<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Analyst calls US sanctioning of terrorist groups to reinforce relations with Egypt]]>
The article comes amid an intricate phase between the United States and Egypt as the former halted $400 million last month in pre-dominantly military assistance over concern regarding the human rights status in the Egypt.

The author argues that such measure against Hasm and Liwaa al-Thawra terrorist groups might improve the relations between both countries.

“But with the stakes in the Mideast sky-high these days, America cannot afford to jeopardize an alliance that has been one of its most critical in the region for the past 40 years. Remember: Egypt has strong ties with Israel, takes a no-nonsense stance against Islamist violence and has helped fight the Islamic State,” Schanzer said.

The analyst emphasized that would send a positive message to the Egyptian people and demonstrate “America’s own commitment to fighting terror.”

Both groups were formed following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, who is a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, after mass protests took place on July 3, 2013. Both groups conducted a series of assassinations on judiciary and security personnel, and attacks on checkpoints.

“It is clear the two groups meet federal-government criteria for the terrorist label, making them obvious candidates for Treasury’s targeted financial-sanctions program. They might also meet the State Department’s definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, though that designation process is more of a political minefield,” Schanzer explained.
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9/26/2017 2:30:58 PM
<![CDATA[Boycotting countries presented Doha as “gift” to Iran: Qatari FM]]>Arab boycott of the tiny emirate of Qatar, Doha has gone all-out in outreaching to Iran, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani announced on Tuesday.

On the sidelines of a press conference held at the French Institute for International Relations, the Qatari Foreign Minister expressed his country’s support towards dialogue to solve the current dilemma, reiterating condemnation and complete disapproval of the Arab demands that were delivered to Doha for reconciliation.

"I'm wondering if the primary goal of the Arab quartet was to force Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council to find itself compelled to get closer to Iran," the Minister added, explaining that they led Doha to be presented as a "gift" to Tehran.

Answering reporters’ questions on the dispute, Sheikh Bin Abdul Rahman said that he strongly felt the American administration’s urges for the dialogue as a way out of the current crisis.

The Qatari Minister further claimed that the decision of the four countries to impose a “blockade” on Qatar is one definition of terrorism, “An attempt to impose policies that violate its own policies, a clear-cut scheme to bring about a change in the regime.”

Since June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have turned on Qatar with a complete air and trade boycott over allegations of its support and sponsorship of terrorism, which Doha denies.
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9/26/2017 2:21:07 PM
<![CDATA[Interpol meets in Beijing as China hunts for fugitives]]>
Some 1,000 public security officials and political leaders will discuss terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime at the four-day gathering.

Interpol eases the exchange of information between police forces from 190 countries and is therefore a crucial tool for China, whose President Xi Jinping has led an intensive crackdown on corruption that has extended beyond his country's borders.

Xi called for "global security governance" as he addressed the assembly.

"Countries should adopt a concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and jointly respond to security challenges," he said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Since 2014 Beijing has pursued its citizens abroad in what it calls "Operation Fox Hunt", seeking to repatriate allegedly corrupt officials who have fled.

Authorities say at least 2,500 nationals suspected of economic crimes have already been brought back.

Most Western countries including the United States do not have extradition treaties with China, where courts are overseen by the Communist Party and the use of force by police to extract confessions is believed to be common.

But at the request of member states, Interpol, which is based in the French city of Lyon, issues "red notices" -- non-binding notifications of arrest warrants.

Human rights groups have raised concerns since Chinese public security vice minister Meng Hongwei was chosen as Interpol president last year.

"Interpol needs to explain how it will avoid becoming an arm of the Chinese government abroad, using red notices against dissidents and forcing people back to torture in China," said Human Rights Watch's China director Sophie Richardson, adding that the organisation's "credibility is on the line".

The dissident Wei Jingcheng, exiled in the US since 1997, said he feared that Beijing would use the international police institution to "repatriate political opponents".

The Chinese foreign ministry rejected such concerns as "unfounded".

Another issue likely to cause tensions at the general assembly is the Palestinian Authority's bid to join Interpol, which Israel opposes.]]>
9/26/2017 2:08:32 PM
<![CDATA[US wants diplomatic end to North Korea crisis: Mattis]]>
"We maintain the capability to deter North Korea's most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm," he said in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart.

"That is our goal, to solve this diplomatically, and I believe that President Trump has been very clear on this issue," the US defence chief said.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have become embroiled in a bitter war of words after the North detonated its sixth nuclear bomb and test-fired intercontinental missiles -- saying it needs to defend itself against the threat of a US invasion.

Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions -- including a suggestion last week that it could test an H-bomb over the Pacific -- has increased international fears of conflict.

Alarm over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes dominated this year's gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

Mattis said the United States was continuing to put pressure on the North's leadership through diplomatic channels.

"We continue to maintain the diplomatically-led effort in the United Nations. You have seen unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions passed that have increased the pressure, economic pressure and diplomatic pressure, on the North," he said.]]>
9/26/2017 1:59:51 PM
<![CDATA[Settlements make two-state solution 'unattainable': UN official ]]>CAIRO – 26 September 2017: The United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov said on Monday that “Israel's continued settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory is making the two-state solution increasingly unattainable and undermines the Palestinian belief in international peace efforts," according to the Office of the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process website.

The special coordinator, referred to rhetoric speeches by Israeli figures including the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who praised in August the achievements of his government in promoting settlement construction stating, “there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel; we will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

According to the report, other senior Israeli politicians made repeated calls for annexation of the West Bank, and one member of the Israeli Knesset expressed his desire to “destroy” hopes for Palestinian statehood, and stated that “there is room to define and realize the national aspirations of one people only -- the Jewish people.”

Mladenov delivered his message to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) during the presentation of his third

report

on the implementation of the 2016 UNSC resolution No. 2334, which states that Israeli settlements in the oPt, including East Jerusalem, violate the international law.




Mladenov said that Israel did not “cease all settlement activities in the oPt, including East Jerusalem, and did not fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regards,” as called for by the resolution. He added that the settlement activity continued "at a high rate" and “a consistent pattern” over the reporting period, covering June through September.

“Activity during this period was concentrated primarily in occupied East Jerusalem, where plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in July, 30 percent more than for the whole of 2016,” said Mladenov in his briefing. He added that in early September construction resumed in a new settlement of “Amihai”, in the heart of the West Bank.

The Special Coordinator’s report also addressed deadly violence during this time, particularly related to unrest in Jerusalem's Old City, as well as the fragile situation in Gaza, among other concerns. He reported that 19 Palestinians and Eight Israelis were killed during the period June-September 2017. In addition, the Israeli forces conducted five airstrikes in Gaza resulting in three Palestinians being injured.

Mladenov referred to Egypt’s efforts in advancing the Palestinian unity and ending the split between Hamas and Fatah through hosting several talks between the two factions that led to the [the breakthrough decision by the de facto-Gaza leadership to dissolve the Administrative Committee and invite the Government to return to the Strip].

He also referred to reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), showing that since January 2017, 344 Palestinian structures were demolished; third of them in East Jerusalem, displacing some 500 people. Mladenov added that in the occupied West Bank in August, three educational facilities, serving 175 children, were demolished or confiscated, citing the lack of building permits, which are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain, according to the special coordinator’s report. In addition, he reported that in July, 15 Israeli families illegally occupied a Palestinian house in Hebron, despite ongoing legal proceedings over its ownership.

In addition, he referred to a number of concerning passed laws and/or law amendments that further cement Israeli control over East Jerusalem including an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel” passed a first reading in the Knesset in July and a temporary injunction formally postponing application of the so-called “Regularization Law” by the High Court of Justice issued in August.

Also in August, a military order was issued establishing a “civil services administration” which further consolidates the Israeli presence in Hebron and reinforces the existing separation and division of this highly volatile area, where some 500 Israelis live among some 40,000 Palestinians.

Mladenov told the 15 members of the UNSC that "collective and determined action" by the parties, the region and the international community is needed to initiate a serious political process”. He added that there is a serious need to draw upon all relevant UN resolutions to help secure a peaceful future for Palestinians, Israelis and the entire region by ending the occupation and resolving all final status issues.

In December 2016, the UNSC passed a resolution that called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the oPt, including East Jerusalem.” It also stated that the building of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and impediment to peace.” The resolution also states that the international community will not recognize any changes to the June 4, 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed to by the parties themselves through negotiations. Following this resolution, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Mladenov is a Bulgarian politician and diplomat born in 1972. He served as a minister of foreign affairs in Bulgaria, he also was a member of the European Parliament from 2007-2009. In addition, he served as the minister of defense from 2009-2010. In 2013, Mladenov was appointed as the UN secretary general’s special representative for Iraq and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. In 2015, he was appointed as the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
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9/26/2017 1:42:57 PM
<![CDATA[Kurdistan referendum will increase regional instability: US]]>
In a statement on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that “The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including areas outside the Iraqi Kurdistan Region”, US-based Radio Sawa reported.

The United States’ historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today’s non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people, the statement read.

The referendum will greatly complicate the relationship of the Kurdish government with Iraq and its neighbors, the statement further said.

The fight against Daesh terrorist group is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord, the statement pointed out.

“We believe all sides should engage constructively in a dialogue to improve the future of all Iraqis. The US opposes violence and unilateral moves by any party to alter boundaries”, the statement noted.

The US supports a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq and will continue to seek opportunities to assist Iraqis to fulfill their aspirations within the framework of the constitution, the statement added.]]>
9/26/2017 1:04:53 PM
<![CDATA[European ambassadors to U.S. back Iran nuclear pact]]>
U.S. President Donald Trump is weighing whether the 2015 deal serves U.S. security interests as he faces a mid-October deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink an agreement strongly supported by the other world powers that negotiated it.

"We agree that the demise of this agreement would be a major loss," David O'Sullivan, the European Union's envoy in Washington, said at an Atlantic Council panel discussion.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said anyone advocating walking away should consider "larger issues," including an increased danger Iran would resume enrichment, danger of a nuclear arms race in an unstable region and impact on global nonproliferation efforts.

"What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?" Wittig asked. "It would send a signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can't trust diplomatic agreements, and that would affect, I believe, our credibility in the West when we're not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated."

If Trump does not recertify by Oct. 16, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions suspended under the accord.

That would let Congress, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, effectively decide whether to kill the deal. Although congressional leaders have declined to say whether they would seek to reimpose sanctions, every Republican lawmaker opposed the deal reached by Democratic President Barack Obama's administration.

Many, like Trump, have made opposition to the agreement a campaign issue.

If Washington pulls out of the deal, the ambassadors said they would do everything possible to protect any companies based in Europe that continue to do business with Iran from reimposed U.S. sanctions.

Britain's ambassador, Kim Darroch, said Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May had devoted about half their discussion to Iran when they met in New York last week, although Trump did not reveal his decision.

He said May had explained again why Britain supports the nuclear pact, seeing it as a matter of national security. "As long as the Iranians continue to comply with it, in the view of the IAEA, we will continue to support it," he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Speaking separately at another event in Washington, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster defended Trump's criticism of the deal.

"I obviously agree with the president on this, I think it was the worst deal. It gave Iran all of the benefits up front," McMaster said, adding that it had the "fatal flaw of a 'sunset clause'." He was speaking at an event hosted by the Institute for the Study of War.

The so-called sunset clauses are provisions under which some of the deal's restrictions on Iran's nuclear program expire from 2025.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud noted that the other countries that signed the pact - Russia, China and Iran - had made clear that they do not support renegotiating.]]>
9/26/2017 7:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[King Salman, President Sisi boosting relations in all fields]]>
Saudi King Salman and President Abdel Fattah El Sisi are developing the bilateral ties in various fields in a way that serves the interests of their peoples, bin Saleh said a ceremony marking the kingdom’s national day.

The kingdom rejects terrorism and all forms of violence and supports other states in their fight against terror, he said.]]>
9/26/2017 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[N. Korea says U.S. 'declared war,' warns it could shoot down U.S. bombers]]>
Ri Yong Ho said a Twitter message by Trump on Saturday in which the president warned that the minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer" if they acted on their threats amounted to a declaration of war.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Saunders on Monday denied the United States had declared war, calling the suggestion "absurd".

Speaking earlier in New York, where he had been attending the annual U.N. General Assembly, Ri told reporters: "The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country."

"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.

"The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then," Ri added.

On Saturday, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea in a show of force after a heated exchange of rhetoric between Trump and Kim over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The Pentagon said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any U.S. fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century.

"That operation was conducted in international airspace, over international waters, so we have the right to fly, sail and operate where legally permissible around the globe," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said on Monday.

North Korea, which has remained technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty, has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test this month.

FEARS OF MISCALCULATION

Pyongyang accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

However, the recent spike in rhetoric from both sides has fuelled tensions and raised fears of miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.

U.S. Treasury yields fell to session lows after Ri's comments on Monday.

The Pentagon said the bomber flight indicated the range of military options available to Trump, but U.S. officials have repeatedly stressed that despite the war of words, the administration prefers a negotiated solution to the crisis.

A defense expert, Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corp think tank, said North Korea would have difficulties shooting down a U.S. bomber with missiles or fighter planes given its limited capabilities, and if it tried and failed, would appear weak.

"It is unlikely to take such a risk," he said. "So this sounds like another attempt by North Korea to 'deter by bluster' U.S. actions the regime does not like."

The latest round of heavy verbal salvoes began when Trump threatened in his maiden U.N. address last Tuesday to "totally destroy" North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it threatened the United States or its allies.

In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Kim responded by calling Trump a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" whom he would tame with fire.

Kim said North Korea would consider the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history" against the United States and that Trump's comments had confirmed Pyongyang's nuclear programme was "the correct path".

Ri told the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that targeting the U.S. mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President" Trump called Kim a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.

On Twitter late Saturday, Trump replied: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

On Monday, North Korea, which has pursued its missile and nuclear programs in defiance of international sanctions, said it "bitterly condemned the reckless remarks" of Trump.

CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the only solution to the crisis was a political one.

"Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

China, North Korea's neighbour and main ally, which has nevertheless backed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear program, called on Monday for all sides to show restraint.

"We want things to calm down. It's getting too dangerous and it's in nobody's interest," China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi told Reuters.

"We certainly hope that (the United States and North Korea) will see that there is no other way than negotiations to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula ... The alternative is a disaster."

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang described the situation as highly complex and sensitive. He said it was vitally important that everyone strictly, fully and correctly implement all North Korea-related U.N. resolutions, which call for both tighter sanctions and efforts to resume dialogue.

Speaking to British Prime Minister Theresa May by telephone, Chinese President Xi Jinping repeated Beijing's position that the North Korean issue should be resolved peacefully via talks and hoped Britain could play a constructive role in pushing for this, Chinese state media said.

Downing Street said the two leaders agreed there was a particular responsibility for China and Britain, as permanent Security Council members, to help find a diplomatic solution.

Ri warned on Friday that North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, in what would be North Korea's first atmospheric nuclear test. Experts said such a move, while perhaps not imminent, would be proof of North Korea's ability to successfully deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile.]]>
9/25/2017 10:04:34 PM
<![CDATA[China's U.N. envoy says N.Korea, U.S. rhetoric 'too dangerous']]>
North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters that President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. bombers even if not in its air space.

"We want things to calm down. It's getting too dangerous and it's in nobody's interest," Liu told Reuters. "We certainly hope that (the United States and North Korea) will see that there is no other way than negotiations to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula ... The alternative is a disaster."]]>
9/25/2017 9:13:49 PM
<![CDATA[Notion U.S. has declared war on N. Korea is "absurd," W. House]]>
"We've not declared war on North Korea. Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.]]>
9/25/2017 8:50:09 PM
<![CDATA[European ambassadors to U.S. back Iran nuclear pact]]>
U.S. President Donald Trump is weighing whether the 2015 deal serves U.S. security interests as he faces a mid-October deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink an agreement strongly supported by the other world powers that negotiated it.

"We agree that the demise of this agreement would be a major loss," David O'Sullivan, the European Union's envoy in Washington, said at an Atlantic Council panel discussion.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said anyone advocating walking away should consider "larger issues," including an increased danger Iran would resume enrichment, danger of a nuclear arms race in an unstable region and impact on global nonproliferation efforts.

"What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?" Wittig asked. "It would send a signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can't trust diplomatic agreements, and that would affect, I believe, our credibility in the West when we're not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated."

If Trump does not recertify by Oct. 16, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions suspended under the accord.

That would let Congress, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, effectively decide whether to kill the deal. Although congressional leaders have declined to say whether they would seek to reimpose sanctions, every Republican lawmaker opposed the deal reached by Democratic President Barack Obama's administration.

Many, like Trump, have made opposition to the agreement a campaign issue.

If Washington pulls out of the deal, the ambassadors said they would do everything possible to protect any companies based in Europe that continue to do business with Iran from reimposed U.S. sanctions.

Britain's ambassador, Kim Darroch, said Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May had devoted about half their discussion to Iran when they met in New York last week, although Trump did not reveal his decision.

He said May had explained again why Britain supports the nuclear pact, seeing it as a matter of national security. "As long as the Iranians continue to comply with it, in the view of the IAEA, we will continue to support it," he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud noted that the other countries that signed the pact - Russia, China and Iran - had made clear that they do not support renegotiating.]]>
9/25/2017 8:37:39 PM
<![CDATA[‘To Build It’: Public campaign demands Sisi run for 2nd term]]>
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“As founders, we ascertained President Sisi’s loyalty and his keenness regarding fixing the state’s real problems, including the economic situation of the country,” the statement read. It added that Sisi didn’t let the possibility of losing part of his popularity among Egyptians stand in his way when he announced the economic reform program.

“He risked everything and stood strong while taking several historical, fateful decisions, trusting that Egyptians will understand the reasons behind them,” the "To Build It" campaign stated in its first statement.



Ahmed Al-Kahteeb, one of the campaign’s founders, said in his speech that everything started with a Facebook page he created. Shortly, several people tried to contact the page founders asking about the idea and expressing their wish and will to volunteer with them.

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“That’s why the page turned into a public campaign that aims to reach Sisi and tell him that there are several Egyptians wanting him to run for a second presidential term to get the chance of finishing what he started in 2014,” Kahteeb said.

“Several reasons led us to announce our campaign publicly here today, including Sisi’s strategic perspective in dealing with a number of sensitive files,” Kahteeb said, explaining more about "To Build It."

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“He [Sisi] was aware of the importance of the social justices’ file and put it as a priority. He stood firmly in the face of corruption and paid huge attention to women’s role within the society,” the campaign’s statement added.

High board announced, volunteers needed

During the conference, the campaign announced choosing six of the founding members to form the High Board, as they announced one of them as their official spokesperson.

The board was announced to include Ahmed Al-Kahteeb, Kareem Salim, Hazem Tawfeq, Ahmed Badwi, Mohamed Shabaan and Mohamed el-Garhi.

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Kareem Salim, another founder of the campaign said that they are in need of a number of volunteers all over the country, and that all needed forms will be available through their Facebook page as soon as possible.

Furthermore, it was added that a signature campaign will be lunched soon. “We are going to collect signatures from all around the state, aiming to convince President Sisi that there is a huge number of Egyptians wanting him to run again,” Salim said.

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Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the sixth president of Egypt. He came to office on June 2014 after the revolution of June 30, which toppled former President Mohamed Morsi, who is affiliated with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
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9/25/2017 7:03:41 PM
<![CDATA[Referendum is not an independence declaration: Kurdistan FM]]>
Falah told Egypt Today that he is “proud and privileged to vote YES in today's historic referendum on Kurdistan's independence.”

“It is an unforgettable moment in my life,” Falah added a few minutes after casting his YES vote.

Regarding escalations taken by neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iran, Falah stressed that “this is a domestic issue between Erbil and Baghdad. Some countries have overreacted to our domestic affairs.”

“The referendum is not a declaration of independence; it is just a beginning to start the independence process,” Falah explained.

Falah pointed out that the approval of the referendum “represents a mandate from the Kurdistan people to KRG to go forward with negotiations with the Baghdad government.”

Voting in the historic referendum kicked off Monday morning in northern Iraq, where millions of Kurds are determined to vote for independence despite international demands to call it off and fears of violence and instability.

A war of words has continued since the Kurdish independence referendum was set; however, in the past few weeks, the rhetoric has intensified as it became increasingly likely that the referendum would take place.

On Monday, Iraqi Kurds decide for themselves. The results of the referendum are expected to be announced within 72 hours following the end of the vote.]]>
9/25/2017 7:01:25 PM
<![CDATA[Bahrain prepares legal file against Qatar]]>
Sheikh Khalid, however, refused to unveil the content of that file or “how it will be used,” confirming the measure announced by Bahraini parliament members a few weeks ago. Their plan is to sue Qatar in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The minister explained, “Qatar for the last couple of decades has had relations with subversive groups, especially with those living in London. They paid their salaries, and when we opened up and allowed many people to come back after His Majesty’s (King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa) reforms, they kept that relationship with them. Doha was in cahoots with many of them, and it was very clear in 2011. We see it all — financing, telling them what to do, and we have all the evidence."

The quartet – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 for supporting terror and terrorist groups.
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9/25/2017 5:54:17 PM
<![CDATA[ Hamas and its rival Fatah to end split, reunify government ]]>
Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, said that it was prepared to accept the demands of the President of the Palestinian authority Mahmoud Abbas, to end the split with Fatah by dismantling its administrative committee that is ruling Gaza, and by holding general elections in West Bank and Gaza also.

The Palestinian government has declared that it will visit the Gaza Strip on October 2 upon orders given by President Abbas, along with the Fatah member to assume government responsibility in the southern governorates after Hamas has invited them with the consensus government to come to Gaza to practice its mission and carry out its duties in the Gaza strip, according to the spokesperson of the Palestinian government.

This was made after delegations from Hamas and Fatah held separate talks in Cairo for reconciliation in recent days the Egyptian intelligence service acting as mediators.

Fatah’s Central Committee (the highest decision-making body of the Palestinian Authority) praised Egypt’s efforts in the inter-Palestinian reconciliation on Saturday.

Hamas has been greatly weakened by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade as its economy is in tatters after the war, and residents of Gaza only have electricity for a few hours a day. Abbas has made use of this situation by putting financial pressure on Hamas through increasing the electricity payments in Gaza to force Hamas to accept his demands.
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9/25/2017 3:00:42 PM
<![CDATA[The must-knows of Kurdistan’s referendum to date ]]>
Six hours of voting in northern Iraq on Monday in the independence referendum organized by Kurdish authorities have passed, despite pressure from Baghdad, threats from Turkey and Iran, and international warnings from the U.S. administration, Egypt and other countries.

Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran have taken escalating measures against Erbil in retaliation for the referendum.

Polls are open in three northern provinces that make up the region, as well as in disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the government in Baghdad since 8 a.m. Iraqi local time.

Baghdad escalating measures

Iraqi Parliament decides to close crossing borders with Kurdistan, according to al-Arabiya correspondent who added that more Iraqi escalating decisions will be taken Monday evening at the Iraqi cabinet meeting in Baghdad.

Iraqi Parliament is voting to dismiss civil servants and officials who have taken part in Monday’s referendum in Kurdistan. Iraqi Parliamentarian Mowaffak al-Rubaie suggests “sorting” Kurdish parliamentarians, according to Al-Sumaria TV.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calls on the Iraqi government for a comprehensive boycott on Kurdistan’s referendum supporters.

Iraqi soldiers will take part in Turkish military maneuvers over the Iraqi Kurdistan border; the Turkish media quoted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Monday.

Turkish escalating measures

Turkey currently allows a one-way crossing from Turkey to Iraq, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference, escalating stance as Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum.

“Barzani sold northern Iraq to Israel,” Turkish newspaper Yenisafak described the Kurds’ independence referendum taking place on Monday.

Erdogan stressed that “Turkey will close its border with Kurdistan and stop oil deals;” adding that “Israel should stop supporting Kurdistan’s referendum.”

“Separatist steps are unacceptable at this time,” Erdogan remarked on the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on Monday.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Monday that Turkey will establish closer relations with the Iraqi Central government following Kurdistan’s independence referendum, Reuters reported.

In his statements, which aired on the Turkish media and his official Twitter account, Yildrim added that Turkey “would respond if its interests were threatened.”

Previously, the Turkish Prime Minister gave a statement during a press conference saying that his country “discusses imposition of economic, political and military sanctions in retaliation for Kurdistan’s referendum.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkish Customs Minister Bulent Tufenkci denied blocking Habur border gate with northern Iraq, says it “remains open.”

Iran’s escalating measures

Iran has closed its border with the Kurdish region of Iraq following a request from Baghdad, a statement from its Foreign Ministry has said on Monday.

Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone on Sunday regarding an Iraqi-Kurdish independence referendum and voiced concern that it will cause regional chaos, Erdogan's office said on Sunday.

"The two leaders noted that not cancelling the referendum will bring with it chaos in the region and they stressed the great importance which they attach to Iraq's territorial integrity," the statement said according to Reuters.

Earlier on Sunday, Iran halted flights to and from Kurdish regions in northern Iraq in retaliation to Monday’s independence referendum. It also started war-games on the Kurdish border.

Iranian authorities stopped air traffic to the international airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, upon a request from Baghdad, Fars News Agency said on Sunday.
]]>
9/25/2017 2:38:59 PM
<![CDATA[Has John Casson figured out how to use Egyptian humor?]]>
BBC attributes the ambassador's attractiveness to his young age and charming humor. "John Casson doesn't really fit the serious, formal stereotype or a British ambassador - he's young, has a relaxed manner, and is fond of making jokes. His style has won him admirers in Egypt and more than 18,000 followers on Twitter," BBC reported.

True enough, Twitter took a great liking to Casson; his followers have reached 500,000. After launching the “Khalsana b Sharaka” (Together is Better) initiative video on his account, many Egyptians responded with funny comments. Even though the initiative tackles an important matter like gender equality in the workplace, Egyptians responded to the matter in a far less serious manner.

That was mainly so because the term “Khalsana b Sharaka” originally comes from a widespread slang term in Egypt, “Khalsana b Sheyaka,” which sarcastically translates to “All has been said and done nicely.” Casson was speaking in Arabic in the video, and he was successful in getting many Egyptians to listen to the video introducing the imitative.





One user replied back to the ambassador’s video saying, “Are you sure you’re British and not from Imbaba?” Referring to Imababa, due to it being a local, folk suburb in Egypt, where most lower classes reside.





Another user who also disregarded the topic of the video completely asked, “Let’s get down to the more important questions, how many retweets would it take for you to give me the visa?”

In another tweet, Casson wrote in Arabic, congratulating Mohamed Salah for scoring four goals in the Premier League.




The tweet says, “Abu Salah scored four goals in the Premier League, and better is coming… The Egyptians are coming.”





One respondent replied back to the tweet saying, “It feels as though he’s the Minister of Shubra.” Again, referring to Shubra, another local area in Egypt; meaning that the ambassador feels more folk Egyptian than anything else.

Nevertheless, does the ambassador’s charisma help him reach more Egyptians of all walks in life, or does his humor cause people to focus more on his persona rather than the topics he advocates?
]]>
9/25/2017 2:36:13 PM
<![CDATA[Tokyo governor to head new political party]]>
Former TV anchorwoman Koike, 65, launched the new party called "Kibo no To" (Party of Hope) just hours before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to call a snap election for as early as October 22.

"I'm launching a new party and I want to be directly involved in it," Koike told reporters, adding that she will remain as Tokyo governor while becoming the head of the new party.

"Japan is facing a difficult time considering the situation in North Korea. Economically, the world is making a big move while Japan's presence is gradually declining," said Koike.

"Can we continue letting (the existing lawmakers) handle politics?"

Koike, who spent nearly two months as defence minister in Abe's first cabinet in 2007, quit the LDP in June to lead the newly-formed Tomin First no Kai (Tokyo Residents First).

This party humiliated Abe and the LDP in local elections in July but commentators say she has not had time to create the necessary foundations at national level.

Abe's conservative LDP party is seen as clear winner of a national vote, with a recent survey showing 44 percent would vote for the current prime minister compared to eight percent for the main opposition Democratic Party.]]>
9/25/2017 12:21:26 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi Kurds shrug off threats to stage independence referendum]]>
The vote, expected to deliver a comfortable "yes" for independence, is not binding. However, it is designed to give Massoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a mandate to negotiate the secession of the oil producing region with Baghdad and neighbouring states.

For Iraqi Kurds - the largest ethnic group left stateless when the Ottoman empire collapsed a century ago - the referendum offers a historic opportunity despite the intense international pressure to call it off.

"We have seen worse, we have seen injustice, killings and blockades," said Talat, waiting to cast a vote in the regional capital of Erbil, as group of smiling women, in traditional colourful Kurdish dress, emerged from the school showing their fingers stained with ink, a sign that they voted.

The Kurds also say the vote acknowledges their crucial contribution in confronting Islamic State after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army in 2014 and seized control of a third of Iraq.

But with roughly 30 million ethnic Kurds scattered over international borders across the region, Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations.

The U.S. State Department warned the KRG last week that "holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing."

The KRG is holding the referendum not only in the long-standing Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq, but also in wider areas in the north of the country into which its forces have advanced in the fight to defeat Islamic State. These areas also have large non-Kurdish populations.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara did not recognise the referendum and would view its outcome as null and void, adding that the Iraqi Kurdish government was threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the whole region.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that his government was evaluating steps regarding its border gates with northern Iraq and air space in response to the vote.

Ankara would make decisions in more direct talks with the Iraqi central government after the referendum, adding that economic, political, diplomatic and military steps were being discussed, he said in an interview with Turkish broadcasters.

Ankara's forces are again fighting a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey following the collapse of a peace process.

FLIGHT BAN

Polling stations opened their doors at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) and should close at 6:00 p.m. The final results should be announced within 72 hours.

The voting is open to all registered residents, Kurds and non-Kurds, in the Kurdish-held areas of northern Iraq aged 18 and over, according to the referendum commission.

The commission estimates the number of eligible voters at 5.2 million, including those living abroad and who started casting electronic ballots two days ago.

Voters should tick yes or no on the ballot asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: "do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?"

Iran declared a ban on direct flights to and from Kurdistan on Sunday, while Baghdad asked foreign countries to stop direct oil trading with autonomous region and demanded that the KRG hands over control of its international airports and border posts with Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Tehran supports Shi'ite groups who have been ruling or holding security and government positions in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Opposition to the vote simmered among non-Kurdish populations in areas disputed by the KRG and Baghdad, and mainly the multi-ethnic oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

"Iraq is against the Kurds, so are the Turks, the Iranians, the whole Arab region and Europe. They are going to live in a cage," said Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati, a Shi'ite Turkmen and a local leader of the Iranian-backed Badr Organisation paramilitary group in Tuz Khurmato, south of Kirkuk.

In Sulaimaniya, a bastion for political groups opposed to Barzani, queues in front of the polling stations were shorter than those in Erbil, and there were fewer signs and billboards celebrating the referendum, reflecting resentment that a yes vote could be seen as a plebiscite for the Kurdish leader.

"I will not vote, the referendum is not good, it could be dangerous because of the threat from Turkey and Iran," said a shop owner of Sulaimaniya, Ali Ahmed.

Despite Turkey's threatened retaliation, it has so far kept the Kurdish oil export pipeline that crosses its territory open.

After World War One, the victorious powers Britain and France carved up the Ottoman empire leaving the Kurds scattered mainly over four countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

All of them suffered persecution and were often denied the right to speak their language. Those in Iraq were uprooted under Saddam Hussein's regime and suffered an attack using chemical weapons.

Syria is embroiled in a devastating civil war and its Kurds are pressing ahead with their own self-determination.]]>
9/25/2017 11:54:57 AM
<![CDATA[Hamas welcomes Palestinian government visit to Gaza Monday]]>
El-Sheikh continued that the Palestinian government will immediately implement all items agreed on by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, according to Palestine’s state news agency, WAFA.

Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanou’ welcomed Fatah’s visit to Gaza, adding that, “We wish the government of Fatah good luck in its job and tasks.”

“We hope the government will withdraw its punitive procedures against Gaza during its visit,” Abdel Latif added.

On September 17, Hamas dissolved the administrative committee which has run Gaza and agreed to hold general elections to end a ten-year dispute with Fatah.

The move was met with international praise as part of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.
]]>
9/25/2017 11:18:52 AM
<![CDATA[Macron - pursuing cooperation with Merkel that is vital]]>
"I called Angela Merkel to congratulate her. We continue with determination our vital cooperation for Europe and for our countries," Macron tweeted.

Macron ran for the French presidency on a pledge to "relaunch" Europe, in tandem with Germany, after years of economic and financial crisis and the new shock dealt by Britain's vote last year to leave the bloc.

Merkel's conservatives beat their rivals to win her a fourth term in an election that will also bring a far-right party into Germany's parliament for the first time in more than half a century, exit polls showed.]]>
9/25/2017 8:30:00 AM
<![CDATA["The grown ups", Britain's Labour, ready to lead Brexit talks]]>
Keir Starmer will use a speech at the party's annual conference in the southern English town of Brighton to press home a shift in policy on Brexit which sees Britain keeping full access to the EU's single market during a transition period.

After months of sticking to a position little different from the Conservative Party's pursuit of a clean break with the EU, Labour changed tack last month by suggesting the four-year transition period to smooth Britain's departure in March 2019.

But while challenging Prime Minister Theresa May's vision for Brexit, the shift has also put a spotlight on the divisions in the Labour Party. Some lawmakers are saying leader Jeremy Corbyn should go further and say, if in power, Labour would stay in the single market for the long term.

"Labour are now the grown-ups in the room," Starmer will say to hundreds of Labour supporters on Monday, according to excerpts of his speech. "We stand ready to take charge of the negotiations. Not acting for narrow political gain. But in the national interest."

Labour is riding high since winning more seats than it was expected to in a June election, when May's attempt to win a stronger hand in the Brexit negotiations failed and lost her Conservatives their majority.

It has capitalised on divisions in May's team of ministers by offering what some call a "softer" vision for Brexit, saying that Britain has run out of time, largely because of that election, to negotiate a bespoke arrangement for a transition.

"The way the Tories (Conservatives) are handling Brexit tells you a lot about their competence - or should I say incompetence," Starmer will say, describing Labour's approach as one that will "puts jobs and the economy first".

But Labour is unlikely to move much further on its Brexit position at this week's conference, with Corbyn saying he would listen to those who are calling for Britain to stay in the single market and customs union for the long term.

A natural eurosceptic, Corbyn told the BBC earlier: "I would also say that we need to look very carefully at the terms of any trade relationship because at the moment we're part of the single market, obviously."

"That has within it restrictions in state aid and state spending."]]>
9/25/2017 7:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sudan denies reports on freezing relations with Egypt]]>
The Ministry said some social media have circulated reports, attributed to Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour, that Sudan has frozen its diplomatic relations with Egypt over what they said the voting of Egypt within the UN against revoking economic sanctions imposed on Sudan.

The ministry stressed that such reports were unfounded and baseless.

The Ministry called on those active in the social media to verify and to check the credibility of any reports before circulating them. ]]>
9/25/2017 5:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Polish president unveils court reform in democratic litmus test]]>
Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, unexpectedly vetoed its overhaul of the judiciary in July after the proposals triggered nationwide protests and raised EU and U.S. concerns about a politicisation of the courts.

The eurosceptic PiS says reform of the judicial system is needed because the courts are slow, inefficient and steeped in a communist-era mentality, but critics of the plans say the new rules are part of a bigger drive towards authoritarianism.

It is unclear to what extent Duda's alternative draft legislation will allay critics' concerns or meet government expectations, but both sides may need to compromise for the laws to be agreed.

The PiS's powerful leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, held a meeting with Duda on Friday and emerged to declare himself "optimistic".

"The road to an agreement is open and I don't think it will be a particularly difficult road," Kaczynski was quoted as saying by state-controlled broadcaster TVP.

Under the vetoed reforms, all current Supreme Court judges would have been removed immediately unless they had the approval of the justice minister, who is also prosecutor general.

Parliament, meanwhile, would have been granted the right to name most of the National Council of the Judiciary, which would nominate future candidates to preside over the Supreme Court.

Any progress or otherwise is being watched closely in Brussels, where other EU members are considering potential punishment for the nationalist PiS cabinet over democratic standards.

EU PRESSURE

The EU is applying mounting pressure on the PiS and a meeting of EU ministers on Monday aims to measure the appetite for unprecedented action against Warsaw.

Since coming to power, PiS has not only increased government influence over the courts but has also brought prosecutors and state media under direct government control and introduced some restrictions on public gathering. It denies retreating on democracy.

It argues that it has a broad mandate to implement reforms and that its policies aim to improve a poorly functioning state, bolster Poland's standing in the global arena, preserve its conservative values and correct mistakes by previous governments that were too dependent on foreign influence.

In proposing his own judiciary rules, Duda is likely to weigh their potential impact on his re-election prospects in 2020. Though he remains Poland's most popular politician, with approval ratings of more than 70 percent, Duda may need PiS support to win enough votes.

Opposition politicians remained sceptical whether his proposals will address concerns.

Ryszard Petru, head of the liberal Nowoczesna party, said on Saturday that he expects Duda's rules to amount to "another attempt at subordinating and threatening the courts", according to state news agency PAP.

Jaroslaw Flis, a sociologist at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, said the rift between Duda and the government was "an internal power struggle" among Poland's conservatives.

"Duda knows his legislative proposals need PiS support, but PiS also needs him. They cannot push anything through without the president," Flis said.]]>
9/25/2017 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump aide Greenblatt returning to Israel for peace talks]]>
"While President Trump had productive meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas at the United Nations, we always said that the UN would not focus on peace conversations and that those conversations would be happening on a separate track," the official said in a statement.

"(Greenblatt) will have follow-up meetings in advance of a private trip in the region with his family for Sukkot. The meetings are part of the Administration's quiet, steady discussions towards peace," he said.

Sukkot is a Jewish holiday.]]>
9/25/2017 4:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Saudi amb. praises deeply-rooted relations between Egypt, KSA]]>
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 87th Saudi National Day, Qattan said the relations between the two countries witness a steady growth at the political, economic, investment and cultural levels under Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

DSC_7213

"The Kingdom's stance towards Egypt’s stability and security is unchangeable, and the relation between the Kingdom and Egypt is greater than any attempt to disturb it,” he said.

DSC_7320

The season of 2017 pilgrimage achieved a notable success due the usage of information technology that facilitated services to the pilgrims, he said, adding that such success responded to the “rogue states” that demanded to politicize the holy places and Hajj.

DSC_7353

"The Kingdom has spared no effort to support the Arab and Islamic issues, first and foremost the Palestinian cause, until the Palestinian people regain its stolen land and establish its state with Jerusalem as its capital."


DSC_7418

DSC_7482

Additional reporting by news agencies



]]>
9/25/2017 3:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Reactions to German national election]]>
Following are highlights of comments and reactions:

CENTRE-RIGHT CDU/CSU BLOC

ANGELA MERKEL, CDU party leader, told supporters in Berlin: "Of course we had hoped for a slightly better result. But we mustn't forget that we have just completed an extraordinarily challenging legislative period, so I am happy that we reached the strategic goals of our election campaign," Merkel said.

"We are the strongest party, we have the mandate to build the next government - and there cannot be a coalition government built against us," Merkel added.

Speaking during a television debate of the main parties' top candidates, Merkel said: "Numerically there are still two ways to form a coalition. Numerically SPD and CDU/CSU have enough. The question of the responsibility that everyone has is not just theory but a practical question... I have heard that the SPD is not available for talks, but we can talk about that again tomorrow."

"We will sleep on it and then hold some talks... I intend for Germany to have a stable government," Merkel added.

HORST SEEHOFER, CSU leader and Bavarian Prime Minister, told broadcaster ARD: "We had a vacuum on the right side that we need to close now. The best way to do that is with policies that ensure that Germany remains Germany and that we have the immigration and security questions under control."

Seehofer told broadcaster ZDF:

"The Christian Democrats will have to get together and explore whether a government is possible; we owe this to our country (...) We don't want (a coalition) with the AfD or with the Left party, but all other democratic forces should at least speak to each other and explore what is can be achieved over the next years. But the CSU will not enter into any false compromises that would cement the division of our country."

ALEXANDER DOBRINDT, a senior CSU member, said: "I believe for everyone in the government this is a bitter election night. But I think it is too early to draw conclusions - like the SPD."

THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, senior CDU member and interior minister, said: "We all have responsibility for the country, we cannot say after six weeks that we need new elections because we didn't manage (to form a coalition)... that would be the worst signal, then the Left and AfD would end up getting even more votes, and that would not be right."

VOLKER KAUDER, parliamentary floor leader of Merkel's conservatives, told ARD television that his party reached its goal to win the election. "We have the mandate to lead the next government," Kauder said.

CENTRE-LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRATS (SPD)

MARTIN SCHULZ, SPD party leader and chancellor candidate, told supporters in Berlin that this election was a "bitter day" for Germany's Social Democrats, adding: "Especially depressing for all of us is the strength of the AfD, which for the first time brings a right-wing party into German parliament in such a strong position. This is a turning point."

"The fact that we took in more than 1 million refugees in our country is still dividing in our country. What for some has been an act of humanity and charity is to others menacing, strange and filled with fear. We did not manage to persuade all of our voters that Germany is strong enough not to leave anyone behind," Schulz said.

Schulz told ZDF broadcaster: "We cannot have an extreme right-wing party leading the opposition in Germany, therefore ... we will go into opposition." He added: "Our role is quite clear: we are the opposition party."

Schulz told ARD broadcaster: "I have the full backing of the party leadership to lead and renew the party... But I will not aim for (parliamentary) floor leadership but fully concentrate on the renewal of the party."

MANUELA SCHWESIG, SPD deputy party leader, told ZDF broadcaster: "That is a really bad result for the SPD. That is a heavy defeat... For us, the grand coalition ends today. For us it's clear that we'll go into opposition as demanded by voters."

THOMAS OPPERMANN, SPD parliamentary floor leader, told ARD broadcaster: "We must of course accept the voters' choice, they (AfD) are a party in parliament now... But I will say very clearly that if there are any racist tones in this parliament, we will object to them, very clearly."

Oppermann told broadcaster ARD, when asked whether Schulz would remain party head: "Martin Schulz started the renewal process of the SPD at the party meeting in March, and he will continue that renewal. We win together and we lose together."

PRO-BUSINESS FREE DEMOCRATS (FDP)

CHRISTIAN LINDNER, FDP party leader told ZDF television: "We want to reverse the trend for our country and if it becomes apparent in talks that these goals can be achieved then of course we will be available (for a coalition) but if not, then it would be our task to go into opposition."

Lindner added: "It's about stability now, all parties have to take responsibility. We will not be pushed into a coalition just because the SPD makes a unilateral retreat into the opposition."

WOLFGANG KUBICKI, FDP deputy party leader, told broadcaster ARD: "You cannot force the Greens and us into a coalition just because the SPD bows out."

THE GREENS

CEM OZDEMIR, top election candidate for the Greens, said the party would not take part in "anti-European populism" in a possible coalition with the conservatives and the FDP. He told broadcaster ZDF that climate change and social justice policies were requirements for the Greens to form a government.

KATRIN GOERING-ECKARDT, top candidate for the Greens, said: "We have a job to do for the voters. They voted for us as a party that represents a united Europe, as an ecological party that stands for environmental protection, we have a climate pact from Paris and will push for that to be implemented. And we stand for fairness... We will see if there can be cooperation."

FAR-RIGHT ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY (AFD)

ALEXANDER GAULAND, top AFD election candidate, said: "The government, whatever it will look like, should get ready for tough times. We'll chase them. We'll take back our country and our people."

JOERG MEUTHEN, AfD party co-leader, said: "What is happening in our country is a gradual dissolution of our nation. Let us talk about that in a democratic discourse. I accept that some people have a different opinion."

FAR-LEFT LEFT PARTY

SAHRA WAGENKNECHT, top election candidate of the Left, blamed the governing parties, Merkel's conservatives and the SPD, for the success of the anti-immigration AfD. She added that her party scored its second-best election result.

"I hope that the SPD sticks with its decision of going into the opposition," Wagenknecht added. "But I also hope that won't be their only decision, that they realize that we need a social democratic party with social democratic policies if we don't want the AfD to keep getting stronger."

OTHER REACTIONS

THOMAS GITZEL, VP Bank chief economist, said: "The real shocker today is: The SPD wants to go into opposition. The only remaining option is a Jamaica coalition of CDU, FDP and the Greens. Three-party alliances are difficult to form and often unstable."

HOLGER SCHMIEDING, Berenberg Bank chief economist: "The consequences for Germany's economic policies are nearly zero. The positions of (the three parties in) a possible Jamaica coalition are not that far apart."

Schmieding added: "If the FDP were to take over the Finance Ministry, a FDP Finance Minister would not differ significantly from Schaeuble's positions on Europe. I think there won't be major changes regarding Berlin's stance on Europe."]]>
9/25/2017 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Calm before the storm: Kurdistan challenges Baghdad]]>
A war of words has continued since the Kurdish independence referendum was set, however in the past few weeks the rhetoric has intensified as it became increasingly likely that the referendum would take place.

With only hours to go both leaders have made their points clear and clarified their positions. Tomorrow the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will decide.

Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi

Abadi has been adamantly against the Kurdish independence referendum since the notion was first raised. His rhetoric sharply intensified in the past week and he joined both Iran and Turkey in stressing that violent reprisals may occur if the vote takes place.

Everything points towards the possibility of Turkish and Iranian action if the referendum does go ahead. Turkish and Iranian military games are taking place on the border of Kurdistan, and the Turkish Parliament has extended a mandate authorizing the deployment of the country's military forces in Iraq and Syria.

In the final day of campaigning before the Iraqi Kurdish population goes to the polls, three themes are emphasized by Abadi.

Abadi’s principal defense in opposition to the independence referendum, and which was restated today, has been to uphold the word of the 2005 Iraqi constitution.

Abadi has reiterated that the referendum is “unconstitutional”, and that Baghdad “will not recognize its outcome”.

He stated that the leadership had the duty of “protecting civilians from surrounding dangers rather than endangering them,” in a clear repetition of his previous warnings that the vote could spark a civil war.

"To take a unilateral decision affecting the unity of Iraq and its security, and the security of the region, with a referendum on separation, is unconstitutional and against civil peace. We will take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country," Abadi said in the televised address.

Abadi has also condemned the principle of creating a state based on a particular ethnic community.

"Iraq will remain for all Iraqis. We will not allow it to become a possession of one or the other, and we will not permit anyone to play with Iraq and not pay the consequences," Abadi said.

"We will not abandon the Kurdish citizens. We have rejected the sectarian state and we reject a racial state," Abadi added, referring to both the Islamic State and Kurdistan.

Prime Minister Abadi also stirred tensions Sunday by accusing the Kurdish government of not declaring its oil rents, and possibly directing undeclared finances for other means.

“Where has the oil money has been going? …they have been seizing some 900,000 barrels of oil per day," Abadi said. "Ask the officials in the (Kurdish) region why the oil proceeds are not included in a transparent account."

“Why not be transparent regarding the mass oil exports in Kurdistan in a clear account to the citizens? Most of Kurdistan’s internal problems are not with Baghdad and will worsen after the referendum,” Abadi said.

With this, the Iraqi PM challenged the hierarchy in a clear attempt to weaken trust and diminish support for the Kurdish governing elite.

Abadi stated that most of the issues of the Kurdistan region are internal and not with Baghdad. “The economic and financial issues in the region are due to corruption and mismanagement,” he added.

Iraqi Kurdistan Region President, Masoud Barzani

While Abadi has continually highlighted the stipulations of the 2005 Iraqi constitution, which outlaws the separation of Iraq, Barzani challenged such claims by referring to an arguably higher authority, the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, which emphasizes the principle of self-determination.


2 (1)
Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani speaks to the media during his visits in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the ISIS, east of Mosul, Iraq, November 16, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Azad Lashkari


"The referendum is the first step that the people of Kurdistan decide what they want in future and how they want to live," Barzani told reporters Sunday. "After that, we start a very long process.”

"Only independence

can pay back grievances, pain of martyrs

and families of martyrs," President Barzani said, referencing the arduous existence of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein, and the atrocities committed against them.

Barzani has never hidden that he, and the Kurdish people, blame Baghdad for allowing the independence referendum to take place.

“It was Baghdad that had declined to accept us,” Barzani said, arguing that the Iraqi Kurdish government had sought to resolve such issues with Baghdad. However, now the “partnership with Iraq is over”.

"We tried our best to find a solution to these problems in Iraq with Baghdad, with the international community and, indeed, Baghdad didn't accept us and they obliged us to take this step that we've taken already," Barzani added.

Barzani has disputed the rhetoric of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, saying “we will not allow a war to break out among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.”

