Archive for October, 2011

Arab League issues first condemnation of Syria violence

Tuesday 14 June 2011
Martin Chulov in Beirut

Comments ‘unbalanced and politically motivated’, says Syrian representative, as army’s onslaught continues.

The Arab League has publicly criticized the violence in Syria for the first time, saying Arab states are “angry and actively monitoring” the crisis.

The comments from the outgoing secretary general, Amr Moussa, drew a bitter response from Damascus. Syria’s representative at the league described them as “unbalanced and politically motivated”.

Mounting international condemnation, however, has done little to slow the onslaught of the Syrian army as it pushes through northern border villages on an operation it claims is cleansing the area of criminal gangs. Residents of the town of Deir Azzor were reportedly bracing themselves on Tuesday night for the arrival of armor and troops from the Syrian military’s feared 4th division, commanded by Maher al-Assad, brother of Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

The same division has been in control of the town of Jisr al-Shughour since Friday, forcing most remaining people in the besieged enclave to flee to the nearby mountains bordering Turkey.

Syrian refugees continue to arrive at crossing points into Turkey and some are reported to have told authorities that the army arrested at least 15 people along the way. More than 7,000 refugees are now in southern Turkey and at least 5,000 have fled into Lebanon. Moussa said: “Though their views differ, Arab states are all worried, angry and actively monitoring the current crisis in Syria. What we are hearing and monitoring, about many victims falling, indicates great tumult in Syria … The situation in Syria should not be left in this state. Continuation of the status quo could lead to what may not be desired … for Syria.”

Syria’s envoy, Youssef Ahmad, claimed Moussa was recommending the same sort of military intervention that the Arab League endorsed in Libya three months ago.

“Days before leaving his post, Moussa calls for a kind of foreign intervention in the Syrian affairs, when the Libyan blood, shed by NATO air strikes as a result for a [UN] security council resolution, based, regrettably on an Arab demand in which Moussa’s efforts immensely contributed, isn’t dry yet,” he said.

On the Lebanon-Syria border, few refugees crossed on Tuesday. “The Syrians are keeping people away from the border,” said a man in the town of Wadi Khaled, who identified himself as Omar. “It has been like this for many days.”

Wadi Khaled is teeming with refugees from towns and cities, especially Hama and Homs, scenes of fierce violence over the last fortnight. “There are at least 5,000 Syrians here,” said Omar.

“But it is very difficult for any more to come because the army is stopping them or shooting them.”

Syrian troops were clearly visible patrolling a river that acts as an unofficial border. Several Syrian tanks had their turrets pointed towards Lebanon. At an official crossing point further up the road, there was no sign of anyone arriving.

Source: The Guardian.

Ministry taking measures to ensure enough food supplies during Ramadan

By Omar Obeidat

AMMAN –– As the holy fasting month of Ramadan will coincide this year with the return of Jordanian expatriates and the tourism high season, the government has started early preparations to ensure food items are available to meet the expected rise in demand.

At a meeting with traders, importers and the Consumer Protection Society, Industry and Trade Minister Hani Mulki stressed that the ministry will take necessary measures to ensure that the supply of basic food commodities during the fasting month meet increasing demand.

The ministry will also take measures to avoid any unjustified rise in food prices, which historically see hikes during the month.

“This year’s Ramadan is different from previous years because it will coincide with the return of Jordanians abroad who will come to spend their holidays in the Kingdom and we also expect the number of Arab tourists to increase significantly in summer,” Mulki said.

More than half a million Jordanians are estimated to be living in the Gulf region, many of whom expected to spend the summer holiday back home.

According to official figures, demand on essential food commodities during the holy month of Ramadan rises by 25-40 per cent, which experts attribute to change of consumption behavior.

Citing ministry figures showing that local production of wheat, barley and vegetables will be enough to cover consumption, the minister expected the prices of food items to remain stable or even go down during the month.

In addition, he said, the government will facilitate importing procedures for the private sector to bring large quantities of foodstuff.

Mulki warned that the ministry could resort to setting a price ceiling in case unreasonably high prices prevail.

Meanwhile, he remarked that authorities will not halt food and vegetable exports to regional and international markets.

The minister rejected as baseless media reports that the government plans to reduce sales tax on certain commodities, saying such reports push importers and traders to be reluctant to bring basic food items into the local market, which he said will affect the strategic storage of these commodities.

Khalil Haj Tawfiq, an importer of foodstuff and a member of Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said importers have asked the government to exempt food products and vegetables from the sales tax in a bid to bring prices down.

Mulki replied that although the state budget is suffering a relatively high deficit, the government is studying such an option to alleviate financial burdens on citizens but a decision in this regard might be included in next year’s budget.

Also attending the meeting were directors of the civil and military consumer corporations who indicated that the corporations have signed deals with suppliers to make sure they have enough stocks of sugar, rice, cooking oil and chicken among others, to meet local needs “even three months after Ramadan”.

10 June 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.

15 Jordanians released from Syrian jails

By Omar Obeidat and Raed Omari

AMMAN – Syrian authorities on Sunday freed 15 Jordanian prisoners under the general amnesty issued last week by President Bashar Assad, a human rights activist said on Sunday.

