Category: Middle East

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.

Weapons stores and a number of Enemy Saudi sites destroyed in Najran, Asir, and Midi

(26 September News)

Units from the army and the Popular Committees today managed to burn down enemy weapons stores, and shelled a number of Saudi sites in Najran, Asir, and Midi, scoring direct hits.

A military source explained to the Yemen News Agency (SABA) that army and Committee units had destroyed Saudi weapon stores east of the government complex in al-Rabuah, in addition to targeting a group of Saudi vehicles and troops in Manfad Alab. They also shelled a new site behind al-Hager military camp and obtained direct hits.

The source noted that military artillery had pounded Riqabat al-Hamr, an al-Sudais site, and sites neighbouring Najran with barrages of rockets and artillery shells. They also remarked that groups of enemy mercenaries in the northern Midi desert were targeted by artillery fire, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.


Translated by Conor Fagan

View original article here.

Al-Subhan: Saudi Arabia does not need intercession with Iran

The Saudi minister for Gulf Affairs Thamir Al-Subhan has stated that Saudi Arabia does not require reconciliation with Iran, though he indicated at the same time that he was not aware of information regarding the mediation between the two countries. Al-Subhan said in a statement to Al-Hayat: “We have received nothing regarding mediation between Riyadh and Tehran. Saudi Arabia does not require reconciliation with Iran.” He added that “the Iranians know what they must do if they want an improvement in relations with the kingdom.”

According to Reuters, Iranian state television yesterday said that the Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had carried messages between Riyadh and Tehran in an ongoing effort to contain the dispute between Iraq’s two neighbouring countries. The network quoted Al-Jaafari’s statement that “Steps towards reconciliation have been continuous since last year,” and that “oral messages were transferred between officials of both countries during the past several months, which will try to draw their positions closer together.”

Al-Hayat on Saturday published the announcement by the Kuwaiti deputy minster of foreign affairs Khaled Al-Jarallah that Kuwait will pass a message to the Iranian side on behalf of the Gulf Co-operation Council . Al-Jarallah confirmed that “communications were still ongoing with the Iranians to find a suitable time to deliver this message.” On the other hand, the Iranian Ministry of Communications yesterday blocked the Saudi Press Agency website. The news agency Miyzan, which belongs to the Iranian judiciary, quoted a Ministry of Communications source who said that the Ministry of Culture, which is concerned with public information, had asked the Ministry to block the Saudi Press Agency’s official site.

Sources in Iran confirmed that they were unable to browse the SPA site without the use of programs for circumventing the block. Use of such programs to bypass website restrictions has been widespread in Iran since 2009 .

An official source at the Ministry of Communications said that the reason for the block was a request from the Ministry of Culture, and that a spokesman for the Assembly of Experts and Nateq Nouri, head of the Inspection Committee at the office of the Supreme Leader, have previously warned Iranians about Persian-language Saudi sites, especially ‘SPA Farsi’ and ‘Farsi News.’ These sites were able to reach Iranian readers who had long been monopolised by the Iranian government, and to correct misinformation and improve the negative image of Saudi Arabia which had been propagated by Iranian media.

Commenting on the block, Hani Al-Ghafli, a spokesperson at the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Media, told Al-Hayat that SPA publishes in six different languages, including Persian, and this block does not really worry us, because the spread of information is no longer a monopoly. Information now reaches us through websites, social media, or instant messaging like ‘Whatsapp’ and other programs. Al-Ghafli added that the block is not a surprising move by the Iranian regime, which has previously attacked the Saudi Embassy there. Demonstrators set fire to the building last year, prompting Riyadh to sever diplomatic, trade, and transport links with Iran.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Army: 266 Syrians detained at Shalateen while attempting illegal immigration across the border

Spokesman for the Armed Forces, Tamir al-Rifa’i, said in a statement published Tuesday that border guards in the southern military district had detained 266 Syrians who were attempting to illegally migrate across the border in the region of Shalateen.

Attempts by Egyptians and foreigners to illegally migrate via Egypt’s borders and coastline have increased recently, due to political persecution and rising unemployment levels in the Middle East.