"We look forward to having excellent cooperation with neighboring countries. We proved we are friends, factors of stability," President Barzani said.

The Kurds have been a major ally of the international community, and Iraq, in the fight against the Islamic State. The Kurds helped to provide the vital stability in 2014 when the Islamic State swept through the country and threatened genocide over the Yazidis.

However, the international community at large ahs opposed the referendum, citing the threat to regional peace it may bring.

“We don't expect any kind of military conflict with Iraq," Barzani told reporters. "That kind of thought doesn't even cross our mind."

In other news

In retaliation to the referendum,

the Iraqi government has demanded

that the Kurdish region hands over the international border posts in addition to its international airports.

It also asked for foreign countries to halt oil trading with the Kurdish region and to deal only with the Baghdad government in regards to airports and borders, in a statement published by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office

Twitter:

@JoeColonna1


]]>
9/24/2017 9:38:20 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi govt asks Kurdistan to hand over border posts, airports]]>
It also asked the foreign countries to stop oil trading with the Kurdish region and to deal with the central government in regards to airports and borders, said a statement published by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office]]>
9/24/2017 7:44:47 PM
<![CDATA[HIGHLIGHTS-Reactions to German national election]]>
Following are highlights of comments and reactions:

Martin Schulz, SPD party leader and chancellor candidate, said this election was a "bitter day" for Germany's Social Democrats, adding: "Especially depressing for all of us is the strength of the AfD, which for the first time brings a right-wing party into German parliament in such a strong position. This is a turning point."

"The fact that we took in more than 1 million refugees in our country is still dividing in our country. What for some has been an act of humanity and charity is to others menacing, strange and filled with fear. We did not manage to persuade all of our voters that Germany is strong enough not to leave anyone behind," Schulz said.

Alexander Dobrindt, a senior CSU member, said: "I believe for everyone in the government this is a bitter election night. But I think it is too early to draw conclusions - like the SPD."

Volker Kauder, parliamentary floor leader of Merkel's conservaties, told ARD television that his party reached its goal to win the election. "We have the mandate to lead the next government," Kauder said.

"We must of course accept voters' choice, they (AfD) are a party in parliament now... But I will say very clearly that if there are any racist tones in this parliament, we will object to them, very clearly," SPD parliamentary floor leader Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ARD.

"You cannot force the Greens and us into a coalition just because the SPD bows out," Wolfgang Kubicki, FDP deputy party leader, told broadcaster ARD.

"That is a really bad result for the SPD. That is a heavy defeat," SPD deputy party leader Manuela Schwesig told ZDF broadcaster, adding: "For us, the grand coalition ends today. For us it's clear that we'll go into opposition as demanded by the voter."

"Martin Schulz started the renewal process of the SPD at the party meeting in March, and he will continue that renewal. We win together and we lose together," SPD parliamentary floor leader Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ARD, when asked whether Schulz would remain party head.

AfD top candidate Alexander Gauland said: "The government, whatever it will look like, should get ready for tough times. We'll chase them. We'll take back our country and our people."]]>
9/24/2017 7:26:06 PM
<![CDATA[Can Kurdistan independence unite Kurds? ]]>Egypt Today reached the vice co-chairman of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, Hişyar Özsoy, to ask him about this major shift in the region and the future of Kurds in case the state of Kurdistan is established in north Iraq.
How does the HDP see the region if the independence of Kurdistan goes through?

The HDP supports the right of people to decide their destiny. We are for the right to national self-determination. We know that there have been so many problems between the Iraqi government and Iraqi Kurds, and unfortunately they weren’t able to work out their differences and reach out a solution through negotiations, and because of that the Kurds have decided to go on their way. We have raised some criticisms about how the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has handled the process of making the decision of going for a referendum for independence. We think the process could have been more participatory. But at the end of the day the Kurds and other peoples in KRG territories will go to the polling stations and neighboring countries and the international community should respect their choice and will.

You have said that HDP has criticized the referendum, on what basis?

The referendum should have been conducted in a collective manner, meaning that it should have included all Kurdish parties represented at the parliament of KRG. But the parliament was closed since October 2015 and reopened on September 14, 2017 to have a vote on the referendum. The process could have been more inclusive, participatory and open to criticisms and recommendations from all Kurdish parties and organizations in the Middle East, because this referendum in one part of Kurdistan would impact the lives of Kurds in other parts of Kurdistan.


Would the referendum lead to other calls for independence from minorities in the region?

Not necessarily. The Kurds have faced repression and violations through ages from different governments, and now they are exercising their right to choose their future.

How do you see the threats of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Kurds in Iraq?

He can’t do much. If Erdoğan fought the Kurds, which he has already been doing, they will defend themselves and fight back and they won’t retreat. Erdoğan already has enough troubles domestically and internationally. Military intervention does not seem realistic, but both Turkey and Iran may engineer proxy wars in addition to diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Can the region afford another conflict by establishing a state for Kurds?

There is already a Kurdish conflict in the region. Kurds have been facing all kind of repression, in Syria, Turkey, Iran, and have even been subjected to genocide by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They ran out of solutions, they resorted to political negotiations, armed conflict and now they chose to go to polling stations to finally win a political status.

If a Kurdish independent state in North Iraq is established, what will be the next step for Kurds in Turkey?

Let me clarify something. HDP is not a Kurdish party per se; it includes Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Alevis, leftists and members from every political spectrum, with a Kurdish majority. HDP does have a fully developed political project to resolve the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. We demand a decentralized political system that we formulated as ‘democratic autonomy.’ Regardless of the result of the referendum, we will promote our political project to find a peaceful and democratic resolution to the conflict in Turkey.

Do you agree with the U.S. administration’s claim that the time is not right for such a referendum?

So when is the right time?! The time is never right when it comes to independence for Kurds. Kurds tried everything and nobody heard their voice. We said over and again to Erdoğan and to the Iraqi and Iranian governments, if you have something to offer to Kurds, offer it now, instead of threats and repression.

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9/24/2017 7:22:49 PM
<![CDATA[Turmoil and Turbulence: Struggle of the Iraqi Kurds]]>
The Kurds’ direct experience with the great nation-state-building game being played out by the British and French as part of their divide-and-rule strategy, meant they faced a huge challenge in their quest for nationhood.

The Kurds have been denied their own state ever since their territory was divided and the notion of the nation-state was entrenched in the global consciousness.

Today, the Kurdish population in these four respective states totals an estimated 30 million people who control vast swathes of valuable territory.

Great_Kurdistan;_Kurdish_nationalists_claim
Kurdish nationalists claim- CC via Wikimedia


The Kurdish experience in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship is the stuff of nightmares, and exemplifies the uphill struggle faced by the Kurdish people since they were forcibly split by the colonial powers and thus governed by competitive states.

The Kurdish population has persistently struggled against the Iraqi government for the administration and independence of their territory in Northern Iraq.

The substantive Kirkuk oil fields, along with the highly fertile landscape, have made Iraqi Kurdistan a valued territory. In Iraq, the struggle between the Kurds and the Iraqi government relates to territory and resources, but principally, self-determination.


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The pipeline, which carries a quarter of Iraq’s crude exports, from the northern Kirkuk oilfield to Ceyhan, has been repeatedly attacked. (Reuters)

1970s

By the early 1970’s, the Ba’athist government was fully aware the Kirkuk region lay above vast oil reserves, and the government has since refused adamantly to concede this territory to the Kurds.

Speculation is not helpful, but who knows what would happen if Kirkuk didn’t exist.
On both sides of the isle, oppression, persecution and betrayal have coincided with the changing political status of the Kurdish region in Iraq, making all parties wary and untrustworthy.

Aside from the discourteous nature of forced Kurdish compliance with the Iraqi government, international treaties and law dictate that Iraqi central government has the authority over this region.

However, this authority has been overwhelmingly abused. Although many violent confrontations broke out between the Kurds and the Iraqi government, the attempted Kurdish genocide during the al-Anfal campaign (1986-89) was one of the worst domestic atrocities committed by the Baath party; a horrifying feat considering Saddam Hussein’s human rights record.

The modern source of mutual discontent lies in the strategy adopted by the Iraqi Ba’ath party to consolidate its hold on power. The Ba’ath party appreciated the strength and tenacity of the Kurdish people and redefined their territory in the north of Iraq as the ‘Kurdistan Autonomous Region.’

This transpired as the First Kurdish-Iraqi War (1961-1970) in which a Mustafa Barzani-led struggle for Kurdish independence from Iraq, came to a close. With an estimated 100,000 fatalities, a stalemate ended the conflict with neither side gaining significant concessions.

However, believing they were entitled to almost double the territory allocated to them, the Kurds rejected the ‘Iraqi–Kurdish Autonomy Agreement of 1970’ which was imposed unilaterally in 1974.

With the collapse of independence talks and the unilateral implementation of the 1970 agreement, Mustafa Barzani led the Second Kurdish–Iraqi War against the Iraqi Government. However, this war was less disastrous than the first war, and lasted for a single year from 1974, with an estimated 5,000 fatalities.

Discontent and conflict between Kurds and the Iraqi Army failed to die-down however, as an ‘Arabization’ campaign in Kurdish territories took place. Kurds were being displaced and replaced with Arabs in an attempt to establish a stronger powerbase in the oil-rich territory in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan.


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This handout dated 1991 shows toppled leader Saddam Hussein (AFP Photo) / AFP


By the mid-late 1970s, over 250,000 Kurds were forcibly displaced and evacuated, with their villages destroyed to be replaced with Arab settlements.

With Saddam Hussein’s rise to power in 1979 and the outbreak of war with Iran in 1980, Ba’athist disagreement with the Kurds would transform into hatred as the war took its toll on every aspect of Iraqi life. Eventually, Iraqi military presence in the Kurdish region dwindled as the war demanded all available resources, providing some relief for the Kurds.

The Kurdish Peshmerga were able to solidify their control in the north, relying on a local support base which no longer feared reprisals from the diminished and preoccupied Iraqi army.

Even more worrying to Saddam was the relationship between the two major Kurdish parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – and Tehran. By 1987, this became intolerable.

The Baath party saw the KDPs collaboration with Iran during the 1970s as despicable, with Saddam stating before he rose to the presidency, that “those who have sold themselves to foreigners will not escape punishment."

1986

In an unusual move for Saddam, Ali Hassan al-Majid was handed total authority over all agencies of the state in northern Iraq, which notably included the first and fifth Corps of the Army, the General Security Directorate, and Military Intelligence of the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq, from March 1987 to April 1989.

Around the world, al-Majid gained the apt nickname ‘Chemical Ali’ on account of his infamous and inhumane campaign against the Kurds for which he was subsequently executed for.

Almost immediately, al-Majid began defining the target group, and determining certain swathes of land as being prohibited. Residents within these prohibited areas lost all their property rights and legal rights; their cohabitation of land with Peshmerga and anti-Iraqi government forces made them an equal threat in the eyes of the government.

All human existence within these prohibited areas in Iraqi Kurdistan was prohibited, with a shoot-to-kill policy sanctioned.

The infamous attack on the town of Halabja is embolic of this violence, much like Srebrenica is of the Bosnian genocide. In Halabja, the notorious chemical attack indiscriminately killed up to 5,000 people.


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An Iraqi Kurd resident visits the cemetery for victims of the 1988 chemical attack. Reuters


This attack cleared the way for the subsequent ground assault, in which ground troops and demolition teams enveloped the area, leaving a path of total destruction. This pattern of violence was continually repeated throughout the campaign.

Owing to the vast number of people who disappeared, it is difficult to determine a figure for how many were killed during this campaign, however most sources cite this as amounting to six figures.

It is unquestionable that the al-Anfal campaign was a very dark moment in history. The campaign of terror and the destruction unleashed on the Kurds during this period had profound consequences on the immediate future of Iraq.

Following a chain of events, the al-Anfal campaign helped to create the environment which led to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the subsequent 1991 Gulf War. With this came disastrous sanctions, which killed up to 500,000 Iraqi children owing to the lack of basic necessities.

1991

Systemic social repression led to the Kurdish National Uprising of 1991. The catastrophic war with Iran and the 1991 failed invasion of Kuwait led to a period of instability in Iraq which the Kurds capitalized on for necessary political and social gain.

Although initially successful, Saddam loyalists, led by the Iraqi Republican Guard, conducted a brutal campaign of suppression which led to the death of thousands of Kurds, and the displacement of millions more.

The Kurdish struggle was only one part of a period of massive instability and rebellion in Iraq. The Shi’a rebelled in the South against Saddam’s dictatorship, while the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes and the forced relocation of Marsh Arabs was a crime against humanity.

With the international coalition ousting Saddam’s forces from Kuwait, no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq were declared.


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A marsh Arab man paddles a boat loaded with reeds he gathered at the Chebayesh marsh in Nassiriya, 300 km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad July 27, 2008. REUTERS/Saad Shalash


United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 facilitated a safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan, following international concern for the safety of Kurdish refugees.

An important moment in Iraqi Kurdish history came in 1991, when finally the Iraqi army was removed from the northern region and the Kurds finally experienced political autonomy from Baghdad.

Economic struggles continued, however. During this period, Iraq was subject to the some of the most controversial economic sanctions ever imposed on a country. As previously mentioned, they infamously led to the death of over 500,000 children.

However, the Kurds were subjected to a double embargo: one imposed by the UN on Iraq, and another imposed by Saddam Hussein on the region. Not only did this lead to tensions between Erbil and Baghdad, intra-Kurdish strife limited progress.

Yet Kurdish grievances with Baghdad were plentiful, and lay principally in who controlled the oil-rich Kirkuk province. While the Kurds have continued to claim ownership of the territory, this is disputed by Baghdad as both groups seek the vast oil rents.


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Kurdish Peshmerga forces celebrate Newroz Day, a festival marking spring and the new year, in Kirkuk March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

2003

With the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the Kurdish army – the Peshmerga – joined the anti-Saddam campaign, and they played an important role in overthrowing the Iraqi government from the northern front.

A new 2005 Iraqi constitution defined Iraq as a federalist state consisting of Regions and Governorates which recognized the Kurdistan Region, and codified all laws passed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since 1992.

PUK leader, Jalal Talabani, was elected President of the new Iraqi administration, while KDP leader Masoud Barzani became President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

During the post-war period, Iraq was thrown into a violent sectarian civil war which tore through the country. However, the Kurds largely chose to stay out of sectarian divisions, and were not subject to the same violent conflict as the rest of the country.

However, issues of power sharing, oil production and territorial control have dominated relations between Erbil and Baghdad, and have continued to this day.

2014

Since the Islamic State (IS) took control of one-third of Iraqi territory in 2014 and the Iraqi army suffered a systemic collapse with the loss of Mosul to IS, the Iraqi army crumbled in the face of the IS’ assault. Since then, the Peshmerga have been essential in maintaining stability in Iraq and forcing the Islamic State out of the control it usurped.

The Kurds have proven to be a reliable ally of the international community. The Peshmerga have shown the world their effectiveness as a military force. Continually, they have fought fiercely against IS and made significant gains against the organization, when many groups fled.

Not only have they proven successful as a fighting force, their motivations have often been admirable. With a shared memory of enduring extensive repression under Saddam’s government, the Peshmerga, allied with U.S. airstrikes, went to the aid of the estimated 50,000 Yazidi’s that had fled IS into the Sinjar Mountain.


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A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) fires a 120 mm mortar round in Raqqa, Syria, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic


IS was committed to genocide against the Yazidi people, and the world was lost for ideas over how to save those trapped on Mount Sinjar. Without food, water or medical care, and facing starvation, dehydration and genocide from the approaching Islamic State forces; the peshmerga were able to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and pushed on to reclaim the Mosul Dam from IS.

Thus far, the Peshmerga have been central to the recapture of Sinjar, Mosul Dam, Zumar, and the city of Mosul, to name a few. Many battles far outside of their territory, yet their morality prevails.

Say no more. A referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan will take place tomorrow.

It is for you to decide if you believe their independence is justified.


Twitter:

@JoeColonna1

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9/24/2017 6:12:45 PM
<![CDATA[Greece ends investments with Qatar]]>
In a press statement on Thursday, Al Rayyan said that some people in Greece simply “do not want foreign investment…We cannot invest by force.”

The Qatari report stated that “throughout this period of adversity and difficulty, despite promises that the investment landscape would improve, there has been no improvement, nor is there any hope that something will change.”

It adds that the company will continue to pay its taxes and meet other obligations to the Greek state, albeit without pursuing its plans for investment.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, shutting down all ports of entry over accusations of the country’s support and sponsorship of terrorism, allegations Doha denies.

Since then, Qatar has resisted reconciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from terrorist groups that were proven to be harbored and financially supported by Doha.
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9/24/2017 5:24:04 PM
<![CDATA[Fatah praises Egypt’s efforts in Palestinian reconciliation]]>
Last week, Hamas dissolved its administrative committee in the Gaza strip, invited the government of national reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections, as per the 2011 Cairo Agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which aimed to unify the Palestinian disputed parties. Hamas’ movement came following indirect inter-Palestinian talks, brokered by Egypt.

The committee, presided over by Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, stated that Hamas has good faith in fulfilling the Cairo agreement, inviting the new reconciliation government to head to the Gaza strip to take on its duties.

The committee’s comments came in a meeting held on Saturday to discuss the outcomes of President Mahmoud Abbas’ participation in the 72nd round of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. The meeting tackled the possible ways of reviving the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis, which was called for by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

On the sidelines of the UNGA meetings at his residency, Sisi held two separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the sidelines in New York, to discuss ways of resuming the peace process talks that had been halted since 2014.
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9/24/2017 5:22:37 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt rejects Kurdistan referendum on independence: Amb]]>
During the meeting, the two parties discussed the future of Iraqi-Egyptian relations and means of enhancing them.

Maliki renewed his rejection of the referendum in Kurdistan and the internationalization of the issue. He stated that what is happening now in Iraq is a conspiracy following the footsteps of southern Sudan's events.

Maliki also warned of future steps that would threaten other Arab countries, calling on all to unite in joint efforts in order to restore security and stability in Iraq and in the whole region.

Earlier, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed in a statement on Thursday its concern over the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum that is going to take place on September 25.

Long-term consequences of holding the Kurdish referendum, impacting the security of Iraq and the Middle East, should be considered, the statement reads.

Egypt is keen on Iraq’s unity and stability. Much discussion should take place between Kurdistan and the federal government of Iraq, concerning controversial issues, in order to seek mediation that would maintain the unity of Iraq, the statement reads.

A referendum for Kurdish independence is to be held in Kurdish areas. Iraq, the U.S., Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have previously warned against holding the referendum on September 25.

On Tuesday, President of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, gave Baghdad two to three days to reach a bilateral agreement, the result of which may postpone the referendum, according to Rudaw. ]]>
9/24/2017 5:18:58 PM
<![CDATA[We will not recognize results of the Kurdistan referendum:al-Abbadi]]>
He added, "We will not abandon the Kurdish citizens, Iraq will remain for all Iraqis and the referendum is against the constitution."
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9/24/2017 5:07:46 PM
<![CDATA[Germany calls May's Brexit speech "disappointing"]]>
"I found the speech disappointing," Gabriel told reporters in the northern German city of Woelfenbuettel.

"We heard nothing concrete. It is time for the government of Great Britain to clearly state under what conditions it wants to leave the European Union."

May set out a plan on Friday to retain full access to the EU's single market for two years after Brexit to try to reassure business and reset the tone of stalled negotiations with Brussels.]]>
9/24/2017 4:52:21 PM
<![CDATA[Military maneuvers 24 hrs before Kurdistan referendum Monday]]>
Kurdistan’s Regional Government (KRG) will hold a referendum on the independence of Kurdistan due on September 25 in Erbil, Kirkuk and other Kurdish districts in Iraq.

Iran has cancelled all flights from and to Kurdistan upon a request from Baghdad’s government led by Haidar al-Abadi, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

“The referendum will take place at its scheduled time early Monday morning,” KRG Minister of Foreign Affairs Falah Mustafa told Egypt Today on Sunday.

Mustafa will arrive at Erbil on Sunday evening coming from New York where he attended the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Independent High Election and Referendum Commission has invited all media outlets to attend a well-organized press conference in Erbil on Sunday at 4 p.m. (Iraq local time) in order to announce the latest preparations for the referendum and voting system.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit urged the President of the KRG Massoud Barzani to postpone the independence referendum slated for September 25, but Barzani stressed in a mass conference on Friday that “postponement of the referendum is not an option at the moment as it is in the hands of the voters, not in the hands of the parties or government anymore.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his counterparts who met in New York, called on the KRG not to move forward with the scheduled September 25 referendum and embrace a process of genuine dialogue with Baghdad, stressing the integrity of Iraq and stability of Syria.
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9/24/2017 4:14:33 PM
<![CDATA[Germans warned against apathy as Merkel heads for fourth term]]>
After shock election results last year, from Britain's vote to leave the European Union to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, many look to Merkel to rally a bruised liberal Western order, tasking her with leading a post-Brexit Europe.

Writing in the mass-market Bild am Sonntag newspaper, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Germans against letting others decide the future of their country by failing to vote.

"It has perhaps never been as clear that the elections are about the future of democracy and Europe," he wrote, amid polls showing that as many as a third of Germans were undecided.

"If you don't vote, others decide."

In Germany's proportional election system, low turn-out can boost smaller parties, such as the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), giving them more seats from the same number of votes.

In regional elections last year, Merkel's conservatives suffered setbacks to the AfD, which profited from resentment at her 2015 decision to open German borders to more than one million migrants.

Those setbacks made Merkel, a pastor's daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wonder if she should even run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she has bounced back and thrown herself into a punishing campaign schedule, presenting herself as an anchor of stability in an uncertain world.

Visibly happier, Merkel campaigned with renewed conviction: a resolve to re-tool the economy for the digital age, to head off future migrant crises, and to defend a Western order shaken by Trump's victory last November.

"GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY"

Both Merkel and her main challenger, Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz worry that a low turnout could work in favour of smaller parties, especially the AfD, which is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time.

Schulz, who on Friday described the AfD as "gravediggers of democracy", told reporters after voting that he was still optimistic that his party, a distant second according to polls, would pick up the votes of those undecided.

An INSA poll published by Bild newspaper on Saturday suggested that support was slipping for Merkel's conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent. The two parties now govern Germany in an unwieldy "grand coalition".

The anti-immigrant AfD, whose leaders have called for Germany's World War Two army to be honoured, rose two points to 13 percent in the latest poll, putting it on course to be the third-largest party.

"I hope that our democracy can deal with a party that has said, in my view, intolerable things in the media," said Kathrin Zimmermann, voting in Berlin. "I hope the right-wing pressure doesn't get too strong."

Should she win a fourth term, Merkel will join Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany's rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

The AfD's expected entry into the national parliament could signal a break from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

Coalition-building after the election could be very lengthy as potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with Merkel. All major parties refuse to work with the AfD.

Electoral arithmetic might push Merkel to renew her grand coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.

Voting opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and will continue until 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), when exit polls will give a first indication of the outcome.]]>
9/24/2017 4:13:00 PM
<![CDATA[Iran halts flights to Iraqi Kurdistan at request of Baghdad]]>
The agency quoted Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran's top security body, as adding that Iran was also closing its airspace to flights originating in Iraqi Kurdistan
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9/24/2017 3:16:28 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 1 day]]>
Ali Allaq from the National Alliance said at a press conference that Erbil still has time to cancel the vote “before it is too late,” and to respect the Iraqi constitution and the ruling from the Iraqi Supreme Court which suspended the vote.

If the vote is held, there will be “big consequences” from Iraq and other countries, Alllaq said.

The independence referendum is scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, September 25.

However, the Kurdish leadership has continually reiterated its position, insisting that the referendum will be held since no alternative has been offered which meets Kurdish demands for independence.

“Their view was dialogue before the referendum and our view was dialogue before and after the referendum,” Rozh Nuri Shaweys, the head of the Kurdistan delegation, said at a press conference. However, "The Kurdish leadership hopes to maintain good relations with Baghdad."

Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani met with French Ambassador to Iraq Bruno Aubert on Saturday evening, saying that time has run out for talks over calling off the independence referendum, and that it will take place on September 25.

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Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani (C) attends a rally in support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Zakho, Iraq September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal


"France in principle is not against the referendum," Aubert stated
Chancellor of Kurdistan Region Security Council, Masrour Barzani, met with British Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon Nadhim Zahawi on Saturday, and reiterated that the people of Kurdistan Region are holding a referendum on statehood to exercise their democratic rights.

Barzani also stressed the importance of the post-referendum negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad in the desire to move forward towards “becoming two friendly neighbors.”

A rift has emerged between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) over holding the referendum in Kirkuk, the disputed territory which both Erbil and Baghdad claim authority over.

In a press conference Mala Mahmoud, a PUK deputy leader in Kirkuk, stated that the PUK is against the referendum in the province.

It is claimed that many PUK members are hoping to capitalize on the instability and move into roles of greater authority. With the Iraqi Parliament unconstitutionally voting to dismiss Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim on September 12, a faction within the PUK are eyeing up his position.

A source told BasNews that the PUK officials, which eye Karim’s position, are Rizgar Ali, Khalid Shwani, Raf’at Abdullah and Alla Talabani.

In other news:
In an act of further aggression, on Saturday evening the Turkish parliament approved extending a mandate authorizing the deployment of troops in Syria and Iraq. Turkey believes the referendum will be a threat to its own security, and the presence of troops and military exercise is believed to be a show of force in the face of Kurdish acts of self-determination.

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Turkey has 250 soldiers stationed in northern Iraq (AFP)

“Those risks that threaten our security are still active and there is a need for the authorizations demanded with this mandate,” said Turkey’s Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The U.S. embassy in Iraq has cautioned its citizens that there may be unrest during the referendum.

“In particular, U.S. citizens should avoid travel into and within territories disputed between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the Government of Iraq,” the travel warning said.

“U.S. citizens should maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance their personal security at all times when living and working in Iraq,” the statement continued.]]>
9/24/2017 2:14:19 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s first freedom of information law to come to light ]]>
The head of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council Makram Mohamed Ahmed confirmed that the Council issued the final draft of the freedom of information law to be fully amended at the beginning of October and presented before parliament.

The draft law that the parliament is considering was originally written under Article 68 of the new Egyptian constitution and based on the First Information Law issued by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946.

Constitutional Article 68 dictates that ”information, data, statistics, and official documents are the property of the People and the disclosure thereof from their various sources is a right guaranteed by the State for all citizens. The State is committed to provide and make them available to citizens in a transparent manner. The law shall also impose penalties for withholding information or deliberately providing wrong information.”

Supreme Council Deputy for Media Regulation Abdul Fattah al-Jabaly, told Egypt Today that, under the penalties clause in the draft law, a penalty will be imposed on the employee who refrains from giving information to citizens and will be subject to a fine ranging from LE 5,000 to LE 20,000 and even imprisonment in the case of preventing information in the commission of a crime.

This law guarantees the right of anyone to receive information in a simplified way and, in case of obtaining statistics or data, it will be for free. However, in the case of economic reports or files, the cost will be determined by the competent authority, Al-Jabaly added.

The draft law states that, "with the exception of applications that entail saving lives or related to patients, preventing crime or preventing innocent detention, the request of information must be met within 48 hours.”

Mumtaz Desoky, a member of the Legislative Committee of the parliament, stated that the existence of a strong information law allowing free circulation of information from its sources will eliminate rumors, and miss the opportunity for electronic militias that have committed to spreading lies and deception.

Answering to the concerns that many articles will be deleted from the draft law under the pretext of maintaining national security, Desoky asserts that the real challenge before the parliament is to pass a law that effectively guarantees the free circulation of information to citizens be applied on the ground and at the same time ensuring the maintenance of national security.

Dr. Hoda Zakaria, a professor of political sociology and chairperson of the committee responsible for drafting the law, said in a phone interview with DMC channel that the committee recalled the experiences of 80 countries in the formation of the law.
“The Freedom of Information Law aims for justice, order, and freedom, as the Freedom of Information Act is a basic human right,” Zakaria added.]]>
9/24/2017 1:21:11 PM
<![CDATA[Brexit transition period should last as long as needed]]>
"You have to stay in a transitional period as long as necessary ... I think it's impossible for anyone to put an actual figure on that," Corbyn told the BBC. He said he did not envisage a period lasting as long as 10 years.

Last week Prime Minister Theresa May set out plans for a roughly two-year transition period.

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9/24/2017 1:04:30 PM
<![CDATA[In southern Spain, concern and rejection of Catalan referendum]]>
Andalusia is hundreds of kilometres away from the northeastern region, whose separatist executive is preparing to hold the referendum on October 1 that Madrid has banned and wants to stop at all costs, but they are close both on a human and economic level.

Spaniards in the poorer Andalusia migrated massively to Catalonia in the 1950s, 60s and 70s in search of a better life.

There are now close to 600,000 Andalusians in Catalonia.

- 'Talk of the town' -

The current crisis "is the talk of the town in cafes, at work," says Juan Antonio Palmero, director of a bank branch in Archidona, a village in Andalusia of whitewashed houses and vast olive groves.

And the economic consequences of Catalonia splitting from Spain is a chief concern.

"It wouldn't be beneficial at all, for business in general," says Leocadio Corbacho, a 71-year-old who sells 25 percent of his prized possession -- jamon (Spanish dry-cured ham) -- in Catalonia.

"Here there's a lot of feelings of rejection" of the independence drive, agrees Jesus Catena, a furniture maker in Lucena, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Archidona.

Andalusia is Spain's most populated region, with 8.3 million inhabitants in 2016, around 800,000 more than Catalonia.

It depends on tourism and agriculture, but has the second lowest income per capita among the 17 Spanish regions, while Catalonia is in fourth position.

One of the arguments used by Catalan separatists is that their region pays more in taxes than it receives in investments and transfers from Madrid -- or simply put that "Spain robs us."

Andalusians, whose poorer region has received more than it pays in taxes and has also benefited from European aid, aren't happy about this argument.

"If you take this to the max, then Germany would say it needs to leave the EU, and in Catalonia, Barcelona could say it pays more," says businessman Jose Miguel Trujillo.

Jean-Baptiste Harguindeguy of the Pablo de Olavide University in southern Seville says this argument has generated "much frustration" in Andalusia.

"It's the region that most needs Catalan money," he explains.

- 'Don't know what they want' -

On the streets, feelings about the Catalan bid to hold a referendum vary from indifference, contempt to defiance... and even derision.

In a bar in Antequera in the centre of Andalusia, a group of friends make fun of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont's mop of hair.

And in Iznajar some 50 kilometres away, retiree Diego Ortiz defiantly tells Catalans to vote "whatever they want."

"And when they find themselves without a job, then they should find a life. These kids don't know what they want."

Jimenez, another retiree sitting on a bench at the entrance of a medical centre, believes this is all about "minor politicians who want to be the masters" of Catalonia.

Mayors too have a say in the matter, given they know some of their Catalan counterparts well.

"Ties at an institutional and personal level are very good," says Lope Ruiz, mayor of Iznajar.

But he recognises there is a problem with the perception of Catalans by Andalusians and vice-versa.

"We Andalusians are lazy, party-loving and we don't work, the Catalans are stingy and closed... and I think it's not true," he says.

"In both places we are people who get up at seven in the morning, who go to work and want our towns and families to develop and get wealthy."

He points out that Jose Montilla, Catalan president from 2006 to 2010, was born in 1955 near Iznajar.

"If someone who was born in one of the most remote hamlets of this municipality rose to become president of Catalonia, then we're not so different."]]>
9/24/2017 12:08:41 PM
<![CDATA[Fighter jets, drones on table as Mattis visits key ally India]]>
Mattis is scheduled to arrive late Monday and is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new defence minister, in the first visit by a top US official since Donald Trump became president in January.

"The United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia," a Pentagon statement said.

Trump and Modi met in June in Washington and the visit by Mattis is a sign "the political leadership in both countries place defence cooperation as a top priority", Mukesh Aghi, president of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum, told AFP.

Delhi and Washington share concerns about Afghanistan, with Trump announcing a new strategy for the war-torn country last month which cleared the way for the deployment of thousands more US troops.

The president has urged India to increase assistance to Afghanistan's economy, and has lambasted Delhi's arch-rival Pakistan for offering safe haven to "agents of chaos".

Mattis "will express US appreciation for India's important contributions toward Afghanistan's democracy, stability, prosperity, and security", the Pentagon said.

Experts are not expecting any Indian boots on the ground, though there may be some role for Indian military expertise in supporting the US-led training and advisory mission with Afghan security forces.

India has long vied with Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan, building dams, roads and a new parliament in the troubled country. Last year it offered some $1 billion in aid.

Delhi frequently accuses Islamabad of stirring up violence in Afghanistan and harbouring militant groups.

- Arms sales -

In 2016 the United States designated India a "Major Defence Partner" with the aim of increasing military cooperation and cutting red tape to ease defence deals.

Mattis's predecessor Ashton Carter pushed hard for stronger defence ties and the Trump administration has not signalled any intention of changing course on this.

Trump has praised India for contributing to regional peace and stability and for buying US military equipment.

Mattis is likely to seek to persuade India to buy Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70 aircraft in a deal potentially worth $15 billion.

Lockheed Martin has offered the most upgraded version of the jet fighter to India, the world's largest weapons importer.

The US manufacturer is competing with Swedish defence giant Saab, whose Gripen E made its maiden flight in June.

India has said it needs at least 100 single-engine fighters to counter the growing air threat posed by China and Pakistan.

Saab and Lockheed have both offered to build the jets locally to comply with Modi's "Make-in-India" initiative, which aims to cut imports and build a domestic defence industry.

US giant Boeing has also offered to set up a plant in India for production of its F/A 18 Super Hornet aircraft if it wins a deal.

A drone deal for the Indian Navy will also likely be up for discussion, a source familiar with the negotiations told AFP.

"Since Chinese assets have started to dominate the Indian Ocean region, the Trump administration is keen on fast-tracking the acquisition of the drones," the source said.

Many commentators have said that US-India cooperation is crucial to countering an increasingly assertive China, which has been developing its military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific.

But Afghanistan will be front and centre when Mattis meets Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who will host her highest-level foreign delegation since being appointed earlier this month.

The visit comes as the Indian army takes part in a two-week joint military training exercise in the United States to forge closer ties on counter-insurgency, regional security operations and peacekeeping.]]>
9/24/2017 11:58:18 AM
<![CDATA[Trump criticises nuclear deal after Iran's missile test]]>
Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Friday displayed its latest ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel and much of the Middle East. The U.S. opposes Iran's ballistic missile program and Trump signed a bill last month imposing penalties on those involved with it.

Video of the test firing of a Khoramshahr medium-range ballistic missile aired Friday on Iran's state TV. The time or location of the test was not mentioned in the report.

Trump tweeted Saturday about the public unveiling of the missile: "Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!"

The nuclear agreement reached during the Obama administration doesn't strictly prohibit Iran from developing missiles.

Trump has suggested he might seek to renegotiate the nuclear deal or abandon it. He told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the accord was "nothing short of an embarrassment" and the "worst one-sided deal perhaps in American history."

Officials have said Trump might use the Oct. 15 deadline for certifying to Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal to either declare Iran in violation or determine that the agreement is no longer in the national security interest of the U.S.

The tweet was one of several issued by Trump on Saturday covering a range of topics: athletes protesting at football games, Sen. John McCain's decision not to support the GOP health care bill, NBA star Stephen Curry and an event at the White House, Trump's support of Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama's GOP Senate runoff, and his pride in first lady Melania Trump representing the U.S. in Toronto.]]>
9/24/2017 11:56:40 AM
<![CDATA[Germany votes as history beckons for Merkel, and far-right]]>
Merkel's conservative bloc is on track to remain the largest group in parliament, opinion polls indicated, but a fracturing of the political landscape may well make it harder for her to form a ruling coalition than previously.

With as many as a third of Germans undecided in the run-up to the election, Merkel and her main rival, centre-left challenger Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD), urged them on Saturday to get out and vote.

"We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people," the chancellor, 63, said in Berlin on Saturday before heading north to her constituency for a final round of campaigning.

In regional votes last year, Merkel's conservatives suffered setbacks to the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which profited from resentment at her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over one million migrants.

Those setbacks made Merkel, a pastor's daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wonder if she should even run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she has bounced back and thrown herself into a punishing campaign schedule, presenting herself as an anchor of stability in an uncertain world.

Visibly happier, Merkel campaigned with renewed conviction: a resolve to re-tool the economy for the digital age, to head off future migrant crises, and to defend a Western order shaken by Donald Trump's U.S. election victory last November.

"GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY"

Both Merkel and Schulz worry that a low turnout could work in favour of smaller parties, especially the AfD, which is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time. On Friday, Schulz described the AfD as "gravediggers of democracy".

An INSA poll published by Bild newspaper on Saturday suggested that support was slipping for Merkel's conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent - both now joined in an unwieldy "grand coalition".

The anti-immigrant AfD rose two points to 13 percent, putting it on course to be the third-largest party.

Should she win a fourth term, Merkel will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany's rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

The AfD's expected entry into the national parliament is likely to herald an era of more robust debate in German politics -- a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

Coalition building after the election will be an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with Merkel. All major parties refuse to work with the AfD.

Electoral arithmetic might push Merkel to renew her grand coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.

Voting opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and will continue until 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), when exit polls will give a first indication of the outcome.]]>
9/24/2017 10:25:09 AM
<![CDATA[Germany votes as history beckons for Merkel]]>
Merkel's conservative bloc is on track to remain the largest group in parliament, opinion polls showed before the vote, but a fracturing of the political landscape may well make it harder for her to form a ruling coalition than previously.

With as many as a third of Germans undecided in the run-up to the election, Merkel and her main rival, centre-left challenger Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD), urged them on Saturday to get out and vote.

"We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people," the chancellor, 63, said in Berlin before heading north to her constituency for a final round of campaigning.

In regional votes last year, Merkel's conservatives suffered setbacks to the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which profited from resentment at her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over one million migrants.

Those setbacks made Merkel, a pastor's daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wonder if she should even run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she has bounced back and thrown herself into a punishing campaign schedule, presenting herself as an anchor of stability in an uncertain world.

Visibly happier, Merkel campaigned with renewed conviction: a resolve to re-tool the economy for the digital age, to head off future migrant crises, and to defend a Western order shaken by Donald Trump's U.S. election victory last November.

"GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY"

Both Merkel and Schulz worry that a low turnout could work in favour of smaller parties, especially the AfD, which is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time. On Friday, Schulz described the AfD as "gravediggers of democracy."

An INSA poll published by Bild newspaper on Saturday showed sliding support for Merkel's conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent - both now joined in an unwieldy "grand coalition".

The anti-immigrant AfD, rose two points to 13 percent - a result the poll showed would make it the third largest party.

Should she win a fourth term, Merkel will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany's rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

The AfD's expected entry into the national parliament will herald the beginning of a new era in German politics that will see more robust debate and a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

Coalition building after the election will be an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with Merkel. All major parties refuse to work with the AfD.

Electoral arithmetic might push Merkel to renew her grand coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.]]>
9/24/2017 7:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Macron's popularity improving - poll]]>
The poll, conducted by Ifop for newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), showed Macron’s "dissatisfaction rating" declining to 53 percent in September, from 57 percent in August.

Some 45 percent expressed satisfaction with the centrist leader - up from 40 percent in August.

The poll of 1,989 people was carried out on Sept. 15-23.

Macron's approval ratings have dropped sharply in opinion polls since his election in May, dragged down by labour reforms and planned budget cuts, including a decrease in housing aid for students.

The new poll comes as French far-left opposition party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon drew tens of thousands to a rally on Saturday against Macron's labour reforms, aiming to reinforce his credentials as Macron's strongest political opponent.]]>
9/24/2017 6:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump pressures U.S. senators to back Republican healthcare bill]]>
According to a new independent analysis, the bill awaiting a Senate vote could lead to 21 million fewer Americans having health insurance.

McCain, an Arizona Republican who is being treated for brain cancer and cast a crucial "no" vote to defeat a similar bill in July, said on Friday that he could not "in good conscience" vote for the proposal authored by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham.

"He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!" Trump wrote about McCain on Twitter early Saturday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will schedule a vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill by Sept. 30, the last day when it could pass in the chamber with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 typically required.

The bill would take federal money spent on the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, as well as subsidies to help individuals buy private insurance, and deliver it to the states in block grants.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which analyzes legislation, has not had time to assess the Graham-Cassidy bill before the expected vote. McCain, a close friend of Graham, said he could not support it without knowing how much it would cost, its effect on insurance premiums, and how many people would be affected.

But the Brookings Institution said on Friday that the Graham-Cassidy bill could leave at least 21 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2020 to 2026. The Washington think tank has generally been supportive of Obamacare, which is formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

The coverage estimate "likely understates" reductions in insured Americans because it is not clear how states would use the money or if they would face obstacles in setting up new programs, according to Brookings researchers.

"What is clear, however, is that the legislation would result in very large reductions in insurance coverage," they wrote.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told Fox News Channel's 'America's News HQ' on Saturday that that he is "providing technical assistance and information" to senators working on the bill.

Price said that the bill was "not dead" despite McCain's announcement and wavering support from several other Republican senators.

"The reason it's not dead is because it's not finished. The bill hasn’t been completed. We continue to work with the authors on it through this weekend," Price said.

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday will hold a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill. Cassidy, a physician, is expected to testify.

CBO estimates of previous Republican proposals showed they could lead to more than 20 million fewer insured Americans. This complicated passage in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats and Democrats are unanimously opposed to repeal-and-replace measures.

Republicans need at least 50 votes to pass the bill, relying on Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has said she was leaning against the Graham-Cassidy bill, as has Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski are undecided.

After blasting McCain, Trump on Saturday singled out Paul and Murkowski.

"I know Rand Paul and I think he may find a way to get there for the good of the Party!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Regarding Murkowski, he tweeted that in Alaska: "Deductibles high, people angry!"

The insurance industry, hospitals, consumer activists, the AARP advocacy group and organizations such as the American Medical Association, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society all oppose the bill.

Shares of some health insurers closed higher on Friday after McCain announced his opposition. Centene Corp ended up 1.6 percent, while Humana Inc gained 0.2 percent and Aetna Inc rose 0.1 percent, reversing earlier losses. ]]>
9/24/2017 5:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Rohingya refugee crisis is the worst in decades]]>
More than 420,000 terrified Rohingyas have crossed the border into Bangladesh. The UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has proclaimed the exodus “unprecedented in terms of volume and speed”, and Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN’s human-rights chief, called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

On August 25 a group of militant Rohingya Muslims attacked police bases in northern Myanmar. The army retaliated with untrammeled fury, burning villages, killing civilians and raping women.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the government and a winner of the Nobel peace prize, has repeatedly failed to condemn the attacks.

Speaking on September 19, she again avoided mentioning the Rohingyas by name, and flatly claimed that no violence or village clearances had occurred since September 5th.

Amnesty International, a human-rights group, branded the speech “a mix of untruths and victim-blaming”.

In 1982 the military government excluded the Rohingyas from a list of more than 130 officially recognized ethnic groups in the country, dismissing them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. That rendered them, in effect, stateless, and their mistreatment intensified.

In 1991-92, around 600,000 Rohingyas fled across the border to escape violent persecution by the army. On average, 120,000 people have crossed the border per week, although the rate has recently started to slow.

This suggests that the current refugee flow from Myanmar is swifter even than the exodus from Rwanda in 1994. Some 2.3 mln people fled the country, more than a third of the population.

The refugee crisis in Syria is the worst of the past decade. Some 5.5 mln people have left the country. But averaging yearly flows, about 33,000 people left the country every week in 2013, the worst year.

Nearly half have gone to Bangladesh, which already hosted around 400,000 Rohingyas from previous outflows. A further 700,000 live in other countries in Asia and the Middle East.]]>
9/24/2017 5:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt elected to chair Group of 77 at UN]]>
The G77 is a coalition of developing nations at the UN that promotes its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the UN. The group was formed in 1964 featuring 77 developing countries in the UN. Even though its membership has grown to 134, it has kept its original name.

Egypt chaired the group in 1972-1973 and 1984-1985 sessions.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry delivered a speech before the meeting in which he praised Ecuador's role and efforts during its 2017 presidency, expressing his thanks to the member states of the group for their confidence.

After the election process, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the meeting, and highly commended the G-77 for its role in promoting multilateralism and advancing sustainable development.

"I commend your example of collective leadership that works together to promote fair multilateralism and advance sustainable development for all," Guterres said at the body's annual meeting.

The meeting was attended by a number of ministers of the group, who expressed their confidence in Egypt’s capability to assume the leadership of the group.

As chair of the Group of 77, Egypt will lead on economic issues, international trade negotiations, climate change, poverty, the international food shortage, and other issues of common interest among the developing countries.
]]>
9/24/2017 3:23:15 AM
<![CDATA[Palestine's Abbas says Hamas met reconciliation conditions]]>
Addressing a meeting of Fatah Central Committee, Abbas said such developments need extensive discussions of the Palestinian leadership. ]]>
9/24/2017 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Bahrain FM slams Qatar for its support of terrorism]]>
The minister’s speech before the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) focused on his country’s efforts to counter extremism and terrorism in the region, particularly in the Gulf area.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain exhausted all available means to halt Qatar's policies that … provided financial support and a safe haven to terrorists and fugitives, and disseminated a discourse of hate and extremism via its media and institutions supporting it,” Al-Khalifa said.

He accused Qatar of supporting systematic terrorist acts that cost Bahrain the lives of many innocent civilians and security personnel, with a view to overthrow the government system with the help of associated parties.

The Gulf has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in the years after Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.

The Arab quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the Qatari peninsula. The Arab quartet issued 13 demands to Doha – then shortened to six principles – including closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting a Turkish military base.


“If Qatar is serious, by acting and not only through words, to engage in a dialogue and reclaim its place among us, it must respond positively and commit itself in all transparency to our just demands, based on the principles enshrined in the declaration issued by the meeting of the four countries in Cairo on 5 July 2017,” Al-Khalifa stressed.
]]>
9/24/2017 2:04:20 AM
<![CDATA[Why a terrorist group mourns ex Muslim brotherhood chairman?]]>
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group issued three press releases mourning the group’s former supreme guide, Mahdi Akef, who died at al-Qasr al-Aini Hospital on Friday.

“If this world is fair, Akef should be equal to Mandela and Guevara,” according to a statement issued by terrorist group Hasm, which has claimed responsibility for many terrorist attacks in Egypt lately.

Hasm was not the only terrorist group that mourned Akef, but the Hamas movement did as well, releasing a press statement mourning the late leader of the Brotherhood.

The Hamas statement described Akef as one of the “pioneers who defended the Palestinian case.”

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s former supreme guide, Mahdi Akef died on Friday at the age of 89 following the deterioration of his health.

Akef served as the Brotherhood’s supreme guide from January 2004 to January 2010. He had been serving a prison sentence prior to being transferred to the hospital in January this year upon his lawyer’s request.

In 2015, he was sentenced to life in prison along with several other Muslim Brotherhood figures.

He had been arrested one day after the 2013 ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, and he was charged with inciting violence outside the Brotherhood group’s headquarters in the Mokattam district of southern Cairo.
]]>
9/23/2017 6:02:23 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela slams Canada sanctions:Ottawa submitting to Trump]]>
Canada’s move, which followed a similar decision by the United States, came after months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government. At least 125 people were killed in the demonstrations.

Critics say Maduro has plunged the nation into its worst economic crisis ever and brought it to the brink of dictatorship. Maduro says he was facing a U.S.-backed “armed insurrection” seeking to foment a coup.

Canada’s measures include freezing the assets of the officials and banning Canadians from having any dealings with them.

Caracas late on Friday night decried the sanctions as a sign of external meddling and an attempt to churn up turmoil in Venezuela.

“Canada’s government established ... an immoral association of subordination with the government of President Donald Trump with the clear aim of overthrowing Venezuela’s constitutional government using economic sanctions as political weapons,” the government said in a statement.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order that prohibits dealings in new debt from the Venezuelan government or its state oil company in an effort to halt financing that the White House said fuels Maduro’s “dictatorship.”

The Trump administration also sanctioned Maduro in July.]]>
9/23/2017 5:58:46 PM
<![CDATA[Draft law to amend Demolition of Non-Dilapidated Buildings laws]]>.

The bill will be sent to the Council of Ministers within days for discussion and approval, and then sent to Parliament, Madbouli said.

Engineer Nafisa Hashim, advisor to the Minister of Housing, noted that the most important amendments include the classification of heritage buildings in three levels (level A - level B - level C), which aims to develop mechanisms, methods and priorities to deal with heritage buildings, as well as maintenance, restoration, re-employment and use.

It also includes the establishment of a special fund to finance the maintenance and restoration work for the heritage buildings, whose inventory is approved in accordance with the provisions of this law and the determination of its financial resources.

