahar Talaat Mustafa, chairwoman of the Tourism Committee, MP Mohammed Ali Yusuf, chairman of the Small Enterprise Committee, and a number of other members of the House.

During the visit, the Speaker and his accompanying delegation on every case in the hospital, and assured that all necessary medical care would be provided to the injured, and wished them a speedy recovery.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Parliamentary majority in cooperation with government forms committee to search for solutions to the al-Warraq crisis

al-Warraq crisis

Mohammad al-Suwaidi, head of Egypt Support Coalition

Mohammad Majda el-Sisi – al-Youm al-Sabi’ – 20th July 2017

The Egypt Support Coalition has issued a statement in which it confirmed that it is carefully watching the events occuring on al-Warraq island in the Giza governorate. It stressed that it had formed a committee to follow this crisis through communication with all executive bodies and security services, and will also communicate with a number of the popular leaders on al-Warraq.

In its statement, the coalition also confirmed that its earnestly striving to solve this problem legally and respectfully, by granting legal status anyone who possesses legal documents proving the truth of their position. It will also work to ensure the safety of small families living on the island.

At the same time, the coalition also emphasised the need for law enforcement, and its application to rule-breakers on state lands.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

 

 

Jordan welcomes Palestinian-Israeli Agreement

Red-Dead Water ProjectNorma Na’mat – Al-Hayat – 14th July 2017

Hazem al-Naser, the Jordanian Minister for Water and Irrigation, has praised the Palestinian-Israeli agreement which was reached between the two sides yesterday in Jerusalem, under the care of the United States. He noted that it represents a Palestinian claim to the results of the memorandum of understanding on the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance, which was signed by Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel in Washington in December 2013 and witnessed by the US government and the World Bank. The memorandum granted the Palestinian side more than 30 million cubic metres of water annually.

al-Naser believes that this agreement “has achieved for our Palestinian brothers and sisters additional water supplies over what has they are granted by the Oslo accords and what followed them, in addition to Palestine’s sovereign water rights.” He emphasised that the new supplies “will provide the West Bank and Gaza with additional water supplies beginning this summer until 2021, which will ease the large water burden affecting the Palestinians.” Al-Naser committed to the continuation of “Jordanian efforts which have been expended in this matter, building on the unshakeable Jordanian desire to support the Palestinians and empower them in all cases. Water, especially, in the West Bank and Gaza, is one of these cases, as there has been an acute shortage of drinking water in these areas in years past.” He explained that “the implementation of subsequent stages of the Conveyance project will guarantee additional benefits for the Palestinians if implemented.”

Jordan, as the first country to implement the project, is greatly concerned with the plan, as it forms one of the most important pillars of Jordan’s water strategy. The project will supply Jordan with drinking water for many years to come, while also protecting the environment of the Dead Sea, which is considered a historical treasure and important economic resource for the country.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

On a ‘Democratic Camp’ in Israel once again

Democratic Camp

Ammad Shaqour – Al-Quds Al-Arabi – 7 July 2017

Two weeks ago, 23 June to be specific, a number of weekly and daily Arabic papers issued in Israel published an article by the head of the Joint List in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh, entitled “Towards establishing a democratic camp to increase our effectiveness and influence in the advancement of our cause”. This is no ordinary newspaper article. It is the announcement of a serious political project, which could give Arab Palestinians in Israel, who carry Israeli identity cards (for the first time since the Nakba in 1948), a role in Israeli politics, with all the repercussions that entails for their overall status as citizens and their demands for equality at all levels, and their rights as an ethnic minority in Israel. It could also affect all matters relating to the occupation and Israeli colonialism on Palestinian lands, and everything connected to the Palestinian cause.

By this call for an Arab-Jew “democratic camp” in Israel, the head of the Joint List is striving to ensure that Arab Israelis have an effective role in curbing racist Israeli policy and can repudiate all the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which is more extreme, right-wing and racist than any preceding Israeli government. Odeh delineates these policies with piercing insight, in four points, on four different levels:

– The systematic work to eliminate the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state, or of establishing relations with the vast majority of other Arab governments, and the striving to make normalisation public and official policy, so that regional conflicts become the priority over the Palestinian cause.

– Incitement against Arab citizens (in Israel) with a systematicness not preceded by any prime minister, and the intensification of legislation against Arabs.

– The systematic narrowing of the democratic margins, by the pursuit of humanitarian organisations, the destabilising of the Israeli Supreme Court, attempts to control media channels and academia, and spreading a low-level atmosphere of intimidation.