The spokesman also stated in a post published on the official Facebook page that border guards in the second field army had destroyed 12 tunnels along the border in northern Sinai.

The armed forces, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior have launched a security campaign across northern Sinai, aimed at arresting militants and destroying the tunnels which are used to target members of the army and the police.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article can be found here.

Maya Morsi: Rural women have the right to receive equal pay to men

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Dr. Maya Morsi, president of the National Council for Women (Facebook)

Dr. Maya Morsi, president of the National Council for Women, has demanded equal wages for rural women, stressing that they play a vital role in rural development, agriculture, nutrition, and the reduction of poverty, and that they should be given more attention.

As cited by a statement of the Council on Monday, Dr Morsi made the remarks during a speech at the opening of the International Labour Organisation’s first academy for rural development in Luxor, saying that “the state must guarantee the rights of rural women to decent working conditions and the principle of equal pay, alongside quotas and targets for representation of rural women in decision-making positions, especially in parliament and administrative bodies at all levels.”

42% of working women in Egypt are employed in the agricultural sector, and of these 37% work with their family and do not receive a wage, according to statistics from the National Council for Women. Egyptian women working in the agricultural sector are also deprived of legal protection under Egyptian labour law no. 12/2003, despite 70% of agricultural work depending on women’s labour. Article 4, paragraph B of the law specifies the “exclusion of domestic workers, workers solely in agriculture, and the children of workers” from its protections.

Dr Morsi added that the number of beneficiaries of the village group savings and loans project has reached 9,000 women in 10 villages across 4 governorates. The village group savings and loans projects works to provide smalls loans to the families of these women, in order to empower them economically.

As for the results of the project, ‘One Village One Product,’ she said that the most important outcomes have been the establishment of a milk collection centre in Jafar village in Beni Suef, the training of 57 women in the manufacture, preparation, and packaging of vegetables, and the training of 52 women in managing small projects in the eastern governorate.

This all comes at the end of a 17 day campaign to empower rural women, launched by the Council at the beginning of October. It aimed to enable women to develop their communities, recognise innovative ways to take advantage of their resources, and to open marketing and sale channels for their products, to connect their voices with society.

The campaign included a video on the Council’s Facebook page, entitled ‘A Woman’s Message from Rural Egypt,’ which featured women from the countryside speaking about their lives and ambitions, and the greatest problems they face.

Maya Morsi also pointed out the efforts made by the National Council for Women in the field of economic empowerment, after it launched the “National ID Card programme,” which aims to assist and support all women without identity cards, in collaboration with the Ministry for the Interior, branches of the council across the governorates, civil organisations, and rural women’s leaders. She said that the Council had succeeded in supplying almost 3 million cards in the first phase of the project, from 2000 to 2015, and that it has issued over 600 thousand cards during the second phase, from June 2015 until now.

At the end of her speech, Dr Morsi gave a number of recommendations for the further integration of gender perspectives into all areas of rural affairs, such as the need for establishing gender departments in all ministries concerned with rural development. She stressed the need for the state to protect the rights of rural women, provide access to quality education for all girls and women in rural areas, and to make affordable health care services and facilities available to them.


Translated by Conor Fagan

View the original article here.

Egypt carries out air strikes on militant positions in Sinai

An Egyptian policeman gestures from a watch tower as seen from the Israeli side of the border with Egypt's Sinai peninsula, in Israel's Negev Desert

An Egyptian policeman gestures from an observation tower is seen from the Israeli side of the border with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, in Israel’s Negev Desert February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Cairo-Reuters

The Egyptian army has announced that on Saturday, it carried out air strikes lasting three hours, targeting sites of militant groups loyal to the Islamic State (Daesh) in North Sinai governorate. The announcement came 24 hours after an attack which killed 12 soldiers, and for which the militants have claimed responsibility.

A statement issued by the General Command of the Armed Forces said, “In retaliation for the blood of the martyrs, a number of aerial formations took off at dawn on Saturday… to scout the target area and confirm coordinates, before the execution of targeted air strikes which lasted 3 hours.”

The statement added that the strike “resulted in the destruction of central and lodging areas for terrorist elements, as well as weapons and ammunition depots and the total destruction of seven SUV vehicles. A number of Takfiri elements who were carrying out criminal operations, along with their assistants, were also killed.”