Nafisa stated that the amendments also include giving the judicial seizure of employees of some departments of the Ministry of Housing against attempts to deliberately damage heritage buildings. The punishment for offenders will be intensified to be more deterrent and decisive.
]]>
9/23/2017 4:36:29 PM
<![CDATA[Bahraini FM: still no common ground with Qatar]]>
"We have not reached a common ground with Qatar to resolve the crisis," he said during the interview.

Ahmed al-Khalifa pointed out that the Qatari Emir’s speech in the United Nations General Assembly “did not come up with anything new, and therefore it does not serve the solution,” stressing that “all indicators do not suggest that there is a desire from Doha to resolve the crisis.”

The Bahraini foreign minister described the U.S. position as "clear”, noting that they want to reach a solution in order to ensure the stability of the Gulf region and the Arab region in general.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have turned on Qatar, shutting down of all ports of entry over accusations of the country’s support and sponsorship of terrorism – allegations Doha denies.

Since then, Qatar has resisted reconciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from terrorist groups that were proven to be harbored and financially supported by Doha.

]]>
9/23/2017 3:44:01 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian ambassador slams Germany’s claims in UNCHR session ]]>
Germany’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Christoph Heusgen, accused Egyptian authorities of imposing restrictions over the work of civil society, blacklisting certain citizens, and conducting systematic torture.

Egypt responded to the allegations on Tuesday and Wednesday during the general debate on ITEM 4 under the title Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

Ramadan clarified that such allegations are based upon false reports made by organizations to coordinate the reports in parallel with the UNCHR’s sessions. He explained that the Constitution prohibits such crimes which are not subject to statute of limitations in law, and that any perpetrators in individual cases get penalized while victims get compensated.

Regarding the disappearances claims, Ramadan affirmed that Egyptian authorities are responding promptly and objectively to the council’s delegation entitled to investigating such cases; the majority of whom are being prosecuted.
Ramadan questioned the purpose of such allegations and if they are “an attempt to impose control and influence over countries restoring past glories, or a resort to appease certain internal powers through the UNHCR.”

On the other hand, Ramadan expressed Egypt’s concern over ascending increase in racist practices, hatred towards foreigners, and incitement to commit such acts in Germany, in addition to violence against migrants and refugees without conducting investigations to penalize offenders.

In addition, Ramadan criticized setting laws restricting freedom of expression in Germany which disregards human rights violations assumed by its companies abroad.

Egypt’s representative to the United Nations replied to the claims raised by the delegations of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway over the obstruction of civil society in Egypt, as there are 42,000 NGOs as well as 120 foreign NGOs operating in Egypt, which do not encounter any restrictions on foreign funding as long as they are abiding by law.

Ramadan denied criticism over the newly promulgated NGOs Law which was articulated following a social dialogue with civil society representatives. The new law abolished the requirement of receiving a permit to establish an NGO so as founders have just to inform authorities aligning with Article 75 of the constitution.

Ramadan added that the law regulated funding in accordance with international practices, asserting that there are no states allows an unrestricted flow of funds and individuals. He added that different states set regulations for the civil society, and penalize those who breach the law.

“However, those states demanded, during the council’s sessions, that other countries turn a blind eye to such breaches as if they are encouraging and not abiding by national laws,” Ramadan said.

France had also urged Egypt to strengthening respect for human rights while countering terrorism. The same advocacy was made by Estonia on behalf of the European Union calling for the Egyptian government to improve the status of civil and political rights in the country.

Ramadan replied that the Egyptian state is working on that, in addition to improving the status of economic, social rights, and putting into effect the articles of the constitution.
]]>
9/23/2017 3:42:18 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Interview with Kurdistan Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa ]]>
Speaking two days before the referendum from Erbil, the KRG foreign minister spoke to Egypt Today via email, answering controversial questions arising over the referendum scheduled on September 25, following a speech given by Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzanion Friday, stressing the referendum will be held on time on Monday despite international pressures to postpone it.

Arab League secretary general Ahmed Abul Gheit urged the President of the KRG Massoud Barzani to postpone an independence referendum slated for September 25.

Shoukry and his counterparts called on the KRG not to move forward with the scheduled September 25 referendum and embrace a process of genuine dialogue with Baghdad, stressing the integrity of Iraq and stability of Syria.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir was appointed as the first head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations in September 2006, tasked with administering KRG foreign policy and bolstering the region’s relations with the international community for the government’s fifth cabinet.

What is the significance of the referendum at the current stage; especially if it is approved?

The referendum is an important step to secure a better future for the people of the Kurdistan region. We have tried all the other possible ways and means to live together and coexist in the country of Iraq, but unfortunately we have failed. We have tested decentralization, autonomy, and federalization, but because we did not have partners who had the same view and understanding of power sharing and wealth sharing, the country did not go the right way. Therefore, problems and differences have remained. In order to live in peace, you need a democratic environment; in order to have a democratic environment, you need democratic practice and democratic culture.

How will you persuade Kurdistan’s powerful neighbors like Turkey and Iran to lend support to Kurdistan?

We have always wanted good neighborly relations based on mutual respect, understanding, and benefit. We are for building bridges and we can assure them that the future independent Kurdistan would be a partner and ally, and that this step will not go against the interests of these nations.

We want our neighbors and the whole world to understand that we have always stood for peace. The relations between Baghdad and Erbil have not nearly been in the best interest of either side, and therefore we cannot continue to insist on failure. We believe that our neighbors, friends and partners should not persist on a failed one-Iraq-policy. In order to prevent future confrontations, we need to address this issue now to preserve and promote stability and security.

After the independence of Kurdistan, what relations will you pursue with Baghdad?

Since we have failed to be two good partners in what was supposed to be a federal system in Iraq, we need to seek another arrangement. It will not be the end of the world when we decide that we cannot live together under one ceiling. Looking back at history, there are other nations that have accepted to be separate peacefully, through dialogue, and now they enjoy very good relations. Therefore, we believe that we need to communicate with Baghdad.We need to ensure that they understand our ambitions and plans, and that we do not want conflict, but rather open a new chapter for our relations, where we can make room for friendship and partnership. We believe that we can become better partners as two sovereign states.

It’s a fact of life that the Middle East region in the last hundred years has not seen stability and prosperity because of the wrong doings of the past, denial of identity, and lack of social justice. Today, there is an opportunity for us to be courageous and to admit that we have failed in bringing about a genuine partnership.Therefore, engaging in a serious process of negotiations and communication with Baghdad is very important, so that we communicate and prevent provocation. We want Baghdad to be our partners in addressing this issue so we can do it in such a way that we secure a long-term strong partnership with Baghdad.

How will the constitution of Kurdistan be drafted? Will common people have a say?

The draftconstitution we have for our region now is customized to a region and not an independent state.It was prepared by a committee, then it went through the parliament, and then it was supposed to be approved by the people through a referendum. We will make sure that the people of Kurdistan have a say in their future constitution of Kurdistan. The new constitution will protect the rights of all the communities living in Kurdistan, protect the rule of law, and protect democratic values.

Will all Kurdish parties accept the outcome of this referendum?

The referendum is a democratic process that is practice for self determination. All parties are obliged to respect the will of the people. There will be people who vote yes and there will be people voting no; both are acceptable in a democracy, and the majority vote needs to be respected by all components of government. Examples of recent a referendum has been the Brexit one, which resulted in a very narrow margin between the yes and no votes.

What is the new state’s political system (ex: presidential or parliamentary) and ideology (ex: religious or secular)?

The decision about the future governance structure of Kurdistan will be decided during our planning period after the referendum. The political parties, with the rest of the communities here, will work together in the establishment of a new form of governance. Most importantly, as a nation that strongly believes in democratic principles and adopts them as our core values, we will make sure that our government is a democratic and representative one. We will make sure to stand for an inclusive society adhering to rights of all of the communities in Kurdistan. Religious, cultural and educational rights of the different communities in Kurdistan will be respected. Learning from our past experiences, we want to build a society where all of the communities are equal partners.

Whether we decide to have a parliamentary, presidency or hybrid system will be dependent on our political agreements made the dayafter. Nevertheless, principles of human rights, empowerment of youth and women, protection of minorities, etc. will remain to be cornerstones for our governance. The aforementioned cornerstones, good governance and transparency, values and principles will be enshrined in our constitution.
]]>
9/23/2017 3:32:39 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 2 days]]>
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with the UN special representative to the secretary general for Iraq, Jan Kubis, in Baghdad on Friday. Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari meanwhile met with the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

While other domestic issues such as the ongoing offensive to oust Islamic State (IS) militants from Hawija, its last stronghold in the north of Iraq, were on the agenda, Iraqi Kurdish Region’s referendum was a major focus.

A statement from Abadi's office on Friday said Kubis explained the "international consensus was clear,” with the vast majority of states as well as the UN Security Council expressing its opposition to Kurdistan's referendum, and argued that the referendum has a "potentially destabilizing impact."

The PM statement said Kubis reinforced the UN stance that the "unilateral referendum" will destabilize the region, and the United Nations supports the "sovereignty of Iraq and its territorial unity and integrity."

To discuss the differences between Erbil and Baghdad over independence referendum, talks between Erbil and Baghdad as set to intensify in the coming weeks, and Kurdistan Region’s High Committee for Referendum will travel to Baghdad on Saturday.

2
A handout picture released by the UN mission for Iraq shows UN chief Antonio Guterres (L) being welcomed to Baghdad by Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari on March 30, 2017. (AFP)

Turkey’s hostile rhetoric continues, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over Turkey’s National Security Council on Friday to discuss possible retaliatory measures.

After meeting the council issued a statement saying the referendum is “threatening Turkey’s national security,” according to Hurriyet Daily News.

“The illegitimacy of the referendum announced by the KRG as on September 25 and its unacceptance was once again specified. It was strongly stressed that this step which directly threatens Turkey’s national security was a grave mistake that threatens Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity as well as peace, security and stability of the region,” the statement read. “Turkey reserves its rights originating from bilateral and international conventions if this referendum is held despite all of our warnings,” it continued.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters on Friday that it was not too late for Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani to halt the referendum.

“This referendum, which is opposed by the whole world and is illegal to international law, will not bring happiness to our Kurdish brothers in the region,” said Yildirim according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

“[Turkey] will not hesitate and is determined to use its rights coming from international, national and bilateral treaties regarding its own national security,” he added.

On Saturday,

Yildirim warned that

Ankara's actions would have "economic and security dimensions," and would take place “in close cooperation with Iraq, Iran and other neighbouring countries.”

Amid international and domestic pressure to halt the referendum, Sadiq Jabari, a member of the Kurdistan Region’s High Referendum Council, has rejected such rumours and also stressed that Kirkuk province will be included in the vote, in an interview with BasNews.

Tens of thousands gathered at Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium on Friday evening is a show of support for the Kurdistan Region’s upcoming independence referendum, on the last day of campaigning.

"The bravery of Peshmergas, the patience of Kurdistan public, is stronger than any power," Barzani said, "for the independence of Kurdistan we are ready for any price."

3
A Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk province. AFP

President Barzani citied the Iraqi Kurdish struggle against IS and highlighted the 1,789 Peshmerga troops who have been killed and the 10,190 more who sustained wounds.

"We have two ways in front of us: either we choose subordination or life in freedom and independence. The price for subordination is losing willpower and dignity, though you [still] live. The price to independence and freedom is pride and dignity, but we may die."

"They threaten that they will punish us," he remarked, "My answer is that you have been punishing the people of Kurdistan for one hundred years. Aren't you satisfied? If you wish to return to punishments, let people of Kurdistan alone. Come and punish me."

"We cannot live with Baghdad any longer," President Barzani stated, continuing to say that the referendum is no longer "in my hands, but it lies in people's hands."

In other news:

E-voting for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's independence referendum, opened on Friday for the Iraqi Kurdish diaspora.

Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Masoud Barzani confirmed that the first vote has been cast from China.

]]>
9/23/2017 2:45:34 PM
<![CDATA[UAE laments Doha attempts to promote violence: bin Zayed]]>
In his address to the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, bin Zayed lamented what he called “attempts of some countries to use media platforms that incite violence, extremism and terrorism,” in reference to the practices of Qatari-led Al-Jazeera channel that have been proven to fall short of professionalism.

The Arab quartet boycotting Qatar has repeatedly called out Al-Jazeera for being a platform for promoting terrorism and extremism. Shutting it down was placed amongst the list of the demands handed over to Doha for reconciliation, to which it remains aloof.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, bin Zayed said that Iran supports terrorist groups in the region and meddles in its countries, as well as exploiting the region's conditions to instigate strife and promote conflict.

On his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad lambasted what he called an “imposed blockade” on his country, denying all the accusations leveraged against his country of it being involved in sponsoring terrorism.

The Arab quartet reiterated that their decision to cut-off relations, issued in June, was aimed at imposing sanctions on the Qatari regime itself, and that the four countries are keen to preserve the mutual bond between the people.

]]>
9/23/2017 12:13:15 PM
<![CDATA[UAE’s Gargash to Kurdistan: Federalism is more viable than separation]]>
In a tweet on Saturday morning, the minister said that the UAE supports the unity of a single, united Iraq.

In a second tweet, the minister continued saying: “Protecting a unified single Iraq is beneficial for a region suffering from division and fragmentation.”

He noted that political dialogue would be necessary to address concerns, fulfill aspirations and create a stronger partnership.

The minister’s statements come in light of the upcoming Iraqi Kurdistan referendum, in which the Kurds seek to establish an independent state from Iraq.

Yet, on Thursday, the UN International Security Council expressed its opposition to the referendum on independence, after calling for “dialogue and compromise” between the two conflicting parties. The council made its statement while warning that such a move would result in instability in the country.

The referendum is expected to be held on Monday, September 25.]]>
9/23/2017 11:46:57 AM
<![CDATA[Italian populists to unveil 5-Star candidate for PM]]>
Political darling Luigi di Maio, 31, is the reassuring face of Italy's anti-establishment insurgency and is widely seen as having the vote in the bag.

The clean-shaven lawmaker has been openly groomed to run for the top job in the spring 2018 general election as an everyman able to win over average voters and financial markets alike.

"Di Maio is studying how to become prime minister; he behaves, speaks, walks like one. He scrutinises the rules of the game to try and beat the house," Luiss University communications expert Alberto Castelvecchi told AFP.

The telegenic youngster went up against six totally unknown candidates and a low-profile senator in an electronic vote on Thursday that both amused and irked traditional parties and the country's mainstream media.

"The pathetic primary with Di Maio as a lone candidate (...) is not only a symptom of a lack of democracy" within M5S, wrote Il Fatto Quotidiano daily, which is usually the most sympathetic to the movement.

"It is also proof of the eternal immaturity, incompetence, inexperience and thrown-together nature of a movement that is getting bigger but not growing up," the paper said.

Neck-and-neck -
M5S, which bases much of its appeal on fighting corruption, emerged as a major force in 2013 general elections and went on to win mayoral seats in Rome and Turin last year.

And despite a worse-than-expected performance at local elections in June, for months now it has been neck-and-neck in the polls with the centre-left ruling Democratic Party (PD), with recent projections showing it would win 28 percent in a national race.

Critics say that regardless of who is candidate for prime minister, 5-Star's outspoken founder, comic Beppe Grillo, will continue to determine how the party is run, crushing any dissent.

Grillo has promised to remain the "guarantor" of the movement's model of direct democracy.

Members are told whoever gets the PM candidacy and party leadership will be a mere spokesman, obliged to follow a political programme "for Italy, written by Italians".

5-Star voters range from those with a passion for grassroots politics to those convinced it would be disastrous in power but believe the crisis would usher in a longed-for new political era, Corriere della Sera daily said.

The movement has always defined itself as on neither the political left nor right, though it was driven at the start by largely leftist ideals such as calls for a minimum wage, according to political watcher Vincenzo Latronico.

Its leaders have moved sharply across the spectrum since, often echoing the anti-immigration Northern League party.

Picking a PM candidate may thrill supporters, but the movement will still have an uphill struggle to reach high office.

It categorically refuses to form alliances with any other parties and under Italy's proportional electoral system would need to pocket 50 percent of the vote plus one ballot to obtain a majority in the upper house of parliament.

It would only need 40 percent of the vote in the lower house -- but analysts say that looks like a tall order.]]>
9/23/2017 11:35:12 AM
<![CDATA[Iraq Kurd leader delays independence vote announcement]]>
There has been uncertainty about whether the vote will go ahead on Monday as Iraq's key allies the United States and Iran, as well as powerful neighbour Turkey, have stepped up their opposition.

"The news conference will take place on Sunday and the time and venue will be announced later," Barzani's office said without elaborating.

On Friday, the Iraqi Kurdish leader had insisted that the vote would be held as planned, despite a warning from the UN Security Council that it was "potentially destabilising".

"The referendum is no longer in my hands, nor is it in those of the (political) parties -- it is in your hands," Barzani told a large crowd at a football stadium in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.

But behind the scenes negotiations are still taking place aimed at persuading Barzani to postpone any referendum, according to officials close to the discussions.

Iran and Turkey both have sizeable Kurdish populations of their own and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home.

The federal government in Baghdad is also opposed to the referendum, which it has called unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council urged "dialogue and compromise" to address differences between the Iraqi government and the regional authorities.

It also said the vote could weaken the military campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group, "in which Kurdish forces have played a critical role".

Baghdad this week launched offensives to oust IS from the last two pockets it controls in Iraq.]]>
9/23/2017 11:31:32 AM
<![CDATA[Polls close in New Zealand's cliffhanger election]]>
Under strict election day laws New Zealand does not allow exit polls during voting, which opened at 9am (2100 GMT Friday) and closed at 7pm (0700 GMT).

However, a firm indication of the outcome is expected within about three-and-a-half hours after the end of voting.

There were 3.2 million registered voters, of which 1.24 million cast an early vote.

The campaign has been the country's most volatile in recent memory, with momentum swinging from English to Ardern and then back again.

If neither English, whose National Party is seeking a record-equalling fourth consecutive term in power, nor Ardern can form a government outright, or with the help of minor support parties, the New Zealand First Party of populist anti-immigration campaigner Winston Peters looms as the potential kingmaker.

No party has claimed a majority government in New Zealand's 120-seat parliament since proportional voting was adopted in 1996.]]>
9/23/2017 11:27:18 AM
<![CDATA[Stopping terrorism prerequisite to compromise with Qatar: FM]]>
During a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Borge Brende, Shoukry said that the 13 demands and the 6 principles previously issued to Qatar are fair, legal and outlined by countries that have been variously harmed for years by Qatar’s behavior, a statement by Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid reads.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of funding terrorism. A list of 13 demands was handed to Doha’s government by the quartet, which includes the closing of Al Jazeera and the suspension of its relationship with Iran.
]]>
9/23/2017 9:29:47 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt's FM invites Greeks, Cypriots to participate in int'al youth conference]]>
Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid said the meeting aimed to discuss ways to boost the countries' cooperation mechanisms, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and ways to achieve security and stability in the region.

The ministers stressed the importance of strengthening mechanisms of dialogue and understanding among youth sectors in the three countries.

Shoukry expressed Egypt's aspiration for the participation of Greek and Cypriot youth representatives in the international youth conference to be held in Sharm El Sheikh.

The ministers also agreed on the importance of enhancing cooperation in the economic and trade fields, combating terrorism and strengthening mechanisms of dialogue with the EU, as well as continuing consultation on various issues and challenges related to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Greek and Cypriot foreign ministers praised Egypt's role in settling the Palestinian cause, supporting the peace process, and achieving the Palestinian reconciliation.

The three ministers discussed the importance of a thorough preparation for the tripartite summit to be held in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia in November.]]>
9/23/2017 7:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[A look into the secret world of Hamad bin Jassim’s wealth]]>
The Qatari opposition, according to Al-Riyadh, said Hamad’s liquidity amounted to $12billion in 2013, in addition to him being a shareowner in Qatar Airways, Qatar International Bank, Four Seasons Hotel and West Bay.

The opposition also revealed that he was charged for $200 million for an uncompleted project of a bridge linking Qatar and Bahrain, along with a £500 million commission he acquired by facilitatingan arms transaction in 1996.He all received $400 million in the purchase of Harrods stores in London.

Hamad is currently accused of embezzling money amounting to $8 million,with 60% of the economy of the country being in the hands of Al Jazeera channel chairman.

Outside Qatar,he owns a British company in the Virgin Islands, three companies in the Bahamas, a $300 million yacht in the Spanish port of Palma de Mallorca, and Radisson Hotels and Hyatt Churchill in London.

Also, Hamad reportedly purchased four Panamanian companies to make it smoother for him to open bank accounts in Luxembourg and inked a $35 million deal to purchase Ellen Biddle Shipman Palace in New York. He also owns a $700 million balance in Deutsche Bank and a Picasso painting that’s worth $180 million.

Hamad is Qatar’s shadow ruler, who takes over the media and the information being disseminated through, Al-Riyadh reported.

The Court of Cassation referred the espionage case with Qatar to the public prosecutor to investigate the involvement of the former Qatari prime minister and the chairman of Al Jazeera after a verdict was reached in the case of former President Mohamed Morsi conspiring with Qatar, according to judiciary sources.

Hamad and the chairman of Al Jazeera are accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, disclosing the Egyptian military’s state secrets and leaking national security documents to Qatar with the intention of damaging Egypt's strategic, political, diplomatic and economic statuses.

The court has listened to the witnesses and discussed the lawsuit papers, concluding Hamad’s involvement in the case.
]]>
9/22/2017 11:24:46 PM
<![CDATA[Turkey’s HDP condemns Spanish violations against Catalonia people]]>
The pro-Kurdish party denounced the prosecution of 712 mayors of Catalonia who supported the referendum, the raiding of printing houses, and the seizure of ballot envelopes, ballot boxes and information brochures that will be used in the referendum. Newspaper headquarters also were raided and prevented from making news about the referendum, and their internet sites were closed down, according to HDP’s statement.

The Catalan government earlier this week accused the Spanish authorities of effectively taking over its administration after state police raided its offices and arrested officials, and the Finance Ministry took control of the local finance department.

On the other hand, Spain's Interior Ministry sent Friday more state police to Catalonia to maintain order and make sure a banned referendum on independence does not take place.

“As the People's Democratic Party, we support the Catalan people's right to self-determination. The prevention by force of the expression of the people’s will is never acceptable,” the statement read, adding that “the constitutional rights of the Autonomic Region of Catalonia cannot be suspended on the pretext of preventing the referendum.”

The HDP announced that it will continue to stand with the Catalan people, the Autonomic Assembly of Catalonia, the Government of Catalonia and the oppressed political parties, urging Rajoy’s government to show respect to the Catalan people’s right to vote and to end the oppression against the representatives of the Catalan Autonomic Region.
]]>
9/22/2017 9:43:22 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar sabotages efforts to reconcile Palestinians: leaked document]]>
According to the WikiLeaks document, U.S. officials confirmed that Qatar contributed to the division between the Hamas and Fatah parties by defending the rule of Hamas, through the cessation of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority starting from the date of control of Fatah movement in Gaza in mid-2007, and its demand to engage in peace negotiations with Israel. Qatar also raised its aid to Hamas to $115 million.

The document revealed that senior Palestinian officials, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat, complained in meetings with U.S. politicians that Qatar actively supports Hamas to strengthen its control of Gaza.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have turned on Qatar, shutting down of all ports of entry over accusations of the country’s support and sponsorship of terrorism – allegations that Doha denies.

Since then, Qatar has resisted reconciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from terrorist groups that were proven to be harbored and financially supported by Doha.
]]>
9/22/2017 8:12:18 PM
<![CDATA[Shoukry participates in anti-ISIS coalition meeting in NY]]>
The meeting was attended by foreign ministers of the coalition’s small group, including the Iraqi foreign minister.

During Egypt’s speech before the meeting, Shoukry congratulated all Iraqi communities on all successive victories against the terrorist organization ISIS and liberating Iraqi lands, the most recent of which were in Mosul and Tal Afar, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a press statement.

Egypt’s speech highlighted that triumph was brought by nothing but valor and sacrifices of the Iraqi people and their keenness on upholding the national interest over any others. Egypt is proud of Iraq’s heroism to save humanity from the criminal organization’s grip, Abu Zeid stated.

Egypt stressed on the importance of holding this meeting in this critical time to build on the success achieved in this area and provide the necessary international support to help Iraq restore the displaced people to the liberated lands after renovating them, he added.

Eliminating ISIS from Iraq is not the end of the line; however, it arranges for a new phase of hard work and cooperation among the coalition countries to counter terrorism and extremism without any distinction, Shoukry confirmed. It is high time to take a unified international stance against all entities that harbor terrorist groups and provide them with political, economic or media support.
]]>
9/22/2017 7:24:14 PM
<![CDATA[Trump praises Sisi’s economic reform program in NY meeting]]>
“The President emphasized that Egypt is a lynchpin of stability in the region and pushed for greater bilateral coordination to ensure peace and security,” read the statement.

On Thursday, Sisi and Trump met on the sidelines of the 72nd U.N. General Assembly session and “highlighted the close relationship between their two countries and praised recent efforts to strengthen regional security.”

Both leaders underscored the importance of bilateral security cooperation. The Arab rift was one of the topics discussed during their meeting, according to the statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump praised Egyptian President Abel Fatah al-Sisi’s efforts in reviving the Middle East peace process between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, Egypt’s presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said in a statement early Thursday.

During his meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) late Wednesday, President Sisi discussed Egypt's efforts to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation as an essential preliminary step to resume negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, Youssef said.

President Sisi expressed Egypt’s aspiration for further coordination and consultation with the U.S. on various issues in the region, particularly counterterrorism, “which poses a great threat to the stability of the region and the world.” He also emphasized that putting an end to funding and harboring terrorists is a must.
]]>
9/22/2017 4:40:03 PM
<![CDATA[Brexit transition period to last around 2 years:Theresa May]]>
"During the implementation period, people will be continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK but there will be a registration system, an essential preparation for the new regime," May said in Florence.

"As of today, these considerations point to a implementation period of around two years," she said.
]]>
9/22/2017 4:22:14 PM
<![CDATA[Iraq's Kurds to vote in historic referendum on independence]]>
They will be asked to tick a yes/no box next to this question: "Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdish areas outside the region's administration to become an independent state?"

HISTORY:

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group left stateless when Britain and France, the colonial powers which won World War One, carved up the Ottoman empire. The region's roughly 30 million ethnic Kurds were left scattered, mainly over four countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. All of them suffered persecution and were often denied the right to speak their language. Those in Iraq were uprooted under Saddam Hussein's regime and suffered an attack using chemical weapons.

WHY THE REFERENDUM?

The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq says the Shi'ite ruled central government in Baghdad has failed to respect autonomy established after the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in a U.S.-led invasion.

WHY NOW?

The KRG says the vote acknowledges the Kurds' crucial contribution confronting Islamic State after it overwhelmed the the Iraqi army in 2014 amd seized control of a third of Iraq.

WHAT'S THE LIKELY OUTCOME AND WHAT'S THE NEXT MOVE:

The outcome is likely to be a comfortable "yes". The KRG, led by Massoud Barzani, plans to use the vote as a legitimate mandate to press for negotiations with Baghdad and neighboring countries to achieve independence.

WHY IS THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT OPPOSED TO THE VOTE? Baghdad thinks the vote could lead to a messy breakup of Iraq at a time when it is struggling with reconstruction and the return of refugees. It offers talks to resolve disputes over land, energy and power sharing, including the status of the multi-ethnic oil region of Kirkuk.

WHY ARE TURKEY AND IRAN OPPOSED TO THE REFERENDUM?

Iraq's powerful neighbours fear separatist contagion for their own Kurdish populations. Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish minority. It has been fighting Kurdish insurrection in its south-east since 1984. Iran's Kurds are close culturally to Iraq's Kurds and they speak the same Kurdish language. Tehran is also close to the Shi'ite political parties who have been ruling Iraq or holding key security or government positions since 2003.

Syria is embroiled in a civil war in which its own Kurds are pressing for self-administration.

WHO ELSE OPPOSES IT?

About everyone, including the United States and United Nations who fear a destabilization of Iraq while the war with Islamic State is not yet over.

WHY OIL-RICH KIRKUK IS EMERGING AS A FLASHPOINT:

Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic city. It lies outside the recognised Kurdish region and is home to Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs and Assyrian Christians. It sits on susbtantial oil reserves and its crude is exported through a pipeline to the Mediterranean that crosses KRG territory and Turkey. If Turkey decides to close the pipeline, it would deprive the KRG government in Erbil of most its hard currency income.

THE KURDISH REGION'S IMPORTANCE TO OIL MARKETS:

Iraqi Kurdistan produces around 650,000 bpd of crude from its fields, including around 150,000 bpd from the disputed areas of Kirkuk. The region's production volumes represent 15 percent of total Iraqi output and around 0.7 percent of global oil production. The KRG aspires to raise production to over 1 million bpd by the end of this decade.

THE KURDISH REGION'S IMPORTANCE TO OIL COMPANIES:

Kurdish oil production has been dominated by mid-sized oil firms such as Genel, DNO, Gulf Keystone and Dana Gas. Major oil firms such as Chevron , Exxon Mobil and Rosneft also have projects in Kurdistan but they are mostly at an exploration stage. Russia's state oil major Rosneft, however, has lent over $1 billion to the KRG guaranteed by oil sales and committed a total of $4 billion to various projects in Kurdistan. Trading houses Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura and Petraco have lent a total of $2 billion to Kurdistan guaranteed by oil sales while Turkey has also provided a total of $1.5 billion to support Erbil in the past two years.

WHO CAN VOTE AND WHERE?

All registered residents of the Kurdish-held region in northern Iraq, Kurds and non-Kurds, are eligible to vote. The Kurdish-held regions include those inside the official boundaries of the KRG and surrounding areas that Peshmerga fighters seized in the course of the war on Islamic State. Kirkuk lies outside the KRG and is also claimed by Baghdad.

Internally displaced people from the disputed territories will be allowed to vote. Iraq's Kurdish diaspora will also be allowed to submit electronic ballots on Sept. 23 and 24.
]]>
9/22/2017 3:39:59 PM
<![CDATA[Kurds press historic independence vote despite regional fears]]>
Kurdish red-white-green tricolors set with a blazing golden sun adorn cars and buildings throughout the semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region. Billboards exhort "the time is now - say 'yes' to a free Kurdistan!"

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region since 2005, has resisted efforts by the United Nations, the United States and Britain to delay the referendum. Neighbouring Turkey is holding army border exercises to underline its concerns Iraqi Kurdish separatism could feed insurrection on its soil.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on live television on Friday the vote posed a threat to national security and Ankara "will do what is necessary" to protect itself. He did not elaborate.

But Hoshyar Zebari, a senior advisor to Barzani, told Reuters: "This is the last five metres of the final sprint and we will be standing our ground."

Many Kurds see the vote, though non-binding, as a historic opportunity to achieve self-determination a century after Britain and France divided the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot agreement. That arrangement left 30 million Kurds scattered over Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Zebari said delaying the vote without guarantees it could be held on a binding basis after negotiations with Baghdad would be "political suicide for the Kurdish leadership and the Kurdish dream of independence.

"An opportunity my generation won’t see again".

The referendum raises most risk of ethnic conflict in the oil city of Kirkuk, which lies outside the recognised boundaries of the Kurdish region and is claimed by Baghdad. Its population includes Arabs and Turkmen but it is dominated by Kurds.

Turkey has long claimed a special responsibility in protecting ethnic Turkmen. Some of Iraq's Turkmen are Shi'ite and affiliated to political parties close to Iran.

''We expect those who are against the referendum to cause trouble but we are determined not to engage in any kind of violence, we don’t want to give them any excuse to intervene or to question the validity of the vote,’’ Zebari said.

KIRKUK AND OIL

Tensions between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad hinge on oil revenue the Kurds see as the mainstay of a future Kurdish state. The Kurds have long accused Baghdad of withholding budget payments to the region, while Baghdad has opposed oil deals made by the Kurds without its consent.

A regional conflict could theaten oil supply from Kurdish and northern Iraqi fields to world markets, carried through a pipeline to Turkey.

Already at least one Kurd has been killed in pre-referendum clashes in Kirkuk, and security checkpoints have been erected across the city to prevent further violence.

The central government in Baghdad, Iraq’s neighbours and Western powers fear the vote could break up a country that has seen devastating sectarian and ethnic conflict since a 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

It could also undermine efforts, involving Arab and Kurdish cooperation, to dislodge Islamic State militants now driven from their northern stronghold in Mosul but still dug in near Kirkuk and operating across the border in Syria.

Any conflict around Kurdish northern Iraq could have ramifications across the Middle East, not least in Syria, Turkey and Iran. Ankara, Baghdad and Tehran agreed on Thursday to consider counter-measures against the Kurdish plans.

Turkey, which has developed close commercial and political ties with the region, especially in the area of energy, has also threatened to impose sanctions.

Condemning the vote as "provocative and destabilizing", the U.S. has urged renewed negotiations. This followed a week of escalating rhetoric between the Kurdish leadership and Baghdad, where parliament voted to reject the referendum.

Though the general mood seems in favour of independence, many, especially non-Kurds, told Reuters they questioned the wisdom of holding a referendum now.

"We have been always living peacefully and don't want problems," said Karima Attiyah, an eldery Arab woman who has spent here whole life in Kirkuk. "I don't support the referendum."

Some fear it would embolden an entrenched political elite in a region long been plagued by political disunity. Barzani has been a powerful force for more than two decades where the north has been spared the turmoil that has affected much of the rest of Iraq.

Others cite a generational divide.

Older generations of Iraq’s Kurds suffered during Saddam Hussein’s 1980s Anfal campaign, and want to see their struggle for national independence come to fruition.

"(Our fathers and mothers) think it’s a betrayal not to vote for yes," said Muhammed, a researcher from Sulaimaniyah in his 30s. "Their sons and relatives were killed by the Baghdad government in the past and they think the referendum is one way to revenge."

More than 5.2 million people are registered to vote.]]>
9/22/2017 3:36:08 PM
<![CDATA[Draft law to raise punishment for antiquities theft to death penalty]]>
Agami told Egypt Today that her philosophy behind increasing the penalty is that the one who "sells his history will sell his honor."

Agami quoted Article 49 of the Constitution, which states, “The State shall protect and preserve monuments and give due care to monumental sites. It shall also maintain and restore them; recover stolen antiquities; and organize and supervise excavation operations.”

Under the terms of the Egyptian Law on the Protection of Antiquities, known as Law No. 117, enacted August 6, 1983, every person who unlawfully smuggles an antiquity outside the republic or participates in such an act shall be liable to a prison term with hard labor and a fine of not less than LE 5,000 ($283) and not more than LE 50,000.

After amendments, term “44” of the current law intensified the punishment to severe imprisonment and a fine of not less than LE 50,000 and not more than LE 100,000.

Agami said that this penalty is still weak, adding that the intensification the punishment for illicit trafficking of antiquities and illegal excavation will stop the “continuous bleeding of Egypt's history”.
]]>
9/22/2017 2:39:11 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 3 Days]]>
Erdogan has continually threatened Erbil with sanctions and possible military action if the independence referendum takes place.

The independence referendum is scheduled for Monday, September 25.

Erdogan has recently returned from his trip to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly, where he met with US President Donald Trump on Thursday.

Following the meeting between Erdogan and Trump, a statement by the White House warned Erbil of “serious consequences that would follow if it [the referendum] occurs.”

The Senior Referendum Council of the Kurdistan Region, chaired by Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, convened on Thursday and agreed that the independence referendum should take place as scheduled since no viable alternative had been offered.

"Because so far an alternative to replace the referendum has not been proposed and as adequate time is not left, if a complete guarantee for the independence of Kurdistan is not provided, the referendum will take place on its specified time," read a statement issued after the meeting.

2
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office Olivier Douliery (AFP)

A delegation from the Kurdistan Region is expected to visit Baghdad within the following days to hold a discussion over the existing disputes and the imminent independence referendum.

In another case of international pressure, the UN Security Council has jumped on the anti-Kurdish independence referendum bandwagon, arguing its "potentially destabilizing impact."

"Council members expressed full support for United Nations efforts to facilitate dialogue between Iraqi stakeholders," read a statement from the UN Security Council late Thursday night.

"Council members expressed their continuing respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of Iraq and urged all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to be resolved, in accordance with the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution, through structured dialogue and compromise supported by the international community.”

Although facing extensive international opposition to the planned independence referendum, many Kurds expect the international community to respect the democratic process.

Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) Masrour Barzani said that they expect the world to recognize what the Kurds have done for them, in reference to the war against Islamic State.

“I think that what we have done for the world is many times more than what the world has done for us. We expect this to be recognized,” Masrour Barzani said in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News.

“For a hundred years we’ve been subject to genocide and injustice. It’s enough,” Masrour Barzani continued. “What would make [the West] convinced that we deserve a better life? Sacrifice? We’ve made the sacrifice. Loyalty? We’re loyal. Friendship? We’re the most trusted friends the West has. And what do we need in return? All we need is equality. We want to be the same as you are.”

Falah Mustafa, Head of Kurdistan Region’s Department of Foreign Relations, reiterated this during an interview with France 24 on Thursday.

3
Falah Mustafa, the Kurdistan Regional Government's minister of foreign relations, says he wants to reassure the international community that the upcoming referendum on Kurdish independence will not distract from the battle against ISIL. AFP/John Thys

“After our tragic history in Iraq, time has come for us to decide to go for a referendum. We want to do that peacefully, we want to engage with Baghdad in negotiations so we end this relationship that did not work, in order to have two sovereign states next to each other living in peace,” Mustafa said.

“Whatever has been offered, has been to negotiate the same old formula; and we are not ready to go back to the old formula which did not work,” Mustafa argued in reference to the failure of the attempted negotiations thus far.

In other news:

Turkish jets have continued to bomb alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Kurdistan.

According to local sources, Turkish military jets bombed several areas in Bokriskan and Zargali villages on the outskirt of Mount Qandil in the northern Kurdistan Region on Thursday.

Turkish airstrikes have taken the lives of seven people in the past few days, all of whom are said to be civilians.

“We don’t want any war. We are tired of dying. We are tired of running. We are tired of being destroyed. We are tired of living this life, and we want peace. But peace doesn’t mean surrender. Peace doesn’t mean subordination.”- Masrour Barzani said.
]]>
9/22/2017 1:50:39 PM
<![CDATA[S. Korea welcomes new US sanctions against N. Korea]]>
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release that the latest US executive order is expected to be added to joint efforts by South Korea and the US along with the international community to bring North Korea to the path of denuclearization through strong sanctions and pressure", Yonhap News Agency reported.

"As long as North Korea continues its provocations, South Korea will keep considering various actions in cooperation with the US to intensify international pressure on North Korea," the ministry stated.

US President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he signed a new executive order that would significantly expands the US authorities to target individuals, companies and financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.

The fresh sanctions allow the government to cut access to the American financial system of any foreign financial company that conducts business with North Korea.

The US also expanded the blacklist of individuals and entities that do business with North Korea in the construction, energy, finance, fishery and information technology sectors.

According to the new sanctions, vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea in the past 180 days are prohibited from entering the US.]]>
9/22/2017 12:48:50 PM
<![CDATA[A N.Korea nuclear test over the Pacific? Logical, terrifying]]>
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho suggested leader Kim Jong Un was considering testing "an unprecedented scale hydrogen bomb" over the Pacific in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's threat at the United Nations to "totally destroy" the country.

"It may mean North Korea will fire a warhead-tipped (intermediate range) Hwasong-12 or Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile and blow it up a few hundred kilometres above the Pacific Ocean," said Yang Uk, a senior researcher at the Korea Defence and Security Forum in Seoul.

"They may be bluffing, but there is a need for them to test their combined missile-bomb capability. They could have already prepared the plan and are now trying to use Trump’s remarks as an excuse to make it happen," said Yang.

Such an atmospheric test would be the first globally since China detonated a device in 1980, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tests of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles are rarer still. The United States' only test of an operational ballistic missile with a live warhead was fired from submarine far out in the Pacific Ocean in 1962.

China was widely condemned for a similar test with a missile that exploded over its Lop Nur test site in the country's west in 1966.

North Korea's six nuclear tests to date have all been underground, the most recent earlier this month by far its largest.

"We have to assume they could do it, but it is exceedingly provocative," said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"To put a live nuclear warhead on a missile that's only been tested a handful of times, overflying potentially populated centres. If it...doesn't go exactly as planned....it could be a world changing event."

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles over Japan's north Hokkaido region in the past month as part of a series of tests that experts say have illustrated unexpectedly rapid advances.

“They said Pacific Ocean, which pretty much means firing a missile over Japan,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. “They want to shut us all up for doubting they could build it.”

SERIOUS FALLOUT

While a missile would be the most ideal means of delivery, it is also possible to put a bomb on a ship and detonate on the surface of the ocean or in the sea, the experts said.

Either way, the radioactive fallout could be significant, as well as the diplomatic backlash from around the world. North Korea's recent missile launches over Japan especially drew stern rebukes from Tokyo and the international community.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called Pyongyang's remarks and behaviour "completely unacceptable".

Narang said a test high enough over the ocean would limit the radioactive fallout but risks included damage from an electro-magnetic pulse, something Pyongyang has hinted it might employ on an attack on the United States or its allies.

"If it doesn't go exactly as planned and the detonation occurs at a lower altitude we could see some EMP-like effects for anything in the area. A lot of dead fish too."

Pyongyang has launched dozens of missiles this year as it spurs a programme aimed at mastering a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the United States, in addition to its Sept 3 nuclear test.

If Kim's threat materialists, it will be a "tipping point" for China, and may prompt many other countries to demand an "end to the regime," said David Albright, founder of the non-profit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

"No one has tested above ground for decades and the radioactive fallout could be terrifying to many," Albright said.

Other experts said such an atmospheric nuclear test is unlikely for now due to its substantial technical and diplomatic risks.

Joshua Pollack, editor of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Review, said it would be an "end-to-end demo of everything."

"But I would be surprised if this were their very next move. They have yet to test an ICBM at full range into the Pacific," said Pollack. "That will probably come first."]]>
9/22/2017 12:46:55 PM
<![CDATA[Iran's Rouhani vows to strengthen missiles despite US criticism]]>
"Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities which are necessary for deterrence," Rouhani said in a speech marking the anniversary of the outbreak of Iran's devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"We will strengthen not only our missiles but also our air, land and sea forces... When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission."

Criticism by the Donald Trump administration of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, including the United States, has focused heavily on Tehran's continuing missile programme.

Tehran says that the missiles are entirely legitimate under the terms of the deal as they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

But Washington says they breach the spirit of the agreement as they have the potential to carry a nuclear warhead and has imposed new sanctions over Tehran's continuing launches and tests.

There has been some sympathy for the US position from France, whose President Emmanuel Macron said the deal could be expanded to ban missile tests and cut a sunset clause in the nuclear agreement that would see Iran resume some uranium enrichment from 2025.

But even he insisted that the core deal not be dumped.

Thus far, the UN nuclear watchdog and the US State Department have reported that Tehran has complied with the terms of the nuclear deal.

But Trump, who this week described the deal as an "embarrassment", is due to report to the US Congress on October 15 on whether or not he believes that Iran is in compliance.

If, as now appears increasingly likely, he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement.

Trump said on Wednesday he had made his decision but was not yet ready to reveal it.

Washington has also taken aim at what it says is Tehran's failure to meet expectations that it would play a more stabilising role in the Middle East.

"Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region and this is a real issue," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at the United Nations.

Washington has been particularly concerned about Iran's heavy intervention in Syria on the side of the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its support for Shiite rebels in Yemen who control the capital in defiance of its Saudi-backed government.

But Rouhani ruled out any change of policy in the region.

"Whether you like it or not, we are going to defend the oppressed peoples of Yemen, Palestine and Syria," he said.]]>
9/22/2017 12:41:16 PM
<![CDATA[China urges N.Korea to stop persisting on a dangerous course]]>
"No matter the changes in circumstance, no matter how long it takes, not matter the difficulties we face, China will always persist in the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula, in moving towards talks," Wang said, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.]]>
9/22/2017 10:20:26 AM
<![CDATA[Political process needed in Syria after Astana talks]]>
Two main strongholds of Daesh terrorist group in Deir Ezzor and al Rakkah cities are about to be fully recaptured, Russia Today channel reported, quoting Mistura as saying.

Agreements aiming at deescalation in Syria have been reached, Mistura added.]]>
9/22/2017 10:10:11 AM
<![CDATA[FM urges combating illicit trafficking in cultural property]]>
Upon invitation from Greece and China, both of which spearhead the forum, Shoukry joined the ministers of the nine other countries that represent major ancient civilizations: Iraq, Iran, Greece, Italy, China, India, Bolivia, Mexico and Peru.

Addressing the conference, Shoukry applauded the Greek and Chinese efforts in leading the project, stressing its importance in countering the terrorist phenomenon in the regional and international levels as it aims at promoting peace and stability among societies.

The foreign ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said that Shoukry called for combating the illicit trafficking in cultural property, particularly terrorist groups’ recent attempts to distort and deliberately obliterate human heritage in areas of crisis and armed conflict.

The minister pointed out that the forum should develop a mechanism for coordination among the member states and relevant international and regional organizations, especially the UNESCO, asserting that Egypt will direct its envoys to the United Nations in New York and Geneva to explore cooperation opportunities with various international organizations.

The Ancient Civilizations Forum, established in Athens on April 24, seeks to protect ancient heritage from extremism, particularly in Syria and northern Iraq from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, which sabotages and destroys ancient places in Palmyra, Nineveh and Nimrud.]]>
9/22/2017 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Deadline extended for government to regulate parking laws]]>
The local administration committee called on the government to provide it with detailed data on the number of official and non-official taxi parking lots in all governorates in the state.

During the meeting of the local administration committee, Al-Gazzar stated that the government endeavors to organize parking areas and to regulate car policies, in all governorates.

He stated that the government requested extending the time to 30 days to respond to the draft law submitted by deputies and to finish preparing a bill to be submitted to the Committee.

Al-Gazzar also stated that they will work to legalize the status of parking attendants and will instate aggravated punishments for whoever violates the new law. They will also solve the issue of unemployment and work to protect society from bullying by some of those working in this business.

Seeing taxis park is a waste of public money, Al-Gazzar said, adding that, "the truth of the matter is that they are harmful to the states hence the need to issue a law regulating them," Al-Gazzar added.

This law came at the request of MP Mohammed al-Husseini, a member of the local administration committee, who said: "We want a detailed statement of the number of parking lots in 27 governorates and the revenues and expenses of each. There are millions of pounds wasted on them especially that there are many informal parks everywhere."
]]>
9/21/2017 7:07:33 PM
<![CDATA[Syria's Kurds to hold historic vote in "message" to Assad]]>
As Kurds in neighbouring Iraq prepare to vote on secession from Baghdad, Hadiya Yousef told Reuters that Assad's aim to take back all of Syria could lead to its partition, though Syria's Kurds insist that independence is not their aim.

The three-phase vote set to begin on Friday is part of a plan mapped out by Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies to set up a federal system of government that will shore up the autonomy they have enjoyed in the north since 2011, when Syria's civil war broke out.

The political structures expected to emerge from the process are inspired by the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who is in jail in Turkey for leading a three-decade insurgency. Turkey views Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria as a threat to its national security.

In Friday's election, voters will be picking leaders for some 3,700 communities, or "communes", spread across three regions of the north. The process will be followed in November by elections to local councils and culminate in January with the election of an assembly that will act as a parliament.

The Syrian government, which is regaining swathes of territory with Russian and Iranian support, opposes the plan and has repeatedly insisted that it will recover all the territory that has slipped from its grip during six years of war.

"The regime's insistence on renewing this authoritarian, centralised regime will lead to a deepening of the Syrian crisis," said Yousef, who co-chairs a constituent assembly at the heart of the plans for the new system of government.

"If (the government) insists on this position, the regime will steer Syria towards partition," she said by phone. The people of northern Syria had the means to defend themselves, she noted, and urged Damascus to accept dialogue.

"THE SHADOW" OF THE BAATH

The main Syrian Kurdish groups and their militia, the YPG, have emerged as a major force in Syria since the onset of the war, and now control approximately a quarter of the country.

Damascus and its allies on the one hand and the YPG and its allies on the other have mostly stayed out of each other's way in the war. But tensions are surfacing as the sides race to grab territory from Islamic State in Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.

The YPG is the main component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and its area recaptured from Islamic State.

Though it backs the YPG, the United States last year declared its opposition to creation of autonomous zones in Syria. It has also come out against the Iraqi Kurdish independence vote set for Monday.

Yousef said the decision to hold the elections while the people of northern Syria were simultaneously fighting Islamic State reflected their determination to press ahead.