– The deepening of neoliberal economic policy which breaks down all networks of social protection for the poor and middle classes.

In his article/political project, Odeh then emphasises that Arab Israelis treat Jewish participants as “equal partners” in this “democratic camp”, by way of a correct and logical formulation. He says that the Arab minority in Israel alone cannot, on one hand, impose a change in Israeli policies, while on the other, liberal Jewish forces cannot impose that change without the large Arab minority. Or, as he states in his article, “so as not to accept interpretations of a formula based purely on equality, we, the Arab citizens, must realise that, being only 20% of the population, we alone cannot bring change. Our (different and diverse) partners in the “democratic camp” must also realise well that they cannot do so without us! Alternatives [to Israeli government policies] cannot be created without the quantitative and qualitative political weight of the Arab citizens. With this critical weight and this equality, we can build the democratic camp.”

There is no doubt that this wise political project, if it succeeds, is capable of achieving a very important leap for Arab citizens in Israel, and their weight not just in Palestinian equalisation, but on the general Arab level. The practice of an effective role for the Arab minority in Israeli politics would remind us of the enormous role of Jewish minorities in America and in Europe. I am greatly aware of the vast gulf in status and opportunities between the Arab minority in Israel and the Jewish minorities in the West. What can be noted in this comparison is that the Arab minority in Israel is proportionally far larger than those Jewish minorities.

Over the span of 69 years, from the Palestinian Nakba to 1993, the year the Oslo accords were signed, and the beginning of ‘Gaza-Jericho First’, and more clearly, from the June 1967 War until Oslo, leadership and guidance of the Palestinian national effort has been tied to the Palestinian body outside the lands of Palestine. With the leaders and members of the PLO and many Palestinian families beginning to return (the total numbers, accounting for natural increase, in the first seven years of Oslo until the outbreak of the second intifada, stand at about half a million returned Palestinians refugees), the Palestinian centre of gravity has transferred to the ‘Interior’, which means the West Bank (including Jerusalem, of course), and the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of this century, incorrect policies, or what could be called policies lacking in sufficiently feasible or reasonable wisdom, have led to an unprecedented state of division in Palestine. This division led to the bloody coup in Gaza in 2007, in addition to the formation of core divisions between Palestinians of the ‘Interior’ and the Palestinian refugees (here we recall the Istanbul conference), as a result of the ignorance, neglect, and weak performance of the Palestinian Authority, and what the status of the PLO has led to. All this leads us to believe that the time has come for Palestinians in the ‘Interior of the Interior’, meaning in Israel, to direct the general Palestinian national effort.

With no Arab pressure for the Palestinian national effort, since the people of the Levant are preoccupied with their bloody and shameful wars, their national interests and the threats to their homelands, there is no alternative but to search for other means of support. In this context, I believe the Palestinians of the ‘Interior of the Interior’ have a role to play in this support. In life, ‘heroes’ search for a ‘role’, but ‘roles’ may also search for ‘heroes’.

Ayman Odeh concludes his article/project with an expressive and inspiring paragraph. “I do not want this article to close the debate, but to open its doors with confidence, strength and clarity. The time of fluctuation must end in the same place! Our people who support the Joint List, and who entrust us with responsibility for it, demand today more than ever that we not only analyse reality, but work to change it.”

The initiative by Palestinian citizens of Israel to establish an Arab-Jew “democratic camp” is worthy of support. It opens a wide and promising door for a fruitful national effort. Israel is not a country of six million Jews, each one the spitting image of Netanyahu or Bennett or Lieberman. It is a society of individuals, movements, organisations, clubs and parties of diverse stripes, forms, attitudes, intentions, and policies. There is no Palestinian advantage in considering and treating Israelis as though they are all mirror images of this colonial racist. It is our national interest not to be the cement and the glue which binds all the Israelis against our people and their legitimate rights and aspirations. Of old, they said, ‘he who does not realise fully will never be free of ignorance’.

Adding to the above is the outcome of the Israeli Labour Party elections two days ago, and the ascent of Amir Peretz and Avi Gabbay to the elections which will decide the chairman of the Labour Party, which may open the door for an expansion of Israeli support for the Arab-Jew democratic camp, which would have room for liberals in the Israeli camp.