Abdul Karim Shraideh, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), told The Jordan Times yesterday that out of the 250 Jordanians serving prison terms in Syria, 15 were set free.

Shraideh said Abdul Rahman Bashabsheh from Ramtha District was the first prisoner to cross the Jordanian border after serving a four-year prison term in Syria on suspicion of working for the Israeli Mossad.

But Atef Bashabsheh said that his relative Abdul Rahman has spent over 10 years in jail and that he was taken into custody by Syrian police over charges related to damaging the country’s national economy.

“He was 18 years old when he disappeared in Syria where he went to import products from there,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

He said that he received a phone call from Abdul Rahman yesterday informing him about the news.

The AOHR’s lawyer added that the other 14 prisoners also arrived in the Kingdom during the afternoon.

“Names of the freed prisoners is still not available to the AOHR and we are still following up on the issue,” he said.

Pointing out that tens of Jordanian prisoners have been behind bars for over 20 years and that some of them never stood for trial, he added that three women are still behind bars: Wafaa Obeidat, Yusra Hayek and Shikha Hayek.

He said that the amnesty decision by Assad should include all Jordanian prisoners there, stressing that the organization will continue its efforts to ensure their freedom.

6 June 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.

Egypt resumes gas supplies to Jordan, minister says

Sun, 12 June 2011

AMMAN — Egypt has resumed its gas exports to Jordan after a 45-day stoppage due to an attack on a pipeline near the Sinai town of Al Arish, said Energy Minister Khalid Touqan. Since the April 27 blast, Jordan has been forced to incur extra costs associated with using heavy fuel to run its electricity generating plants.

Under an agreement signed in 2001, Jordan receives gas supplies from Egypt through the so-called Arab gas pipeline, which travels northward to supply Syria and Lebanon and, later, Turkey. Over the past few weeks, Jordan and Egypt have conducted negotiations that could lead to a revision of prices for gas supplied to Amman by Cairo.

Egypt’s military rulers have decided that gas prices should be in line with oil prices. — DPA

Source: Oman Observer.

Jordan’s king issues amnesty for thousands

Jun 8, 2011

Amman – Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Wednesday issued a general amnesty to mark the 12th anniversary of his accession expected to lead to the pardoning of thousands of wrongdoers.

The amnesty excludes crimes pertaining to espionage, state security, narcotics, rape, premeditated murder, financing of terrorism, money laundering and the forgery of banknotes.

The move coincided with a pledge by King Abdullah to carry out ‘real and speedy’ political reforms in the wake of four months of protests inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

A National Dialogue Committee set up by the monarch in March issued proposals earlier this week for new laws governing the election of the lower house of parliament and the formation of political parties in the country.

King Abdullah has also set up a panel to revise the country’s constitution, which is expected to put forward its recommendations in a few weeks.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Jordan blasts Israel’s killing of Arab protesters on Golan Heights

Jun 6, 2011

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Monday condemned the killing of scores of peaceful Arab protesters by Israeli troops on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday.

“Israel is applying double standards by preaching values of democracy and freedom and at the same time gives orders to its forces to kill armless people who were protesting the continued occupation of their land in violation of international law and UN resolutions,” Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said in a statement.

At least 23 people were reportedly killed and scored wounded when Arab protesters approached the Israeli lines on the Golan Heights Sunday to mark the 44th anniversary of occupation of the Syrian territory.

Judeh pointed out that the growing Arab protests against Israeli occupation of Arab lands “reflected pessimism and frustration on the part of Arab peoples over Israel’s obstinacy and failure to respond to serious world efforts” aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He said: “maintaining stability and real security in the Middle East lay in Israel’s evacuation of all Arab lands it occupied in the 1967 war and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Source: Arab News.

Netanyahu Accuses Syria of Stoking Border Tension to Hide Domestic Turmoil

By Jonathan Ferziger and Calev Ben-David
Jun 6, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Syria of trying to “heat up the border” by enabling a violent confrontation between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops in the Golan Heights.

Israel will make a formal complaint to the United Nations that may be delivered as early as today in New York, following the clash in which Israeli forces fired on a crowd marking the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War by trying to cross the frontier with Syria into Israel, according to Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Syrian state television said 23 people were killed. UN observers are trying to confirm details of the incident, according to a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office. The incident occurred as more than two months of protests within Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have left more than 1,100 people dead, human rights groups say.

The Golan confrontation “was no accident,” Netanyahu said after addressing lawmakers from his Likud Party in Jerusalem, according to an e-mailed statement. “There is an attempt to heat up the border, to breach our borders. here is an attempt here to divert international attention away from what is happening within Syria.”

Clashes between protesters and Israeli forces on the frontiers with Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and West Bank left as many as nine dead on May 15, as Palestinians marked the anniversary of what they call the “Nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe, referring to their displacement in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel.

The Israeli-Syrian frontier has been largely quiet since the 1973 war, in which Syria tried to recapture the Golan Heights. Israel annexed the Golan in 1982 in a move that hasn’t been internationally recognized.

Source: Bloomberg.