"At the same time, it is a message to the Syrian regime that we as the Syrian people have will and want our will to be represented in the election of our administration to run our regions and societies," she said.

The elections will not take place in all the areas controlled by the SDF. There will be no vote in the city of Manbij, captured from Islamic State last year, for example, or in recently captured areas near the city of Raqqa, she said.

Critics say the governing structures set up so far in northern Syria are less democratic than they claim to be, and are dominated by officials committed to the PKK.

But senior Kurdish politician Al-Dar Khalil said a culture of democracy was being advanced in the region, after years of oppressive Baath Party rule. "In Syria, from '63 ... we were living in the shadow of the Baath Party - one party controlling all institutions and aspects of life," he told Reuters.]]>
9/21/2017 7:05:52 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar bankrolls charities in London financing terrorism: report ]]>
The “Muslim Aid” charity has 30 branches around the world and received EUR 1 million worth of funding from the Qatari government or Doha-based charities in 2011, the report said, adding that it had been previously investigated by England, Wales, Spain, and Bangladesh over accusations of funding terrorism.

In 2002, Muslim Aid was investigated by the Spanish police over funding Mujahdeen fighters in Bosnia, which lied under the Spanish control for around a decade, the report said, adding that Doha funneled EUR 150,000 to Muslim Aid in 2011. This corresponded with the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

The report further illustrated that Qatar continued to funnel funds to Muslim Aid via a charity called “Al Asmakh”, which is known for its ties to the Qatari government.
A numerous of Qatari-based charities have been included in the Arab quartet list of terrorist organizations released four days following the decision to cut dies with Doha.
]]>
9/21/2017 6:36:45 PM
<![CDATA[S. Korea's Moon says N.Korea crisis must be handled in 'stable' manner]]>
Moon told the U.N. General Assembly sanctions were needed to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table and force it to give up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul was not seeking North Korea's collapse and the international community was ready to help the country if it stood on the right side of history.

In the meantime, Moon said all countries must strictly adhere to U.N. sanctions on North Korea and impose tougher steps in the event of new provocations by Pyongyang.

]]>
9/21/2017 6:27:54 PM
<![CDATA[Tamim freezes bank accounts of opposition, vindicates himself]]>
Qatari opposition said on social media that Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani froze the bank accounts of two ruling family members; Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani and Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani, who have shown huge criticism to Tamim’s policies lately.

Qatari opposition members have taken further steps to voice their concerns and show their refusal of the Qatari regime’s policies with its neighboring Arab countries. Opposing voices to Qatari regime have even grown at home.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement on Sunday published on his official Twitter account calling on the country's ruling family to do all it can to resolve the crisis with its neighbors and "purge our land" from any links to terrorist organizations.

Qatar’s Sheikh Suhaim Al-Thani said in a video message broadcasted on Sky News Arabia that he “hopes the ruling family and dignitaries respond to the invitation for a national meeting.”

Qatari opposition called for appointing Abdullah bin Ali as Tamim’s successor.

Since Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have cut ties with Qatar in June accusing it of funding terrorism, Qatar has been isolated from the rest of the world as the Arab Quartet banned Qatari flights and closed shipping lanes and lands.

To raise that blockade, Tamim should implement the 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia, which included shutting Al-Jazeera channel as well as dropping its support of the Muslim Brotherhood, but Tamim refuses to respond to those demands.

Consequently, the Qatari economy has been damaged by the blockade as Qatari imports were majorly affected by the trade boycott from neighboring countries, and the United Arab Emirates’ exports to Doha slumped 64.5 percent month-on-month in June.
Besides, deposits of non-Qatari residents dropped 7.6 percent to QAR 170.6 billion ($47 billion) in 18 banks in June from a month earlier, according to the Qatar Central Bank.

However, Tamim denied his country’s economic crisis and the Qatari Minister of Economy Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani said during an interview with CNBC that the blockade has had a limited impact on the economy stressing that Qatar's economy is a “heaven” despite the blockade.

Tamim’s stance towards the crisis and its consequences has led to a long running feud in the Qatari royal family and pitting its members against each other. That’s why, statements from the Qatari royal family members state their objection and refusal to the Qatari regime’s policies with its neighboring Arab countries, in addition to its sheltering of terrorists and extremists groups.
]]>
9/21/2017 4:21:35 PM
<![CDATA[Slovenian government faces test in pre-election investment referendum]]>
Given the opposition's lead in opinion polls and criticism of the project as too expensive, analysts see possible changes in the center-left coalition government ahead of the elections in June or July 2018 if the railway gets a thumbs-down in the referendum.

"If (it) is rejected that would be a strong blow to the government, particularly the leading party SMC (Party of the Modern Center)," Meta Roglic, political analyst at the daily Dnevnik, told Reuters.

Opinion polls have forecast varying outcomes of the referendum but suggest turnout might not be sufficient to block the railway project. A poll published by daily Delo said voters would narrowly reject the project, while another released by Dnevnik said voters would back it by a 53-29 percent margin.

Under Slovenian law, a minimum 20 percent of some 1.7 million eligible voters would be needed to sink the project, in addition to a majority of those voting.

Civil society group Taxpayers Don't Give Up and the leading opposition group, the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), pushed for the referendum, saying the railway line as projected by the government is too costly.

The government says the 27-km (17-mile) rail link between Koper and the town of Divaca is necessary to speed up freight traffic to and from Slovenia's only port and improve the port's competitiveness.

The government has received 44.3 million euros in EU funding for preparation of the track while neighboring Hungary said it is willing to invest about 200 million euros as it relies on Koper for much of its seaborne freight.

The opposition SDS has led in opinion polls for most of the past year. But government parties hope to improve their ratings by advancing the railway project, raising family subsidies and the lowest tier of wages, and injecting more money into the state health sector in the coming months.]]>
9/21/2017 4:17:21 PM
<![CDATA[Iran nuclear deal cannot be renegotiated -Rouhani]]>
Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump called the deal an "embarrassment" during his first speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.

"There was some discussion by some people that the nuclear deal isn't very bad but shouldn't stay as it is. (That) it's a deal that's good but we should sit down again and debate to see if it can be improved. If it has flaws we can fix them," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

"They were told clearly and definitively (by us) that the nuclear deal cannot be renegotiated," he told a press conference in Tehran broadcast live on state television after his return from the U.N. General Assembly.

Trump told reporters this week he had made a decision on what to do about the agreement, approved by his predecessor Barack Obama along with leaders of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, but would not say what he had decided.

However, although Trump does not like the deal, his speech to the United Nations on Tuesday did not mean Washington would withdraw from the pact, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said on Wednesday.

The prospect of Washington reneging on the deal has worried some of the U.S. allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis, North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development.

If Trump does not certify next month that Iran is complying with the accord, the U.S. Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal. U.N. inspectors have verified Iranian compliance with the terms.

In contrast with Obama's policy of detente with Iran after decades of mutual hostility, Trump called Iran "a corrupt dictatorship" on Tuesday and accused it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East.

"(Trump) made big mistakes in this speech," Rouhani said. "There were baseless and unfounded accusations. It wasn't worthy of the United Nations or an individual who sees himself as the president of a country."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, also criticised Trump during a meeting Thursday with the Assembly of Experts, a body tasked with choosing the next Supreme Leader.

"This speech was not a sign of power but rather a sign of anger, frustration and stupidity," Khamenei said, according to a report on his official website.

In recent months, tensions have ramped up between Iran and the United States in the Gulf, with both sides accusing each other of provocative naval manoeuvres.]]>
9/21/2017 3:14:47 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan govt says referendum plans have been dealt a blow]]>
"It is obvious that the rules of the game have been changed," Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras told Catalonia's TV3 a day after police detained 14 Catalan officials suspected of preparing the vote slated for October 1.

Among those arrested was Josep Maria Jove, secretary general of economic affairs and Junqueras's right-hand man, and four other top members of the Catalan government's economy department.

Spanish police also said Wednesday that they had seized "close to 10 million ballot papers" destined for a vote which has been deemed illegal by Madrid and Spain's Constitutional Court.

The surprise police operation prompted thousands of pro-separatist demonstrators to take to the streets in Barcelona.

"The circumstances today are different because a significant part of our team, half of the economics team, has been arrested," said Junqueras, who belongs to the far-left pro-independence party ERC.

"That (the referendum) cannot be held in the circumstances that we wanted is obvious," he said, adding that he was convinced the "majority" of Catalans wanted to vote.

Polls show that while Catalans are sharply divided on whether they want independence or not, a large majority would like to vote to settle the matter.

Madrid is against it, pointing to the constitution which states that the unity of the Spanish nation is "unbreakable" and that only the central government has the power to call a referendum on any matter.

But separatists in Catalonia, a region with its own language and customs, say they have a democratic right to decide on their future.]]>
9/21/2017 3:11:15 PM
<![CDATA[Protests, teargas in Uganda as Museveni seeks to extend rule]]>
The move to amend the constitution has met widespread resistance from activists, civil society organisations, religious leaders and even some members of Museveni's own ruling party.

The bill is set to go before parliament later on Thursday.

Groups of students at Makerere, a public university in the capital Kampala, had rallied to start marching toward parliament before police dispersed them with teargas.

"We are not going to allow anybody to hold protest marches. The teargas was to deter that," police spokesman Asan Kasingye said.

A Western ally who sent the Ugandan military to fight Islamist militants in Somalia, Museveni won plaudits in the early years of his rule for restoring stability after years of turmoil and for drawing foreign investment.

But rampant rights violations, entrenched graft and dysfunctional public services have since eroded his standing and fuelled opposition to his rule.

At 73, Museveni -- who has already been in power for more than three decades -- is ineligible to stand for re-election at polls in 2021 as Uganda's constitution sets a ceiling for presidential candidates' age at 75 years.

The move to amend legislation mirrors similar tactics used in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic Congo to extend limits, a trend that has alarmed democracy watchdogs.

Police have also raided the premises of at least two pro-democracy organisations in Kampala, including that of the local unit of Johannesburg-based ActionAid International.

Security personnel blockaded staff inside their offices late on Wednesday and conducted searches, staff members of the organisations told Reuters.

"There was intelligence that we got that they received funding for people who are planning to cause chaos and violence," Kasingye said.

Local media have also reported that Kampala's mayor Erias Lukwago -- an opposition party member -- had been detained early on Thursday, though Kasingye said he was unaware of the claims.

Museveni's bid has also met increasing denunciation from some members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party, exposing cracks.

The NRM counts anout three-thirds of all parliament members.

"Ultimately...Museveni has ample patronage at his disposal and, when push comes to shove, few lawmakers will be prepared to risk political exile by not backing the president," said Charlotte King, a Uganda analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala condemned the raids on pro-democracy groups.

"The United States is deeply concerned that recent arrests and raids stifle the Ugandan people's right to free expression and tarnish Uganda's global image," it said in a statement.]]>
9/21/2017 2:57:27 PM
<![CDATA[Italy's 5-Star Movement votes for leader, Di Maio seen winning]]>
Barring a colossal surprise the winner will be Luigi Di Maio, the 31-year-old lower house deputy who has been groomed as leader over the last few years by Beppe Grillo, the comedian who founded 5-Star as a protest movement in 2009.

The party's supporters are voting online on a dedicated platform linked to Grillo's blog, reflecting 5-Star's credo of internet-based direct democracy.

Voting will end at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Thursday, but the result will not be known until Saturday, when it is announced at 5-Star's annual three-day gathering in the Adriatic coastal town of Rimini.

There are eight candidates, but Di Maio's victory is considered a formality. He is one of Italy's most prominent and popular politicians and his seven rivals, mostly local councillors, are virtually unknown even to 5-Star supporters.

The only people seen as having any chance against him decided not to run, opening the party up to accusations of failing to run a proper contest.

Roberto Saviano, author of the best-selling novel Gomorra, said on Facebook that he wanted to run for the post "to help 5-Star out of a pathetic situation". Saviano is not a party member and so is not eligible.

Probably the only risk for Di Maio would be if voting were distorted by another hacking attack against 5-Star's internet platform. In August an anonymous hacker revealed he had broken into the system to obtain secret data on 5-Star's members and donors.]]>
9/21/2017 2:56:05 PM
<![CDATA[Britain's May wants two-year transition deal with EU - BBC]]>
May, who is weakened after losing her party's majority in a June election, will speak directly to EU leaders at the speech in Italy, and set out her vision for future ties with the EU.

Her top ministers all agree on the need for a transition phase after Britain leaves the bloc to avoid a "cliff edge" for businesses, but there have been differences over how long that period should last.

"Hearing speech will say there will be transition of up to 2 years ... won't be off-shelf model," Laura Kuenssberg said on Twitter after May ended a lengthy meeting of her top ministers.]]>
9/21/2017 2:54:27 PM
<![CDATA[UN offers up new strategy to advance peace, stability in Libya]]>
“It is my deep belief that there is an opportunity for a political solution in Libya,” Guterres said at the high-level event held on the margins of the annual debate of the General Assembly, adding that everyone needs to come together to ensure that this opportunity translates itself into a reality, UN News Center reported.

“The Libyan people have suffered too much,” stated the Secretary-General, voicing deep concern about the political, security, socio-economic and humanitarian situation in the North African nation.

“Looking ahead, it is crucial to fashion a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political solution,” he added.

Guterres outlined the UN strategy, which has seven main priorities, beginning with reinvigorating an inclusive political process by building on recent positive developments.

The other priorities are: building credibility with the Libyan people; strengthening security arrangements and national security architecture; coordinating international engagement, including the efforts of Libya’s neighbors, so that all are part of a single common agenda; improving socio-economic conditions and the provision of goods and services, for a true peace dividend to be felt by the people; supporting migrants and upholding long-standing international norms on migration; and securing predictable support for humanitarian assistance.

The Secretary-General added that his Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, will strive to unify and consolidate the various initiatives, and to promote dialogue towards the formation of a unified national government and the immediate end of parallel institutions.]]>
9/21/2017 2:43:18 PM
<![CDATA[Spooked by Catalonia, EU rallies behind Madrid, but warily]]>
Few foreign leaders will speak out on a domestic dispute in which government and courts in Madrid say the Catalan regional authorities in Barcelona are defying a constitutional ban on secession by preparing an independence referendum for Oct. 1.

The official European Union line is that Spanish democracy works and Spaniards should settle their affairs according to national laws. But the worsening standoff, with police arresting elected Catalan officials this week, is troubling officials and politicians abroad, who fear it may hurt Europe in various ways.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, through a spokesman, echoed that line when asked by Reuters if she had had recent contact on the matter with Rajoy, a fellow conservative. While stressing it was an "internal Spanish matter", the spokesman also recalled that Merkel had in previous years told Rajoy that Berlin had "great interest in the maintenance of stability in Spain".

Less constrained by diplomatic protocol, other Europeans are starting to speak out: "Rajoy has put a lot of oil on the fire, fuelling the independentist debate. He has made a huge mistake," Ska Keller, the German co-leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, told Reuters as she called on those who may have influence with Rajoy to intercede and calm things down.

While publicly refusing to take sides on whether a Catalan breakaway is desirable, few European leaders would welcome it.

As with the 2014 referendum in Scotland, which unlike Catalonia's vote was held with the blessing of the central government in London, countries fear encouraging separatists at home: Belgium's Flemings, Italy's Lombards and so on. There is also a broader unwillingness as Britain exits from the EU to open another Pandora's box of economic uncertainty and legal disruption.

The EU's chief executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, was irked when Catalans seized on a remarks last week that they could join the EU after independence to suggest he favoured their cause.

The European Commission president said he had only reiterated the so-called "Prodi doctrine", dating back 13 years. This is that a breakaway state would have to leave the Union and could then only be let back in if it has gained independence in accordance with constitutional law in the member state it left.

Juncker also said that rich "regional traditions" should not become "elements of separatism and fragmentation of Europe".

GROWING CONCERNS

Commission officials reject suggestions they are giving Madrid a soft ride on complaints that Spain's constitution is stifling Catalan rights while the EU is now threatening to suspend Poland over the Warsaw government's plans for constitutional change.

The Commission feels constrained by EU law not to take sides in Spain. But the European Parliament, led by the European People's Party (EPP), the centre-right bloc to which Rajoy, Merkel and Juncker belong, is more vocal in backing Madrid.

Antonio Tajani, the legislature's Italian conservative president, bluntly told a Catalan newspaper last week that to ignore Spain's constitution was to undermine the legal basis for the whole European Union: "Those are the rules," he said.

"This is not a tough line, this is a democratic and a legal line," the EPP's Spanish Secretary-General Antonio Lopez-Isturiz said, noting that Catalans voted for the constitution in 1978.

The EU legislature's centre-left group also backs the view that Spain's constitution must be respected above all.

Nonetheless, that legal approach is causing disquiet.

"There are growing concerns in Europe about the way Rajoy is handling this," said Steven Blockmans of the Centre for European Policy Studies. "They're trying to keep him on board, but with his tactics he's fuelling the independence debate."

Blockmans suggested Spain look at how his native Belgium had amended its constitution to devolve power. The leader of Belgium's powerful Dutch-speaking Flanders region issued a call on Thursday for "international mediation" in the Catalan crisis.

Andrew Duff, a British liberal former EU lawmaker now at the European Policy Centre think-tank, said EU leaders should be engaging quietly with Rajoy "to try to soften the sense of crisis". If they are already, they are not making it public.

"Rajoy hasn't played this very cleverly," Duff said. "From Brussels' perspective, this kind of domestic constitutional crisis cries out for political sophistication of a very high level, which we haven't yet seen, either from the Catalans or from Madrid. It puts the Commission in a very awkward position."

A senior EU official said Juncker was likely to go on exercising his right to stay largely silent on the issue for now: "It's like in those police shows," he said. "Anything you say can be held against you. It's better not to say anything."]]>
9/21/2017 2:39:55 PM
<![CDATA[Jubeir replies to Tamim's UN speech: Doha’s conviction 'evident']]>
Jubeir added in his interview with Al-Arabiya English that Qatar has to suspend its support for terrorism, adding that the ball is completely in Doha’s court to end the crisis by halting interference in other nations’ internal affairs and to stop the hatred narratives it keeps disseminating.

Jubeir concluded by asserting that Qatar should adhere to international standards for fighting terrorism, confirming that there is plenty of evidence for Doha’s complicity in committing several contraventions.

On his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad lambasted what he called an “imposed blockade” on his country, denying all the accusations leveraged against his country of it being involved in sponsoring terrorism.

The Arab quartet reiterated that their decision to cut-off relations, issued in June, was aiming at imposing sanctions on the Qatari regime itself, and that the four countries are keen to preserve the mutual people-to-people bonds.
]]>
9/21/2017 2:29:44 PM
<![CDATA[Tamim seeks Trump's help in Gulf crisis]]>
Qatarileaks published leaks of the meeting between Tamim and Trump on Monday, on the sidelines of the UN Assembly, “As you said, Mr. President, we have a problem with our neighbors,” Tamim said, adding that with Trump’s mediation, “hopefully we can find a solution for this problem.”

Tamim stressed solid Qatari-American relationship after Trump seemed to lean more towards the Saudi position at the beginning of the crisis.

Trump, who showed willingness to mediate the worst standoff in years between U.S.-allied Arab states and Qatar, said he had a “very strong feeling” the conflict would be over “pretty quickly.”

Observers described Sheikh Tamim's address to the UN Assembly as “disappointing,” after he affirmed that he would continue his relations with Iran, which is considered as the major supporter of terrorism in the region, because Iran constantly intervenes in the domestic affairs of its neighbors, and supports various terror groups.

Speaking to Sky News Arabia, Qatari opposition figure Ali Al Dahneem said the speech of Sheikh Tamim was "trivial and disappointing to the GCC peoples in general and the Qatari people in particular."

Al Dahneem said Sheikh Tamim spoke about terrorism as if Doha was a victim, not a major funder of terrorism.

Anwar Gargash, UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs, commented on Tamim’s address on his Twitter account, saying that it came with nothing new and that it is considered another missed opportunity.




On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have turned on Qatar, shutting down of all ports of entry over accusations of the country’s support and sponsorship of terrorism, allegations Doha denies.

Since then, Qatar has resisted reconciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from terrorist groups that were proven to be harbored and financially supported by Doha.
]]>
9/21/2017 2:21:12 PM
<![CDATA[Trump denies warning KSA over military action against Qatar]]>
Qatari media, especially Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, has been spreading rumors that the Arab quartet was considering a military action against Qatar.

Military action has never been considered in the conflict with Qatar, said Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a joint statement issued earlier this month, according to Gulfnews.

Trump says he expects the Qatari conflict with the Arab countries “will be solved pretty quickly.” For his part, Tamim asked the U.S. to mediate in the Qatari crisis, stressing on Qatar’s willingness to dialogue.

Right outside where Tamim was sitting with the U.S. President, a number of Arab citizens in New York organized protests in New York denouncing Qatar's support for terrorist organizations.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have turned on Qatar, shutting down of all ports of entry over accusations of the country’s support and sponsorship of terrorism, allegations Doha denies.

Since then, Qatar has resisted reconciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from terrorist groups that were proven to be harbored and financially supported by Doha.

]]>
9/21/2017 1:23:40 PM
<![CDATA[Opposition against Tamim intensifies at home and abroad]]>
Exiled opposition figures speak out against the atrocities of the regime

Mona al-Sulaiti

In exclusive statements to Egypt Today, the prominent opposition voice, Mona al-Sulaiti, said we are anticipating very soon the toppling of the current government and there is no alternative to the formation of a “national salvation government. People will soon not recognize legitimacy of his government.”

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Mona Al Sulaiti - Photo via Sky News

“Tamim is the biggest plunderer; he is only interested in accumulating as much money as possible by meddling with state resources.” Sulaiti added, confirming that the continuation of Tamim’s leadership will thrust the whole nation into a dark tunnel.

Al-Murrah tribe

The tribal Sheikh Al-Murrah Taleb bin Muhammed Lahm bin Shraim has denounced Qatar for revoking his Qatari citizenship and that of other 55 members of the tribe in a video

Shraim has confirmed that Qatar has withdrawn their citizenships because his tribe has refused to insult Saudi Arabia especially the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, alongside with the Kingdom of Bahrain, when the Qatari regime asked them to.

A majority of tribe members were strong supporters of Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the former Emir of Qatar who was deposed in 1995 in a coup by his son. Eight months after the coup, 119 Al-Murrah members attempted to overthrow the new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, but failed.



Qatar has put many members of the Al-Murrah tribe in prison without trial, where they were subjected to torture and humiliation, and others were prevented from entering the country for long periods, which led to them dropping their nationalities.

Ruling family shaken from within

A prominent member of Qatar’s ruling family, and former Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim repeated calls for a national meeting of elders of the ruling family to put an end to the current rift, that “[we] can no longer remain quiescent towards it.

Appearing on Sky News, bin Suhaim lamented the “proliferation of foreign troops in Doha” to vindicate the Qataris from their Arab siblings, calling Qataris to stand up against foreign intervention in their homeland.

Because of mistakes made by the Qatari government, he said, “I have all fears that the Qatari identity will be linked to terrorism.”

On Sunday, a day before Sheikh Sultan’s statement, the Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement published on his official Twitter account regarding the current political crisis in the Arab Gulf region calling for the same demands.

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Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassem Al-Thani – Twitter


The Qatari opposition has stressed that Qatar has reached the point of no return regarding its policies with its Arab neighbors, noting that the beginning of its conspiracy against the Arabs indicates that it has a vision outside the framework of the Arab world and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Sharjah 24 reported on August 2.

World-wide firm stand against Doha

“Qatar, Global Security and Stability” conference in London

On Thursday, Qatari opposition figures inaugurated the “Qatar, and Global Security and Stability” Conference that saw the attendance of members of parliamentarians and former state officials from different countries, who have dusted off the crimes and violations committed by the ever-encroaching Qatari regime.

Kahled Al Hail, an exiled Qatari opposition figure revealed that the Qatari regime attempted to inhibit the conference, accusing the ruling family of corruption, especially regarding the millions of dollars that Qatar splurged on World Cup venues.

Al Hail accused Iran of smuggling drugs into Qatar, which opened its markets for Iran and Turkey following the boycotting and embargoing decisions of the quartet countries.

British Member of Parliament (MP), Daniel Kawczynski, said that terrorism funding cannot happen without the knowledge of governments, and that the west realizes that local entities in the Middle East fund terror.

“We do not like the fact that Qatar supports Al Nusra Front in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is allied with Iran, which claims that Bahrain is part of its territories. It supports the Houthis in Yemen,” American businessman Dov Zakheim, who served in the Reagan administration at the Department of Defense, said.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, Ambassador Bill Richardson, Iain Duncan Smith, John Simpson, Jamie Rubin, General Chuck Wald, Brigadier General Shlomo Brom, Dov Zakheim and MP Daniel Kawczynski joined leading Middle East commentators and members of the Qatari opposition to debate the past, present and likely future of Qatar.

“Anti Qatar-linked terrorism” conference in Poland

On the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference, the anti-terrorism conference participants in Poland called on European countries to sever ties with Doha over its alleged support of terrorism and to follow the Saudi-led coalition against Qatar.

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"Stop Qatar Terrorism" conference kicked off in Warsaw on September 13, 2017

They also called on the European Criminal Court to track down crimes committed by Qatar, which have led to the loss of thousands of innocent lives around the globe.

France, Germany, Switzerland stand against terror of Qatar

Following Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad’s arrival in Germany, Arab communities in Berlin held on Friday morning a protest against the atrocities of the Qatari regime.

The participants condemned Tamim’s current visit to Germany, hoisting a number of banners denouncing Qatar’s involvement in sponsoring and harboring terrorists.

In Paris, A number of representatives of political parties and human rights organizations organized a massive demonstration on Friday, with placards and calls for the world to stand against terrorism of Qatar.

In a show of solidarity with the “International Campaign Against Qatar’s Financing of Terrorism,” launched two days ago, the protesters hoisted signs reading "Qatari Terrorism Threatens the World” and “We Stand Against Qatar’s Terrorism," repudiating Tamim’s current tour to a number of European countries, including France and Germany.

The protesters demanded justice for the thousands of innocent lives lost in Qatar-linked acts of terrorism in Europe, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, calling on the French parliament to suspend relations with Qatar and on the international community to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on Doha.

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Arab communities in Berlin protest against Qatar – Press photo


At the host country of the UN headquarters, the AFHR arranged a massive demonstration against the Qatari regime in Geneva, on the sidelines of the Human Rights council spin-off meeting titled "Global Campaign against Qatar’s Financing for Terrorism."




]]>
9/21/2017 1:23:32 PM
<![CDATA[Germany: Ending Iran deal would be setback for curbing nuclear arms]]>
Gabriel, speaking on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting, said world powers had every interest in maintaining the 2015 deal and much work would be needed in coming weeks to ensure it remained in force.

"It's an almost tragic situation where the only existing agreement to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons is in jeopardy at a time when we are seeing other countries like North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and we need such processes more than ever," Gabriel said.

The United States said on Wednesday it is weighing whether its interests were served by the deal under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for the loosening of economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Iran said it did not expect Washington to abandon the agreement.

Germany helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal along with Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the 2015 deal "an embarrassment" but it is supported by the other major powers that negotiated it. Its collapse could trigger a regional arms race.

Gabriel told reporters in New York he agreed with U.S. officials that Iran had not changed its behavior in the Middle East after the agreement was reached - a matter that required attention, but not as part of the nuclear agreement.

"I am convinced that neither the volatile and charged situation in the region, nor Iran's behavior will improve if the nuclear agreement goes out of force," he said. A recording of his remarks was provided to Reuters by the ministry.

Any move by Washington to cancel the agreement would be a "terrible signal" for all other efforts to use diplomacy to halt nuclear weapons programs, such as those of North Korea.

"Because no one has the impression anymore that international negotiations are worth and one has to assume that such an agreement can be cancelled after a short time," he said.

Gabriel said Trump had received no support for his position.

Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact. If he does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.]]>
9/21/2017 12:58:09 PM
<![CDATA[Macron: Iranian nuclear deal is not enough]]>
In a press conference on sidelines of of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Macron said he wanted to discuss possible sanctions over Iran's ballistic missile program, open negotiations immediately on what happens after the limitations to the accord begin to be lifted in 2025 and hold a discussion on the role of Iran in the region.

Macron said he had not given up on convincing US President Donald Trump, who has called the deal "the worst ever", to change his mind.

Regarding his desire for involving Iran in a contact group on Syria, Macron noted that Iran's participation will put a framework for its activity in the region wishing to get out from the current context for a better solution.]]>
9/21/2017 11:57:06 AM
<![CDATA[France's Le Pen: far-right will rebuild, continue fight against EU]]>
"The National Front will rebuild itself without difficulty," she told LCP television. "There are lots of talented people, lots of people with profile ... that I am going to lead."

Her deputy Florian Philippot, who advocated a strong line against the euro and drafted the manifesto for this year's presidential election, when Le Pen resounding lost the run-off to Emmanuel Macron, quit over policy differences.

Rather than softening her stance on the EU in the wake of his departure, Le Pen said she would pursue that line.

"National sovereignty is a mainstay of our struggle," she said. "We will continue to fight the European Union with all our soul because it is an instrument for the elimination and impoverishment of our people."]]>
9/21/2017 11:50:51 AM
<![CDATA[Arab Parl't urges postponing Kurdish referendum]]>
In a cable to Barzani, Al Salami said the plebiscite should be replaced by dialogue to reach a compromise guaranteeing the rights of all parties and maintaining the unity and stability of Iraq, read a statement by the Arab Parliament.

The Arab Parliament is keen on protecting the rights of the Kurdish people, he said

Al Salami expressed his appreciation for Barzani's strenuous efforts which largely contributed to defeating the terrorist Daesh group.

He also commended Barzani's efforts to help displaced Iraqis who went to the Kurdistan region as Daesh occupied their cities.]]>
9/21/2017 11:45:18 AM
<![CDATA[Spanish police raid Catalan gover't to halt banned referendum]]>
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the regional government offices in the center of Barcelona's tourist district, waving the red-and-yellow Catalan flag and chanting "Occupying forces out" and "Where is Europe?".

"The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia's government and has established emergency rule," Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said in a televised address.

"We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state," he said, adding Catalans should turn out in force to vote in the Oct. 1 referendum on a split from Spain that Madrid has declared illegal.

State police arrested Catalonia's junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove on Wednesday in their first raid of government offices in the region, Catalan government sources said. The raid targeted several regional government departments.

A dozen high-ranking local officials were arrested, La Vanguardia newspaper said. Police confirmed they were carrying out raids connected with the banned referendum, but did not give details. The Catalan government sources could not confirm the other arrests.

Among the protesters outside the government office in Barcelona, was Carlos, a 47-year-old taxi driver.

"We're here so they know they can't do whatever they want," he said, as protesters bore banners reading "Democracy" and "Vote to be free".

The FC Barcelona soccer club said in a statement: "FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights."

Police efforts to stop the referendum have intensified in recent days as the wealthy northeastern region shows no signs of halting it.

Acting under court orders, police have raided printers, newspaper offices and private delivery companies in a search for campaign literature, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.

The Civil Guard, a national police force, on Wednesday seized 10 million ballot papers, polling station displays as well as documents and forms to run the vote, including a list of voters under the headline "2017 Catalonia self-determination referendum".

STOCK MARKET FALLS

It had on Tuesday seized more than 45,000 envelopes packed in cardboard boxes that the Catalan government was ready to send to notify people about the referendum, while the first of hundreds of Catalan mayors appeared before the state prosecutor after they said they would back the referendum.

Spain's finance ministry has taken over the region's finances to prevent the use of public money to organise the vote.

But the central government must tread a fine line in enforcing the law in the region without seeming heavy-handed. Polls show a minority of Catalans, albeit more than 40 percent, support independence although a majority want a referendum on the issue.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday the operations in Catalonia were the result of legal rulings and were to ensure the rule of law.

He later called on Catalan leaders to cancel the vote.

"Don't go ahead, you don't have any legitimacy to do it. Go back to the law and democracy (...) This referendum is a chimera," he said in a televised speech. Any action that broke the law would be met with a proportionate response, he added.

The Constitutional Court has suspended the vote after the central government challenged its legality. Spain's central government says the referendum goes against the 1978 constitution which states Spain is indivisible.

Under Article 155 of the constitution, Madrid has the power to suspend the regional government's authority to rule. It has yet to exercise this option as it seeks to block the vote through the courts.

Although markets have so far shrugged off the increasing tension, Spain's top stock index underperformed regional European stock peers on Wednesday.

The IBEX fell more than 1 percent by late afternoon trading with financials the biggest drags. Euro zone stocks were off about 0.2 percent.]]>
9/21/2017 3:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Reuters ‘inaccurate’ over U.S. aid to Egypt: presidency spokesman]]>
“Reuters was inaccurate in its remarks about the U.S. aid to Egypt … I hope the agency would abide with the official statements issued by the American side," said Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef in remarks to reporters at Sisi’s residency in New York.

During both presidents’ meeting on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72), Reuters reported that “United States will consider resuming some suspended military assistance to Egypt, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday.”

In August, the U.S. administration halted $95.7 million in aid and delayed $195 million over “human rights concerns.”

President Sisi expressed in his meeting with Trump Egypt’s aspiration for further coordination and consultation with the U.S. on various issues in the region, particularly that of counterterrorism, “which poses a great threat to the stability of the region and the world.” He also emphasized that putting an end to funding and harboring terrorists is a must.

Sisi offered his condolences to Trump for the victims of Hurricane Irma, which claimed the lives of at least 61 people and caused considerable damage.

The U.S. President hailed the distinguished bilateral relations with Egypt, stressing the importance of promoting ways of enhancing them, Youssef added.

Trump told the Egyptian president that the U.S. appreciates everything he's done and vice versa. He says U.S.-Egyptian relations are "very good," AP reported.




]]>
9/21/2017 2:07:37 AM
<![CDATA[Wrap-up: Trump praises Sisi’s efforts of reviving Middle East peace process]]>
During his meeting with Trump at the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) late Wednesday, President Sisi discussed Egypt's efforts to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation as an essential preliminary step to resume negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, Youssef said.

President Sisi expressed Egypt’s aspiration for further coordination and consultation with the U.S. on various issues in the region, particularly that of counterterrorism, “which poses a great threat to the stability of the region and the world.” He also emphasized that putting an end to funding and harboring terrorists is a must.

Sisi offered his condolences to Trump for the victims of Hurricane Irma, which claimed the lives of at least 61 people and caused considerable damage.

The U.S. President hailed the distinguished bilateral relations with Egypt, stressing the importance of promoting ways of enhancing them, Youssef added.

Trump told the Egyptian president that the U.S. appreciates everything he's done and vice versa. He says U.S.-Egyptian relations are "very good," AP reported.

Sisi thanked Trump for meeting with him while they are in New York for the UNGA 72.

Last April, Trump welcomed Sisi in the White House and held a meeting with him to discuss the wars and crises in the Middle East region.

Sisi called on the Israelis and Palestinians to trust their leaderships and follow the peace example between Egypt and Israel. He also urged the Palestinians in his Tuesday speech at the UNGA 72 to unite.

He emphasized that security in the region is based on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and addressed Palestinians by saying that it is important to believe in statehood alongside an Israeli state.

Egypt brokered a Palestinian national reconciliation government this week, which will take over the authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the latter which had been controlled by Hamas. Cairo hopes the new Palestinian government will engage in peace negotiations with Israel, as Sisi has already tackled the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Monday, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi held talks with the Palestinian president and Netanyahu to discuss boasting the peace talks.


Also, during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit held last May, President Sisi met with his American counterpart for the third time.

Sisi also met on Monday shortly after arrival with several American officials at his residence as part of his agenda in New York.

According to a presidential statement issued on September 16, Sisi is anticipated to present Egypt’s vision on ongoing global issues and mechanisms to boost peace and stability in the world, in addition to the Egyptian stance towards regional issues in the Middle East and efforts to combat terrorism.

Sisi has met already with several American and Arab political officials, including a high-level American delegation, UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Saudi Ambassador to Washington Khaled bin Salman Al-Saud.




According to Youssef, both meetings (the one with the UAE’s minister and the other with the Saudi ambassador) were very successful, as all parties praised the good relations on different levels. All cases related to the Arabian topics expected to be discussed during the UNGA meetings were highlighted during the two meetings.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during their meeting in New York on Wednesday

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Sisi’s participation in the UNGA 72 this year is considered his fourth since taking office in June 2014. Egypt’s foreign policies have witnessed significant development in the global and regional arenas. Egypt is a key player in fighting terrorism globally and boosting peace through its 30,000 soldiers’ participation in UN peacekeeping missions, along with Egypt’s efforts to solve the Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni and Libyan crises.

]]>
9/21/2017 1:49:55 AM
<![CDATA[Erdogan, Putin to discuss Syrian peace plan next week]]>
The three countries agreed last week to deploy hundreds of observers around the province, which borders Turkey and is controlled by an alliance led by the Nusra Front, fighters once linked to al Qaeda.

"Idlib has been set as a de-escalation zone," Erdogan told an event in New York where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly.

"Right now, outside the border there are guard towers and stations of the Russian Federation. And inside, Turkey has stations at protection points," Erdogan said, adding the Turkish army was also working with Free Syrian Army fighters.

"This will continue until peace will be established over there," he said, without giving further details.

Erdogan said he would meet Putin on Sept. 28, and Turkey's TRT broadcaster said the talks would take place in Ankara.]]>
9/21/2017 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. 'strongly opposes' Iraqi Kurdish independence vote]]>
In the most forceful U.S. statement so far opposing the referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25."]]>
9/21/2017 12:16:03 AM
<![CDATA[Chronology of conflict history between Fatah, Hamas]]>
Causes of disagreement

Ideological differences are at the core of the dispute between Fatah and Hamas. The former is more inclined towards a secularist ideology, while the latter adopts a more Islamic thought.

Fatah believes in resolving the Palestinian issue through negotiations with Israel on ending occupation, while Hamas believes in the notion of an armed struggle.

Dispute origins

Following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, in implementation of the Oslo Accords (between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel), Hamas refused to yield to such an agreement. This, as a result, clashed with Fatah’s idea of implementing the Oslo Accords.

Between 1996 and 2000, the chasm between the two factions deepened when Palestinian security services launched a large-scale campaign to arrest Hamas leaders and activists, accusing the movement of undermining the Palestinian Authority’s role and working against the benefit of all Palestinian people. Hamas, on the other hand, accused Fatah of playing the role of Israel’s security agent.

However, the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), in September 2000, prompted a strong dialogue between the two movements after Israel perpetrated countless massacres against the Palestinian people.

Cairo dialogues

Despite some disagreements and clashes between Fatah and Hamas, the two movements initiated dialogues sponsored by former Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, culminating in the "Cairo Agreement” in March 2005.

After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assumed power in January 2005, after Yasser Arafat’s death, he opened an extensive dialogue with Hamas leaders that urged them to participate in the Palestinian legislative elections and declare a truce with Israel.

Palestinian Elections 2006

Hamas agreed to run legislative elections in 2006, only to be surprised by achieving the majority of seats in the Legislative Council.

Hamas’ victory hit home. Fatah and the other factions refused to participate in the new government formed by Hamas, headed by Ismail Hania, on the pretext of "not agreeing on the political program."

During this period, sporadic clashes erupted between supporters of the two movements. Many of other factions failed in bringing an end to the clashes.

Clashes intensified after a speech by Abbas in December 2006, calling for "elections for a new Palestinian Legislative Council as a way out of the current impasse."

2007 divide

The beginning of 2007 witnessed bloody clashes between Al Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), Palestinian security services, and fighters from Fatah movement.

Mecca dialogue

In the wake of previous clashes, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz launched an initiative calling on Fatah and Hamas to start a dialogue in Mecca, which proved successful, bearing fruit in the form of the two movements signing the Mecca Accord in February 2007. This entailed forming a government of national unity that is led by Hamas leader Ismail Hania, in which Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmad was the vice prime minister.

Hamas' control of Gaza

The event was a landmark in contemporary Palestinian history, as Palestinian self-rule became divided into two parts, the first in the West Bank, run by Fatah, and the second in Gaza Strip, run by Hamas.

Return to dialogue

The Israeli war on Gaza Strip (December 28, 2008 –January 18, 2009), which caused many human tragedies and material damage, broke the iceberg between the two movements, where they accepted the return to dialogue through an Egyptian initiative.
But the two movements also disagreed on the "political program": Fatah still embraced the idea of negotiations with Israel for the establishment of a Palestinian state, while Hamas adhered to the option of an eventual armed resistance but accepted a long-term truce with Israel.

Back to talks after the Second Gaza War

Following the Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip (November 14-21, 2012), a new rapprochement between the two movements took place. Fatah participated in the anniversary of the establishment of Hamas on December 8, 2012. Fatah also allowed Hamas to hold festivals in the West Bank.

On January 9, 2013, Abbas held talks with Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau, in Cairo, and agreed to "implement the Palestinian reconciliation agreement," only for it not to be.

In July 2017, Hamas announced forming an Administrative Committee in Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and forming an independent state in Gaza.

On September 17, Hamas announced the dissolution of the Administrative Committee in Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

Hamas and Fatah would start a dialogue and form a national unity government upon the Egyptian initiative to achieve unity among Palestinian powers.

Hania arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gazan people, according to Hamas’ statement. That was his first visit since he took office last May.

A delegation from Fatah, being led by head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.
]]>
9/21/2017 12:04:28 AM
<![CDATA[Iran says it does not expect U.S. to leave nuclear deal]]>
Trump, who on Tuesday called the 2015 international accord "an embarrassment," said he had made up his mind whether to keep the pact but declined to disclose his decision.

Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly of world leaders, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded forcefully to Trump's pugnacious speech on Tuesday by saying Iran would not be pushed around by a relative newcomer to the world stage.

But he also said Iran desired to preserve its accord with six world powers under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program for at least a decade in return for the loosening of economic sanctions that crippled its economy.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement," Rouhani said, adding that Iran would respond "decisively and resolutely" to a violation by any party.

"It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by 'rogue' newcomers to the world of politics: the world will have lost a great opportunity," he said in a dig at Trump, who on Tuesday called Iran a "rogue" state.

Speaking later to reporters, Rouhani said he did not think Washington would leave the nuclear deal and said any country that abandoned the pact would isolate and embarrass itself.

"We don't think Trump will walk out of the deal despite (his) rhetoric and propaganda," Rouhani said.

"If American officials think that they can pressure Iran by walking out of the deal, they are making a big mistake," he added. "Either the nuclear deal remains as it is or it will collapse."

Trump, a businessman and former reality TV star whose first elected office is the presidency, told reporters, "I have decided," when asked if he had made up his mind after having criticized the accord in his own U.N. speech on Tuesday.

But he declined to say what he decided.

U.S. officials have sent mixed signals about the nuclear agreement Iran hammered out with six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump's speech signaled "that he's not happy with the deal" but not a decision to abandon the accord.

On Tuesday evening, however, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News that "if we're going to stick with the Iran deal there has to be changes made to it."

The Republican president hinted on Tuesday that he may not recertify the pact, negotiated by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. "I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said.

Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink the deal. If he does not, the U.S. Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.

'MORE PAINFUL RESPONSES'

Clues to the U.S. stance might emerge on Wednesday when the seven parties to the agreement are to meet, marking the first time Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are to meet in the same room.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards earlier said the United States should experience "painful responses" following Trump's harsh criticism.

The prospect of Washington reneging on the agreement has worried some U.S. partners that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it would be a mistake to pull out of the pact. "We have to keep the 2015 agreement because it was a good one," he told reporters.

Russia is also concerned by Trump questioning the deal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in comments published by his ministry on Wednesday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir appeared to signal that his country, Iran's major rival for regional influence, sought to see the pact strengthened, not jettisoned, and wanted Iran to scrupulously adhere to it.

"We believe that it must be strictly reinforced. Iran has not lived up to the terms of the agreement," Jubeir told reporters. "We expect the international community to do whatever it takes to make sure Iran is in compliance with it."]]>
9/20/2017 11:15:16 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi’s 4th meeting with Trump: many topics at table]]>
While having a very busy agenda during his visit to New York, his meeting with Trump which is considered their fourth, would be considered one of the major meetings they will have for several reasons including the current political situation in the Middle East region and the Arab-Qatari dispute, which is considered an issue of mutual interest to both countries.

U.S._President_Donald_Trump_meets_with_Egyptian_President_Abdel_Fattah_al-Sisi_in_Riyadh,_Saudi_Arabia,_May_21,_2017._REUTERS_Jonathan_Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. REUTERS_Jonathan Ernst

Sisi’s first meeting with Trump was held on September 20, 2016, during Trump’s presidential campaign in New York on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly then. Last April, Trump welcomed Sisi in the White House and held a meeting with him to discuss the wars and situations in the Middle East region.

Also, during the Arab Islamic American Summit held last May, President Sisi met with his American counterpart for the third time.

Sisi also met on Monday with several American officials as part of his agenda in New York, shortly after arrival at his residence.

What else is expected during sisi’s participation in the UNGA?

According to presidential statement issued on September 16, Sisi is anticipated to present Egypt’s vision on the ongoing global issues and mechanisms to boost peace and stability in the world, in addition to the Egyptian stance towards regional issues in the Middle East and efforts to combat terrorism.


Sisi has met already with several American and Arab political officials including a high level American delegation, UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and Saudi’s Ambassador to Washington Khaled bin Salman Al-Saud.

According to presidency spokesperson, Alaa Youssef, both meetings [UAE’s minister and the Saudi ambassador] were very successful meetings, as all parties praised the good relations on different levels. All cases related to the Arabian topics expected to be discussed during the UNGA meetings were highlighted during the two meetings.

Another talk session between president Sisi and members of the American Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to take place during the coming hours on Monday, along with another meeting with the Business Council for International Understanding members. Also, an interview with Fox News is expected to take place later today as part of Sisi’s agenda.

Sisi’s participation in the UNGA this year is considered his fourth since taking office in June 2014. Egypt’s foreign policies have witnessed significant development seen in the global and regional arenas. Egypt is a key player in fighting terrorism globally and boosting peace through its 30,000 soldiers’ participation in UN peacekeeping missions, along with Egypt’s efforts to solve Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni and Libyan crises.
]]>
9/20/2017 9:40:00 PM
<![CDATA[Jordanian monarch, US president discuss ties, Mideast issues]]>
During the talks, the two leaders reviewed ways of enhancing cooperation and the strategic partnership between Jordan and the United States in various fields.

According to Jordan News Agency (Petra), they emphasized the importance of boosting bilateral coordination and consultation on various issues.

In remarks to reporters, the king thanked the US president for his support to Jordan. He also offered condolences over the victims of the hurricanes that hit the United States recently.

The king said "Mr. President, thank you very much for having us here. And again, we've met several times this year, and I think that just shows the special relationship between our two countries and how closely we work together. And I'm very grateful for your support to our country in these difficult times and the special bond between our two nations."

"Terrorism is a scourge around the world, but I think Jordan will always stand beside you and your country. And we will overcome," he added.

President Trump said: "It's a great honor to be with His Majesty the King, who has been our partner and ally for a long time. And I think never has the relationship been better than it is right now."

"We're working together on many problems, and some things that aren't problems that are very, very good. But we're going to make some of the bad ones turn out good," Trump added.

"I just want to thank you for everything you've done, in terms of the refugees and taking care of people that -- who knows what would have happened without you. So I want to thank you and I want to thank everybody involved with you, and you have done an amazing job", Trump said, adding: "I have to say this about the King: He is a very fine gentleman, a very nice man. He's also a great, great fighter."

During the talks, attended by top officials from both countries, King Abdullah expressed Jordan's appreciation for the support provided by the US to the Kingdom in the economic, military and development fields and to deal with the repercussions arising from regional crises.

The talks stressed the need to intensify efforts aimed at moving the peace process forward through re-launching serious and effective negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In this context, the king emphasized the importance of the U.S. role in urging the Israelis to seriously consider such efforts.

He warned that the failure to reach a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue based on the two-state solution undermines security and stability in the region and the whole world and fuels violence and extremism in the Middle East.

On the Syrian crisis, the two leaders stressed the need to intensify efforts to find a political solution to the crisis through the Geneva process in a way that preserves Syria's territorial integrity and the safety of its people.

In the same context, King Abdullah and President Trump underlined the importance of the recent cease fire agreement in southwestern Syria, which was reached between Jordan, the United States and Russia. They said the agreement should act as a model that can be applied in other parts of Syria.

The talks also focused on counterterror efforts, stressing the importance of intensifying stepping up such efforts, both regionally and internationally, within a holistic strategy to address this danger, which threatens global peace and security. ]]>
9/20/2017 9:15:41 PM
<![CDATA[Ukraine's Poroschenko rejects Russia's 'hybrid' peackeeping offer]]>
Relations between Kiev and Moscow have never been worse since Russia annexed Crimea more than three years ago and Russian-backed separatist fighters subsequently took up arms against Ukrainian government forces in the east of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this month suggested armed U.N. peacekeepers be deployed to eastern Ukraine to help protect ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to help end a conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists, which has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.