It cannot be assumed that this proposed political project will proceed without any damage to the Joint List, but we must not forget that the List is a tool, and the objective, not the tool, is the most important.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Shtayyeh calls on Arab banks to create Palestine Investment Fund

Dead Sea – Al-Quds.com

President of the Palestine Economic Council for Development & Reconstruction (PECDAR), Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh, has called on Arab banks to create an investment fund for Palestine, the monies of which would support productive projects, especially those in sectors which generate jobs, or are run on a for-profit, rather than a charitable, basis. During his speech at the “Reality of the Palestinian Financial Sector: Opportunities and Challenges” conference, Dr Shtayyeh said “Palestine is daring and the Arabs are daring, let capital be daring also.” The conference, organised by the Union of Arab Banks, takes place at the Dead Sea in Jordan today and tomorrow.

Dr Shtayyeh stressed the role of the private sector in the gradual disengagement from colonial dependency imposed on us by the occupation. He indicated that there is an official preference for strengthening economic relations with the Arab world. The Palestinian economy could act as a winch for policy decisions, he said, and enable local products to take the place of the Israeli products in our markets, and bolster the positions of our people in Jerusalem.

Shtayyeh laid out a picture of the economic situation to Arab investors and banking representatives, analysing the disturbances in the structure of the Palestinian economy caused by the occupation, as a result of the control over resources and borders. He said that despite all the challenges, there have still been success stories, such as the success of the banking sector, noting that the size of deposits in Palestinian banks is approximately 12 billion dollars. He added that the amount of corporate funds traded on the Palestinian securities market is valued at almost 3.5 billion dollars, and that there are about 115 thousand stockholders in companies listed on the Palestinian stock exchange.

Dr Shtayyeh explained that Palestinian banks are working under exceptional circumstances as a result of the occupation, which necessitates exceptional treatment to address the obstacles which they face. He asked Arab banks to grant facilities for productive loans, and to make it a priority to encourage investors to develop projects which would create jobs. He continued by saying that the private sector must be the principal creator of employment, and that it is unhealthy for the Palestinian Authority to remain the largest employer of the Palestinian workforce.

A number of challenges lie ahead for the Palestinians, Shtayyeh told the conference. First is the extremist government in Israel, which does not want a solution, and which undermines the Palestinian state through a tight grip on Area C, the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem, and the Gaza blockade, and its further attempts at “settlement bleaching” and its striving to make settlement legal. As for the second challenge, according to Shtayyeh, that resides with the new American establishment, which has not yet fully expressed its foreign policy, despite all the negative press which it has received. The third challenge is the weakening of Arab nations, and the destructive conflicts which it is experiencing, while finally the fourth challenge is to end the division and if there is a will, to work towards a possible solution for the conflict.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Al-Abadi Accused of Submitting to Kuwait

Al-Hayat

The Iraqi government’s decision to proceed with demarcation of the maritime border with Kuwait and the agreement on navigation arrangements in Khor Abd Allah have provoked a furious reaction in political and public circles, considering it a concession on the most important Iraqi access point on the Persian Gulf. They claim that the decision, which is due to be debated in parliament shortly, is a “betrayal”. The bay is situated north of the Kuwaiti islands Bubiyan and Warbah and south west of the Al-Faw Peninsula. It extends into Iraqi territory, where it joins with Khor Al-Zubair, where Umm Qasir port is located. The Iraqi government had set the year 2010 for laying the founding stone in the construction of a large port on the eastern side of Al-Faw.

Aliyah Nasif Jasim, a deputy for the State of Law Coalition led by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, said that “the cabinet voted to grant the Khor Abd Allah to Kuwait, and to spend 750 thousand dollars on demarcating the sea border, despite everyone knowing that it belongs to Iraq alone. The sea channel is not included in international resolutions, and anyone using this empty excuse is attempting to hoodwink the Iraqi people. This decision is a betrayal of Iraq.”

Deputy Awatif Naimah said in a statement that “This is the most important Iraqi maritime territory, and the agreement gives Kuwait top priority in control of the channel, despite the fact that UN Resolution 833 gave Iraq total control of navigation within it.”

Dozens of people demonstrated in the Basra Governorate yesterday, protesting the government’s decision. A number of activists stressed the damage which would affect its residents, as well as their rejection of this “violation” of sovereign Iraqi territory. MP Hanan al-Fatalawi submitted a query to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in relation to the Khor Abd Allah agreement. She said in a press conference that she is waiting for the head of the Council of Representatives to set an appointment with al-Abadi or one of his representatives for an answer.