A spokesman for the Egyptian military had reported yesterday that 12 soldiers and 15 militants were killed during a clash in Bir al-Abed in north Sinai, with injuries afflicting both sides. ‘Wilayah Sinai’ claimed responsibility for the attack, announcing that they had killed more than 20 military men and wounded others, as well as capturing weapons and ammunition and returning their fighters to safety.

Security sources also say that a recruit was killed today by a bullet to the head at a checkpoint south of Sheikh Zuweid, one of the three towns affected by the clashes in northern Sinai, along with Arish, capital of the governorate, and Rafah, located along the border with the Gaza Strip. A source reported that sniper fire was witnessed at the checkpoint.

The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior announced in a statement today that police had foiled two attempts to smuggle large quantities of weapons and ammunition into northern Sinai. The first was from a farm on the border between the eastern provinces and nearby Ismailia, and the second from a warehouse in Beni Suef, south of Cairo. The statement added that the police had confiscated hundreds of rifles and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, alongside arresting a number of people described in the statement as belonging to terrorist groups.


Translated by Conor Fagan

View the original article here.

She lived the Nakba decades later… and advises no one to migrate

Ramallah – alquds.com – Ahmed Daraghmeh

Lena,* a Palestinian refugee, advises anyone considering crossing the Mediterranean as an illegal migrant against setting out on the journey. She does not hesitate to express her regret for embarking on the hazardous voyage, after living through moments of death in all its horrific details and suffering ordeals similar to the pains experienced by Palestinian refugees following the Nakba, as she made her way to Europe in search of a better life, which is still elusive two years after her arrival.

Twenty year old Lena’s life is just one more chapter in the long novel of Palestinian exile and alienation. Her family were forced out of Palestine in 1948 and driven to Lebanon, where they were again forced to depart, fleeing the civil war. Lena has now been settled in a building beside her twin sister in a refugee camp in Roskelda in Denmark, after leaving her sister and mother behind in Algeria.

Her father had been working in the Palestinian embassy in Algeria for almost four years when the Algerian authorities asked him to leave the country. He returned to Palestine, where his attempts to reunify the family in Gaza met with failure.

Lena was unable to find any work in Algeria, which suffers from high unemployment, and so she decided to migrate. In 2014, she headed to Libya, where she spent 25 days in a house with 200 other refugees, among them elderly people and children with faces full of tears. Everyone was afraid to leave the house as the smugglers had told them they ran the risk of being arrested by the Libyan police.

After 25 demoralising days, as described by Lena, the smugglers removed them from the house without any of their bags, due to the large number of migrants and the small size of the boat. Fifteen minutes after the launch of this “boat of death,” the engine failed, and they spent six hours adrift on the open sea, unable to return to the coast for fear of arrest.

Lena says that she and the other passengers had lost all hope, before the sound of another boat brought them back to life. It processed to tow them across the sea for twelve hours, and they were then transferred to a larger ship which conveyed them across the Mediterranean. It was as five days before Lena arrived at a refugee camp in the Danish capital. Her time there was very difficult, and ended with the camp’s closure, after which she was relocated to the camp in Roskelda.

Despite her successful crossing and safe arrival on terra firma, unlike the thousands of other refugees who have drowned in the sea or were returned to their countries, Lena describes her experience as “cruel and degrading,” and is certain that she would not embark on the crossing if she could go back and face the decision again.

Lena adds that even after her settlement in Denmark, “Europe is not a path strewn with roses, and adaptation to life there is not easy.”

After having experienced the long pain of asylum and the ravages of migration and exile, Lena was given a chance to train as a journalist with a paper belonging to the Red Cross. She now writes stories about refugees and their bitter experiences, but says, “I have accomplished nothing in the last two years, and I feel as though I have lost my future. I wanted to study veterinary medicine.”

She also adds, “The training has helped improve my English, and it fills up my time. I get to know a lot of the refugees and their tragic stories.”

For now, Lena works three days a week in a Red Cross headquarters, about an hour and a half’s journey from the camp in which she lives.

*A pseudonym


Translated by Conor Fagan 

View the original article here.