Poroshenko used his speech at the annual gathering of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly to accuse Moscow of not contributing to international security, but of being its "biggest threat."

"The latest hybrid peacekeeping proposal from Moscow is yet another example of Russia's real ambition to legalize its proxies and freeze the conflict forever," he said.

"We remain confident that a fully fledged peacekeeping operation is the only viable solution to de-escalate and protect the people of Ukraine."

Putin originally said the peacekeepers should be deployed along the line of contact between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists, but later said they could also be deployed in other areas where OSCE inspectors work.

"The peacekeepers' mandate should cover the entire occupied area, including the Ukrainian-Russian state border. This is the must. As long as the border is used as the main supply route for manpower and weapons to Donbass there will be no peace in my country," he said.

Kiev and Western countries accuse Russia of providing military backing to the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies any direct role in the conflict.

Efforts to broker an end to fighting through the so-called Minsk agreements have so far failed. Violence continues with attempted ceasefires repeatedly broken. Western powers fear peace efforts could unravel.

"The key problem in Donbass is that Ukraine and Russia strive for different things," Poroschenko said. "Ukraine wants peace and restoration of its sovereign territory, but Russia wants control of Ukraine and undermines every effort (to get) our sovereign control on Ukraine's border."

Ukraine's alternative plan would ban any Russian nationals from taking part in a peacekeeping mission which it wants deployed along the part of its border with Russia which it does not control, an idea Moscow has so far balked at.]]>
9/20/2017 9:03:10 PM
<![CDATA[Council for eastern Syrian to be formed, Egypt mediation lauded ]]>
An executive body has been formed to follow a program, whereby it reports to the anticipated “Arab Council in the Island and Farat.” The council will defend the rights of the residents of al-Hasakah, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa to administer their respective governorates and shape the future of their country, the statement said, emphasizing the unity of all the Syrian territories.

The statement called on Russia and the U.S. to acknowledge that the Arab residents of eastern Syria, making up 80 percent of the population therein, have borne the brunt of terrorism, and that they are responsible for liberating their areas with an exclusively Arab leadership.

The Syrians representing the three governorates urged Arab and international governments and organizations for support their fight against terrorism and help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the area. The statement recognized that a political solution is the only means to a democratic Syria.

The Syrian representatives, who have met Tuesday-Wednesday for consultations, applauded Egypt’s efforts in resolving the conflict in Syrian and its stance in support of the territorial integrity of their country. ]]>
9/20/2017 8:07:56 PM
<![CDATA[President Sisi’s activities in 72nd UNGA session]]>
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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi attends the 72 UNGA session

Highlights of the president’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly:

President Sisi started off by confirming Egypt’s sincere commitment to the internationally recognized U.N. values, as well as its full adherence to the anti-terrorism strategy, which is not only confined to the military solution, but also incorporates fighting terrorism on a cultural, educational and religious front.

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UNGA 72nd session


“There is no room for double standards in combating terrorism; a system that fights terrorism, while tolerating its supporters and simultaneously engaging them in the discussions on how to eliminate a threat they created in the first place,” Sisi said.

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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and UN Secretary General at the UNSC session


On Syria, Sisi said that there would be no salvation for Syria except through a consensual political solution amongst all Syrians at the core of which is the preservation of the unity of the Syrian state and the maintenance of its state institutions. Sisi said the way out lies in the U.N.-led negotiation process supported by Egypt.

Regarding Libya, Sisi said, “Egypt will not allow the continuation of attempts to meddle with the unity and integrity of the Libyan state and will continue to work diligently with the United Nations to achieve a political settlement based on the Skhirat Agreement."

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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi l at the UNSC session


In a first-of-its-kind initiative, President Sisi called on the Israelis and Palestinians to trust their leaderships and to follow the example set by Egypt and Israel, urging the Palestinians to unite.

5
Side Talk between President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan

He emphasized that security in the region is based on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and he addressed Palestinians by saying that it is important to believe in statehood alongside an Israeli state.

Mutual high-profile side meetings:

On the sidelines of the 72nd session, President Sisi met with King Abdullah II of Jordan, U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said.

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Side Talk between President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and U.S. President Donald Trump


Also, he held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.N. Secretary General. The meetings covered files of common interests, including bilateral relations, the situation in the Middle East and efforts exerted to combat terrorism.

On Tuesday the president also met with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in New York on the side of the U.N. General Assembly session.

The meeting covered Egyptian-European cooperation and issues of mutual concern, including ways to curb illegal immigration and fighting terrorism.

President Sisi interviewed by FOX News:

FOX news anchor Sean Hannity began his interview with Sisi by praising his “courage” in raising the idea that Islam needs a “religious revolution.”

Asked for further elaboration, Sisi said that he was talking about the misconceptions and ideas adopted by some people that led to wide scale extremism, and that he has “reiterated the significance of revolutionizing the religious speech and consecutively filtering the misconceptions and misinterpretations [of Islam].”

“Extremist ideas are not the only evil; organizations that follow radical ideologies are also evil. We all need to confront this in the Arab Islamic world and on the international front as well,” Sisi said in response, adding that we need to adopt a comprehensive strategy that is not only confined to military solutions, but incorporates fighting terrorism on the economic, cultural and educational fronts.

In response to a question on whether or not the United States should designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, Sisi replied that the U.S. is a great country that has its own respected perspective, and that it may take some time for them to recognize terrorist groups and their impact on the whole world.

President Sisi’s speech to the Security Council:

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi gave a speech Wednesday at the U.N. Security Council for Peacekeeping Operations session, saying that peacekeeping operations “are not a substitute for preventive diplomacy.”

In his speech, Sisi welcomed the adoption of a peacekeeping draft resolution as a step on “the right path.”

He further called for the enforcement of an agreement enhancing peace signed by the United Nations and African Union last April. He also emphasized the importance of respecting political and social privacy of countries witnessing conflicts.

He added that Egypt has been one of the pioneer participating states in the peacekeeping operations in Congo.

"Egypt continues its regional and international role in achieving peace and security through its participation in international organizations," he said.
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9/20/2017 7:32:33 PM
<![CDATA[Syrian-Syrian dialogue: leaving division behind ]]>
“We want a unified state where everyone gets equal rights and services without ethnic discriminations of any kind; this is what we are seeking through gathering here in Cairo today. We want a civilian law state where everyone feels like a partner”, Mohamed Shaker, a member of Syria’s “Al-Ghad” (Tomorrow) opposition movement, told Egypt Today Wednesday.

كريم_عبد_العزيز_(6)
Meeting of Syrian Tribes in Cairo - Press photo/By Karim Abdel Aziz

For two days in row, the Egyptian government decided to host the first Syrian forum for the tribes and clans in Eastern Syria. The forum kicked off on September 19, following head of Al Ghad opposition movement Ahmed Jarba’s call for all the eastern tribes to sit and talk about Syria’s future.

Moreover, during his opening speech for the forum Tuesday, Jarba affirmed that time has come for a national dialogue between the Arab tribes in Syria, “before it’s too late,” he said. Otherwise, Syria would be an easy card for any international or regional powers to mess with, “which will not be accepted or allowed,” stated to Jarba.

Why now?

The gas-rich eastern part of Syria is one of the most important regions. It is also one of the most intense places inside the country that can be described as a “conflict zone”, Shaker said. He added that when most of the Syrian political powers and tribes noticed that what is going on in this area is seriously affecting the political process and solution, then “that’s why we had to dot all I’s and cross all the T’s.”

Shaker said that there are so many points that need to be discussed about the eastern region of Syria. “Everything has extremely deteriorated. Human rights have been violated, there is no respect for the international law, and no humanitarian aid reaches civilians in this area. There are women and children casualties daily. All of these were serious reasons behind holding this conference,” he added.

Choosing Egypt for this significant gathering represents a point that cannot be ignored, especially after Jarba’s statements Tuesday about an “Arab tripartite project” that includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which support the idea of establishing a unified Syrian home – “A state where no rights are violated and is based on partnerships,” he stated.

كريم_عبد_العزيز_(8)
Meeting of Syrian Tribes in Cairo - Press photo/By Karim Abdel Aziz

There is a serious Syrian effort to rescue the country from regional interventions and conflicts by refusing the western influence and domination within their country. “If you took a real close look at the current situation inside Syria, you would only find western, Iranian and Turkish influence, but not one Arab country,” Jarba said in his speech.

However, he noted that the Arab tripartite project is unconditionally supporting them.
“We want to get back to the Arab negotiation table. These [Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia] countries truly know how to counter terrorism; they have a vision that suits us and is compatible with our vision and aspirations to have a free and unified state,” Shaker told Egypt Today.

Should we have high expectations?

Well, maybe time has come for Syrians to put conflicts aside after many years of suffering. According to Shaker, this is just the first forum, and others are expected to be held during the coming period. “Just the idea of coming to Cairo to be here today is a real sign that all of the tribes have a real willingness of talking, negotiating and unifying,” he stated.

“To be honest, they were truly agreeing on many things during their meetings. Most of them know each other because they are relatives in one way or another; they know that the political solution is the real and only solution,” Shaker optimistically said.

He affirmed that, during this forum, a permanent public body will be established aiming only to discuss all things that threaten Syrians and their country in all aspects.

Several closed sessions between the Syrian tribes are supposed to be taking place right now. A press conference is expected within a couple of hours, and more forums are expected within the coming months to encase the Syrian dialogue and maybe a different future.

UPDATE:
A council will be formed to represent the interests of the eastern Syrian governorates and partake in the future of the embattled country, according to a Wednesday statement by Syrian factions and tribes following their meeting in Cairo.

An executive body has been formed to follow a program, whereby it reports to the anticipated “Arab Council in the Island and Farat.” The council will defend the rights of the residents of al-Hasakah, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa to administer their respective governorates and shape the future of their country, the statement said, emphasizing the unity of all the Syrian territories.

The statement called on Russia and the U.S. to acknowledge that the Arab residents of eastern Syria, making up 80 percent of the population therein, have borne the brunt of terrorism, and that they are responsible for liberating their areas with an exclusively Arab leadership.

The Syrians representing the three governorates urged Arab and international governments and organizations for support their fight against terrorism and help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the area. The statement recognized that a political solution is the only means to a democratic Syria.

The Syrian representatives, who have met Tuesday-Wednesday for consultations, applauded Egypt’s efforts in resolving the conflict in Syrian and its stance in support of the territorial integrity of their country.
]]>
9/20/2017 7:28:24 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi: peacekeeping operations ‘no substitute’ for diplomatic efforts]]>
“Peacekeeping is not a substitute for preventive or mediation diplomatic efforts…in solving problems from roots…thus, peacekeeping cannot be the initial reaction to any crisis,” Sisi added.

In his speech, Sisi welcomed the adoption of a peacekeeping draft resolution as a step on “the right path.”

He called for effective discussion mechanism between states that have participating troops in the peacekeeping missions, members of UN Security Council and UN General Secretariat for permanent coordination on status of peacekeeping troops.

He further called for the enforcement of an agreement enhancing peace signed by the United Nations and African Union last April. He also strengthened the importance of respecting political and social privacy of countries witnessing conflicts.

He added that Egypt has been one of the pioneer participating states in the peacekeeping operations in Congo. ]]>
9/20/2017 6:27:29 PM
<![CDATA[Arab Federation discusses Al-Jazeera’s direct links to terrorism ]]>
"It is no longer acceptable for the media, including the Qatari ones, such as Al-Jazeera, to be immune from liability for the damages afflicting the region," said Dr. Ahmed Hamli, president of the Arab Federation, adding that the organization always stands up for the freedom of expression of the media means in all its forms, notwithstanding its appreciation for the rights of each to uphold national security and peace.

“Media that incites violence, consequently spurs the occurrence of terrorist operations, and many terrorists were proven to have been linked with Al-Jazeera," said the writer Abdulaziz al-Khamis and one of the participants at the Arab Federation seminar titled, “The Media and Terrorism in the Middle East and the Role of the Qatari Media in Spreading Hatred and Violence in the Region.”

He highlighted Al-Jazeera’s direct links to terrorists, such as the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, saying that Al-Jazeera used to ask him to dub bin Laden as “sheikh” during his phone-ins, aiming to glamorizing him,” further pointing to Al-Jazeera’s hosting of Mohammad al-Julani the founder of ISIS offshoot al-Nusra front.

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Founder of al-Nusra front, Abu Mohammed al-Julani in exclusive interview to Al Jazeera

He also accused the Qatar-sponsored media of "promoting the slaughter of Copts in Libya, and perceiving terrorist organizations and groups as resistance groups."

Khamis concluded by calling on European countries to firmly stand against Al-Jazeera, praising Canada’s decision to impose a ban on Al-Jazeera.

The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) submitted a report on Friday to the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms section in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, dusting off the crimes and violations committed by the Qatari regi


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9/20/2017 4:43:05 PM
<![CDATA[Abdullah Al-Thani’s Statement Hashtag trends in Qatar]]>
Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement two days ago published on his official Twitter account calling the Qatari people to hold a family and national meeting to discuss the crisis and settle the disputes.

“Doha’s honest people are on a mission to save the nation... Qatari people oppose Tamim’s gang by holding a national meeting,” some people tweeted.




Others said, “Three sheikhs of Al-Thani and the largest tribe head in Qatar all vote against the terrorist oppressive regime...treason will end soon.”

“It is our duty to not be silent during this crisis,” bin Ali tweeted, calling Al-Thani’s family, businessmen and Qatari people to gather to be messengers of wisdom.

The situation worsens and incites against Arab Gulf stability, he explained in his statement.
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9/20/2017 4:34:20 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi to deliver speech at UNGA, meet Trump]]>
As Egypt is the seventh largest contributor to peace missions across the globe, Sisi is due to initiate the UNGA meeting by reviewing Egyptian efforts to reform UN peacekeeping operations. Egyptian troops have taken part in 37 UN missions beyond the number of people working in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Sisi’s speech will also tackle Egypt’s stance towards developing UN peacekeeping operations to stabilize peace and put an end to conflicts.

Moreover, Sisi is expected to attend the UN meeting to discuss the Libyan situation and seek a political settlement.

Before his meeting with Trump, Sisi will hold bilateral meetings with several leaders in the UN headquarter.

On Tuesday morning, world leaders gathered to attend the UN General Assembly summit to discuss several issues relevant to the Middle-East, Africa, the U.S., North Korea, Iran, Qatar, and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

President Sisi began his speech on Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly by confirming Egypt’s deep commitment to the values of the UN.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi began his speech at the United Nations General Assembly with confirming Egypt’s deep commitment to the values of the U.N., being one of its founding members and the 7th largest contributor to peace mission across the globe.

He also said that his country has been elected six times to be a member of the Security Council.

Sisi also called on the Israelis and Palestinians to trust their leaderships and repeat the example of Egypt and Israel. He emphasized that security in the region is based on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and addressed Palestinians by saying that it is important to believe in statehood alongside an Israeli state.

On the sidelines of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s participation in the United Nations General assembly 72nd session, President Sisi went on an interview with U.S. television channel FOX news on Tuesday.

FOX news anchor, Shawn Hannity began his interview with Sisi by praising his “courage” in raising that the idea that Islam needs a “religious revolution.”

More than once, Sisi was cited saying, “It doesn’t need common sense to understand that 1.6 billon people want to wipe out the rest of the world and think that they would make it alive on their own! Impossible.”

Asked for further elaboration, Sisi said that he was talking about the misconceptions and ideas adopted by some people that led to wide scale extremism, and that “I reiterated the significance of revolutionizing the religious speech and consecutively filtering the misconceptions and misinterpretations [in Islam].”
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9/20/2017 3:39:52 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt investigates ex-Qatari PM’s involvement in espionage case ]]>
Jassim and the Chairman of Al-Jazeera are accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, disclosing the military’s state secrets, and leaking national security documents to Qatar with the intention of damaging Egypt's military, political, diplomatic, and economic status and its national interests. The court has listened to the witnesses and discussed the lawsuit papers, concluding Jassim’s involvement in the case.

If these charges were proven, they would be sentenced in absentia for life imprisonment, according to Egyptian legislation regarding conspiracy cases.

After the court issues a verdict, Egypt has the right to inform the international Interpol to add his name to the red wanted list. Additionally, passport control would be informed to put them in the watch list in case if they arrive to Egyptian ports.

Morsi and other defendants were sentenced for life imprisonment for the intention of handing over confidential defense documents to a foreign country on Saturday.

They also stole documents issued by Egypt’s general intelligence, military forces, national security sector, and the administrative control authority, which contain information and data relating to armed forces, their concentrated spots and the internal and foreign affairs policies of the state, according to investigations conducted by the Supreme State Security Prosecution supervised by counselors Tamer Fergani and Khaled Diaa El Din.

The investigations confirmed that the defendants agreed with a programmer of Al-Jazeera channel, the head of the news section of Al-Jazeera, and an officer of the Qatari intelligence service to provide them reports and documents favoring Qatar in exchange for $1.5 million with the intention of destabilizing Egypt.
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9/20/2017 2:52:45 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 5 Days]]>
The only situation which would put a stop to the referendum is “a bilateral agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, if the agreement materialized in a way that could take the place of the referendum. And then if the international community, the U.S. and Europe back that agreement and give guarantees, this agreement will be implemented,” said Barzani, speaking at a rally for independence in Soran on Tuesday.

“But I will be honest with you, Baghdad has not reached that level yet,” Barzani continued, giving Baghdad a deadline of “two to three days” to reach an agreement.
“We have not violated the unity of Iraq, they did it themselves,” said Barzani. “We went to Baghdad to become partners and brothers with them but they did not accept this and we will not be servants to anyone.”

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi remains in a constitutional mindset.
Iraq will refuse to permit a Kurdish independence referendum “now or in the future,” since it contradicts the Iraqi constitution, al-Abadi said on Tuesday after Barzani’s ultimatum.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi - Reuters

Changing the borders “by force” will open “a door to blood,” Barzani said, while also saying that “the day where Iraqis are fighting one another will never come.”

Abadi had said last week that if the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.” However, the

extensive role played by militias

in Iraq complicates the definition of a “force outside the law.”

All predictions about what will happen in the fallout of the referendum are pure speculation. Joset Hilterman, an expert at the International Crisis Group told the New York Times that Baghdad is ready to discuss the independence of the northern region of Kurdistan, but Kirkuk is the redline.

Kurdish officials have declared their faith in the international community after the referendum takes place.

“I am certain that many countries and nations will support the right of Kurdistan’s people and Kurdistan’s independence if the people of Kurdistan are strong-willed to step towards independence and declaring sovereignty,” said Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of Kurdistan Region’s Security Council said in an interview with Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.

“The people of Kurdistan are more prepared than ever.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said that France would never oppose any democratic process, but he stressed the need to keep stability in Iraq.

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“France will never become part of an initiative which would prevent… a democratic process,” Macron said on Tuesday. “I would invite President Barzani to make that referendum,” he continued.

However, Macron emphasized France’s desire to seek “stability in Iraq.”

In other news:

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Eshk emphasized that Turkey will not allow the establishment of an independent Kurdish state on its southern border.

“The violation of the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria with the establishment of the State of Kurdistan could spark a wider global conflict,” Eshk said.

Other Kurdish officials have also expressed their concerns with the referendum.

"We feel that Iraq has made a lot of gains in the past, so many since 2003; and these were rightful gains, the Kurdish people deserved those gains," said Ilnur Cevik, a senior advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Now we feel that in a matter of one night everything will be lost," since Baghdad will not accept the referendum.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in New York, U.S., September 19, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Turkey's Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES


After his address at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, President Erdogan again threatened repercussions if the referendum took place, telling reporters that “the [Turkish] cabinet will undoubtedly evaluate this situation and assess possible sanctions, which will not be ordinary.”

As the days disappear up to the referendum and the rhetoric of both sides intensifies, only one thing is certain: the referendum will take place. Speculation can be a dangerous tool, but it is widely believed that the Kurds will demand their independence with an extraordinary majority. ]]>
9/20/2017 2:50:45 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari regime in danger after high screams by oppositions]]>
High screams by the Qatari opposition increased to force the Qatari regime to resolve the crisis with its neighbors, purge their land from any links to terrorist organization and seize funding and protecting terrorism.

For his part, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani is one of the major figures opposing the policies of Qatar’s Emir a statement on Tuesday said.

“It hurts me, as the situation is getting worse to the extent of obvious provocation against the stability of the Arab Gulf region, interference in another’s affairs, pushing the region to an unknown and unwanted fate, similar to the fate of states that chose to act unwisely, to end up drowning in chaos and ruin.”

On Sunday, a day before Sheikh Sultan’s statement, the Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement published on his official Twitter account regarding the current political crisis in the Arab Gulf region demanding the same demands.

The Qatari opposition has stressed that Qatar has reached the point of no return regarding its policies with its Arab neighbors, noting that the beginning of its conspiracy against the Arabs indicates that it has a vision outside the framework of the Arab world and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Sharjah 24 reported on August 2.

Most of the Qatari opposition cannot reside in Qatar for fear of imprisonment.

Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, was jailed from 2011 to 2016 over a poem he wrote that a court found insulting to the former emir and urging the overthrowing of the government, BBC reported in March 2016.
]]>
9/20/2017 1:03:40 PM
<![CDATA[Video: Egypt's mandate to end Palestine-Israel crisis]]>
During his speech, Sisi called on the Israelis and Palestinians to trust their leaderships and repeat the example of Egypt and Israel, and urged the Palestinians in his Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly to unite.



He emphasized that security in the region is based on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and addressed Palestinians by saying that it is important to believe in statehood alongside an Israeli state.

Egypt brokered a Palestinian national reconciliation government this week, which will take over the authority the West Bank, as well as Gaza, which had been controlled by Hamas. Cairo hopes the new Palestinian government will engage in peace negotiations with Israel, as Sisi has already tackled the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Monday, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi held talks with Palestinian president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss boasting the peace talks.

For over a decade, Egypt has played a key role in putting an end for the over- a decade dispute between Hamas and Fatah after the first announced on Sunday that it has dissolved administrative committee at the Gaza Strip, to be replaced with the Government of National Reconciliation.

Egyptian authorities exerted endless efforts in order to revive the peace process in the Middle East by arranging the inner Palestinian political theatre since the very beginning of the dispute between both movements of Hamas and Fatah.

Egypt hosted talks between President Abbas and 12 Palestinian political factions in 2005. The declaration stressed on establishing a Palestinian state, whose capital is Jerusalem, as well as easing tensions with Israel if it stopped its aggression against the Palestinian people and territories and if it released detainees.

The declaration also objected settlements, the Israeli-West Bank barrier and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.
]]>
9/20/2017 12:50:53 PM
<![CDATA[Coalition wrangling looms for Merkel after German poll]]>
Despite having a double-digit poll lead, Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc is expected to fall short of a parliamentary majority and the kingmakers they choose could shake up Berlin's stance on anything from eurozone reforms to refugee policies.

For the first time since reunification in 1990, a record six parties are set to enter parliament. And with the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) possibly becoming the third-strongest party, an election campaign widely described as boring could spring a few surprises yet.

"We really don't know what kind of government we will get," said Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. "The political suspense will begin after the vote on Sunday."

The latest survey by the Emnid institute for the Bild newspaper showed a slight dip in support for the CDU/CSU to 36 percent, with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Merkel's main rival Martin Schulz, trailing at 22 percent.

With neither side eager to continue their loveless "grand coalition", attention is shifting to the race for third place between four smaller parties -- all polling at around eight to 11 percent.

"I'm telling everyone that this election hasn't been decided yet," Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster RTL on Tuesday.

With two recent surveys suggesting 25 to 39 percent of voters remain undecided, it seems there's everything to play for.

"There's still a lot of volatility in the polls," said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin.

'Complicated' -
The liberal and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), re-energised by youthful leader Christian Lindner, are hoping for a comeback as Merkel's junior coalition partner after embarrassingly crashing out of the Bundestag in 2013.

But the latest surveys suggest the two natural bedfellows may need the help of a third party, the left-leaning Greens, to clinch a majority.

Such a three-way tie-up, dubbed a "Jamaica coalition" in the country's colour-coded politics, would be unprecedented in Germany and involve some serious horsetrading given the stark ideological differences.

These would "likely be fairly drawn out and complicated negotiations", said Benner.

The FDP's desire to take over the powerful finance ministry portfolio from the CDU's veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble promises to be one major bone of contention, while the Greens can expect stiff resistance to their demand for an end date on polluting diesel engines.

Merkel could also find herself hamstrung on the European stage if the FDP maintains its objections to closer eurozone integration, as pushed for by French President Emmanuel Macron.

For Merkel, another left-right coalition with the Social Democrats may be the most straight-forward choice.

"If she is true to what she has insinuated with President Macron, she wants European reforms," said Benner, which she could carry out with the support of the staunchly pro-EU Schulz, a former European Parliament chief.

Rise of the AfD -
But four more years of the same risks angering grassroots Social Democrats eager to step out from under Merkel's shadow, and could drive more disgruntled voters to the fringes.

In a sign of the growing discontent, the anti-euro, anti-Islam and anti-immigration AfD is tipped to become the first hard-right party to clear the five-percent bar to win seats in the national parliament since the end of World War II.

Seemingly undiminished by months of infighting and scandal, the AfD has been inching ahead in the polls in recent weeks and could now surpass the far-left Die Linke as the largest opposition party.

But any stronger-than-expected showing by the AfD -- which capitalised on anger over Merkel's open-door asylum policies -- would send shockwaves through the political establishment.

Benner said the AfD appeared to be resonating with voters fed up with the status quo after 12 years of "Mutti" (mama) Merkel.

"The election campaign has been sleepy between the SPD and the CDU. But there's a lot of anger too," said Benner, in a nod to the AfD protesters who have jeered and booed Merkel on the campaign trail.

Mainstream parties have vowed to close ranks on the AfD, shunning it from any coalition talks.

The SPD in particular will be keenly aware that one way to prevent the AfD from becoming the loudest opposition voice in parliament, is to lead the opposition itself.

The AfD's entry into parliament would be "a disgrace for Germany", Schulz told the Tagesspiegel daily.]]>
9/20/2017 12:28:20 PM
<![CDATA[Spain takes control of Catalonia's finances to block referendum]]>
"It is a total irresponsibility. They are leading us to an administrative collapse," Catalonia's vice president Oriol Junqueras said Monday, adding the measure was "unprecedented".

Spain's conservative government announced Friday it would take over the payment of essential services and public workers' salaries in Catalonia to prevent it from spending money on the referendum slated for October 1.

Catalonia's pro-separatist government challenged the measure in Spain's Supreme Court but a court spokeswoman told AFP it was "in force" and would not be suspended while judges rule on its legality.

"It is a de facto suspension of Catalonia's financial autonomy," said Alain Cuenca, an expert on the regional financing at the University of Zaragoza who opposes Catalan independence.

Spain's regions pay taxes to the central government and are then given a quota to spend on health care, education and public infrastructure.

Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium and home to around 7.5 million people, receives about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) a month from Madrid to cover essential services.

"This means that from now on (Catalan leaders) no longer have their money," said a spokeswoman for Spain's budget ministry.

They won't have the right to carry out any "extra expense" beyond those already foreseen, she added.

'Less autonomy' -
"Does this mean they have less autonomy? Of course! But the seriousness of the measure goes hand in hand with the seriousness of the events," said Francisco de la Torre, a lawmaker with the centrist Ciudadanos party, an ally of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government.

Madrid announced the measure after the Catalan government said it would no longer comply with a request made in July that it provide weekly accounts of its spending to ensure no money was being used to stage the contested referendum.

Junqueras said the freezing of the accounts is a disguised way of taking away Catalonia's autonomy, a measure which could in principle only take place after a debate and a vote in the Senate, Spain's upper house of parliament.

"This implies not being able to devote one euro to spending in sectors such as industry, commerce, agriculture, livestock, culture, research, sports, youth, social affairs, housing" which are considered to be non essential, he said.

For Madrid, paying the salaries of the roughly 170,000 employees of the Catalan regional government will not be an easy task.

Spain's central government will needed their complete details such as bank account info or the number of sick leave days they have in order to calculate the amount they are due.

'Turn off tap' -
Junqueras avoided answering if his government would provide this information, saying only at a news conference on Tuesday that "we will act with our usual normality".

If it does not, Spain's central government will "turn off the tap" of financing for the region since this means the Catalan government "is not cooperating, that they don't want the salaries of public workers to be paid" by Madrid, the budget ministry spokeswoman said.

Joan Escanilla, president of the Catalan branch of Spain's CSIF civil servants union, said the risk that salaries will be paid late was a "real worry".

"Think of all that people who have to pay their mortgages, the problems they could have with their banks," he said.

The Catalan government downplays the risk.

"We have all the resources to face our obligations," said Junqueras.

About a quarter of Catalonia's revenues comes directly from certain taxes which it collects itself as well as from university tuition fees.

The Catalan government probably "still has a bit of margin" to pay salaries during the month of September, said Cuenca.

To prevent it from using this money, Madrid has asked banks to control all movements in the accounts and credit cards managed by Catalan leaders.]]>
9/20/2017 12:16:10 PM
<![CDATA[Will Egypt push Israelis, Palestinians towards ‘real’ peace?]]>
On Sunday, Hamas dissolved its administrative committee in the Gaza strip, invited the government of national reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections, as per the 2011 Cairo Agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which aimed to unify the Palestinian disputed parties.

Hamas’ decision reflects a soften policy that has changed towards the Israeli-Palestinian cause; in May, a leaked document revealed that the movement has distanced itself from the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, and has accepted a Palestinian state on according to the borders of 1967 (Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem).

Reconciliation was welcomed by Egypt, Fatah, other Palestinian factions, and the Arab League. Both conflicting parts would meet in Cairo for direct talks in the coming few weeks, according to the head of the Fatah negotiation delegation Azam al-Ahmed.

Coincidently, President Sisi urged both the Palestinians and the Israelis to adopt the Egypt-Israel treaty, saying in his speech at the 72nd round of the United Nations General Assembly meetings (UNGA 72) in New York, “I direct my speech to the Palestinian people to stand behind a unified objective, to not differ, to not miss the opportunity, and to accept co-existence with the other.”

“I address Israel that we have a great experience that could be repeated…We are with you to achieve this step,” he continued. He called for closing the Palestinian cause via establishing the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders.

On the sidelines of the UNGA meetings at his residency, Sisi held two separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the sidelines in New York, to discuss the ways of resuming the peace process talks that had been halted since 2014.

He and President Abbas “agreed to continue intensive consultations and coordination to follow up on the next steps to unite the Palestinian rank so as to contribute to realizing the aspirations of the Palestinian people in ending the rift, building their independent state and creating a better future for the coming generations,” said Egypt’s Presidential Spokesperson in a statement.

In the second meeting with Netanyahu, President Sisi “focused on ways to revive the peace process and establish a Palestinian state, while providing the necessary guarantees to ensure the success of the settlement process between the two sides,” said Egypt’s Presidential Spokesperson Aaa Youssef in a statement, adding that Sisi praised U.S. President Donald Trump Administration’s efforts in this regard.

Sisi’s call for following the Egyptian experience of peace process has been issued in May 2016, saying that the 40-year-old treaty had “real peace and opened a new brightening chapter in the regions’ history.”

His message was repeated for the Israelis at the United Nation General Assembly meetings in 2016, saying that Israel has a real chance towards peace via repeating the Egyptian experience to solve the Palestinians’ cause and establishing their state beside the Israeli state.

However, experts find difficulties in following the Egyptian experience due to Israel’s skeptical stance towards Hamas despite its new policy.

Political science professor at Cairo University, Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, told Egypt Today that the inter-Palestinian reconciliation would complicate the compromise process because Israel never accepts Hamas as direct or indirect part in the negotiation; however, it would enhance the Palestinian side internationally.

“Israel will justify that it would not negotiate with a government that includes terrorists,” he added. The U.S. and Israel consider Hamas movement a “terrorist” organization.

A unified government will end Israeli “justification for refuting talks over peace process amid the state of division,” said Rahka Ahmed Hassan, member at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) and former minister assistant for foreign affairs, told Egypt Today on Monday.

The national unity government is a step that strengthens Palestine’s stance internationally to fight for the establishment of their state, he added.

When Hamas and Fatah reconciled in April 2014 and agreed on a unified government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international world to refrain from recognizing the 2014 unity government; asking Abbas to choose between either reconciliation with Hamas or peace with Israel.

Thus, following the Egyptian-Israeli peace example boils down to whether Israel can accept Hamas in the talks or not, and whether it would actually seize building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to allow the Palestinians to establish their state on the borders of 1967.

]]>
9/20/2017 10:53:24 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt wouldn’t stoop to Qatar’s level: Former assistant to FM]]>
Egyptian diplomacy is concerned with international issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the issues of Syria, Iraq and Libya, Haridy said during an interview with author Khaled Salah.

Doha’s purchase of several international research centers recently enabled it to control media and to influence the decision-making process, Haridy said, adding that the “success of Egypt in handling international issues will call off the role of Qatar.”
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9/20/2017 9:41:20 AM
<![CDATA[Iraq PM rejects any Kurdish independence referendum]]>
"The referendum is rejected, whether today or in the future, in the Kurdistan region within the 2003 borders or in the disputed areas," he told journalists.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani has announced an independence referendum for September 25 in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and the provincial council in the neighbouring province of Kirkuk has said it will also take part.

Beyond the three provinces that have made up Iraqi Kurdistan since the fall of Saddam Hussein after a US-led invasion, Iraq's Kurds have also claimed territory in Kirkuk, as well as the Nineveh and Diyala provinces.

Abadi also hinted at a possible military intervention in Kirkuk, which is home to diverse communities including Arabs and Turkmen who oppose the vote.

"If a Kirkuk citizen is exposed to danger, it's our legitimate duty to impose security," he said.

On Monday, Iraq's supreme court ordered the suspension of the referendum to examine claims it was unconstitutional.

Abadi's office said it had filed a complaint against the referendum, after parliament in Baghdad voted twice against it.

Barzani has said a "yes" vote would not trigger an immediate declaration of independence, but rather kick-start "serious discussions" with Baghdad.

Analysts say Barzani is using the referendum as leverage in his Kurdish Regional Government's long-standing disputes with the federal authorities in Baghdad over territory and oil exports.]]>
9/20/2017 7:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Pro-independence Catalan mayors appear before prosecutors]]>
The mayors of three small towns -- Mollerussa, Oliana and Pont de Suert -- exercised their right to remain silent during their hearings, said a spokesman for Catalonia's Municipal Association for Independence (AMI).

"They were not notified of any charges," he said, calling their summons for questioning "unnecessary and disproportionate".

Spain's public prosecutor has opened an investigation into more than 700 Catalan mayors who have backed the referendum slated for October 1, which the country's Constitutional Court has ordered be suspended while it considers arguments that the vote is unconstitutional.

About 50 mayors have been formally summoned to be questioned as part of this investigation. Prosecutors have threated to arrest mayors who do not turn up for questioning when summoned.

"I did not answer any question and finally they gave me a warning," Marc Solsona, the mayor of Morallers, told reporters as he left the state prosecutor?s office in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside of the office and chanted "No tinc por", Catalan for "We are not afraid".

The speaker of Catalonia's regional parliament, Carme Forcadell, was among the people who turned out.

Over two-thirds of Catalonia mayors have said they will open their schools and other buildings to allow polling stations to be set up. Most of them are from small towns in the Catalan countryside where support for independence is higher.

Five of Catalonia's 10 largest cities however have declined to help the referendum.

Pro-separatist parties captured 47.6 percent of the vote in a September 2015 regional election in Catalonia billed as a proxy vote on independence, giving them a narrow majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament.

But polls show Catalonia's roughly 7.5 million residents are deeply divided on independence.

A survey commissioned by the regional government in July showed 49.4 percent of Catalans were against independence while 41.1 percent were in favour.

Over 70 percent of Catalans want a legal referendum on independence to settle the issue.]]>
9/20/2017 6:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Israel's Netanyahu vows to fight 'Iranian curtain']]>
"From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East," Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly, echoing Winston Churchill's Cold War declaration of a communist "Iron Curtain."

"Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions," he said.

"We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces," he said, also vowing to prevent Iran from producing any weapons that could hit the Jewish state.

Iran -- sharing some of the goals of the United States -- has been aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iraq's government in their fights against the Islamic State movement, which has claimed responsibility for a slew of bloody attacks around the world.

Iran's ruling Shiite clerics are also sworn foes of Israel and have supported the militant movements Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu has long insisted that Iran, which also has tense relations with major Sunni Arab states, is the pre-eminent threat and unsuccessfully fought to scuttle Iran's 2015 deal with global powers to give up its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Netanyahu said he was proven right and that Iran was "like a hungry tiger unleashed, not joining the community of nations but devouring nations" after the agreement.

The right-leaning Israeli leader heaped praise on US President Donald Trump, who in his own speech hours earlier had said the nuclear agreement with Iran championed by his predecessor Barack Obama was an "embarrassment."

In years of listening to UN speeches, "none were bolder, none were more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today," Netanyahu said.

UN inspectors say Iran has fulfilled its commitments to give up its nuclear activities under the agreement, which was reached with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Netanyahu has doubted Iranian intentions and voiced concern that the agreement does not go beyond 2025.]]>
9/20/2017 6:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[France's Macron at UN defends Iran, climate deals]]>
Macron, like Trump appearing for the first time at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders, met his US counterpart on Monday for their latest meeting -- which appeared to be friendly but did not bridge differences.

Trump devoted much of his own address at the General Assembly to denouncing Iran, calling the seven-nation agreement on Tehran's nuclear program championed by his predecessor Barack Obama an "embarrassment to the United States."

But Macron said that the 2015 deal -- reached between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- was a "solid, robust agreement that verifies that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon."

"To reject it now without proposing anything else would be a grave error, and not respecting it would be irresponsible," Macron told assembly.

He acknowledged concerns that the agreement does not cover activities after 2025 or touch on other Western and regional concerns about Iran such as its ballistic missile program.

He called for diplomacy to address the issues, saying: "Let's be stricter, but let's not unravel agreements that have already brought security."

UN inspectors say that Iran is complying with the agreement including its restrictions on uranium enrichment.

But US law requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is in compliance and Trump has signalled he will either not do it when the next deadline arises in mid-October, or will pass the decision to Congress where criticism of Iran is high.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a forceful critic of the deal, but inside the negotiations France had been seen as pressing hard on Iran.

- No renegotiation of climate accord -

Trump has already declared that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord, making the world's largest economy and second largest carbon emitter the only outlier alongside war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, which wanted a stronger deal.

Macron said "the door will be open" for the United States to enter the agreement reached in the French capital but vowed: "This agreement will not be renegotiated."

With scientists likening worsening storms and droughts to climate change, Macron said that the effects of rising temperatures were inescapable.

"Unraveling this accord would be to destroy a pact between nations and generations," he said.

Under the accord signed by 195 nations, each government sets its own plan to curb carbon emissions and meet a global goal of keeping the rise in temperatures this century within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

]]>
9/20/2017 5:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Mattis says U.S. effort on N.Korea aims for diplomatic solution]]>
"We are dealing with the North Korea situation through the international process and we will continue to do so. Secretary Tillerson is leading the effort and we will hopefully get this resolved through diplomatic means," Mattis said before the start of a meeting with Romania's defense minister.]]>
9/20/2017 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.N. seeks to rally foreign backing for new Libyan peace plan]]>
The world body's Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, is expected to set out an "action plan" on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday that will propose amending a 2015 peace deal that quickly stalled.

The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) set up under the December 2015 deal has never fully established itself in Tripoli, leaving Libya with three competing governments aligned with rival armed alliances.

Hamstrung by internal splits in its nine-member leadership, or Presidency Council, the GNA has been unable to tackle Libya's acute liquidity crisis, save collapsing public services or bring powerful militias to heel.

Though oil production has partially recovered and local forces ousted Islamic State from their North African stronghold of Sirte last year, security vacuums in central and southern Libya persist and armed groups control the informal economy.

Eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar has gradually strengthened his position on the ground, with support from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Lauded by allies for his anti-Islamist stance, Haftar is accused by foes of seeking to reimpose military rule that they fought to overthrow when they toppled veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi six years ago.

"The most important thing is to convince Haftar that a peaceful solution is better than a military one," said Karim Mezran of the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think-tank.

"You have to convince the Egyptians and the Emiratis who are his main supporters to reduce that support."

FRAGMENTATION

Salame, who took up his post in August, is expected to propose reducing the unwieldy GNA Presidency Council to three members and it would then nominate a new transitional government, diplomats and analysts say.

But securing changes to the 2015 deal would need the approval of a barely functional eastern-based parliament.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on the head of that parliament, Agila Saleh, accusing him of stalling Libya's political process.

A delegation from the eastern parliament is expected to start negotiating with members of its Tripoli-based rival assembly. They are under pressure to reach an agreement before Dec. 17, when opponents of the 2015 deal say it expires.

Salame must also balance calls for new elections with the need to prepare a legal framework in which they can take place, diplomats say.

Before elections "you need a timetable to do the necessary preparation ... but at the same time you need a government that can govern and unify the political, economic and social and military institutions of the country and deliver services in that interim period," said a senior Western diplomat.

Some armed groups have cemented their positions since 2015, while political factions across Libya have become even more splintered.

"Now the problem is that those factions have fragmented internally," said Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. "It's even more difficult to solicit representative views."

Elections would require an electoral law, and possibly a referendum to endorse a new constitution. In 2014, elections were challenged, leading to a major escalation of conflict and the division of Libya's key institutions.

"Of course it's not going to be easy, and once]]>
9/20/2017 4:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: Egypt Today uncovers members of Qatari royal family involved in buying real-estate in Israel]]>Iran and Turkey host Qatari citizens and diplomats who fear Qatari oppression

Turkey exercises more power in Qatar through launching Qatari-Iranianfactories in Doha

Qatari citizens smuggle money from Qatar aboard private jets

Egypt Today uncovers new details about the current events in Qatar and its cooperation with Israel. Events have been unfolding ever since Arab countries boycotted Qatar due to its support of terrorist organizations and the agreements it held with them. In addition, Arab countries imposed many sanctions on Qatar to pressure it to stop supporting terrorism, but Doha refused to cooperate and yield to the demands. In fact, Doha reinforced its relationship with Iran. The Qatari regime started smuggling money outside Qatar to a number of countries, like Israel, Britain, Switzerland and Latin American ones.

A high-ranking source told Egypt Today that Qatar already started sending a huge number of royals and top officials to different countries. The source indicated that they purchased a number of properties (consisting of palaces and luxury homes) within the past few weeks in three countries: Israel, Turkey and Iran. Many important personnel are being sent there, as he indicated that there are high-ranking government officials who left to Israel days ago, where they spend most of their time save for a few days to meet Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Huge amounts of cash are smuggled outside Qatar, and there are Qatari banks that oversee the process.

The source added that Qatari royals are also purchasing property in a number of European countries, in preparation for their departure in the near future. Not only that, but top Qatari officials have already sent all their children and wives abroad. Half of them traveled to Paris, and the other half were sent to a villas compound in Tel Aviv. This is where Qatari executives’ and top officials’ families have resided. They were sent there promptly for fear of a popular revolution. The source continued, stating that Tamim is currently in total control when it comes to coordination with Turkish and Iranian leaders.

The biggest surprise exclusive to Egypt today is that for the first time, a few days ago in the middle of the night, Qatari leaders have transported a huge amount of money, gold bars and diamonds on a royal family private jet. Part of this money was transported by diplomats to Turkey, and the rest sent to Israel. Money transfers are done surprisingly promptly through Qatari government personnel, who transfer them to different countries. Qatari people’s money is being smuggled aboard private jets. The source indicated that companies working in the field of money transfers supervise the process of smuggling Qatari royals’ money abroad during the past few days. He stated that money was promptly smuggled, leading to a crisis in Qatari banks, which was only solved last week.

The source revealed further details: Turkey and Iran are expanding their power in Qatar, through launching huge factories there. He said five new Turkish factories were opened last week, in addition to expansions of Turkish factories producing foodstuffs and different industries. He indicated that Syrian and Turkish personnel run these large factories, and new factories will open soon. Turkey is trying to raise its investments in Qatar with more projects. It is starting an industrial partnership with Iran, which seeks to start Turkish-Iranian projects there, the goal of which is to reinforce both countries’ strategic role in the Gulf.

Ayman Haggag, a Gulf analyst, told Egypt Today that the Qatari regime already smuggled huge amounts of money abroad, not only to Israel, but also to Britain and a number of other countries. He said that they are seeking to secure themselves financially in case they are overthrown, in which case they would escape while benefitting as much as possible of Qatari people’s money. He indicated that Tamim is losing his legitimacy, and his being in power in Qatar is only a matter of time.



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9/20/2017 3:27:43 AM
<![CDATA[Qatari opposition, ruling family fed up with Tamim policies]]>
Recently, Qatari ruling family member Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani released a statement calling on the country's ruling family to do all it can to resolve the crisis with its neighbors and "purge our land" from any links to terrorist organizations, Al Arabia reported on Tuesday.

Paris-based Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani is one of the major figures to oppose the policies of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim since the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and air, road and sea transport links with Doha in June over its support of extremist and terrorist groups, The National reported on Tuesday.

On Sunday, a day before Sheikh Sultan’s statement, Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement published by his official Twitter account regarding the current political crisis in the Arab Gulf region.




The statement read, “It hurts me, as the situation is getting worse to the extent of obvious provoking against the stability of the Arab Gulf region, interference in another’s affairs, pushing the region to an unknown and unwanted fate, similar to the fate of states that chose to act unwisely, to end up drowning in chaos and ruin.”

Additionally, the Qatari opposition decided to raise their voice to the international community through a London conference organized by Qatari businessman and reformist Khalid Al-Hail. Qatari opposition figures, as well as leading U.S., U.K. and Middle Eastern politicians and commentators are set to lead a debate on Thursday and Friday highlighting Qatar’s rights abuses and funding of terror groups, Al Arabia reported.

Another silenced voice seeking justice and refuge from Qatar is Mona Al Sulaiti, the exiled sister of the current Qatari minister of communication.

She fled Qatar after being fired from her teaching job and losing her land to illegal confiscation. She had criticized the government on her social media platforms for funding terrorist groups, crushing dissent, and meddling in the affairs of Libya, Syria and Egypt during the Arab Spring, National Observer stated on January 12.

The Qatari opposition figure has stressed that Qatar has reached the point of no return on the road to its Arab surroundings, noting that with the beginning of its conspiracy against the Arabs, it has a vision outside the framework of the Arab world and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Sharjah 24 reported on August 2.
Most of the Qatari opposition cannot stay inside Qatar, or they may find themselves imprisoned.

Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, was jailed from 2011 to 2016 over a poem he wrote that a court found had insulted the former emir and urged the overthrowing of the government, BBC reported in March 2016.

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9/20/2017 3:22:25 AM
<![CDATA[Hamas offers to return control of Gaza to Palestinian Authority]]>
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said his group is serious about returning power to the Western-backed Palestinian leader and called on him to respond with "practical steps."

Hamas has said it will dismantle a contentious committee that has governed Gaza in recent months answering a key Abbas demand. It has also said it is ready to hand over all government functions to Abbas and to hold elections in Gaza and the West Bank.

"We extend a clear and frank invitation without obstacles for the consensus government to work in Gaza," Haniyeh said after returning from Cairo, where he and other Hamas leaders held rare talks with Egyptian officials.

Hamas is in financial and political distress after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade as well as recent economic pressure from Abbas.

The militant group won legislative elections in 2006 and the following year seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas' forces, leaving the Palestinian president in charge of autonomous enclaves in the West Bank.

Several past attempts at ending the rift have failed, and thorny issues remain, including security arrangements in Gaza. Hamas has thousands of armed fighters and a sizeable arsenal of rockets and mortar shells. It has always resisted calls to disarm or place its men under Abbas' control.

The two Palestinian factions are also divided over Israel. Abbas has recognized Israel and renounced violence, while Hamas seeks Israel's destruction.

Abbas cautiously welcomed Hamas' intentions on Sunday as he headed to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Haniyeh praised the rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt, which cut ties to the militant group and strengthened the Gaza blockade after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president, who had supported Hamas, in 2013.]]>
9/20/2017 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Why Egypt made revival of Middle East Peace talks priority?]]>
In his speech before the UNGA al-Sisi called on the Israelis and Palestinians to trust their leaderships and repeat the example of Egypt and Israel, and urged the Palestinians in his Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly to unite.