Mazen al-Mazni, a deputy for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s “Al-Ahrar Bloc”, considers “the decision to proceed with implementing the UN Resolution and redraw the border with Kuwait simply a donation of Iraqi land.” He asked the government to be careful about “trifling with national assets, as they are the property of Iraq and its people, and not of any person, minister or party. We will not allow any damage to come to our land.”

In an interview with ‘Al-Hayat’, deputy Maysoon al-Damluji said that “the redrawing of the border is due to an international resolution made without the presence of Iraq, and is part of the punishments levied against the previous regime.”

In a statement on social media, Ihsan al-Shammari, a close associate of the Prime Minister, wrote that the accusations being made against the government were “an attempt by corrupt politicians to shuffle the deck and sow confusion after the victories achieved by our heroic forces, in particular the successful expeditions in the left bank of Mosul. They are spreading these lies across websites and through the media in the hopes of gaining an early election.” He added that “Parliament passed a maritime law for Khor Abd Allah between Iraq and Kuwait on 22 August 2013. The former Council of Ministers ratified it on 27 January 2014, during a meeting of the Iraq-Kuwaiti joint higher committee. The day before yesterday, the cabinet was briefed on the report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs related to modernising the borders according to international standards, and this does not include a change in the reality of the current borders. It is a complete record of the 3rd session of the joint higher committee in 2013, which as mentioned was ratified 27 January 2014. The Council of Ministers committed to the implementation of the resolution, based on the obligations of the previous government.”


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Aoun: The Palestinian Cause Must Remain Alive to Achieve Peace in the Region

Beirut – Al-Quds.com

The Lebanese president, General Michel Aoun has stated that the Palestinian question must be kept alive in order to reach fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.

During a meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in the Lebanese capital Beirut, President Aoun said that Lebanan supports everything which can bring solidarity between the Arab nations.

He said that the League remains an authority, and hopes that the coming Arab summit, to be held in Jordan on March 29, will be able to address the current Arab issues. He stressed that Lebanon would contribute to any Arab effort in this direction.

For his part, in a statement after the meeting Aboul Gheit said that the visit to Lebanon served to emphasise the League’s support for Lebanon, and the great value it places in the role which Lebanon plays in the Arab League and beyond.

He explained that the meeting also included a discussion of ongoing preparations for the next Arab summit, and the importance of President Aoun’s participation, in addition to the current situations in the Arab states.

Referring to the new era of American president Donald Trump, and his remarks on relations between the US and Israel, Aboul Gheit said that, “Many of his statements lack precision, and that also applies to his future statements, in the sense that we don’t know what President Trump intends to do, even after a long conversation which has extended over a year.”

He added, “We are following and watching with great concern what President Trump says about Jerusalem, and we hope that he takes care and caution with relation to East Jerusalem, because there may be profound consequences if steps are taken which are not well thought out.”


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article can be found here.

Investment Ministry Announces Promotional Efforts

EGYPT – Al-Mal News, 17 January 2017

The Ministry of Investment has said that it has commissioned Mohammed Khudair, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and the Free Zones, to convene meetings with foreign missions in order to promote investment opportunities in Egypt, amid the country’s efforts to improve the investment climate.

The ministry reported that Khudair had organised a series of meetings with the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), to arrange a visit to Tokyo in mid-February. There he would meet with Japanese investors who are interested in investing in Egypt, the Middle East, and Africa, inform them of developments in the climate in Egypt, and display the opportunities for investment.

Khodayr also met with the Ambassador of Portugal and head of the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency to consult on implementation operations for a cooperation agreement between the two agencies. The preparation of a protocol for visiting a Portuguese delegation interested in the Egyptian market was also discussed. According to a statement from the Ministry of Investment, the head of the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency affirmed the interest of Portuguese investors in the Egyptian market, especially in light of the bold reforms carried out by the Egyptian state as part of its plan for sustainable development.

The chief executive attended a seminar at the Indian embassy to see how that country is making efforts to improve its investment climate, and delivered a speech illustrating the most important steps in this regard, such as the important features in the new draft investment law. He also met with representatives of major Indian companies which have investments in Egypt, to listen and learn about their problems, and to inform them of the role of the Ministry of Investment and his agency in the context of overcoming obstacles to investment. The Indian Ambassador emphasised his pride in Egyptian-Indian relations, and was greatly pleased by the reform measures currently being taken by Egypt.

 


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.