He emphasized that security in the region is based on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and addressed Palestinians by saying that it is important to believe in statehood alongside an Israeli state.

Egypt brokered a Palestinian national reconciliation government this week, which will take over the authority the West Bank, as well as Gaza, which had been controlled by Hamas. Cairo hopes the new Palestinian government will engage in peace negotiations with Israel, as Sisi has already tackled the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Monday, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi held talks with Palestinian president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss boasting the peace talks. Earlier Egypt was successful to press Hamas to announce dismantling its administrative authority to Gaza and form a unity government with its rival Palestinian fictions.

“The preparation for the Egyptian efforts to promote peace in the Middle East started months ago, we believe that having a Palestinian reconciliation is an important to key to start peace talks,” said an Egyptian official asked not to be named told Egypt Today
He added that Egypt believes that the UNGA is the right venue to bring back the Palestinian and Israeli conflict to the world spotlight.
“The root of the Middle East instability is the Palestinian Israeli conflict, establishing two states would bring peace and stability to the region,” the official said.

For over a decade, Egypt has played a key role in putting an end for the over- a decade dispute between Hamas and Fatah after the first announced on Sunday that it has dissolved administrative committee at the Gaza Strip, to be replaced with the Government of National Reconciliation.

Egyptian authorities exerted endless efforts in order to revive the peace process in the Middle East by arranging the inner Palestinian political theatre since the very beginning of the dispute between both movements of Hamas and Fatah.

Egypt hosted talks between President Abbas and 12 Palestinian political factions in 2005. The declaration stressed on establishing a Palestinian state, whose capital is Jerusalem, as well as easing tensions with Israel if it stopped its aggression against the Palestinian people and territories and if it released detainees.

The declaration also objected settlements, the Israeli-West Bank barrier and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.

Regarding internal affairs, participants of the talks agreed on assuming reforms in different sectors, setting a legislative law, and holding municipal and legislative elections. That is in addition to forming a committee that would set principles upon which the Palestinian Liberation Organization would be developed. The committee would comprise of members of all national factions.

Participants concurred that internal conflicts must be resolved through dialogue and abandoning violence.

That accord was signed by different Palestinian factions in Cairo in 2009, building upon the principles set in the declaration. The accord had set precise measures that must be taken in order to achieve the inclusion of all factions in the political process.

The accord is divided into five sections: the Palestinian Liberation Organization, elections, security, national reconciliations and freeing detainees of all factions.

On April 27, 2011, Palestinian factions agreed on forming a temporary inclusive government and holding presidential and legislative elections in 2012.

On May 4, 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Hamas Political Bureau at that time, Khaled Mashal, signed the accord, setting the founding principles to form the transitional technocrat government responsible for holding elections.

The accord also allowed Hamas to join the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is currently dominated by Fatah.

The accord aimed at restoring unity among the Palestinian political actors after four years of conflict starting in 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

Fatah representatives Azzam El Ahmed and Sakhr Bseiso met in Cairo with Hamas representatives Mousa Abou Marzouk and Mohamed Nasr on May 12, 2012. They agreed on starting discussions on the formation of the government on May 27, 2012. The discussions would be assumed by the Hamas and Fatah delegations in Gaza, and be concluded within 10 days.

Both delegations concurred that Egypt would supervise and observe each party’s fulfillment of its duties, as well as issues of public freedoms.

The Hamas movement announced on Sunday the dissolution of the administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

In July 2017, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and forming an independent state in Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah would start a dialogue and form a national unity government upon the Egyptian initiative to achieve unity among Palestinian powers.

Head of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gazan people, according to Hamas’ statement. That is his first visit since he took office last May.

A delegation from the Fatah movement, being led by head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.

For his part, Egyptian political science professor, Moataz Abdel-Fattah, stated to Egypt Today that the Statement of Hamas today cut off the arms of Qatar, Iran and Turkey from our north-east borders, in addition to serving a blow to terrorism in northeastern Sinai.

“Hamas’ statement is a message to the U.S. Congress that Egypt might stumble due to unforeseen circumstances, but return to lead which means that our intelligence and our apparatuses have a project for the region that stands against the competing projects. It is also a blow to Israel, which has long protested that "Abbas" is weak, Hamas is terrorist, Egypt is busy, and Syria has committed suicide,” said Abdel-Fattah.

He added that Hamas’ statement comes with the presence of our presidential delegation in the house of snakes to convey to the world who we are and what we want for our region and the world.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.43 (1) Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.43 Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

Also Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science, stated to Egypt Today that the Egyptian move from the beginning was for the purpose of securing Egyptian borders and Egyptian national security, as well as providing facilities to the strip with its residents and citizens, especially for the expansion of the bonds of families.

Fahmy added that contacts and meetings between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides continued calmly, in a completely different manner than what happened in Egypt in the previous Cairo dialogues.

Egypt received delegations from various Palestinian factions, with the aim to unify trends, and bring the views of all factions together, especially between Fatah and Hamas.

“I have written frequently reminding everyone that the doors of Cairo are open to all, and all factions must realize that only Egypt can unite and not divide. The Qatari, Turkish or Iranian option for some factions, especially Fatah, was not a transitory station to try to emphasize the existence of the alternative to Egypt but is a failed option from the beginning,” said Fahmy to Egypt Today.

He pointed out that Egypt has had many confrontations before reaching the point of pushing Hamas to accept decisions that will not stop when the administrative committee is dissolved, as some thought would happen, after Hamas’ leaders responded to the Egyptian proposal.

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Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.41 Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA


Fatah leaders’ response to the Egyptian proposal will have an impact in the foreseeable future, adding that the issue is deeper and greater than the opening and closing of the crossing. The issue involves a set of measures that Cairo is seeking to approve that extend the functions of the Palestinian Authority and the government to the Strip, read Fahmy.

“Cairo has strong relations with some leaders such as Muhammad Dahlan, a center of gravity whose pivotal role cannot be disregarded or his essentiality in any future arrangements, on the other hand, we have close relations with the other leaders of Jihad, the Popular and Democratic Movement as well, stressing that Egypt coordinated with all Palestinian factions,” added Fahmy.

He concluded his comment with saying that Egypt has and will continue to bear more. He stressed that this is their “choice” and their “destiny” and that it is for their security and national commitment to the Palestinian people.

Egyptian authorities remain resilient to put the finish marks of the peace process, thus President Abdel Fatah al Sisi received in his residence in New York on Monday the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.51 Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.53 (1) Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.53 Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 23.16.55 Sisi meets with world leaders including US President Donald Trump and King Abdullah of Jordan in sideline of the UNGA
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9/19/2017 11:30:18 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi says Egypt keen on boosting coop. with EU]]>
The president made the remarks during a meeting with president of the European Council Donald Tusk on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) in New York, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said. The EU's immigration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos also attended the talks.

President Sisi added the Egyptian-EU partnership is a key axis in Egypt’s foreign policy, the spokesman said, adding that the president reiterated the importance of understanding challenges that face Cairo’s development while overcoming terror threats.

Tusk, during their talks, said the EU eyes activation of all frameworks of cooperation with Egypt to overcome challenges shared by the two sides, according to the spokesman.

Also, he praised Cairo’s successful plans to restore stability in Egypt. He voiced the EU's support to its economic reform strategy, the spokesman said.

The commissioner underlined Egypt’s pivotal role in the region, saying it exerts great efforts to fight terrorism and to combat illegal immigration, the spokesman added.

The meeting took up a number of files of mutual interest including efforts exerted by the two sides to control the movement of illegal immigrants. In this context, the president called for adopting an inclusive strategy that covers development problems and conflict which is the main cause for the phenomenon.

The discussions also covered crises in Libya and the Middle East peace process, the spokesman noted. ]]>
9/19/2017 10:38:26 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya's chief justice condemns threats against judiciary]]>
Scores of supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta gathered outside the Supreme Court to demand he be sworn in, before being dispersed with teargas, while isolated protests blocked roads elsewhere in the country.

Chief Justice David Maraga said the demonstrations were "clearly intended to intimidate individual judges".

Maraga and his fellow judges are putting the final touches to their highly-anticipated full judgement, expected to be read out Wednesday, which will point out in detail why they took the unprecedented decision to overturn the August 8 poll.

Maraga in his brief ruling nearly three weeks ago mentioned only "irregularities and illegalities" in the transmission of vote results, when he annulled Kenyatta's victory over his rival Raila Odinga.

While the chief justice became an overnight hero to many across the continent, he inspired fury among the ruling party.

Kenyatta took to the streets referring to Maraga and his fellow judges as "crooks", and threatened to "fix" the Supreme Court if re-elected.

He then attempted to row back on his comments, saying he was merely angry, in what was seen as attempt to appease Maraga's Kisii community -- an important voting bloc -- ahead of the new election.

However local media has reported moves by ruling party lawmakers to curb the powers of the Supreme Court.

Maraga said: "Individual judges particularly of the Supreme Court as well as other judicial officers and staff have been attacked, threatened and negatively profiled on social media.

"Senior political leaders have also threatened the judiciary promising to cut it to size and teach us a lesson."

He said the police had ignored calls to act on these threats.

Maraga, who was speaking on behalf of the Judicial Service Commission, said such "attacks are degrading, demeaning and are meant to intimidate, threaten and cow the institution and cow the judges".

"If leaders are tired of having a strong and independent judiciary they should call a referendum and abolish it all together," he added.

"Before that happens, the judiciary will continue to discharge its mandate in accordance to the constitution."

According to Maraga's ruling Kenya must hold a new election by October 31.

The embattled electoral commission set the new poll for October 17, a date looking less and less likely as the main players bicker over how to hold a credible poll.

The French firm providing technology for identifying voters and transmitting results said Monday its system would not be ready in time.]]>
9/19/2017 10:30:00 PM
<![CDATA[Arab activists’ protests against Qatar in New York ]]>
Protesters demanded a regime change in Qatar, the shutting down of Al Jazeera TV network, and the handing over of Islamist radicals hosted by the Tamim regime.

“The Tamim regime use terrorists to destabilize our countries. He has to go. Arabs should be united, not divided, not in war with each other,” protesters chanted.

“We are here to demand Qatar to stop funding terrorism and supporting violence. We demand the UN Security Council to seize Qatar's financial assets and the accountability of those involved in accordance with international law,” said Yemeni activist Mohamed Ali Elawa.



“We call upon the leaders and rulers of the world and all members of the UN Security Council to take immediate and real action through the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to put an end to the Qatari funding of terrorism and violence in various countries of the world and to deem it a rogue terrorist state and enemy of all humanity,” said Yemeni activist Yehia Al-Kasby.



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9/19/2017 10:22:23 PM
<![CDATA[Trump issues stark threats to North Korea and Iran at UN]]>
In his first address to leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump warned North Korea not to pursue its nuclear missile program in his starkest language yet, deriding its young leader Kim Jong-Un with the nickname "Rocket Man" and threatening to end his country.

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," he said. "The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

As to Iran, Trump appeared to pave the way towards tearing up the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between six world powers and Iran.

Trump said the accord had failed to rein in the regime's subversive role in Middle East conflicts, and sent a clear signal that he intends to declare Tehran in breach of the deal when he reports to Congress next month.

"We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program," Trump told the assembly.

"Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said.

"Believe me. It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction."

Many of the assembly's members, including US allies and Iran deal signatories France and Britain, favor retaining the accord -- under which Iran surrendered much of its enriched nuclear fuel and exposed its nuclear sites to international monitors.

But some of Trump's closest advisors fear the agreement leaves Iran too close to the threshold of being able to quickly develop a nuclear weapon when restrictive clauses in the deal begin to expire in 2025.]]>
9/19/2017 10:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Arab community in U.S. demand regime change in Qatar ]]>
Protesters demanded a regime change in Qatar, the shutting down of Al Jazeera TV network, and the handing over of Islamist radicals hosted by the Tamim regime.

“The Tamim regime use terrorists to destabilize our countries. He has to go. Arabs should be united, not divided, not in war with each other,” protesters chanted.

The organizers of the protest released a statement in the end of the rally demanding the international community to practice pressures on Doha to adhere to the Arab Quartet’s 13 demands.

Following is the full statement as provided by the organizers.

To the leaders and rulers of the States and Governments of the world present at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, To the distinguished ambassadors and ambassadors of the Security Council

The message of the sons of the Arab communities in America and their solidarity organizations regarding the cessation of Qatari funding for terrorism and violence, the seizure of Qatar's financial assets and the accountability of those involved in accordance with international law.



Since 2011, millions of martyrs and wounded people of the Arab nation have been victims of the project of terrorism, extremism and violence adopted and officially financed by the State of Qatar. The lives and future of a number of peoples in the Middle East have also been destroyed by the State of Qatar, Officially launched a project called "The Arab Spring" which is really nothing but a project that represents the spread of chaos, terrorism and the misguided political employment of Islam in the context of enabling an extremist terrorist stream, namely, the Muslim Brotherhood to reach power and arbitrarily against reality and against the will of the Arab and Islamic peoples Which rejects and rejects this terrorist trend, which has emerged from the intellectual cloak of all terrorist groups from al-Qaeda to call all the movements of violence and terrorism funded by Qatar by all means, and since that date and the sons of the Arab world live daily tragedies of the Qatari financing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which turned into a source of insecurity and peace And spreading the crimes of terrorism everywhere in the world and distorted the image of Islam everywhere unjustly.

Therefore, the members of the communities of the Arab countries in America and those present at the demonstration in New York City to the United Nations emphasize that the crimes of terrorism and chaos that have been spreading since 2001 are condemned and condemned terrorist crimes from all over the world and they are the manufacture, production and financing of the State of Qatar and its huge oil funds, Terrorism, violence and chaos in all the Arab countries and continuously - not a natural disaster of the Arab or Muslim man industry and does not represent anyone ... ..

Therefore, we call upon the leaders and rulers of the world and all members of the UN Security Council to take immediate and real action to put an end to the Qatari funding of terrorism and violence in various countries of the world through the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the crimes of terrorism and sabotage by the State of Qatar as a rogue terrorist state and enemy of all humanity. We call on you to issue a UN resolution to stop the membership of the State of Qatar in the United Nations and international and regional organizations in a final and binding resolution and to ensure that accountability and punishment are applied to Qatar and all those involved in financing terrorism, violence and wars everywhere and in accordance with international law. To compensate all victims of terrorism and extremism in the world of the funds of Qatar in international financial institutions, which should be reserved and not to allow the current system of Qatar to act where, as will go in the financing of armed terrorist groups and threaten the stability and security of nations and peoples of the whole world.

Signatories:
Issued in New York on Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Yemeni community in the United States of America
Egyptian community in the United States of America
Libyan community in the United States of America
Sudanese community in the United States of America
Iraqi community in the United States of America
Syrian community in the United States of America
Somali community in the United States of America
Tunisian community in the United States of America
Moroccan community in the United States of America


WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.47
Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.49 Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.50 (1) Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.50 Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.51 (1) Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-19 at 21.36.51 Arab community protests against Qatar in New York - Egypt Today
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9/19/2017 9:47:17 PM
<![CDATA[‘Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance’ documentary in 6 parts ]]>
After four months of the Arab boycott of Tamim Bin Hamad’s regime for supporting and funding terror, and in a new episode of exposing Qatar's crimes and conspiracies against the Middle East and the Arab world, a major U.S. media company produced a series of documentaries tackling Doha's relationship with extremist organizations under the title "Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance.”

Produced by PIC Media, the six-part movie is based on the views of a group of leading academics and international research centers, as well as previous statements by U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump and U.S. congressional officials.

The film discloses Qatar's relationship with terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the history of the group’s violence, being the main organization of radical Islamic groups around the world, and referring to the Qatari satellite channel Al-Jazeera as the voice of extremism in the region and the language of terrorist groups.

Research Deputy Chairman at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former counterterrorism expert at the US Treasury Department Jonathan Shanzer said, "There is a list of extremist groups supported by Qataris," including the Taliban and Nasra Front, which represents the branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

The documentary explains the complex relationship between the small Gulf country and western countries. "Qatar represents an ally and enemy for the United States of America. This is Qatar's role over the past 20 years, and it continues to support many evil actors, while also hosting the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East," said Lee Smith, a senior official at the Hudson American Institute.
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9/19/2017 9:07:24 PM
<![CDATA[Nigeria compares Myanmar crisis to Bosnia and Rwanda]]>
Comparing the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine province to the massacres in Bosnia in 1995 and Rwanda in 1994, the leader of Africa's most populous nation declared: "The international community cannot remain silent."

More than 420,000 people have fled violence in Rakhine, which Buhari said bears the hallmarks of a "state-backed program of brutal depopulation" targeting Rohingya on the basis of their ethnicity and Muslim religion.

"We fully endorse the call by the secretary-general on the government of Myanmar to order a halt to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and ensure the safe return of the displaced Rohingya to their homes in safety and dignity," the 74-year-old leader said.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged Myanmar to halt its military campaign.

The 1.1 million-strong Rohingya people have suffered years of discrimination in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship even though many have longstanding roots in the country.

Myanmar's second vice president, Henry van Thio, is to take the podium at the UN assembly on Wednesday after Nobel laureate and de facto Myanmar leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi declined to attend this year's world gathering.]]>
9/19/2017 9:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[France's Macron seeks to play mediation role between Iran, U.S.]]>
"If we don't resolve the Syrian problem with Iran around the table, then we will not have an efficient response because Iran today is among the powers that have an influence on the ground," Macron told a news conference.

Paris is trying to set up an international contact group on Syria to revive stalled peace talks in Geneva, but the United States has adopted a staunchly anti-Iran stance since President Donald Trump took power, complicating peace talks between major powers.

"Noting the U.S. refusal today, I want that the contact group advances and that the United Nations and France can serve as intermediaries with Iran," Macron said.]]>
9/19/2017 8:28:16 PM
<![CDATA[Merkel dismisses hecklers as polls point to fourth term]]>
Merkel has been repeatedly booed during the election campaign, particularly in Germany's formerly Communist east, where support is strongest for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), set to enter parliament for the first time.

An opinion poll published on Tuesday by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily put the AfD on 10 percent, up two points since the end of August, while Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian CSU allies slipped two points to 36.5 percent.

However, the CDU/CSU remain far ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats, which were also down two points on 22 percent, according to the poll conducted by Allensbach for the FAZ, while the business-friendly Free Democrats edged up to 11 percent.

"People who whistle and heckle contribute little," Merkel told a CDU rally in the northeastern port town of Wismar, not far from where she grew up.

Merkel was unperturbed when a man shouted "Traitor to the fatherland" during her speech, while several dozen supporters of the far-right National Democratic Party gathered outside, carrying posters reading "Merkel must go!"

Hundreds of AfD party members and anti-Islam activists rallied together in the eastern city of Dresden on Monday, counting down the days to a vote set to make the AfD the first far-right group in Germany's parliament in more than 50 years.

The AfD has capitalised on discontent over the influx of one million migrants into Germany in 2015 and 2016, but the other parties all refuse to work with the AfD and no one wants to sit next to them in parliament.

Merkel contrasted Tuesday's hecklers with the contribution of 30 million Germans who are involved in voluntary associations, including those who help support refugees.

But she added that the recent wave of migrants "should not and will not be repeated".

Another poll, conducted by Forsa for RTL television and Stern magazine, showed support for Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc fell one percentage point in the last week to 36 percent, its lowest since April, while the SPD was unchanged on 23 percent.

SPD leader Martin Schulz has been campaigning against inequality, but his message has failed to gain traction at a time when unemployment is at its lowest in decades.

SUPPORT FROM ECONOMY

The Allensbach poll showed that 21 percent think the CDU has done the best job to address the issues that interest voters, compared to 15 percent for the SPD and 14 percent for the AfD.

In fresh positive news from the economy, the Mannheim-based ZEW research institute said the mood among German investors improved more than expected in September as worries about the stronger euro faded.

The ZEW survey suggested markets expect Europe's biggest economy to continue its solid performance in the coming months, buoyed by record-high employment, rising real wages and ultra-low borrowing costs that are supporting a consumer-led upswing.

With Merkel's conservatives commanding a solid poll lead, the main question in Germany now is who she will govern with after the election, rather than whether she will stay in power.

The latest polls put support for the far-left party Die Linke at 9-10 percent, and the environmentalist Greens on 8 percent.

This means that only another grand coalition of Merkel's conservatives with the SPD or a three-way alliance of the conservatives, FDP and Greens would have a stable majority.

The Allensbach poll showed 23 percent of voters would prefer a coalition of conservatives with the FDP, while 14 percent want a continuation of the current grand coalition and 10 percent favor an alliance of SPD, Linke and Greens.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on track to win a fourth term in Sunday's national election despite a dip in support for her conservatives, a poll showed on Tuesday, and she shrugged off calls to quit from far-right hecklers.]]>
9/19/2017 8:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Head of UK's anti-Brexit party appeals for help to stop EU exit]]>
The fourth-largest party with 12 representatives in the 650-seat parliament, the Liberal Democrats are hoping to become the lightning rod for any rise in anti-Brexit sentiment as Prime Minister Theresa May's government edges closer to leaving the EU in March 2019.

Cable, an economist who was business minister in the 2010 to 2015 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, has redoubled his party's criticism of the decision to leave the EU since becoming party leader in July.

"I want our party to lead the fight against Brexit," Cable said in his address to the party's autumn conference. He called for a new referendum, describing Brexit as a looming disaster.

"In the real world, we have yet to experience the full impact of leaving Europe. But we've had a taste of what is to come in the fall of the value of the pound," Cable said.

Sterling fell by as much as 20 percent against the dollar in the months after the June 2016 EU referendum. It has recovered around half those losses, in part thanks to increasing expectations of an interest rate hike to ease inflation, but the pound is still 9 percent down on pre-Brexit levels.

"Foreign exchange dealers are not point-scoring politicians, they make cool, hard, unsentimental judgements. Quite simply, that Brexit Britain will be poorer and weaker than if we had decided to stay in Europe," Cable said.

He also said the government was relying too heavily on its relationship with the United States to help it adjust to life after Brexit, criticising U.S. President Donald Trump as "volatile, and dangerous and an apologist for religious and racial hatred."

SECOND REFERENDUM

Opposition to Brexit has been emboldened after May failed to win a clear mandate for her exit strategy at a snap election in June. She lost her majority in parliament but kept power thanks to a deal with a small Northern Irish party.

Cable said Britons had a democratic right to a second referendum once the final terms of the Brexit deal become clear.

"At the end of these tortuous divorce negotiations, the British public must be given a vote on the outcome," he said.

But polls show little sign of a radical shift in public opinion against Brexit. Polling firm YouGov said a significant proportion of the 48 percent who voted against Brexit now thought the government had a duty to leave. Only 27 percent of Britons want to reverse the decision, they said.

Cable, whose centrist party went from junior coalition partner to near extinction in the 2015 election, made only small gains in the June election having set out the party's stall as the most pro-EU party in British politics.

Cable has previously said he expects dissatisfaction with Brexit to grow as the negotiations develop, and called for opponents from all parties to come together to oppose the divorce.

"We have got to put aside tribal differences and work alongside like-minded people to keep the Single Market and Customs Union, so essential for trade and jobs," he said.]]>
9/19/2017 5:41:24 PM
<![CDATA[Brazil's Temer at U.N. decries rise in nationalism, protectionism]]>
Temer also expressed concern about the deterioration of human rights in Venezuela, where the socialist government has been accused by opponents of becoming a dictatorship.

"We are on the side of the Venezuelan people. In South America there is no more room for alternatives to democracy," Temer said.

]]>
9/19/2017 4:27:21 PM
<![CDATA[Trump to single out North Korea, Iran in first speech at UN]]>
Senior White House officials said Trump would also target Iran's nuclear program, single out Venezuela for criticism and refer to Islamist militants as "losers," in his first appearance in the green-marbled U.N. General Assembly hall, where applause from world leaders is generally muted.

"Big day at the United Nations - many good things, and some tricky ones, happening. We have a great team," Trump wrote in an early morning post on Twitter that also noted his "big speech."

The speech, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT), will mark his latest attempt to lay out his America First vision for a U.S. foreign policy aimed at downgrading global bureaucracies, basing alliances on shared interests, and steering Washington away from nation-building exercises abroad.

Trump's first major turn on the global platform offered by the United Nations has been dominated by Iran and North Korea, which have been the focus of his talks with other world leaders.

Now eight months in the White House, Trump also has found time to criticize the world body, alleging gross mismanagement and demanding that the United States, the largest donor to the United Nations, get more for its investment.

In his speech, he will seek to rally the world to help the United States and its Asian allies reduce North Korea to pariah status and pressure Iran to rein in everything from ballistic missile launches to interference in Syria.

With North Korean nuclear tests and missile launches stirring global tensions, the U.S. ambassador to the United States, Nikki Haley, has said that most non-military options have all but been exhausted.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed several rounds of sanctions on North Korea.

A senior White House official, briefing reporters on the contents of the speech, said Trump would single out North Korea for "destabilizing, hostile and dangerous behavior."

North Korea's official KCNA news agency said on Monday that the more sanctions that Washington and its allies imposed on Pyongyang, the faster it would move to complete its nuclear plans.

'SHARED MENACE'

Trump will also voice concern about Iran, which aides say he considers in violation of the spirit of a 2015 deal negotiated by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and aimed at containing Iran's nuclear program.

"Theirs is a shared menace and nations cannot be bystanders to history and if we don’t confront the threats now, they will only gather force and become more formidable," the official said of North Korea and Iran.

Trump has set U.S.-Iran relations on a far more confrontational path than the detente Iranian President Hassan Rouhani enjoyed with Obama.

Trump's rhetoric against Iran, coming as he appears to be leaning against recertifying the nuclear deal by a mid-October deadline, prompted a retort from Rouhani on Monday.

Rouhani told CNN that exiting the Iran nuclear deal "would carry a high cost for the United States of America, and I do not believe Americans would be willing to pay such a high cost for something that will be useless for them."

Later on Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. White House officials have said Trump on Wednesday will meet with leaders from Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Britain and Egypt.

Trump is using his four days in New York to voice his concern about Venezuela, telling Latin American leaders on Monday night the United States would take additional steps if Caracas moved toward authoritarian rule.

]]>
9/19/2017 4:10:28 PM
<![CDATA[Jarba lists 5 main axes for Syrian tribes’ dialog]]>
“These points could be considered as a first draft for our dialogue to be edited and modified during our talks in order to get a satisfying results by the end of our conference,” Jarba said.

He added that the main axes include, “confronting all kinds and forms of terrorism, knowing that the political solution will not be balanced unless it was based on Syrians’ demands first, and resolutions of the international legitimacy second, admitting all of the Syrian factions’ rights, agreeing on one, clear plan regarding the current transition period, and finally conducting a real national dialogue supervised by the current transition administration.”

Jarba considered his conference proof on what he called the “Arabian project” which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This project is supporting and backing the real, free and balanced Syrian home in which no rights are violated according to Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) movement’s chairperson.

The two-day conference supposes to include several closed sessions between the different Syrian tribes to reach a political solution regarding eastern Syria.
On July 23, the first Egypt-brokered ceasefire was announced in the Ghouta region in Damascus, while the second de-escalation deal was announced in an area in northern Homs countryside on August 3.

The Syrian current deteriorating situations have had its toll on the social, economic and political fabric of these tribes, which are integral parts of the Syrian nation.
Syria's Al-Ghad opposition movement was founded in March 2016 by Syrian National Council member, Ahmed Jarba. Recently, the movement signed a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ghouta with the Syrian regime.

The Syrian political situation has been deteriorating since the protests emerged with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, when the opposition created the Free Syrian Army to face Assad’s forces. The situation worsened when the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group began interfering in the country in 2014.

About 470,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war as of February 2016, according to the latest data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some 1.6 million Syrians have been domestically displaced, while the number of refugees has reached 4.8 million people, the data added.

]]>
9/19/2017 3:06:26 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt embraces real chance to end Syrian tribal conflicts]]>
This time, however, it’s not just a short press conference to announce the final results of the opposition’s talks, but it’s a real chance for the Syrian tribes to sit-down and talk within an environment that believes in political solutions and national dialogues as the only path for peace.

image
Egypt hosts the first consultative concourse of the Syrian tribes and political parties in Eastern Syria, September 19, 2017


According to Jarba statements during his opening speech for the conference held in Cairo Tuesday, this conference is real proof on what he called the “Arabian project” which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This project is supporting and backing the real, free and balanced Syrian home in which no rights are violated according to Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) movement’s chairperson.


‘We should not be underestimated’


In his statements, Jarba called for a national dialogue between the Arabian tribes in Syria “before it’s too late.” He added that his country will not accept to be a card within other countries’ and powers’ hands. “This is the right time to say our word and raise our voice demanding all Syrians’ rights. We open our hearts and minds for all of you to have a real a chance at determining our destiny,” he said.

The two-day conference supposes to include several closed sessions between the different Syrian tribes to reach a political solution regarding eastern Syria.


Five axes for the dialogue


Five main axes were listed by Jarba for the national dialogue between the Arabian tribes in Syria.

“These points could be considered as a first draft for our dialogue to be edited and modified during our talks in order to get satisfying results by the end of our conference,” Jarba said.





He added that the main axes include, “confronting all kinds and forms of terrorism, knowing that the political solution will not be balanced unless it was based on Syrians’ demands first, and resolutions of the international legitimacy second, admitting all of the Syrian factions’ rights, agreeing on one, clear plan regarding the current transition period, and finally conducting a real national dialogue supervised by the current transition administration.”

On July 23, the first Egypt-brokered ceasefire was announced in the Ghouta region in Damascus, while the second de-escalation deal was announced in an area in northern Homs countryside on August 3.

The Syrian current deteriorating situations have had its toll on the social, economic and political fabric of these tribes, which are integral parts of the Syrian nation.

Syria's Al-Ghad opposition movement was founded in March 2016 by Syrian National Council member, Ahmed Jarba. Recently, the movement signed a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ghouta with the Syrian regime.

The Syrian political situation has been deteriorating since the protests emerged with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, when the opposition created the Free Syrian Army to face Assad’s forces. The situation worsened when the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group began interfering in the country in 2014.

About 470,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war as of February 2016, according to the latest data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some 1.6 million Syrians have been domestically displaced, while the number of refugees has reached 4.8 million people, the data added.]]>
9/19/2017 2:55:11 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 6 Days]]>
“The referendum will not define the boundaries of the Kurdistan region,” said Nechirvan Barzani. “This can only be achieved through serious dialogue with Baghdad.”

The political situation in the contended areas should have been concluded in 2007, when a referendum should have taken place to determine whether these disputed areas should join the Kurdish region, as stipulated in Article 140 of the constitution.

“We are not planning to impose one-sided or a unilateral solution to that of Kirkuk,” said Nechirvan Barzani. “The people of Kurdistan and the Kurds in particular do not want to impose our will on the populations and other ethnicities in this region – such as Arabs, Turkmens, Christians and all other components in various areas that are living within these borders.”

Throughout the pre-referendum process thus far, Kurdish officials have observed a democratic attitude, voicing the desire to allow the people to choose; a refreshing rhetoric, largely removed from that of other states in the region.

Kurdish officials have continually asserted that they will not accept unsubstantiated proposals to postpone the referendum and will not bow down to threats.

“All we have been told is that the referendum should be postponed without any alternative that can replace the status quo that we have already,” Nechirvan Barzani said.

Under pressure from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled to suspend the Kurdish referendum on Monday. However, this will have no impact on Erbil’s decision to proceed with the referendum, planned for September 25.

1
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi -File photo

“We don’t have the feeling that there is a judiciary system in this country that is functioning in order to protect the law, order and also rights,” said Fallah Mustafa, the head of Kurdistan Region’s Department of Foreign Relations.

“This decision in no way will affect the region of Kurdistan, the feelings of the people of Kurdistan or the leadership,” he told The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Kurdish President Masoud Barzani met with UK Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon on Monday, as Sir Fallon tried, to no avail, to make a last-ditch attempt at persuading Barzani to call-off the referendum.

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Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani speaks during a news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Erbil, Iraq December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

"We are committed to the integrity of Iraq. We are working with the UN on alternatives to this referendum," Sir Fallon said as he arrived in Erbil.

However, President Barzani reiterated that Erbil had made every attempt at forming an effective partnership with Baghdad, while Baghdad continued to fail the Kurds.

a
Turkish Flag - AFP


“The President spoke of the experiences the Kurdistan Region has had with Baghdad and how all of them had failed,” a statement from the president’s office read. “The referendum will not be delayed only for the sake of holding talks with Baghdad without knowing the content of these talks or knowing what international guarantees they will have.”

Turkey, a fervent opponent to Kurdish independence, continued to apply political and military pressure in an attempt to prevent the referendum from taking place.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and PM Abadi discussed the independence referendum in a telephone call late on Monday night.

Erdogan stressed Ankara’s “full support” for Baghdad in its continued attempts “aimed at preserving the unity of Iraq,” and said that Turkey was “keen to coordinate with Iraq for the security and stability of the region,” according to an announcement released by Abadi’s office.

Abadi stressed “the clear position of the Iraqi government” is to preserve the unity of Iraq and to prevent “all threats to civil peace.”

In a hostile move Turkish fighter jets allegedly bombarded Kurdistan Region’s Qandil mountainous areas in northeast Erbil province over Monday night, attacking positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

In other news:

Tensions in Kirkuk have raised a step higher as violence broke out on Monday night.

A bomb was detonated, the second in the city in just three days, in the Wasit neighborhood of central Kirkuk on Monday. Violent confrontations also occurred as gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on one of the offices of the Iraqi Turkmen Front.

Reports are yet to be confirmed, but thus far there is one reported fatality.

The Kirkuk Provincial Council has rejected the Iraqi parliament’s decision of Thursday, September 14, to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim from office.

The vast majority of Kirkuk Provincial Council voted in the session, on Tuesday, to reject the Iraqi parliament’s decision to oust Kirkuk’s governor, according to BasNews. ]]>
9/19/2017 2:54:01 PM
<![CDATA[‘Arab issues’ is a recurring theme in Sisi’s UN speeches]]>
The United Nations General Assembly’s 69th Session
Only four months into his election as Egypt’s sixth president, President Sisi participated in the 69th UN General Assembly, where he stressed the efforts exerted by Egypt to resolve the regional crises of the various Arab countries.

Sisi pointed out in his speech that Egypt had already put forward an initiative, in collaboration with Libyan military officials in order to stem armament of the Libyan militia, sponsoring the domestic democratic process to reach a political consensus solution.

On the Iraqi battlefront, Sisi hailed the establishment of the Iraqi government, stressing that it posed a significant role in deterring the ISIS terrorist group and precluded its progression.

The United Nations General Assembly 70th session:
During the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Sisi highlighted Egypt’s ongoing efforts to ensure the end of the political feud in Libya, culminated in Egypt’s persistence in pushing forward the “Skhirat” agreement which entails the participation of Libyan warring factions in the political process.

Speaking on the Yemeni civil war, Sisi stressed that Egypt repudiates any “foreign interference” in Arab affairs, expressing Egypt’s full support to the government and people of Yemen.

Sisi further extended Egypt’s welcoming of Syrian political parties to convene in Cairo, in quest for a clear political strategy that could meet the aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure the preservation of its social, tribal diversity and national identity.

The United Nations General Assembly 71st session:

“Bloodshed in Syria is no longer acceptable,” President Sisi reiterated in his message to the attendees of the UN General Assembly 71st session, calling on the international community to find an immediate political solution to resolve the crisis that bogs down the progression of political processes.

As for Libya, Sisi highlighted that Egypt hosts the meetings of the fraternal Libyan parties to ensure that they remain on equal terms with each other in facilitating the implementation of the Sikhart agreement, and in establishing a national unity government as well, reiterating Egypt’s call for lifting the arms embargo on the Libyan army.
]]>
9/19/2017 2:22:47 PM
<![CDATA[Jarba calls for national dialogue between Syrian tribes]]>
Jarba added during a press conference held in Cairo Tuesday morning that his country [Syria] will not accept to be a card within other countries’ and powers’ hands. “This is the right time to say our word and raise our voice demanding all Syrians’ rights. We open our hearts and minds for all of you to have a real a chance at determining our destiny,” he said.

The two-day conference supposes to include several closed sessions between the different Syrian tribes to reach a political solution regarding eastern Syria.

On July 23, the first Egypt-brokered ceasefire was announced in the Ghouta region in Damascus, while the second de-escalation deal was announced in an area in northern Homs countryside on August 3.

The Syrian current deteriorating situations have had its toll on the social, economic and political fabric of these tribes, which are integral parts of the Syrian nation.

Syria's Al-Ghad opposition movement was founded in March 2016 by Syrian National Council member, Ahmed Jarba. Recently, the movement signed a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ghouta with the Syrian regime.

The Syrian political situation has been deteriorating since the protests emerged with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, when the opposition created the “Free Syrian Army” to face Assad’s forces. The situation worsened when the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group began interfering in the country in 2014.

About 470,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war as of February 2016, according to the latest data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some 1.6 million Syrians have been domestically displaced, while the number of refugees has reached 4.8 million people, the data added.
]]>
9/19/2017 12:54:41 PM
<![CDATA[Yes or no? Independence referendum splits Iraqi Kurds]]>
In Arbil, capital of the Kurdish Regional Government, the streets are currently teeming with red, white and green Kurdish flags.

Some people have even resprayed their cars with the same colours and altered their registration plates to read "Kurdistan" instead of "Iraq".

Most of the million or so residents of the city, a stronghold of Kurdish leader Massud Barzani who initiated the poll, back the independence drive.
Many even say the vote should have been held years ago, given that the region has been de facto autonomous since 1991.

But 150 kilometres (90 miles) to the southeast in Sulaimaniyah, a bastion of opposition to Barzani, there is little enthusiasm for the vote despite broad support for independence itself.

"Why hold a referendum when the foundation to build a state doesn't exist?" asked teacher Rizkar Abdel Qader, 46.

"Our officials would do better to improve the quality of life for people before calling for the creation of a state."

Hoshyar Zebari, a Barzani ally and former foreign minister of Iraq, said the poll "supports the desire of the Kurdish people to decide their future" and that postponing it would be "political suicide".
Arbil is keen to use the referendum to exert pressure on Baghdad into making concessions on oil exports and disputed territories.
"Independence is an imperative, but that doesn't mean the state will be proclaimed" the day after the vote, Zebari said.
"It will have to be built while negotiations with Baghdad continue."
The planned referendum has angered the Kurds' international allies and the central government in Baghdad, which sees it as violating the constitution.

Last week, the federal parliament voted against the referendum in a bid to "protect the unity of Iraq", prompting a protest walk-out by Kurdish lawmakers.


And on Monday, Iraq's supreme court ordered a suspension of the referendum until it can examine complaints that the plebiscite is unconstitutional.
Abdel Hakim Khasro, a professor of political science at Arbil's Salahaddin University, believes there are no legal or constitutional obstacles to holding the ballot.

After all, supporters of the referendum argue, the oil-rich northern region has been effectively autonomous since the 1991 Gulf War, with its own institutions, budget and parliament.
But in Sulaimaniyah, which has a history of opposing Arbil's authority, many people are upset that the referendum is being held at all.

"This was decided by one party," said Shoresh Haji of the opposition Goran movement, referring to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

"A state is not born from an announcement but must be built by putting in place a solid economic infrastructure."

Ismail Galali, a member of a movement that backs a "no" vote, agreed.
"Independence is the right of all peoples, but in my opinion what's happening now is a masquerade that will result in a backward emirate," he said.

Few residents of Arbil want to talk about the possible negative consequences of a "yes" vote, despite warnings from the KRG's powerful neighbour Turkey that the region would pay a price.
Turkish tanks staged military manoeuvres along the border on Monday.
"We are not trying to provoke anyone," 43-year-old Arbil newsagent Sirwan Ahmad told AFP.

"The fact that some Kurds are against holding the referendum is a sign that democracy exists in our region."

Most people in the regional capital openly support the referendum, despite the fact that their enclave is facing an unprecedented economic recession.

"That's no reason to give up on gaining our state," said Berwar Aziz, 23, who sells scarves in a shop near Arbil's UNESCO-listed citadel.
"I will vote 'yes' with all 10 fingers," he said, smiling.]]>
9/19/2017 10:58:24 AM
<![CDATA[Hamza bin Laden: the heir to Al-Qaeda?]]>
At his side is his son Hamza, the "crown prince of jihad".
The young man, now 28, has appeared since childhood in the propaganda network founded by his father.

And now, some officials and analysts believe he might try to unify jihadists around the world, taking advantage of the military weakness of the Islamic State (IS) group.

In a report published by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), former FBI special agent and Al-Qaeda specialist Ali Soufan wrote: "Now in his late 20s, Hamza is being prepared for a leadership role in the organisation his father founded.

"As a member of the bin Laden dynasty, Hamza is likely to be perceived favourably by the jihadi rank-and-file.
"With the Islamic State 'caliphate' apparently on the verge of collapse, Hamza is now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement."


The 15th of bin Laden's 20 children, a son of his third wife, Hamza has been groomed to follow in his father's footsteps since childhood.

At his side in Afghanistan before 9/11, he learned how to handle weapons, and ranted in his thin voice against Americans, Jews and "Crusaders" in videos uploaded online.

On the eve of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Hamza was separated from his father, whom he was never to see again.

He was evacuated with the clan's wives and other children to Jalalabad in Afghanistan, then on to Iran, where they were placed under house arrest for years. His whereabouts now are unknown.

A sophisticated system of messengers allowed bin Laden and his favourite son to remain in contact by writing letters, some of which were found during the raid that killed the terrorist in Abbottabad, in Pakistan.

In them Hamza assures his father that he is "forged in steel" and ready "for victory or martyrdom".
"What makes me really sad is that the legions of mujahideen started, and I did not join them," he wrote in July 2009.

In an audio message in August 2015, Hamza pays homage his father the "martyr" and his elder brother Khalid, who died while trying to defend him at Abbottabad and asks jihadists around the world to "strike from Kabul to Baghdad, from Gaza to Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv".

One year later, in a diatribe entitled "We are all Osama," he called for vengeance, warning: "If you think you will not be held accountable for the crime in Abbottabad, you are mistaken."

Eighteen months later, after similar appeals, the US State Department reinforced his credibility within jihadist circles by putting his name on the blacklist of "international terrorists".

Soufan said: "Hamza's messages frequently repeat, almost word-for-word, sentences uttered by the elder bin Laden during Al-Qaeda's heyday in the late 1990 and early 2000s.

"Hamza even makes an effort to sound like his father intoning his words with the same quiet intensity.

"As the Islamic State continues to crumble, many of its adherents will be looking for new banners under which to fight. Many factors suggest that Hamza could be a highly effective leader.

"It remains to be seen how, exactly, the organisation will make use of him, but it is clear that his star is on the rise. That should worry policymakers in the West as well as in the Muslim world."]]>
9/19/2017 10:56:01 AM
<![CDATA[Merkel refugee rallying cry echoes ahead of German vote]]>
"I didn't see it as a statement of fact -- 'we can do it right now' -- but as a goal: we all need to work together, refugees and Germans," the 27-year-old said.

Ghannam's odyssey from his war-ravaged homeland to Europe's top economy represents an unqualified success story -- so much so that he was recently invited to sit on a panel with Merkel to measure progress over the last two years.

This autumn, he will begin working toward finishing his bachelor's degree in business administration at a private university in the German capital, using credits he earned in Syria and through the Berlin-based, non-profit Kiron.

Kiron Open Higher Education, which supports 2,700 foreign students, more than 40 percent of whom are Syrian, was one of a handful of examples of "We can do it" projects Merkel personally visited ahead of the September 24 general election.

In fluent German, Ghannam told AFP he knew Merkel's confident assessment of the country's ability to take in the newcomers had forced many people to confront their fears of the unknown.

"Germany is a land of opportunities but you have to make an effort -- you can't sit at home or expect something from the unemployment office," he said.
About 200,000 of the more than one million refugees who have arrived since 2015 have found legal employment to date.

But suggestions for how to bring more applicants into the job market have varied wildly, in part based on the pace of expanding integration course offerings.

In late summer 2015, thousands fleeing war and misery streamed into Germany's railway stations each day.

There were cheering crowds bearing teddy bears to greet the new arrivals, and the influx gave birth to a new word, "Willkommenskultur" (welcome culture), appealing to post-war Germany's self-image as a force for good in the world.

But there was also a spreading wave of hostility and chaos, deeply unsettling many Germans, particularly in the depressed former communist east.

Hundreds of arson attacks targeted refugee shelters, angry mobs threatened groups of terrified asylum seekers in rural areas and Merkel's once stellar approval ratings nosedived.

A rash of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve 2015 in Cologne, blamed on North African migrants, and a string of Islamist terror attacks, including a deadly truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market nearly a year later, threatened to wipe out the remaining goodwill.

Commentators began writing Merkel's political obituary.
But just two years on, Merkel, in power since 2005, looks set to sail to a fourth term.
Her luckless challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, broadly supports her stance on migration, which voters cite as a top concern.
The numbers of new arrivals have dwindled due to the closure of the so-called Balkan route for migrants and the signing of a controversial deal with Turkey to stem the influx.
Meanwhile the doomsday scenarios conjured up by many sceptics -- including some of her closest German political allies and US President Donald Trump -- have not come to pass.
Kiron, with 70 employees and around 300 volunteers, calls itself a "digital bridge" to help refugees meet admission requirements for German universities.
Co-founder Markus Kressler said the programme was part of a patchwork of initiatives intended to ensure that the initial momentum behind integration efforts is not lost.
"We don't want to have to rely on that can-do spirit lasting -- you always have it at the beginning of crisis situations and then the political climate changes," he said.


Despite Merkel's lead in the polls, which is around 15 points, the political ground has indeed shifted in the past two years.
The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) has poached disaffected supporters from the mainstream parties and entered 13 of Germany's 16 state legislatures.
Although its support has slipped since a peak in late 2016, it is still poised to capture at least 10 percent, giving it a minimum of 60 seats in the Bundestag lower house.

Merkel -- whose centre-right CDU party was hit with back-to-back drubbings in state elections last year -- admitted "mistakes" and retreated from the "we can do it" slogan, acknowledging it had become a lightning rod for naysayers.

But as the mood has brightened, Merkel has returned to her stance that while she was not seeking a repeat of 2015, she had acted in the national interest.

"It was important and right for us to take in these people in an emergency, just as it is right for us to find long-term, sustainable structures (to integrate them)," she told reporters late last month.
"Not euphoric, more pragmatic -- that is the Merkel style," commented public radio the next day.
"Whether the country has done it? That's a matter of perspective. We may only know when Angela Merkel is no longer chancellor."]]>
9/19/2017 10:50:51 AM
<![CDATA[Protests against Qatar’s terrorism-funding expected at UN HQ]]>
According to the Emirati-led Al-Ain newspaper, they exclusively received pictures of banners of the previously mentioned demonstration, which is likely to happen upon the arrival of the Qatari delegation headed by Emir Tamim bin Hamad at the United Nations, and also during his speeches to the UN.

2
singes to be displayed in the anti Qatari-linked terrorism demonstration slated in-front of the UN headquarter, According to al-Ain news website

One sign says, "Qatar is a country for terrorism;” while another banner tainted in red (standing for the bloodshed) reads, "Qatar’s emir funds terrorism,” denoting that the world will not overlook the blood of thousands of innocent people who fell victim to Qatari-linked terrorism.

According to Al-Ain, Arab activists were given permission to stage a protest against Qatar in front of the UN headquarters during Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad, confirming that the Qatari delegation boosted security around Tamim following activists’ calls for protesting against his oblivious support of terrorism.

In another related development, The Women against Qatar group, founded by Lilian Athinasious also called for anti-Doha demonstrations in front of the United Nations headquarters over its support of terrorism, which resulted in the death of many couples, and rendered many women widowed and bereaved.

3
singes to be displayed in the anti Qatari-linked terrorism demonstration slated in-front of the UN headquarter, According to al-Ain news website
]]>
9/19/2017 10:19:12 AM
<![CDATA[FM discusses with Arab quartet how to deal with Qatari regime]]>
Also, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi received on Sunday Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE foreign minister and head of the UAE delegation, at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

During the meeting, Sisi praised the distinguished bilateral relations between the two countries, stressing the importance of continuing to work on developing the relations in various fields, said presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef.

Sisi pointed out that the current stage, with its challenges, necessitates the concerted efforts of all Arab countries to promote joint Arab action and to face any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries and destabilize them.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed expressed the UAE's pride in its distinguished relations with Egypt, stressing the importance of continuing to work on strengthening cooperation between the two countries to achieve the interests of the two brotherly peoples.

He also praised the level of coordination and intensive consultation with Egypt to deal with the challenges and dangers facing the region, especially terrorism, pointing to the importance of Arab solidarity and standing united to face attempts to threaten the security and stability of the Arab peoples.

Youssef explained that the meeting dealt with Arab and regional issues, especially with regard to the existing crises in the region
]]>
9/19/2017 9:04:17 AM
<![CDATA[British Columbia to ban corporate, union political donations]]>
The ban by the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which took office eight weeks ago, also limits individual campaign donations to C$1,200 ($976.24) and bars out-of-province contributions, the British Columbia government said in a statement.

The legislation is expected to pass as the NDP holds a parliamentary majority through a deal with the Green Party, which supports the ban.

Political fundraising has been a thorny campaign issue in British Columbia, which the New York Times in January called the "Wild West of Canadian political cash" because of "unabashedly cozy relationships between private interests and government officials".

The province's previous Liberal government came in for frequent criticism from other political parties and media commentators for holding cash-for-access fundraisers, which gave wealthy donors an audience with then-premier Christy Clark.

Banning corporate and union donations was a campaign pledge for the NDP in a spring cliffhanger election in which the Liberals were reduced to a minority.

Backed by the provincial Green Party, the NDP ousted the Liberal Party in July. The province's right-leaning Liberals are not related to Justin Trudeau's left-leaning federal Liberal Party.

The NDP, however, has itself been criticized by others, including its Green Party partner, for accepting union donations.

The Liberals raised C$13.1-million in donations last year, while the NDP raised C$6.2-million.

Several of Canada's other provinces have been tightening campaign finance rules in recent years, although they vary widely.]]>
9/19/2017 6:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Israeli's cards in Kurdistan referendum]]>
"Most of the demonstrations in which Israel's flag was raised were from Kurdish communities abroad, and specifically in Europe," added the resident official in Erbil, who spoke on the phone to the Youm7 envoy in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that the demonstrators were in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and that "the street feels that Israel is the regional party closest to it after the unanimous rejection of the Kurds from all the countries of the region except Israel.”

Youm7 explored the opinion of a number of people on the streets of Sulaymaniyah about Tel Aviv's support for separation.The citizens expressed their rejection of Israel's interference with the Kurdish issue, believing that such interference weakens the Kurdish position and does not support those who favor the referendum.

Ara Enaya, a university student studying business administration at a Sulaymaniyah university, informed Youm7 on Monday that the Kurdish government is using Israel's paper and its support for secession as a strategic tool aimed at pressuring the central Iraqi government in Baghdad. He stressed that he has not been in agreement with the referendum from the very beginning, so he will go to the box on Monday and vote "No".

"The referendum is currently against the interest of the Kurds," said Bruas Salah al-Din, a pharmacist, adding to Youm7’s representative, "The Israeli position is proof of my point of view that I will say ‘No’ to secession, because Israel is the enemy of the Islamic world, and the Kurds cannot be removed from their Islamic identity or their Arab culture, and they cannot embrace Israel simply for a pro-referendum position.”

But Buya Oyat, a colleague of Ara, told Youm7 that he was not worried about the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi refusal of the secession, believing that Israel is capable of protecting the Kurds after separation, as he envisaged. This was his response to a question about the dangers awaiting the territory in the case of separation.


In the city of Erbil, a participant in a march for Kurds to support the secession referendum raised the Israeli flag next to the Kurdish one during the march.

The Israeli daily Maariv has highlighted the news, stressing that the only place in the Middle East where Israel's flag is now being raised is the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

A number of European cities, such as Berlin, Cologne, Geneva and Oslo, have seen Israel's flag raised in public demonstrations over the past month, and the flag of the occupying power is being brought up in the cities of Brussels, Hamburg and Stockholm this week.

Former Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff General Yair Golan announced that the Kurdistan Workers ' Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, expressing his hope to see a Kurdish state in the Middle East that would gather the Kurds spread across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

According to politicians, these Israeli statements in support of the Iraqi Kurd's secession are aimed at allowing the occupation to encircle the Arab world, making the potential Kurdish entity a functional state that is in conflict with Arab interests and supports Tel Aviv in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset from the Jewish Home party, said it was in the interests of Israel and the United States to establish a state for Kurds in the region, beginning in Iraq.

These statements give rise to deep fears on the part of the Arab parties, since Israel's support for secession is a major breakthrough for Arab national security, as well as for isolating the Kurds from their Arab identity and culture and to remove them from their Arab surroundings.



]]>
9/19/2017 5:06:34 AM
<![CDATA[Back to the center stage: Egypt intensifies efforts to revive peace process in Middle East]]>
On Monday, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi held talks with Palestinian president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss boasting the peace talks.

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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu at his- Sisi’s- residence in New York - Press Photo


For over a decade, Egypt has played a key role in putting an end for the over- a decade dispute between Hamas and Fatah after the first announced on Sunday that it has dissolved administrative committee at the Gaza Strip, to be replaced with the Government of National Reconciliation.

Egyptian authorities exerted endless efforts in order to revive the peace process in the Middle East by arranging the inner Palestinian political theatre since the very beginning of the dispute between both movements of Hamas and Fatah.

Egypt hosted talks between President Abbas and 12 Palestinian political factions in 2005. The declaration stressed on establishing a Palestinian state, whose capital is Jerusalem, as well as easing tensions with Israel if it stopped its aggression against the Palestinian people and territories and if it released detainees.

The declaration also objected settlements, the Israeli-West Bank barrier and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.

Regarding internal affairs, participants of the talks agreed on assuming reforms in different sectors, setting a legislative law, and holding municipal and legislative elections. That is in addition to forming a committee that would set principles upon which the Palestinian Liberation Organization would be developed. The committee would comprise of members of all national factions.

Participants concurred that internal conflicts must be resolved through dialogue and abandoning violence.

That accord was signed by different Palestinian factions in Cairo in 2009, building upon the principles set in the declaration. The accord had set precise measures that must be taken in order to achieve the inclusion of all factions in the political process.

The accord is divided into five sections: the Palestinian Liberation Organization, elections, security, national reconciliations and freeing detainees of all factions.

On April 27, 2011, Palestinian factions agreed on forming a temporary inclusive government and holding presidential and legislative elections in 2012.

On May 4, 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Hamas Political Bureau at that time, Khaled Mashal, signed the accord, setting the founding principles to form the transitional technocrat government responsible for holding elections.

The accord also allowed Hamas to join the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is currently dominated by Fatah.

The accord aimed at restoring unity among the Palestinian political actors after four years of conflict starting in 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

Fatah representatives Azzam El Ahmed and Sakhr Bseiso met in Cairo with Hamas representatives Mousa Abou Marzouk and Mohamed Nasr on May 12, 2012. They agreed on starting discussions on the formation of the government on May 27, 2012. The discussions would be assumed by the Hamas and Fatah delegations in Gaza, and be concluded within 10 days.

Both delegations concurred that Egypt would supervise and observe each party’s fulfillment of its duties, as well as issues of public freedoms.

The Hamas movement announced on Sunday the dissolution of the administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

In July 2017, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and forming an independent state in Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah would start a dialogue and form a national unity government upon the Egyptian initiative to achieve unity among Palestinian powers.

Head of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gazan people, according to Hamas’ statement. That is his first visit since he took office last May.

A delegation from the Fatah movement, being led by head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.

For his part, Egyptian political science professor, Moataz Abdel-Fattah, stated to Egypt Today that the Statement of Hamas today cut off the arms of Qatar, Iran and Turkey from our north-east borders, in addition to serving a blow to terrorism in northeastern Sinai.

“Hamas’ statement is a message to the U.S. Congress that Egypt might stumble due to unforeseen circumstances, but return to lead which means that our intelligence and our apparatuses have a project for the region that stands against the competing projects. It is also a blow to Israel, which has long protested that "Abbas" is weak, Hamas is terrorist, Egypt is busy, and Syria has committed suicide,” said Abdel-Fattah.

He added that Hamas’ statement comes with the presence of our presidential delegation in the house of snakes to convey to the world who we are and what we want for our region and the world.

Also Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science, stated to Egypt Today that the Egyptian move from the beginning was for the purpose of securing Egyptian borders and Egyptian national security, as well as providing facilities to the strip with its residents and citizens, especially for the expansion of the bonds of families.

Fahmy added that contacts and meetings between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides continued calmly, in a completely different manner than what happened in Egypt in the previous Cairo dialogues.

Egypt received delegations from various Palestinian factions, with the aim to unify trends, and bring the views of all factions together, especially between Fatah and Hamas.

“I have written frequently reminding everyone that the doors of Cairo are open to all, and all factions must realize that only Egypt can unite and not divide. The Qatari, Turkish or Iranian option for some factions, especially Fatah, was not a transitory station to try to emphasize the existence of the alternative to Egypt but is a failed option from the beginning,” said Fahmy to Egypt Today.

He pointed out that Egypt has had many confrontations before reaching the point of pushing Hamas to accept decisions that will not stop when the administrative committee is dissolved, as some thought would happen, after Hamas’ leaders responded to the Egyptian proposal.


Fatah leaders’ response to the Egyptian proposal will have an impact in the foreseeable future, adding that the issue is deeper and greater than the opening and closing of the crossing. The issue involves a set of measures that Cairo is seeking to approve that extend the functions of the Palestinian Authority and the government to the Strip, read Fahmy.

“Cairo has strong relations with some leaders such as Muhammad Dahlan, a center of gravity whose pivotal role cannot be disregarded or his essentiality in any future arrangements, on the other hand, we have close relations with the other leaders of Jihad, the Popular and Democratic Movement as well, stressing that Egypt coordinated with all Palestinian factions,” added Fahmy.

He concluded his comment with saying that Egypt has and will continue to bear more. He stressed that this is their “choice” and their “destiny” and that it is for their security and national commitment to the Palestinian people.

Egyptian authorities remain resilient to put the finish marks of the peace process, thus President Abdel Fatah al Sisi received in his residence in New York on Monday the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
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9/19/2017 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Palestinian Cause on the right track for solution, MPs]]>
During his meeting with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Sisi stressed that the Palestinian Cause will always top the Egyptian foreign policy’s priorities, stressing that Cairo will continue its efforts to reach conciliation between Palestinian factions, the Egyptian Presidential spokesperson, Alaa Youssef, said.

It came after Hamas movement had announced on Sunday the dissolving of the administrative committee at Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections.

The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

Regarding Sisi’s visit to New York, MP Osama Abu al-Magd, member of the National Defense and Security Committee in the Parliament, said that the Egyptian-Israeli meeting in New York reflects the Egyptian political leadership’s keenness to resolve the Palestinian Cause peacefully and use diplomacy to protect the region from further conflicts.

PM Hamada al-Qast, member of the National Defense and Security Committee in the parliament, agreed with his colleague, pointing out that Egypt exerts great efforts to reach a solution that satisfies all parties.

"Egypt spares no effort to solve the Palestinian Cause," said al-Qast.

He added that President Sisi is expected to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli peace process during his scheduled meeting with the US President Donald Trump in New York to develop a joint vision on the issue.

MP Osama Radi, deputy of the National Defense and Security Committee in the parliament, stressed that Egypt is a key partner in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and will play the main role in any future agreements in the region concerning Israel and Palestine.

He added that the instability of the Palestinian conditions threatens Egypt's national security, so the Egyptian political leadership should use the recent Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation to make radical changes in the region’s long-time conflict.

“We have to reach a fair solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and neglect those who refuse to sit down with Israel because the Palestinian Cause affects the Egyptian national security which appears clearly in Sinai now," Radi said.
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9/19/2017 3:33:33 AM
<![CDATA[Mattis hints at military options on N.Korea, no details]]>
Asked whether there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk, Mattis said: "Yes there are. But I will not go into details."

Despite heated rhetoric in the United States and North Korea, there has been no positioning of U.S. military assets to suggest a military conflict is imminent. Mattis also told reporters that he believed diplomacy and sanctions were succeeding in putting pressure on Pyongyang.]]>
9/19/2017 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Venezuela opposition blames Maduro for activist's jail death]]>
Carlos Garcia, a local legislator in western Apure state, suffered a stroke in August after being arrested in late 2016 during protests and having money planted on him, his party said.

Two days before his death on Sunday, Garcia was granted house arrest but was never transported home, the Justice First party added in a statement, saying the accusations were invented and urgent medical help was denied prior to his stroke.

"He should never have been in prison and should never have died at the hands of a repressive government whose hands today more than ever are stained with blood," said party secretary general Tomas Guanipa.

Venezuela's opposition parties accuse Maduro, the 54-year-old successor of Hugo Chavez, of being a dictator and maintaining hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges.

He denies that, saying all activists behind bars are there on legitimate charges, including for "terrorism" and coup-plotting against his socialist government.

There was no word from authorities on Garcia's death, and it was not clear if there had been formal charges against him.]]>
9/19/2017 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi, Netanyahu to hold talks in New York]]>
The talks are expected to tackle the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and efforts to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after the success of Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.

Earlier on Monday, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

Sisi and Abbas discussed during the meeting the Palestinian issue in all of its aspects, in addition to the current conditions the Middle East is going through, as well as the dangerous escalation in settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories.

Earlier on Monday, a National Accord government has been formed and announced it will take on its duties in the Gaza strip within 24 hours after Hamas had dissolved its administrative committee, in light of achieving Egypt-brokered inter-Palestine reconciliation.

The move was met by international praise as part of efforts of inter-Palestine reconciliation. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011. ]]>
9/19/2017 1:32:10 AM
<![CDATA[Great hopes, potential opportunities for Sisi at UNGA]]>
“No doubt that all of the regional and Arab topics, crises and initiatives for reconciliation between the Arab parties will be discussed during Sisi’s talks and meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA,” Professor of Political Science at Cairo University Nourhan al-Sheikh told Egypt Today on Monday.

She added that several issues are expected to be on Sisi’s top list during his fourth participation in UNGA, which is completely different from sessions held during the past years, as it comes within a new prominent international role for Egypt.

Terrorism, development and Egypt’s economic relations are three major cases that come as a priority for Sisi, according to Sheikh, who explained that the UNGA can be a great opportunity for all of the international leaders, as it gives them the chance to talk, develop relations and round up their political views.

As for the terrorism part, Sheikh said that it is no longer a national or regional problem, but rather “it is a huge dilemma, which requires a lot of international mobilization to confront it.”

Fourth meeting between Sisi and Trump

“This is the fourth meeting within almost one year; this could be a major indicator that the Egyptian-American relations are based on several cases of mutual interest, and that the two leaders have a lot of to work on during the coming period,” political international affairs expert Ayman Samir told Egypt Today on Monday.

“About $21 billion is the total of the United States’ investment volume in Egypt. We are the biggest African country that deals most with the U.S. economically, and the second on the Arab level,” Samir said.

Furthermore, he described the American support of the Egyptian government as “unconditional” regarding all different issues, including countering terrorism. He said that Trump’s administration is willing to work and cooperate with its Egyptian counterpart, and that this is something that was very obvious during Trump and Sisi’s meeting in Riyadh last May.

Sisi’s first meeting with Trump was held on September 20, 2016, during Trump’s presidential campaign in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA then. Last April, Trump welcomed Sisi to the White House and held a meeting with him to discuss the wars and situations in the Middle East region.

Also, during the Arab Islamic American Summit held last May in Riyadh, President Sisi met with his American counterpart for the third time.

“Since being candidate for presidency, Trump’s statements towards Egypt were fixable and balanced. If we listed the international stances towards terrorism, the United States’ stance would be one of the firmest, which stood by Egypt since the first moment, and this includes our dispute with Qatar,” Sheikh said.

What about withholding the American aid?

Last August, the United States decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million, which was strongly criticized by the Egyptian government. A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 23 stated that Egypt regrets the decision by the U.S. to reduce some of the funds allocated under the U.S. assistance program to Cairo, considering the action as a “misjudgment” that could have negative implications on common interests.

“The Egyptian-American relationship is very complex and deep. I believe that decision was an ‘American’ one that has nothing related to its relations with Egypt and its government. The decision [of withholding the aid] depends on America's internal policy and their decision-making process; it does not represent Trump or even the whole American relations with Egypt,” Samir explained to Egypt Today.

Also according to Sheikh, the American president, due to the nature of the political environment in the U.S., can only be responsible for about 30 percent of the process of any decision making.

Egypt’s relations with the U.S. are regulated by the same roles and polices that regulate its relations with other countries; however, some of the American political bodies and entities still have a specific perspective regarding the Middle East countries. “I don’t think this is Trump’s problem,” Sheikh said.

How does being a U.N. Security Council member make a difference?

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Egypt is perhaps more keen to discuss several regional cases seen as a priority, especially for an Arab and African countries, including the Libyan and Syrian wars, the Palestinian case and the Qatari-Arab dispute.

However, Sheikh said to Egypt Today that being a non-permanent member of the UNSC indeed enhances our chance in the UNGA, and gives Egypt more international capabilities; however, issues like the regional wars and crises are still a matter of “national security” to the country, which would still be discussed during the meetings and sessions as part of our priorities.

Egypt gave too much during its participation period in the UNSC, having issued several incentives and drafts that would help the council to control and solve crises, Samir stated.

Egypt won its two-year non-permanent member seat on the UNSC in January 2016, after receiving 179 out of 191 votes.
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9/18/2017 10:34:14 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt-driven phases of inter-Palestine reconciliation ]]>
About seven previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas since 2007 have failed, including the Fatah-Hamas Doha talks in 2012. Here is the role of Egypt in such attempts throughout that time:

Palestinian Cairo Declaration:

Egypt hosted talks between President Abbas and 12 Palestinian political factions in 2005. The declaration stressed on establishing a Palestinian state, whose capital is Jerusalem, as well as easing tensions with Israel if it stopped its aggression against the Palestinian people and territories and if it released detainees.

The declaration also objected settlements, the Israeli-West Bank barrier and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.

Regarding internal affairs, participants of the talks agreed on assuming reforms in different sectors, setting a legislative law, and holding municipal and legislative elections. That is in addition to forming a committee that would set principles upon which the Palestinian Liberation Organization would be developed. The committee would comprise of members of all national factions.

Participants concurred that internal conflicts must be resolved through dialogue and abandoning violence.

Palestinian National Reconciliation Accord:

That accord was signed by different Palestinian factions in Cairo in 2009, building upon the principles set in the declaration. The accord had set precise measures that must be taken in order to achieve the inclusion of all factions in the political process.

The accord is divided into five sections: the Palestinian Liberation Organization, elections, security, national reconciliations and freeing detainees of all factions.

Social Reconciliation Accord in Cairo, 2011:

On April 27, 2011, Palestinian factions agreed on forming a temporary inclusive government and holding presidential and legislative elections in 2012.

On May 4, 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Hamas Political Bureau at that time, Khaled Mashal, signed the accord, setting the founding principles to form the transitional technocrat government responsible for holding elections.

The accord also allowed Hamas to join the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is currently dominated by Fatah.

The accord aimed at restoring unity among the Palestinian political actors after four years of conflict starting in 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.


The 2012 Fatah-Hamas Cairo Agreement:

Fatah representatives Azzam El Ahmed and Sakhr Bseiso met in Cairo with Hamas representatives Mousa Abou Marzouk and Mohamed Nasr on May 12, 2012. They agreed on starting discussions on the formation of the government on May 27, 2012. The discussions would be assumed by the Hamas and Fatah delegations in Gaza, and be concluded within 10 days.

Both delegations concurred that Egypt would supervise and observe each party’s fulfillment of its duties, as well as issues of public freedoms.

Reconciliation in 2017:

The Hamas movement announced on Sunday the dissolution of the administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

In July 2017, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and forming an independent state in Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah would start a dialogue and form a national unity government upon the Egyptian initiative to achieve unity among Palestinian powers.

Head of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gazan people, according to Hamas’ statement. That is his first visit since he took office last May.

A delegation from the Fatah movement, being led by head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.
]]>
9/18/2017 9:51:29 PM
<![CDATA[Tunisia postpones first post-revolt municipal polls]]>
The announcement came after a meeting between representatives of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, President Beji Caid Essebsi and party heads.

"The majority of participants in the meeting were in favour of postponing municipal elections," said interim commission head Anouar Ben Hassen.

The long-delayed polls had been seen as the final stage in Tunisia's transition to democracy following its 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

The electoral commission had been expected to announce a new date for the polls, likely in March 2018, following several earlier delays.

Following four hours of talks, the parties were unable to agree a date for the long-awaited poll.

"Deferring municipal elections is a bad thing, whatever the objective reasons, but ending this meeting without fixing a new date is even worse," said Mehdi Ben Gharbia, a minister responsible for relations with constitutional bodies and civil society.

The decision came after a major cabinet reshuffle that saw Ben Ali-era officials return to key posts in a move perceived as strengthening Essebsi's grip on the executive.

The poll would have seen thousands of officials elected to replace "special delegations" -- provisional bodies set up in the aftermath of the uprising.

Many hoped they would have improved management of cities affected by poor services, intermittent garbage collection and poor infrastructure.

The poll had originally been set for December, in consultation with the government, political parties and civil society groups, electoral chief Chafik Sarsar said in April.

But a month later Sarsar announced his resignation, saying he was unable to "work independently and impartially". His deputy and another member of the commission also quit.

Tunisia has been praised for a relatively democratic transition over the past six years, during which a new constitution was adopted and legislative and presidential polls held in 2014.]]>
9/18/2017 9:47:56 PM
<![CDATA[Spain seizes more Catalan referendum posters, summons mayors]]>
Three Catalan mayors were ordered to appear for questioning Tuesday at provincial offices of public prosecutors, Catalonia's Municipal Association for Independence (AMI) said on its website.

As of Monday, a total of 37 mayors have received a summons as part of a criminal probe ordered last week by Spain's public prosecutor, who has threatened to arrest the more than 700 mayors who support holding the October 1 referendum deemed unconstitutional by Madrid.

Faced with a determined Catalan government, Spain has multiplied its efforts to try to block the vote.

Spain's Guardia Civil police force confiscated 113,000 pro-referendum posters bearing the logo of the Catalan government from a company in Sabadell, a town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Barcelona, the interior ministry said.

It brings the total of confiscated pro-referendum pamphlets and posters to 1.5 million since Friday across Catalonia, it added in a statement.

In addition, Spain's central government on Friday took over the payments of essential services and public workers' salaries in Catalonia to make sure the region does not use public money on the vote.

Catalonia's regional government responded on Monday by challenging this measure in Spain's Supreme court.

Catalonia's vice president Oriol Junqueras accused Madrid of seeking to discreetly take away Catalonia's autonomy with the measure and vowed it would not stop the referendum from taking place.

"Citizens will vote, there will be ballot boxes and ballots," Junqueras said during a meeting with the foreign press in Barcelona.

Polls show Catalonia's roughly 7.5 million residents are deeply divided on independence.

A survey commissioned by the regional government in July showed 49.4 percent of Catalans were against independence while 41.1 percent were in favour.]]>
9/18/2017 9:00:37 PM
<![CDATA[Trump to make decision 'very soon' on Iran nuclear deal]]>
Asked what he would do about the 2015 U.S.-led international 2015 Iran nuclear deal as he began a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said: "you'll be seeing very soon." Netanyahu said he looked forward to discussing what he called a "terrible" deal with Iran and to rolling back Iranian regional influence.

]]>
9/18/2017 7:58:40 PM
<![CDATA[Q&A with Dr. Houda Abadi, Associate Director at the The Carter Center]]>
Traditionally, psychological warfare has been supplementary to conventional warfare. From synchronized marching and the repetitive clashing of swords on armor, to the infamous work of Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany; methods of psychological warfare have continually developed to make use of the technology at hand. In the 21st century the tools available to disseminate information and propaganda are abundant, and can be easily manipulated by groups such as the Islamic State to pursue a disturbing agenda.

To read more, click here



Question and answer with Egypt Today

1. ISIS has been more successful than any other international terrorist group in attracting support from abroad, as well as locally. Is this more the result of a personal detachment and discontent with society, or a true belief in its narrative?

Daesh has an excellent understanding of youth and their grievances. Their narratives focus on injustices youth can relate to and they offer them a way out. Daesh has also capitalized on the political vacuum created by failed states and the failure of national governments to address core sociopolitical grievances. They have taken advantage of the youth’s feelings of disenfranchisement and marginalization in its recruitment by emphasizing the idyllic notion of utopian “Islamic State” that addresses Muslim grievances across the globe. Some of the main reasons why youth join Daesh and other extremist organizations are social-political grievances which encompass moral outrage, humiliation, marginalization, search for identity, meaning, and belonging. Radicalization of these youth needs to be understood fully, paying special attention to not only the political and the religious appeals that provide the foundation for the discourse used by Daesh recruiters, but also how Daesh’ various online branding efforts have been employed to influence public opinion. AT the Carter Center, we analyzed over 600 Daesh propaganda videos and identified 7 meta-narratives Daesh uses. The religious narrative represents less than 10% of total videos. If interested in learning more about Daesh meta-narratives, please visit our site for more info. We have an article published that discusses solely Daesh narratives.

2. How important was propaganda and psychological warfare in bridging the gap between the ISIS’ military capabilities, and its ambitions?

Daesh has relied heavily on social media platforms to recruit and spread its messages of terror. It has
used digital communication to build a multifaceted, charismatic, modern and sophisticated brand. For Daesh, the virtual media battlefield is as important as the physical battlefield. Through its social media engagements, Daesh media strategies vary by region, race, and gender, but they share some of the following elements: 1) the appropriation of western media conventions and platforms; 2) the use of multiple languages with subtitles; 3) appeals to local grievances and other hyperlocal contexts; 4) the narratives of Daesh converts; 5) humor, provides alternatives with concrete chance of realization; 6) simple messages and easy to understand, and ; 7) emotional appeals. While online recruitment plays an important role in Daesh propaganda, offline relational networks are equally important. The convergence of Daesh online and offline media strategies as they work upon potential recruits in particular communities is of particular concern as we work to develop effective counter-media strategies in both contexts.

3. How far do you believe this extensive propaganda campaign was a pre-determined ambition of the skilled Ba’athist hierarchy who dominate ISIS, or the result of a natural, organic growth in the reach of propaganda through the technologies available today?

Daesh learnt and built its recruitment propaganda from Al Qaida. For Daesh, the virtual media battlefield is as important as the physical battlefield. Ayman Al Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda Central stated in 2005, “We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. We are in a media battle for the heart and minds of our ummah.” Through its social media engagements, Daesh projects an image of acceptance in which all are united under the banner of Islam regardless of race, socio-economic barrier, physical disability, and country of origin. While online recruitment plays an important role in Daesh propaganda, offline relational networks are equally important. The convergence of Daesh online and offline media strategies as they work upon potential recruits in particular communities is of particular concern as we work to develop effective counter-media strategies in both contexts.

Photo_2 (1)
Houda Abadi (photo from The Carter Center)

4. As the influence of ISIS decreases, and with the likelihood that it will be pushed underground, do you predict a major push in its social media/propaganda campaign to re-gain support? If so, how can ISIS maintain the integrity of its narrative since its success has been relatively short-lived?

While Daesh’s loss of territory is certainly militarily and symbolically important, it is unlikely to completely eradicate the organization’s rhetorical credibility and recruitment expertise for three main reasons: 1) Daesh’s strength has resided in its ability to control narratives and to motivate individuals; 2) Daesh has pioneered the use of online media and evolved the use of offline recruitment networks in a way no other group has; and 3) we have still not addressed the root causes that breed violent extremism in the first place.

With its loss of territory, Daesh is adopting new strategies to assert its power in the region. It deploys theological appeals to explain loss of territory, reassuring its supporters while warning its enemies. Setbacks are reinterpreted as obstruction in path to inevitable victor. It is increasingly focusing on simple messages that are appealing and calling for homegrown attacks by any means necessary. Daesh propaganda now includes instructional how-to videos and articles for homegrown terrorists. For instance, articles from its social magazine, Rumiyah, describe when and how a large-scale attack could be executed and what types of weapons to use. Videos are more violent and gruesome. Daesh’s print and visual media are evolving to serve, in part, as more than a recruitment tool: media has become a virtual training ground. However, an important thing to note is the drop of Daesh video production. There was an average of 30+ video releases per month in early 2015 versus roughly 13 per month in early 2017.

5. The use of children as soldiers to commit barbaric acts has been adopted by ISIS as a method of psychological warfare to instil fear in the hearts and minds of the population. How can trust be rebuilt in society after years of brutal indoctrination and fear-mongering?

Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in Daesh. These boys and girls, some as young as 5 years old may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that Daesh offers a better alternative. Children, as young as five years old, are forced to witness public executions and torture.

The visual symbolism of having an organized army of young soldiers serves as a crucial element in Daesh’s psychological warfare. They are referred to as: “the cubs of the caliphate,” “tomorrow’s mujahedeen,” “the next generation,” “the future flag bearers”. With loss of territory, we see more children videos. It’s also a way to shame men and tell them that if children can fight then they have no excuse.

Governments must provide legal services to returning Daesh child soldiers and their families. They need to ensure that those who abused, manipulated, and recruited child soldiers are prosecuted and tried in a court of law. Many children who were involved in armed conflict receive little or no support to reintegrate into their communities, and are shunned. There’s a dire need for reintegration and rehabilitation programs which provide psycho-social support and are gender conscious. We need Outreach programs, educational opportunities (formal and informal), and influencing the larger context in which these youth live.

6. What should the international community have learnt about constricting the channels of propaganda, and countering propaganda, in order to prevent its replication in the future?

There is a dire need for a sustainable, community-based approach in preventing violent extremism. Military power alone cannot defeat the violent ideologies or address grievances that gave rise to Daesh in the first place. Perceptions of social injustice, socio-economic development, identity politics, and marginalization are at the heart of Daesh recruitment propaganda. We need a multi-modal approach that surpasses Daesh’s imagination and its effective use of media to recruit and spread violent ideologies. If we are going to prevent violent extremism, our efforts have to address root causes.

We must reduce the emotional appeals and confront the romantic image of these extremists. There is no single pathway to becoming radicalized. There is no one-size-fits-all response strategy. Drivers and enablers of violent extremism are context-driven and hyperlocal in nature, complex and diverse; interventions should reflect these realities. Interventions should include all three dimensions: 1) emotional appeals; 2) cognitive appeals; and, 3) behavioral appeals or alternatives.

Well-crafted and localized counter-messaging is an important tool in the fight against violent extremism; however, it is insufficient in and of itself. Government counter-messaging programs and religious institutions devoid of credibility have little impact. Trust is the most valuable currency in effective PVE work and in the credibility of counter-narratives. At times the messenger is more important than the message itself. There is a need to move beyond counter messaging and instead provide offer alternatives where local grievances from a granular level are addressed.

For effective and sustainable community Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) initiatives, the following actions are recommended:

• PVE initiatives should be based on local research and nuanced understanding of the contextual push and pull factors.

• Religious actors are social actors who hold credibility and legitimacy within their local communities. Engaging with religious leaders across ideological and political divide is key.

• A gender-conscious agenda for PVE should be embraced, with a focus on youth as peace-builders.

• There is a need to move beyond counter-narratives. The focus on PVE interventions needs to shift to providing alternatives to disaffected youth in advocating for local change.

• Hyper-local media strategies that include emotional and rational appeals should be developed.

• There is a need to develop a comprehensive, rights-based approach to the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-foreign fighters and former political detainees. Prisons are a breeding ground for recruitment and circulation of violent extremist ideologies. There is an indoctrination and formation of tight networks. Enduring harsh treatment and at times torture, Daesh members are able to convince others to join their “just” cause. While still locked up, prisoners are invited to join Daesh and promised a better future. The failure of rehabilitation programs inside and outside of prisons remains a major security concern.

• Intra-Muslim dialogue is needed to address the gaps between Salafi communities and the government religious apparatus. Continued marginalization of Salafi communities will increase resentment and encourage recruitment.

To read more, click here

]]>
9/18/2017 7:49:32 PM
<![CDATA[The Islamic State: The War of Words and the Battle of Minds]]>
But the numbers simply didn’t add up. A CIA report in 2014 estimated between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters were loyal to IS. Yet, they were able to easily capture Iraq’s second city, Mosul, overcoming Iraq’s army at almost 200,000 strong.

There is a large gap between the military capability of the Islamic State and the success they have achieved, however this gap has been filled time and time again through propaganda and psychological warfare.

The difference between propaganda and psychological warfare is contentious. Some people contend that propaganda and psychological warfare are the same in substance yet differ in purpose. Propaganda being the messages provided to motivate the ‘home’ community, while psychological warfare being similar practices, yet utilized by the enemy. However, this distinction is highly subjective.

A more suitable distinction is to separate the two by what they entail. In this case, psychological warfare represents the entire space of indoctrination, including the use of child soldiers to stimulate fear for example, whereas propaganda exists as a subsection of physiological warfare and is limited to the message and narratives propounded. This removes a positive and negative bias.

Psychological warfare is the most effective tool the Islamic State possesses, and consequently should be the focus of the international community in an effective anti-IS fight.

Traditionally, psychological warfare has been supplementary to conventional warfare. From synchronized marching and the repetitive clashing of swords on armor, to the infamous work of Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany; methods of psychological warfare have continually developed to make use of the technology at hand. In the 21st century the tools available to disseminate information and propaganda are abundant, and can be easily manipulated by groups such as IS to pursue a disturbing agenda.

Photo_2
Photo 2: A painting of President Saddam Hussein. David Mabey is accused of breaking UN sanctions by making a corrupt payment to the Iraqi president's regime. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

It comes as no surprise that IS’s propaganda machine has been invested in so greatly, and thus valued so highly. Under Saddam Hussein, psychological warfare was central to his grip on control, and this is where the sophistication of IS originates. Iraqi ex-military and bureaucracy men, who were left alienated and humiliated during Iraq’s de-Ba’athification process, provided the necessary leadership, while al-Qaeda provided nurture.

For IS, propaganda is essential in mobilizing a support base. Thousands responded to the Islamic State’s beck and call and assembled to join the self-proclaimed caliphate and defend the IS ranks. What was outstanding, however, was the many thousands of foreign nationals who risked arrest, persecution and death, to join the self-proclaimed caliphate.

The tools of propaganda used today differ from their predecessors in one influential aspect – their reach in our globalized world today is limitless. The ability to access to the internet and information is only on the rise, and IS has utilized many platforms to appeal to as wide a base as possible.

The mechanisms used to disseminate propaganda can be adopted by any group, regardless of its motive, in order to pursue and further an agenda. In reality, the social media campaigns of grassroots movements and the Islamic State are eerily similar in terms of their aesthetic, technical and multifaceted nature.

The only distinction between a campaign and propaganda is the validity of the information being provided, with the latter being largely biased.

IS’s message is channeled through several distinguishable narratives in order to increase its appeal and establish a base of support. These narratives are not set in stone, but fluid, and continually evolve over time to reinforce each other and increase the appeal of the Islamic State’s caliphate.

“The war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalm, and knives,” said Omar Hammami, leader of the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab, until his death in 2013.

A

report published

by the

Carter Center

identifies seven main narratives in the Islamic State’s recruitment propaganda, which range greatly. From anger over historical grievances, to glorifying military jihad over heretics, to the romanticism of the ‘caliphate’, these narratives have the potential to appeal to a diverse base.

Contrary to popular belief, the religious narrative only represents less than 10 percent of IS videos, according to an analysis of over 600 propaganda videos by the Carter Center.

Through these narratives, IS hopes to enforce an us vs. them dichotomy, polarizing the world into two camps: good and evil. The number of narratives adopted helps break this dichotomy down on several layers, in the hope that one narrative will appeal to an audience and thus demand their adherence to its ideology and ambitions. Whether Islam vs. West or Sunni vs. heretics, IS has been able to rally a strong support.

Photo_3
Photo 3: Militant Islamist fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

The notion of a collective Islamic conscious serves to unite the Islamic State’s supporters, from all walks of life, under one cohesive banner.

The disenfranchised youth offer the Islamic State a diverse support base which has thus become the focus of its propaganda campaign. People who feel out of touch with society and feel that their life is lacking fundamental qualities, are most susceptible to the Islamic State’s message.

“They have taken advantage of the youth’s feelings of disenfranchisement and marginalization in its recruitment by emphasizing the idyllic notion of utopian “Islamic State” that addresses Muslim grievances across the globe,” said Dr. Houda Abadi, associate director of the Conflict Resolution program at The Carter Center, to Egypt Today.

The Islamic State has become an expert in identifying certain groups within society which fall into this disenfranchised category, nurturing them to the values of the caliphate, and offering them a way out. However, as aforementioned, religious appeals only provide a partial explanation for the Islamic State’s appeal.

“Some of the main reasons why youth join Daesh and other extremist organizations are social-political grievances which encompass moral outrage, humiliation, marginalization, search for identity, meaning, and belonging,” said Dr. Abadi, referencing another terms used for the Islamic State.

The self-proclaimed caliphate offers a place where anyone who desires to escape their lives will be welcomed with open arms and united in the ‘Islamic’ struggle. The rhetoric of acceptance is prevalent.

“Daesh projects an image of acceptance in which all are united under the banner of Islam regardless of race, socio-economic barrier, physical disability, and country of origin,” said Dr. Abadi.

IS has adopted simple mechanisms to project its message around the world, which have had a profound effect in increasing its prestige and popularity abroad and at home.

Through a multifaceted media campaign, the reach of the Islamic State is unlimited as it reaches out to a diverse and widespread potential base of support.


Photo_4
Photo 4: First two issues of the Dabiq magazine

The multi-language, multi-platform approach adopted by IS stands in sharp contrast to that used by al-Qaeda in the past. The once blurry videotapes have been replaced by High Definition, tech-savvy videos covering a breadth of subjects. Videos depicting atrocities run wild on social media platforms, and convey an image of unrestricted power – appealing to many people who feel unsatisfied by their place in society.

“It [IS] has used digital communication to build a multifaceted, charismatic, modern and sophisticated brand. For Daesh, the virtual media battlefield is as important as the physical battlefield,” said Dr. Abadi.

The use of videos to attract support and to secure obedience has been a feature of warfare since the Second World War.

“It fired no gun, dropped no bombs, but as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal,” said Hollywood director Frank Capra when discussing Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.” “It scared the hell out of me.”

This was many decades ago however, and media skills have developed drastically since then. Techniques plundered from movies, video-games and music have given the Islamic State the cutting edge in its propaganda campaign to attract and command support, as well as exhibiting its archaic practices to incite fear and display a self-proclaimed dominance.

The propaganda mechanisms adopted by the Islamic State are diverse and not simply limited to social media.

The online magazines – Dabiq and Rumiyah – serve to promote the religious values of the Islamic State, promote its atrocities, and provide harrowing guidelines for how to commit “favorable” atrocities.

“On the 27th of Sha’ban, one of the soldiers of the Khilafah detonated an explosive device in the midst of a gathering of Crusaders in the British city of Manchester at a shameless concert at Manchester Arena, killing approximately 30 Crusaders and wounding 70 others,” stated issue 10 of Rumiyah.

Photo_5
Photo 5: Memorial for the victims of the deadly Manchester Arena attack, in Manchester, Britain. REUTERS

The terminology used opens one’s eyes to the severely misguided, yet fundamental beliefs of the Islamic State. Among those 22 people who were tragically murdered in this abhorrent attack, was an eight-year old girl, Saffie Roussos.

A Crusader? Certainly not. A young innocent life simply enjoying a music concert? Yes.

In keeping with the Islamic State’s archaic practices, even music is outlawed in the self-proclaimed caliphate

Yet, this rhetoric comes as a result of the polarizing dichotomy promoted by IS, dividing the world into two distorted camps of good and evil.

“The objective is to create as much carnage and terror as one possibly can until Allah decrees his appointed time and the enemies of Allah storm his location or succeed in killing him,” Issue 9 stated, while discussing hostage taking.

Through such tools, the Islamic State has developed an unrivalled ability in identifying and capitalizing upon youth discontent.

These tools don’t just work to attract support and adherence to the goals of the Islamic State, they also work to instill fear in the enemies of the Islamic State.

The use of child soldiers helps to serve this goal, and children are increasingly used in videos as IS loses territory.

“The visual symbolism of having an organized army of young soldiers serves as a crucial element in Daesh’s psychological warfare,” said Dr. Abadi. “It’s also a way to shame men and tell them that if children can fight then they have no excuse.”

Not only men of traditional fighting age have been indoctrinated and forced into committing acts of brutality under the banner of the Islamic State, children have been increasingly used owing to their ability to slip under the radar.

As highlighted previously, only 10 percent of the Islamic State’s videos contain a religious message. The fight against IS is not against Islam, it is a fight against a violent military group who has hijacked a religion to falsely legitimize and advance their goals. Thus, to eradicate them from our world, we must remove the factors which led to their appeal overcoming the appeal of civilized society in the first place. This is not to say that religion has played no role, but it is secondary.

Photo_6
Photo 6: Screenshot of a video released by ISIS' Al-Hayat media wing.

The success of the Islamic State’s campaign of psychological warfare transpired from the dissatisfaction of the population. The Arab Spring revolutions brought hope and change to millions of people, yet for others it brought tragedy and war. It is without question that the Islamic State is detested by a large percentage of the population under its control, yet to

many they were welcomed

. A wind laced with restlessness and discontent has blown feverishly across Syria and Iraq; a wind which IS tainted through its propaganda machine to capture the hearts and minds of those who didn’t know which way to turn.

Ironically, the sovereign state portrayed by IS offered a tunnel of light in a world of darkness for many people across the region and beyond. The driving motive behind IS’s propaganda campaign was that IS offered something unique of a terrorist organization: the reality of a self-sufficient, sovereign state.

Although dictated by a brutal ideology and strict Salafi Islam, this state of utopia appealed to those who felt repressed in their own countries.

“There is a dire need for a sustainable, community-based approach in preventing violent extremism. Military power alone cannot defeat the violent ideologies or address grievances that gave rise to Daesh in the first place,” said Dr. Abadi.

The theme of social injustice and marginalization at the heart of the Islamic State’s propaganda needs to be overcome – there are many factors which lead to radicalization, meaning that a multi-faceted approach must be put in place.

The extensive appeal of the Islamic State should be a stark warning to society as a whole. Although religious and educational institutions are, and will be vital in providing the necessary education and support to respective communities, it is society as a whole which needs to take the greatest step.

We must ask ourselves how people have managed to disenfranchise with society to this extent, how they have managed to feel so marginalized and so unsatisfied that they felt joining this brutal organization would improve their situation. Preventing the popularity of a group like the Islamic State once again, requires every single person to take collective action to facilitate a more cohesive society and thus limit the push factors to such groups.

Arguing that IS has succeeded through a campaign of psychological warfare, perpetrated through ideology, makes it clear that a military campaign will be limited in its effectiveness. The more IS militants who are killed, or ‘martyred’, some would argue the greater their appeal. The only way to fight this plague of terrorism is to fight their ideology – to challenge and limit what makes them tick.

Only once this well of discontent has been drained will IS and other terrorist groups cease to exist. Yes, this notion may be utopian and idealistic, however the more steps implemented to increase human welfare, the fewer fruits of dissatisfaction will be ripe for exploitation. This remains the most important challenge for the international community.


To find out more about how indoctrination can be prevented, see Egypt Today’s interview with

Dr. Abadi in full here

. ]]>
9/18/2017 7:45:24 PM
<![CDATA[UK PM May appoints official as EU adviser]]>
"In order to strengthen cross-government co-ordination of the next phase of negotiations with the European Union, the Prime Minister has appointed Oliver Robbins as her EU Adviser in the Cabinet Office, in addition to his role as EU Sherpa," a government spokesman said in a statement.

Robbins will continue to lead British officials in the negotiations and will work closely with Brexit Secretary David Davis, the spokesman said.

Robbins, 42, who media reported had sometimes clashed with Davis, had worked in the Brexit ministry since shortly after it was set up following the EU referendum in June 2016.

Robbins will be replaced as permanent secretary of the Brexit department by his second-in-command Philip Rycroft.

May, whose position was weakened after losing her governing Conservative Party's majority at a June election, has been criticised for failing to give clear instructions to her negotiating team.

Her foreign minister, Boris Johnson, was accused by colleagues on Sunday of "backseat driving" after setting out his own vision for Brexit days before May is due to give a major speech on the subject on Sept. 22.

"Moving key individuals at this critical time adds a whole new dimension to government's chaotic approach to Brexit," opposition Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said.

"The real problem we have is the failure of the government to confront the difficult policy choices it faces," Bob Kerslake, a former top government official told BBC Radio, adding the timing of the move was odd.

"It could be ... a simple case of the prime minister wanting more control and influence over the process, it could be down to clash of personalities," he said. "What I worry about is the signal it sends ... about our organization and capability in this crucial time."

May is due to make a speech on Britain's future EU relationship ahead of the next round of talks later this month.

So far negotiations on the terms of the divorce have made limited progress, prompting warnings from the EU the start of discussions on post-Brexit ties could be pushed back from October.]]>
9/18/2017 6:20:40 PM
<![CDATA[Uganda police arrest youths opposing fresh term for Museveni]]>
Police spokesman Emirian Kayima said on Monday the youths were detained in the capital Kampala as they mobilised support and distributed fliers with messages opposed to the amendment.

"They were involved in an illegal assembly. They did not inform police ahead of time that they were going to hold a rally," he told Reuters, adding that they being questioned and would be taken to court.

Museveni, 73, came to power in 1986 and is barred from seeking re-election under a law that limits presidential candidates to 75 years of age and under.

The next presidential election is in 2021. Uganda is Africa's biggest coffee exporter and a prospective oil producer.

Plans are underway to change the constitution so Museveni can be eligible, a move that has stirred anger.

Critics say Museveni uses the security forces to maintain power. Opposition leaders and activists are often jailed, rallies and meetings are often banned and some are broken up with teargas and beatings.

Museveni has not said whether he intends to stand again and his officials say the removal of the age cap is for the benefit of future leaders and not Museveni specifically.]]>
9/18/2017 6:10:37 PM
<![CDATA[Lebanon parliament speaker proposes vote by year-end]]>
The proposal "supports the national interest ... (and is) in the spirit of the law where elections must be held as soon as possible," Nabih Berri said in a televised statement.

The current parliament's mandate would, under the proposal, end on Dec. 31 with the election to take place before that date, he said.

Lebanon's parliament has extended its own mandate three times since current lawmakers were elected in 2009 for what was meant to be a four-year term.

In June the cabinet approved a new law which extended parliament's term for 11 months for "technical reasons", tentatively setting elections for May 2018.

Sectarian divisions have long plagued politics in Lebanon, exacerbated by the Syrian conflict and complicated by rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which back different groups in the country. Lebanese activists accuse politicians of using regional upheaval as an excuse to dodge elections.

Political wrangling left the country without a president for 29 months before Michel Aoun was elected in October last year.]]>
9/18/2017 5:49:35 PM
<![CDATA["God’s wisdom is with His Kurds"]]>
With the landing of your aircraft at Erbil International Airport, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, you find yourself in Arab territory, with a visible Kurdish identity. Everything is written in both languages Arabic and Kurdish, all airport staff - starting with the Passport officer - even the baggage workers, speak Arabic. Nevertheless, they cling to their Kurdish identity and speak only Kurdish in their inter-related conversations.

On the way from Erbil airport to downtown, one notices how the crowd is working hard to push citizens forward towards voting "yes" in the referendum on secession (the Kurdish government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) prefer to use the term independence rather than secession), which is to be held next Monday; September 25. This seems to be happening through the huge quantum of publicity that is sweeping both sides of the main roads and streets of the city.

This is how the grand picture appears, but there is another aspect that may not be visible except by approaching the Kurdish citizens on their various orientations.

On the plane, which was almost completely filled with Egyptians working in Erbil – engineers, teachers and staff – there was a large number of Kurds who were visiting Egypt and returning to their country.

Indifference to the referendum

Fatima, the daughter of the Kurdish woman whose Arab father, descendant of the Iraqi capital Baghdad has chosen an Arab name for, is indifferent to the voting she’s entitled to from the beginning. From their point of view, secession may bring untold problems to the Kurds, especially given unfavorable regional and international circumstances; particularly, as Iraq has ended it its war against terrorism.

Khaled, a taxi driver who studied political science at the University of Baghdad and who we spoke to, confirmed that he would not vote in the first place, as he does not believe that any benefit will come from the whole thing.

He thinks that it is important for him as a young man who studied the most sophisticated of the humanities, to find a decent job opportunity that would suit his qualifications, which he did not achieve despite the fact that the Kurdish government in Erbil has the autonomy to be completely independent of the central government in Baghdad.

In response to our question on why some politicians wanted to go for it, since the Kurdistan Parliament voted to hold the referendum on time, even after discussions between the delegates of the International Alliance (USA, United Kingdom and France) and after the President of the Territory, Massoud Barzani, offered them an alternative project as well, Khaled contented himself with a smile and one phrase: “God has his wisdom with his Kurds."

The Wealth of Kurdistan

On the road from Erbil to Kirkuk, the landmarks of Kurdish wealth are obvious. The smell of minerals extracted from the mines located near the road are quite odorous in the air, especially the aromatic phosphate metal. However, the most significant thing I’ve seen, where the wealth of the territory is concerned, is the floating oil on the surface of the earth which does not need digging or drilling.

On the site, oil is brought to the surface of the earth with the power of geology in its subsoil, without giant oil companies, drilling rigs, etc.

This site represents the reason for disagreement over separation; because this immense oil wealth that was going to the central government in Baghdad, is spent on all Iraqis, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other components of the Republic. Hence, all this would become solely the Kurds’ property. It would provide them with an enormous wealth to enable them to establish the state the founders’ generation dreamt of.

However, the facts on the ground reflect different calculations. By talking to people on the streets, vendors in shops, and even employees in the hotel sector, they were either divided between completely dismissing the referendum, believing that it would harm the Kurds over the near and middle future, or indifferent to the political scene. They were introverts in the management of daily living and the costs of life that have become higher with the financial crisis that the territory has been undergoing for several months.

Kurds, Turks and Arabs

In a health club bathtub, two young brothers, Mansour (10 years old) and his older brother Mohammed (11 years old), are studying in one of the schools of the famous Turkish opposition, Abdullah Colin, which includes some 13,000 Kurdish students, and which the territorial government has placed under the supervision of the Ministry of "Education" in Erbil about a year ago.

Mansour and Mohammed do not speak Arabic, but they are fluent in English and Turkish, as well as, their mother tongue Kurdish. We asked them: Do you like Arabs? They said, "No." With the innocence of children, they continued to talk, asserting that Kurdistan is closer to Turkey than Arabs, and that Erbil should make friends with Turkey and not with Iraq.

This means that a potential new generation in Kurdistan has become eligible to the idea of abandoning its Arabian surroundings and culture, and might instead love belonging to the Turks.
They see them as role models, Muhammad and Mansour, so much so that when they go to the barber, they ask for a haircut similar to that of the Turkish star, Murad Bashoglu.

Egyptian culture

It is clear that the Kurdistan Regional Government, in its present constitutional form, or even in the event of a formal declaration of secession, will be confronted with a major problem. That is its potential identity in its external surroundings: Turkish, Arab or Kurdish only. Although all institutions have two-way signs, one in Kurdish and the other in Arabic, and not Turkish. But still, who knows? History has its special ways and its events are always full of surprises.

However, the influence of the Arab culture, especially the Egyptian one, on the generation of young men and adults seems to be unmistakable. Hoshyar is a receptionist at the hotel, who told us that he loves Amr Diab and Adel Imam and Yusra, watches Egyptian films regularly, knows Naguib Mahfouz, and listens a lot to Umm Kalthoum and Abd el Halim Hafez. Among his life’s wishes, is to take a selfie with his mobile by the Sphinx and the pyramids.

The same thing was almost confirmed by Mohammed, the young man in his twenties who works as a salesman at a garment store. He left his family in Anbar province (western Iraq) and came to Kurdistan to work with a Kurdish relative of his mother’s.

In any case, the gap between what is happening among politicians, and what the simple citizens think of in the Kurdish region of Iraq is wide. And this is all about a week before going to the box; people sit here on the edges of their seats.

They are anticipating the drama that the coming days may bring, which holds repercussions that they cannot anticipate. They wish for no negative influence on relations and trade with their Arab brethren in their homeland, in the other regions of Iraq.
]]>
9/18/2017 5:23:36 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 7 Days]]>
The condition for the ration card document was amended after calls for the change came from Kurds living in diaspora communities, Shirwan Zirar, the spokesperson for the independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC), announced on Monday.

Many Iraqi Kurds dwelling outside of Iraq have complained they did not have ration cards, preventing them from registering to vote.

k
People celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Kirkuk, Iraq September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed


Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki has condemned the Kurdish independence referendum.
“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” said the former Prime Minister at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman, in a statement released by the Vice President’s office.

However, it is possible to draw stronger comparisons between the struggles of the Kurds and that of the Palestinians. Although Iraq has continually provided political support to the Palestinians – as well as military support in 1948, 1967, and 1973 – Kurdish independence is not in Iraq’s interest, and thus this comparison is wholly overlooked.

Iran has threatened to close its border gates with the Kurdistan Region if the independence referendum goes ahead as planned.

“The republic of Iran has opened its legitimate border gates on the premise of consent of the federal government of the Iraqi state. If such an event [a referendum] happens, these border gates –from the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran— would lose its legitimacy,” Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told Iranian state news agency IRIB on Sunday.

Additionally, Iran has threatened to withdraw its diplomatic mission in Kurdistan and to intervene militarily across and beyond its border with Kurdistan if the Kurdish leaders decide to go ahead with the scheduled referendum for independence.

If Kurdistan holds the referendum, then Iran would have the right to intervene militarily “deeper beyond the border areas” in the fight against ‘terrorism.’



Photo_2
Kurdish Peshmerga forces celebrate Newroz Day, a festival marking spring and the New Year, in Kirkuk on March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed.


In other developments, Turkey began military exercises on the border with the Kurdish region on Monday, as a threat to the Kurds for their planned independence referendum.

Washington D.C. joined a number of cities around the world, including London and Beirut, where rallies were held on Sunday in support of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s upcoming independence referendum on September 25.

In D.C., a message from President Barzani was read for the crowd by Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman: “The United States is our friend and ally in the fight against terrorism.” It explained “that friendship should be reflected in principles and values.”

“Our nation, like the United States of America and any other nation in the world, yells for freedom, democracy and independence.”

In other news:

The Kurdistan Regional Government has made an agreement with Rosneft, a large Russian energy firm, to extend a pipeline exporting natural gas from the Kurdistan Region to Turkey, according to a Reuters report.

Two sources close to the deal told Reuters the investments would amount to more than $1 billion.

The construction of the pipeline will commence in 2019, with the export of Kurdistan’s natural gas through the pipeline beginning in 2020.

“The pipeline’s capacity is expected to handle up to 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas exports a year, in addition to supplying domestic users,” Reuters reported.

Kurdish President Masoud Barzani explained that the deal was just an initial agreement.

“It was signed as a Memorandum of Understanding, but this is an understanding that possibly is more than 200-pages long and needs very careful [study] and it may take three to four months before we can say that it will come into effect, because it takes time,” Barzani said.

The abundance of resources in the Iraqi Kurdish region is a major factor for why its separation from Iraq is contentious, and the KRG will require the development of Kurdistan’s natural resources as a stable and significant source of income.

Join Egypt Today as we bring you daily updates and analysis of the upcoming independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We would like to thank Elizabeth Racine for attending the rally and sharing her photos with Egypt Today.



Slideshow not available on mobile
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9/18/2017 3:58:08 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar seeks to undermine opposition conference’s success ]]>




Qatar signed a letter of intent with London in a meeting in which Qatari and British officials participated in London to increase the cooperation between the two states, which was the Qatari regime’s first response to the success of the conference; aiming to silence the British government regarding the scandals revealed in the conference about Qatar’s regime, Al-Hail reported.

Qatar has also investments of around £40 billion ($54.3 billion) across Britain focusing on energy, infrastructure, real estate and services.

Qatar invests in iconic real estate such as London's Shard and Canary Wharf Buildings and the Harrod's department store that Qatar has in London.
At the same time, Qatari opposition denounced on Twitter Qatar emir’s attempt to use the Jewish Lieutenant Hadar Goldin’s body as a bargaining chip to sit down with American Jews.

In this regard, Qatar’s regime is concerned that the Qatari opposition’s move will gather public opinion in Europe, consequently pressuring governments into adopting the vision of the Arab Quartert (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain), which would further lead to affecting Qatari investments with European countries, said the Islamic researcher Hisham al-Najjar.

The Qatar Global Security and Stability Conference, concluded Friday in London, with the participation of exiled Qataris pressing for reform in the country which faces a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf region entering its fourth month.


International experts, politicians and journalists have participated in the conference to discuss several topics regarding combating terrorism and maintaining the stability of the Gulf. The participants stressed that Qatar should define its loyalties, and choose between returning to the Gulf and joining international efforts to combat terrorism, or aligning with Iran and facing international isolation.


The Qatari opposition spokesperson, Khalid Al-Hail, delivered the opening speech of the conference, revealing that the Qatari regime attempted to inhibit the conference, which stresses on the necessity of changing the regime for its support of terror through bribes and media campaigns.
]]>
9/18/2017 2:41:12 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt ends 10-year dispute between Fatah and Hamas: analysis]]>
The Hamas movement announced on Sunday the dissolving of the administrative committee at the Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

The Social Reconciliation Accord in Cairo aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political actors in 2011, following four years of conflict since 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

For his part, Egyptian political science professor, Moataz Abdel-Fattah, stated to Egypt Today that the Statement of Hamas today cut off the arms of Qatar, Iran and Turkey from our north-east borders, in addition to serving a blow to terrorism in northeastern Sinai.

“Hamas’ statement is a message to the U.S. Congress that Egypt might stumble due to unforeseen circumstances, but return to lead which means that our intelligence and our apparatuses have a project for the region that stands against the competing projects. It is also a blow to Israel, which has long protested that "Abbas" is weak, Hamas is terrorist, Egypt is busy, and Syria has committed suicide,” said Abdel-Fattah.

He added that Hamas’ statement comes with the presence of our presidential delegation in the house of snakes to convey to the world who we are and what we want for our region and the world.

Also Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science, stated to Egypt Today that the Egyptian move from the beginning was for the purpose of securing Egyptian borders and Egyptian national security, as well as providing facilities to the strip with its residents and citizens, especially for the expansion of the bonds of families.

Fahmy added that contacts and meetings between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides continued calmly, in a completely different manner than what happened in Egypt in the previous Cairo dialogues.

Egypt received delegations from various Palestinian factions, with the aim to unify trends, and bring the views of all factions together, especially between Fatah and Hamas.

“I have written frequently reminding everyone that the doors of Cairo are open to all, and all factions must realize that only Egypt can unite and not divide. The Qatari, Turkish or Iranian option for some factions, especially Fatah, was not a transitory station to try to emphasize the existence of the alternative to Egypt but is a failed option from the beginning,” said Fahmy to Egypt Today.

He pointed out that Egypt has had many confrontations before reaching the point of pushing Hamas to accept decisions that will not stop when the administrative committee is dissolved, as some thought would happen, after Hamas’ leaders responded to the Egyptian proposal.


Fatah leaders’ response to the Egyptian proposal will have an impact in the foreseeable future, adding that the issue is deeper and greater than the opening and closing of the crossing. The issue involves a set of measures that Cairo is seeking to approve that extend the functions of the Palestinian Authority and the government to the Strip, read Fahmy.

“Cairo has strong relations with some leaders such as Muhammad Dahlan, a center of gravity whose pivotal role cannot be disregarded or his essentiality in any future arrangements, on the other hand, we have close relations with the other leaders of Jihad, the Popular and Democratic Movement as well, stressing that Egypt coordinated with all Palestinian factions,” added Fahmy.

He concluded his comment with saying that Egypt has and will continue to bear more. He stressed that this is their “choice” and their “destiny” and that it is for their security and national commitment to the Palestinian people.
]]>
9/18/2017 2:28:01 PM
<![CDATA[Top official moves from UK's Brexit ministry to PM May's office]]>
May, whose position was weakened after losing her governing Conservative Party's majority at a June election, has been criticised for failing to give clear instructions to her negotiating team in the talks.

Robbins will be replaced as permanent secretary of the Brexit ministry by his second-in-command there, Philip Rycroft.

"In order to strengthen cross Government co-ordination of the next phase of negotiations with the European Union, the Prime Minister has appointed Oliver Robbins as her EU Adviser in the Cabinet Office, in addition to his role as EU Sherpa," the spokesman said in a statement.

"(Robbins) will continue to lead the official-side UK team in the negotiations, working closely with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and coordinate relations with the Commission and Member States."

Robbins, considered one of the key figures at the heart of Britain's plans for leaving the bloc, had been in the job at the Brexit ministry since shortly after it was set up following the EU referendum in June 2016.

The Evening Standard newspaper, which broke news of his job change, reported that it followed disagreements between the influential official and Brexit minister David Davis, Britain's chief negotiator in talks with the European Union.

The newspaper quoted Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party's Brexit policy chief, as saying the move by Robbins was a sign of "chaos" within the government.

"Moving key individuals at this critical time adds a whole new dimension to the government’s chaotic approach to Brexit. Deep divisions in the cabinet and a complete lack of leadership are putting the national interest at risk," Starmer was quoted as saying. ]]>
9/18/2017 1:40:47 PM
<![CDATA[‘Abdullah Al-Thani’s statement represents me’ trends on Twitter]]>CAIRO – 18 September 2017: ‘#Abdullah Al-Thani’s statement represents me’ بيان عبدالله الثاني يمثلني # is the most popular trending hashtag on Twitter.





Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani issued a statement on Sunday published by his official Twitter account regarding the current political crisis in Arab Gulf region.





The statement came as the following: “It hurts me, because the situation is getting worse to the extent of obvious provocation against the stability of the Arab Gulf region, interference in others’ affairs, and pushing the region to an unknown and unwanted fate, similar to the fate of states who chose to act unwisely only to end up drowning in chaos and ruin.


Given the current situation, I call the reasonable members of the Qatari royal family and the prominent figures of the emirate to launch a national meeting over the current political crisis, as an attempt to keep the strong ties between the Arab Gulf states.”

Some members of Qatari royal family have welcomed greatly the statement issued on Sunday by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani published on his official Twitter account regarding the current political crisis in the Arab Gulf region as they care for ending the crisis, Alarabiya reported.

“It would be failure for our country and people if we remain silent on the Qatari crisis,” said Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani on telephone interview with Alarabiya.
]]>
9/18/2017 1:38:19 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari royal family welcomes Abdullah Al-Thani’s statement]]>
“It would be failure for our country and people if we remain silent on Qatari crisis,” said Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani in a telephone interview with A Arabiya.

“I will not declare the names of the members except for Sheikh Mubarak bin Khalifa Al-Thani who I have contacted and agreed on announcing his name,” added Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani.

The statement came as the following: “It hurts me, because the situation is getting worse to the extent of obvious provocation against the stability of the Arab Gulf region, interference in others’ affairs, and pushing the region to an unknown and unwanted fate, similar to the fate of states who chose to act unwisely only to end up drowning in chaos and ruin.

Given the current situation, I call the reasonable members of the Qatari royal family and the prominent figures of the emirate to launch a national meeting over the current political crisis, as an attempt to bring back the strong ties between Arab Gulf states.”
]]>
9/18/2017 1:25:02 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian national accord government takes office in 24 hours]]>
“The government will be in charge of the administration," he said in remarks to the reporters, adding “according to Hamas’ statement, the (national) government should be allowed to meet in Gaza to be responsible for the strip administratively; every minister in the National Accord government should assume his duties.”

El Shobki revealed that Egypt will invite Hamas and Fatah movements for a joint meeting; then another meeting for all Palestinian factions to implement the 2011 Cairo Agreement.

The Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement in Cairo 2011 aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political actors after four years of conflict since 2007. It was mediated by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations against the Israeli forces in the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba Day (the day Israel announced its statehood).


Earlier in 2017, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and form an independent state in Gaza.


About seven previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas since 2007 failed, including Fatah-Hamas Doha talks in 2012.


The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gaza people, according to Hamas’ statement.


It was the first visit since Haniyeh took over as president in last May, the Associated Press stated Sunday.


A delegation from the Fatah movement headed by head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc and member of Palestinian Fatah's central committee Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.
]]>
9/18/2017 1:11:52 PM
<![CDATA[US flies bombers over Korean peninsula for drill: report]]>
Four F-35B stealth fighters and two B-1B bombers staged "mock bombing drills" over the peninsula Monday morning, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing an unidentified Seoul government source.

If confirmed, they would be the first flights since the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan last Friday, sending regional tensions soaring.

The US jets trained together with four South Korean F-15K jet fighters before returning to their bases in Japan and Guam, Yonhap quoted the source as saying.

The previous such flights were on August 31. The US military could not immediately confirm the latest flights.

The US is ramping up pressure on the North, with its ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warning that Pyongyang would be "destroyed" if it refused to end its "reckless" weapons drive.

Efforts to tame the increasingly belligerent North are set to dominate US President Donald Trump's address to the UN General Assembly and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Tensions flared again when Kim Jong-Un's regime tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.

The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to new UN sanctions over its atomic test with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.

Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone Saturday and vowed to exert "stronger pressure" on the North, with Moon's office warning that further provocation would put it on a "path of collapse."

Trump has also not ruled out a military option, which could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital -- and 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the South -- vulnerable to potential retaliatory attack.

Trump's National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said the US would "have to prepare all options" if sanctions prove insufficient to stop the North's weapons drive.]]>
9/18/2017 12:15:04 PM
<![CDATA[Trump pushes UN reform as world leaders gather for crisis talks]]>
Trump, who once disparaged the world body as a "club" for "people to get together, talk and have a good time," will lay out his views on how to improve the United Nations a day before he makes his first address to the General Assembly.

About 130 world leaders are attending this year's global gathering, but all eyes will be on Trump, whose "America First" agenda has alarmed both allies and foes.

The UN's number one financial backer, the United States has threatened deep cuts to UN funding that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said would create an "unsolvable problem" for the world body.

Guterres, who is pushing for an overhaul of the UN bureaucracy, will also address the event at which leaders will sign a pledge of support for reform.

France and Russia have reacted coolly to the US initiative, amid concerns that the US administration is focused more on cost-cutting than improving the UN's performance.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley was a driving force behind a $600-million-dollar cut to the UN peacekeeping budget this year.

Haley on Friday pointed to the more than 120 countries that back the US-drafted political declaration on UN reform as a "miraculous number," showing there is support for a "massive reform package" led by Guterres.

Differences over Iran, North Korea -

On Monday, Trump will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, who will also be making his maiden address at the General Assembly on Tuesday, and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both Macron and Netanyahu are expected to raise the future of the Iran nuclear agreement, with the French leader making a strong case for keeping it alive and the Israeli prime minister pushing for its demise.

Trump will also have a working dinner with Latin American leaders that will touch on the crisis in Venezuela.

North Korea's nuclear and missile tests will be in the spotlight with foreign ministers set to discuss enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang during a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Trump will be holding talks with Japanese and South Korean leaders who have backed the US drive to ratchet up sanctions on North Korea.

The council last week imposed a new raft of measures such as a ban on export textiles and a cap on oil shipments to pile pressure on Pyongyang to come to the table and negotiate an end to its nuclear and missile programs.

Russia and China, however, are calling for diplomatic talks with North Korea while warning that a military option as suggested by the United States would have catastrophic consequences.

Myanmar -

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will host a meeting on the military campaign in Myanmar which the United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing" after more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee.

The closed-door meeting will be attended by a representative from Myanmar and by foreign ministers from "a range of countries with a strong interest in seeing an end to the violence there," a British diplomat said.

Ahead of the opening of the General Assembly, UN member-states will discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Irma that devastated parts of the United States and the Caribbean.

The hurricane disaster offers a reminder of the destructive force of nature as leaders set their sights on implementing the Paris agreement on climate change despite the US withdrawal from the deal.]]>
9/18/2017 11:57:15 AM
<![CDATA[Sudanese military officer killed in North Darfur]]>
A militant showered first lieutenant Omar Mohamed with bullets when he headed to a hospital to investigate an incident of shootout between two militants and a shop owner while they were trying to rob his shop, a military source said.

Security forces arrested the militant and referred him to the authorities concerned.
]]>
9/18/2017 2:04:51 AM
<![CDATA[US-Muslim dialogue stresses cross-cultural communication ]]>
photo (1)
Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

With the theme of “civilization communication between United States of America and the Islamic World”, the MWL held a two-day conference in New York, urging the use communication and new media to fight against terrorism.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

The conference also discussed the civilization of Islam and its pioneering historical experience of global openness, and of the cultural exchange concepts, said the MWL secretary general in a statement.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

He noted that effective and proper communication was the prime feature of Islamic civilization that emphasizes justice and equality.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

This conference united 450 scholars from 56 different countries and institutions based in the U.S and Islamic states.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

Issa added that “cultural communication generates understanding among nations and leads to the alliance of civilizations.” He said that extremism has only a minor foothold in the Muslim world. “The impact of intellectual and military terrorism and extremism is shrinking, in a clear and tangible way,” he said.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

“But what is important is our understanding of the need for co-existence and cooperation in light of this understanding to serve not just mutual interests, but to also serve all humanity, to promote social peace and intellectual security and to defeat evil, while enshrining the concepts of righteousness, charity, all without religious, sectarian, ethnic, political, intellectual or other distinctions,” Issa added.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today


Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the OIC firmly believes in the importance of dialogue and communication in promoting mutual respect and understanding, and continues to attach immense importance in engaging with international stakeholders, such as the U.S., to establish a meaningful and practical partnership that will serve as a framework for action.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

The communication and convoying of messages is the core theme of Islam which needs to be maintain effectively, says Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, president of Grand Mosque and Prophet Mosque affairs.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today

“Common work between the Muslim world and the U.S. would offer many fruits to the world on condition of cooperative work for the sake of humanity and man’s renaissance regardless of any political tendencies,” Al-Azhar deputy Abbas Shoman said during the conference.

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Scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim clerics participate in the U.S.-Muslim cultural communication conference in New York- Egypt Today
]]>
9/17/2017 10:05:37 PM
<![CDATA[Rohingya villagers in Myanmar beg for safe passage]]>
"We're terrified," Maung Maung, a Rohingya official at Ah Nauk Pyin village, told Reuters by telephone. "We'll starve soon and they're threatening to burn down our houses."

Another Rohingya contacted by Reuters, who asked not to be named, said ethnic Rakhine Buddhists came to the same village and shouted, "Leave, or we will kill you all."

Fragile relations between Ah Nauk Pyin and its Rakhine neighbours were shattered on Aug. 25, when deadly attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine State prompted a ferocious response from Myanmar's security forces.

At least 430,000 Rohingya have since fled into neighbouring Bangladesh to evade what the United Nations has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

About a million Rohingya lived in Rakhine State until the recent violence. Most face draconian travel restrictions and are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine State government, told Reuters he was working closely with the Rathedaung authorities, and had received no information about the Rohingya villagers' plea for safe passage.

"There is nothing to be concerned about," he said when asked about local tensions. "Southern Rathedaung is completely safe."

National police spokesman Myo Thu Soe said he also had no information about the Rohingya villages, but said he would look into the matter.

Ah Nauk Pyin sits on a mangrove-fringed peninsula in Rathedaung, one of three townships in northern Rakhine State. The villagers say they have no boats.

Until three weeks ago, there were 21 Muslim villages in Rathedaung, along with three camps for Muslims displaced by previous bouts of religious violence. Sixteen of those villages and all three camps have since been emptied and in many cases burnt, forcing an estimated 28,000 Rohingya to flee.

Rathedaung's five surviving Rohingya villages and their 8,000 or so inhabitants are encircled by Rakhine Buddhists and acutely vulnerable, say human rights monitors.

The situation is particularly dire in Ah Nauk Pyin and nearby Naung Pin Gyi, where any escape route to Bangladesh is long, arduous, and sometimes blocked by hostile Rakhine neighbours.

Maung Maung, the Rohingya official, said the villagers are resigned to leaving, but the authorities have not responded to their requests for security. At night, he said, villagers had heard distant gunfire.

"It's better they go somewhere else," said Thein Aung, a Rathedaung official, who dismissed Rohingya claims that Rakhines were threatening them.

Only two of the Aug. 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) took place in Rathedaung. But the township was already a tinderbox of religious tension, with ARSA citing the mistreatment of Rohingya there as one justification for its offensive.

In late July, Rakhine residents of a large, mixed village in northern Rathedaung corraled hundreds of Rohingya inside their neighbourhood, blocking access to food and water.

A similar pattern is repeating itself in southern Rathedaung, with local Rakhine citing possible ARSA infiltration as a reason for ejecting the last remaining Rohingya.

"ANOTHER PLACE"

Maung Maung said he had called the police at least 30 times to report threats against his village.

On Sept. 13, he said, he got a call from a Rakhine villager he knew. "Leave tomorrow or we'll come and burn down all your houses," said the man, according to a recording Maung Maung gave to Reuters.

When Maung Maung protested that they had no means to escape, the man replied: "That's not our problem."

On Aug. 31, the police convened a roadside meeting between two villages, attended by seven Rohingya from Ah Nauk Pyin and 14 Rakhine officials from the surrounding villages.

Instead of addressing the Rohingya complaints, said Maung Maung and two other Rohingya who attended the meeting, the Rakhine officials delivered an ultimatum.

"They said they didn't want any Muslims in the region and we should leave immediately," said the Rohingya resident of Ah Nauk Pyin who requested anonymity.

The Rohingya agreed, said Maung Maung, but only if the authorities provided security.

He showed Reuters a letter that the village elders had sent to the Rathedaung authorities on Sept. 7, asking to be moved to "another place". They had yet to receive a response, he said.

VIOLENT HISTORY

Relations between the two communities deteriorated in 2012, when religious unrest in Rakhine State killed nearly 200 people and made 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya. Scores of houses in Ah Nauk Pyin were torched.

Since then, said villagers, Rohingya have been too scared to leave the village or till their land, surviving mainly on monthly deliveries from the World Food Programme (WFP). The recent violence halted those deliveries.

The WFP pulled out most staff and suspended operations in the region after Aug. 25.

Residents in the area's two Rohingya villages said they could no longer venture out to fish or buy food from Rakhine traders, and were running low on food and medicines.

Maung Maung said the local police told the Rohingya to stay in their villages and not to worry because "nothing would happen," he said.

But the nearest police station had only half a dozen or so officers, he said, and couldn't do much if Ah Nauk Pyin was attacked.

A few minutes' walk away, at the Rakhine village of Shwe Long Tin, residents were also on edge, said its leader, Khin Tun Aye.

They had also heard gunfire at night, he said, and were guarding the village around the clock with machetes and slingshots in case the Rohingya attacked with ARSA's help.

"We're also terrified," he said.

He said he told his fellow Rakhine to stay calm, but the situation remained so tense that he feared for the safety of his Rohingya neighbours.

"If there is violence, all of them will be killed," he said.]]>
9/17/2017 6:45:46 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar uses Jews' corpses to sit down with American Jews ]]>
Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed by Hamas in 2014 when he descended into the dark of Gaza strip terrorist tunnel.

If Jewish leaders in the United States agree to sit down with Qatar’s emir during his visit to New York to participate in UN General Assembly sessions, Qatar will pressure Hamas to restore the corpses to their grieving families in Israel.

This is considered as a part of Tamim’s attempt to end isolation imposed on him by the Trump administration for funding terrorism, said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in an article released in Breitbart News Network.

The Qatari emir’s efforts to gather with Jewish non-profits reflect that diplomatic and economic pressure on Qatar is succeeding, and that Qatar is attempting to free itself from Western disapproval, Forbes reported.

“I was warned that our advertising campaign against Qatar might blow up in our faces because Hamas would be imminently releasing the bodies of Israeli soldiers under Qatari pressure,” Boteach told Forbes.

Boteach has produced a full page in New York Times ads making it clear to all who agreed on the bargain that by sitting with Qatar’s emir they would condone that Qatar is funding Hamas to kill Jews in Israel describing it as a shameful episode.

In 2012, the former Qatari emir pledged four hundred million dollars to Hamas. Two years later, Hamas launched a war against Israel by launching rockets on Israeli civilians, kidnapping and killing Israeli civilians and soldiers and building deadly tunnel projects to do so. Qatar also has offered asylum to Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al since 2012.

“No Jewish leader should agree to meet a man who bankrolls the proliferation of such violent evil,” stated Boteach.
]]>
9/17/2017 5:17:26 PM
<![CDATA[Overview of President Sisi’s 4th participation in UNGA ]]>
On the sidelines of the session, President Sisi is expected to hold meetings with a number of world leaders, including Arab and African heads of state to discuss international and regional issues and ways of enhancing cooperation in the various fields.

It is expected that Sisi will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, in addition to key political, congressional and economic figures in the American administration, presidential spokesperson, Alaa Youssef, said in a

statement

on Saturday.

Sisi will discuss supporting the United Nations’ efforts in the field of peacekeeping and expanding the shareholder base in peacekeeping operations.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will also be attending a number of ministerial meetings so he can present Egyptian endeavors in combating terrorism in the region.


Sisi’s Fourth Participation in the UNGA

This is the fourth participation of President Sisi in the UNGA since he assumed office in June 2014. Egypt’s foreign policies have witnessed significant development seen in the global and regional arenas. Egypt is a key player in fighting terrorism globally and boosting peace through its 30,000 soldiers’ participation in UN peacekeeping missions, along with Egypt’s efforts to solve Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni and Libyan crises.

In the war against terrorism, the UN Security Council adopted a draft resolution on terrorism that was

drafted by Egypt

.

Sisi’s participation in the 69th, 70th, and 71st sessions of the UNGA highlighted Egyptian foreign diplomacy through his speeches before UNGA leaders and participants.



President_El_Sisi_Meets_with_ex-UN_Secretary_General_Ban_Ki_Moon_in_New_York_in_2014-_Press_Photo
President El Sisi Meets with ex-UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York in 2014- Press Photo


Economic and anti-terrorism portfolios were priorities to Sisi to discuss in his meetings with world leaders. In his last three UNGA participations, Sisi gave great attention to the economic file within the so-called “economic diplomacy.”

He met with global economic figures and held many meetings with businessmen to encourage them to invest in Egypt. Sisi promised to fight bureaucratic measures that impede foreign indirect investments (FDI).

Fighting terrorism and securing national integrity has been always on the top agenda of the Egyptian president in his international tours, most notably before the UNGA leaders.

On September 25, 2014, Sisi gave a speech in his first UNGA participation asserting Egyptian efforts in combating terrorism during his meetings with more than 40 leaders.


Sisi’s participation in the 70th UNGA in 2015

The President launched an Egyptian plan, to be carried out in coordination with the United Nations and member-states together with a wide participation of young people in an initiative called, “Hope and Action for a New Direction” or “HAND” as it is put in English.

It will actually be the hand that Egypt is extending as one way of its contribution to overcome the powers of extremism and ideas that these extreme forces are seeking to disseminate. This contribution will be undertaken through positive action that does not stop only at resistance; which is the method that is usually adopted while fighting terrorism until now, focusing only on defending the present.


President_El_Sisi_Meets_German_Chancellor_Merkel_in_New_York_in_2015-_Press_Photo
President El Sisi Meets German Chancellor Merkel in New York in 2015- Press Photo


The president said that Egypt and the Middle East had been, in recent years, confronted with a danger that required creating brighter prospects and opportunities for youth. Counter-terrorism efforts had, so far, been defensive.

Alongside those efforts, world leaders needed to channel the energy of youth away from extremists and false ideas and towards a peaceful future. There existed no doubt that more than 1.5 billion Muslims had refused to subscribe to the view of the terrorist minority that claimed to speak on their behalf, but many in the international community had refused to recognize that Muslims and non-Muslims alike were at war with the same enemy.

The United Nations had witnessed Libya break up into extremist factions — a situation which motivated the formation and signing in Skhirat of the political accord to end the Libyan crisis.

World leaders’ efforts should focus now on rebuilding the Libyan State and empowering it to effectively defeat the terrorist groups before they could establish a base from which to target Libya’s neighbors and extend their reach into the depths of Africa. Egypt had also observed the ways in which extremists had exploited the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people to drag the nation into conflict. His country called on the Syrian national parties to meet in Cairo to formulate a clear plan to build a democratic country that would preserve the Syrian State and its institutions, as well as protect its diversity and national identity.

Furthermore, Egypt’s political and military support for Yemen and its government had taken place at Yemen’s request, and stemmed from Egypt’s commitment to preserving Arab national security, he said. International leaders must exert the necessary efforts to resume the transitional peace process, in accordance with the Gulf Initiative and its mechanisms, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions.

Finally, the increasing plight of refugees fleeing destructive armed conflicts reaffirmed the need to work towards confronting the scourge of terrorism, in addition to creating channels for legal immigration.


Sisi’s participation in the 71st UNGA in 2016

President Sisi talked during the UN General Assembly meetings in the name of developing countries and briefed the international community on their concerns, especially in what comes to achieving sustainable development under the UN 2030 Agenda.



President_Sisi_recieves_President_of_Uruguay_Tabaré_Vázquez_on_the_sidelines_of_the_UN_General_Assembly_in_New_York_in_September_2016-_Press_Photo
President Sisi recieves President of Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2016- Press Photo


Sisi talked about the positive and negative aspects of globalization and the fact that the international community should work on increasing advantages of globalization and decreasing its disadvantages.

As for Syria, Sisi underlined, during his word at the UN Security Council, the importance that all sides concerned would have the intention to find a solution to the five-year-old crisis in Syria. Sisi called for putting an end to this tragic situation in Syria through the cooperation of all sides concerned.




President_El_Sisi_Meets_Jordan_s_King_Abdullah_II_in_New_York_in_2016-_Press_Photo
President El Sisi Meets Jordan's King Abdullah II in New York in 2016- Press Photo


“The phenomenon of terrorism, with what it represents of aggression on the right to life, became more of a threat to international peace and security given the fact that terrorism is threatening the entity of the state in favor of extremist ideologies that are committing barbaric acts and tampering with the potentials of peoples under the cloak of religion,” Sisi said before the UNGA in its 71st session in 2016.

]]>
9/17/2017 4:12:09 PM
<![CDATA[Knowing Kurdistan: 8 Days]]>
If the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily," he said. Al-Abadi called the vote "a dangerous escalation" that will invite violations of Iraq's sovereignty.

"If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very

dangerous escalation

," al-Abadi continued.

In the public eye, al-Abadi has maintained a constitutional stance regarding the referendum, frequently citing the codified laws of Iraq.

When asked if he would ever accept an independent Kurdistan, Al-Abadi said: "It's not up to me, this is a constitutional" matter.

"If [Iraq's Kurds] want to go along that road, they should work toward amending the constitution," al-Abadi said. "In that case we have to go all the way through parliament and a referendum to the whole Iraqi people.”

Join Egypt Today as we bring you daily updates and analysis of the upcoming independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.
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People celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Duhok, Iraq September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

Al-Abadi has also maintained an open stance in respect for negotiations.
"It will make it harder and more difficult," he said, but added: "I will never close the door to negotiations. Negotiations are always possible."

“All the gains of the Kurds are under threat; I am kindly asking our Kurdish brothers to retreat. The referendum opens the door wide for a lack of respect for Iraqi borders and the Iraqi constitution, and the referendum encourages other countries and bodies to intervene in Iraqi affairs, which is unacceptable,” al-Abadi said on Saturday on Kurdish television.

Turkey has maintained its hostile position towards the referendum, threatening reprisals.

The Kurdish independence referendum on September 25 is “a matter of national security” to Turkey, and no-one should doubt that Ankara “will take all necessary steps on this matter,” said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Saturday.



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A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells towards Zummar, controlled by Islamic State (IS), near Mosul September 15, 2014 - REUTERS. Ahmed Jadallah.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that Ankara would not allow Iraq’s territorial integrity to be threatened; a stance taken my many state leaders.

The UK Foreign Office said that London would not support the plan to hold the independence referendum on September 25, in a statement issued on Saturday.

“The referendum risks increasing instability in the region when the focus should be on defeating Daesh,” said the statement, referencing a different name for the Islamic State terrorist group.

A high level Saudi delegation, led by Thamer al-Sabhan, Saudi’s Arab Gulf Affairs minister, met with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Saturday, expressing Saudi Arabia’s willingness to lay the ground for dialogue and mediation between Erbil and Baghdad.

“But one thing that is surprising to me is, I wish I knew since when have you become so worried about the territorial integrity of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq, and the constitution of Iraq?" Barzani asked rhetorically during a rally in the province of Duhok on Saturday evening. "This is important to me since these days these [things] have become important to our neighbors."

Analysis:

Prime Minister al-Abadi has maintained a strong constitutional outlook in regards to the Kurdish independence referendum, and his warning of possible conflict is not unjustified. The 2005 Iraqi constitution does not allow a formal and entrenched division of the Iraqi territory, thus not facilitating the creation of a state within a state. The Prime Minister of any country should hold the law of the land in the highest regard, and this is what al-Abadi contends. If the referendum does spark violence, it is justified for al-Abadi to send security forces.

Yet, this is where the contention arises. One major factor that supports Kurdish independence in Iraq is the success of the Kurdish Peshmerga – the Iraqi Kurdish security forces – in its anti-Islamic State campaign. If conflict does arise in Kurdish territories in the immediate fall-out of the referendum, the Peshmerga forces have proven themselves to be in a stronger position than the Iraqi army in providing security.

Although fully within his rights, as

authorized by Parliament

, al-Abadi is able to send security forces to Kurdish held territories, however this would be interpreted as a highly aggressive move, and would likely lead to conflict between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

What must be avoided at all cost is the participation of the

Popular Mobilization Forces

(PMF) in any eventuality which may arise in northern Iraq. Many PMF forces are allied to Iran, and would be viewed as incredibly hostile by the Kurdish leadership. The rhetoric of Shiite militia leaders has been aggressive and hostile up until now, and along with a poor human rights record, the involvement of the PMF sharply increases violent tensions. Not only this, it would also show the weakness of the Iraqi state itself in mediating disputes and maintaining security, thus enhancing the legitimacy of the Kurds in demanding their own state.


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VICTORY: A member of the Kurdish peshmerga just after the forces retook Zumar in October 2014 - REUTERS. Ari Jalal


A nation-state is driven by the passion of the heart, something which al-Abadi appears to be unable to grasp. Young Kurds in particular share little in common with their Iraqi neighbor. Their myths are Kurdish myths, not Iraqi legends. Their songs are Kurdish songs, not Iraqi and in the Arabic language. Their faith lies in the Peshmerga, not the Iraqi army or the PMF. Their history lies in Kurdish unity, not an alliance with a historically brutal Baghdad.

A nation is a large group of people with strong bonds of identity, an "imagined community” in the words of Benedict Anderson. Kurds have been a unified community far longer than the ‘modern’ – 1932 – state of Iraq. They are a nation, yes, but not a nation-state: not yet.

In other news:

A car bomb exploded in Kirkuk killing an estimated three civilians and wounding several others, on Saturday night.

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Iraqi security force inspect the site after a car exploded in Kirkuk, Iraq, September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

Barzani has repeatedly threatened violence if "any force" attempts to move into the disputed territories which are now under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga, specifically the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"It's chaotic there [Kirkuk]," Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati, a senior leader of Iraq's mostly

Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces

, said earlier this week.

"Everyone is under pressure," he continued. "Anything could be the spark that burns it all down."

Kurdish Peshmerga forces seized a large number of weapons which were about to be smuggled into Kirkuk over Saturday night, according to Basnews.

It is

alleged that Shiite militias

were attempting to smuggle the weapons into Kirkuk.
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9/17/2017 3:20:08 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s role in bridging 10-year gap between Hamas, Fatah]]>

Mohamed_Rachid_tweet_17_September_2017 (1)
Mohamed Rachid tweet 17 September 2017


Egypt welcomes the efforts of Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah to participate in the Egypt-brokered inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The Egyptian authorities have succeeded in ending the 10-year dispute between Fatah and Hamas, thereby proving Egypt’s indispensable role in the Palestinian case.

Egypt reaffirms its continued efforts to contact President Mahmoud Abbas and all Palestinian factions to serve the public interest.

The Hamas movement announced on Sunday the dissolving of the administrative committee at Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

The Social Reconciliation Accord in Cairo aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political actors in 2011 following four years of conflict since 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

Hamas and Fatah are beginning a dialogue and forming a national, united government.
Earlier this year, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities at the time accused Hamas of attempting to form a shadow government and an independent state in Gaza.



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Hamas's Political Bureau Leader Ismail Haniya- Press Photo


The new head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on September 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gaza people, according to Hamas’ statement issued on Sunday.

On September 8, the

Islamic Jihad Movement

organized a march in Gaza calling on Egypt to resume reconciliation efforts. The Islamic Jihad Movement’s leader Khalid al-Batsh gave a speech, announcing six demands from the concerned parties to resume the mediation between Fatah and Hamas, including calling on Egypt to resume its efforts to achieve the inter-Palestine reconciliation and demanding that Hamas dissolves the administrative committee that it had formed to run Gaza affairs.

The Social Reconciliation accord in Cairo 2011 aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political actors following four years of conflict. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

Seven previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas since 2007 have failed, including the Fatah-Hamas Doha talks in 2012.



President_Abdel_Fatah_al-Sisi_recieves_Palestinian_President_Mahmoud_Abbas_in_Cairo_in_March_2017-_Press_Photo
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi recieves Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo in March 2017- Press Photo


Credible Palestinian sources disclosed to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper on Thursday that President Mahmoud Abbas has been angered by several domestic and international parties, including the U.S. Administration. They said he is currently studying several political and diplomatic options such as heading to the UN General Assembly to grant Palestine full membership.

The sources added that the options also include dissolving the Palestinian Authority (PA), including the government and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC/ parliament) and other institutions, and returning all power to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), especially its executive committee, which might become the sole executive authority.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi proposed an initiative to his Palestinian counterpart Abbas during Abbas' latest visit to Egypt around one month ago, media reports revealed.

Sisi's initiative, which was approved by Hamas without reservation, includes six items. The six items state, most importantly, dissolving the government administrative committee formed by Hamas. Abbas would subsequently cancel all his punitive measures and decisions against the Gaza Strip and Hamas “without exception.”

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9/17/2017 3:03:13 PM
<![CDATA[Hamas agrees to Fatah talks, Egypt's role in reconciliation hailed]]>
The move was met by international praise as part of efforts of inter-Palestine reconciliation. The movement affirmed that it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed with Fatah in 2011.

For its part, Egypt, which has brokered reconciliations between both parties, welcomed the stance of the Palestinian Movements of Hamas and Fatah.

“President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is keen on the unity of the Palestinian people, and ending the division.”

Egypt also reaffirmed its continued efforts to contact President Mahmoud Abbas and all Palestinian factions to serve the public interest.

The Social Reconciliation Accord in Cairo 2011 aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political actors after four years of conflict since 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by the two parties in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.

After the recent developments, Hamas and Fatah would start a dialogue, and form a national unity government upon the Egyptian initiative to achieve unity among Palestinian powers.


Egypt's efforts in reconciliation hailed

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolai Mladenov, welcomed Hamas’ announcement, hailing Egypt’s efforts in creating this positive momentum to unite the Palestinians.

He also called all parties to seize this opportunity to restore unity and stressed the readiness of the United Nations to support efforts in this regard, pointing out the importance of addressing the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza, especially the electricity crisis, as a priority.

Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc and member of Palestinian Fatah's central committee, welcomed Hamas pledge to try to end Palestinian split and expressed deep appreciation to Egypt’s government which works tirelessly to reach a reconciliation agreement between the different Palestinian parties to end the division.

Al-Ahmed, who presides the Fatah reconciliation delegation, stated that the coming days will witness tangible practical steps as the Government of National Reconciliation will assume its duties and hold general elections in accordance with the law in Gaza aiming to continue efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip and lift the unjust siege imposed on them.

The former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan also praised Hamas’ stance in dissolving the administrative committee at the Gaza Strip and called President Mahmoud Abbas to respond positively to this step.

He also pointed out that Egypt, which has presented thousands of martyrs in the honor battles on Palestinian land, has been and still is the keenest in the Palestinian cause, and proved every time that it defends the interests of the whole nation.

“We assure the masses of our people that we will not give up our responsibilities, and we will continue to support our people everywhere, because this is our duty and our line that we will not deviate from,” Dahlan ended.

Earlier in 2017, Hamas announced forming an administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian authorities accused Hamas then of attempting to form a shadow government and form an independent state in Gaza.

About seven previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas since 2007 failed, including Fatah-Hamas Doha talks in 2012.

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on Sept. 10 to meet with a number of Egyptian officials to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the situation of the Gaza people, according to Hamas’ statement.

It was the first visit since Haniyeh took over as president in last May, the Associated Press stated Sunday.

A delegation from the Fatah movement headed by Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived on Saturday in Cairo to discuss ways to implement Palestinian reconciliation.
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9/17/2017 2:41:15 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya election rerun in doubt as acrimony deepens]]>
Bickering on all sides and confusion over the process have only increased as the clock ticks down to the October 17 vote, called after the Supreme Court annulled the initial August election, citing widespread irregularities.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has vowed to boycott the poll if a list of demands are not met and on Sunday he launched a nationwide campaign "against any election" run by the current electoral commission (IEBC), which he accuses of rigging the first poll.

"The challenges are pretty extraordinary," said John Githongo, a prominent anti-corruption campaigner in Kenya, who said he believed the election date "does not seem feasible because we are asking people who have failed calamitously to run an election after such a short time".

A key hurdle is that the Supreme Court has yet to deliver its full judgement detailing why exactly it decided to annul President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory.

Chief Justice David Maraga mentioned only "irregularities and illegalities", notably in the transmission of election results.

The court has until September 22 to deliver the full ruling, which would give the IEBC little time to make any necessary changes.

"It is very uncertain," said Nic Cheeseman, a professor of African politics at the University of Birmingham in England.

"We don't know if the Supreme Court is going to say something about technology, we don't know if they are going to directly impugn any of the individuals in the IEBC. Will they have to be replaced? If so, how will that be done in the time frame?"

'Paralysis' and confusion -
In the absence of the judgement, the electoral commission has pushed forward with plans for a new election, dismissing opposition calls to sack its top officials.

"It was expected that the IEBC would move swiftly to undertake far-reaching reforms. So far this has yet to happen," the Daily Nation newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday, denouncing a "stalemate which has created paralysis and is confusing the public".

Fissures within the IEBC, meanwhile, were exposed when a leaked memo showed chairman Wafula Chebukati outlining a raft of irregularities in the election to the commission's chief executive Ezra Chiloba.

Kenyatta has insisted that the election go ahead as planned, accusing his longtime rival Odinga of seeking to block the vote as a way of forcing the president to accept a coalition government.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) of opposition parties has formulated a list of demands including the dismissal of certain officials, a change in the procurement of election materials and live media coverage of the declaration of results at tallying centres.

"IEBC as currently constituted... cannot conduct a free and fair election in October," Odinga said on Sunday.

'Worrying' rhetoric -
The opposition alleges that the August 8 election was rigged through the hacking of an electronic vote-tallying system.

It said many of the so-called 34A tallying forms, meant to back up electronic results, were delayed and often had not been signed or stamped, or were illegible or lacking serial numbers or watermarks.

French biometrics firm OT-Morpho, which provided the results transmission system, has said that an audit of its system showed no hacking or manipulation of data.

But the IEBC has yet to comply with a Supreme Court order to allow independent access to its servers.

Cheeseman said that with the IEBC suffering from lost legitimacy, an ideal solution would be for rival parties to sit down and negotiate the path to an election which could be acceptable to all.

Increasingly bitter rhetoric, however, has driven them only further apart.

"A lot of the language has been really worrying," Cheeseman said.

He pointed in particular to comments by Kenyatta referring to Chief Justice Maraga as a "crook" and saying he would "fix" the Supreme Court if re-elected. He has also threatened to impeach Odinga if he wins.

Analysts say the main problem with a rushed election is that the Supreme Court has now set a precedent by overturning an election result based on shoddy procedures.

The losing party in another flawed vote could again argue that improper procedures had marred the outcome, which could lead the Supreme Court to again overturn the result.

According to Kenya's constitution, the IEBC has until October 31 to hold the new election.

"They do have a window. Even if it is late by a few weeks. However if they go beyond (that date) that is unprecedented and there is no guidance as to what happens there," said Kenyan writer and political analyst Nanjala Nyabola.]]>
9/17/2017 2:00:05 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi FM: Sisi is a cultured and realistic man]]>
During the interview, which was aired on Cairo Time program on ON Live with television presenter Youssef al-Husseiny, Jaafari also noted that Sisi “always searches for solutions and options” to different problems.

Jaafari stressed that “Egypt is a friend and a sister to Iraq”, noting that Egypt does not suffer from sectarian fanaticism, while praising the Egyptian nation.

Jafaari also pointed out the “referendum on the independence of Kurdistan from Iraq is unconstitutional and illegal,” noting that 17percent of the Iraqi general budget goes to Kurdistan.

The Iraqi FM described the Arab League's decision to stand against the separation of Kurdistan from Iraq as “bold and direct” and supports the sovereignty of Iraq and its unity, while noting that Israel supports that kind of step.

Earlier this month, the parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region approved a plan to hold a an independence referendum on September 25, ignoring Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish opposition as well as U.S and Western concern that the vote could cause new conflicts in the region, according to Reuters.
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9/17/2017 1:29:32 PM