Archive for November 5th, 2015

For the first time since 1948, Egypt votes for Israel at UN

Sunday, 01 November 2015

Egypt’s representative at United Nations voted on Friday in support of Israel’s bid for membership of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Israeli media reported.

Since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and its acceptance to membership of the UN, Egypt had never voted in its favour at the UN before last Friday.

One hundred and seventeen countries voted in favor of Israel, 21 abstained, while only Namibia voted against the decision. Countries that abstained include: Qatar, Tunisia, Syria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq and Algeria.

Israeli sources said that they were accepted to this UN committee after “intensive diplomatic efforts” exerted at different levels.

Prior to the vote, spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid refused to comment on the matter. However, in the face of fierce domestic criticism, he said that voting for Israel was necessary in order to secure the membership of a number of Arab countries to the committee.

Egyptian politicians and activists widely rejected this move and severely criticized Egyptian Military President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi.

In 1973, Egypt and Syria started a war against Israel that paved the way for peace talks between Egypt and Israel. It ended up with a peace treaty in 1979 that ended state of war between the two sides, reciprocal recognition and normalization of ties.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22027-for-the-first-time-since-1948-egypt-votes-for-israel-at-un.

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Qatar offers 100 new scholarships for Gaza university students

Monday, 02 November 2015

Qatar has announced 100 new scholarships for Gaza’s university students through Al-Fakhoora organisation, Qatar’s Al-Raya newspaper reported yesterday.

The scholarships are an extension of previous subsidies provided by Qatar, Al-Raya added, these include the reconstruction of the Strip in partnership with UNICEF, UNRWA and other international organisations.

Al-Fakhoora has already offered 600 scholarships and is due to offer 1,000 extra scholarships by 2016, in effort aimed at paving the way to educate future leaders in Gaza.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22034-qatar-offers-100-new-scholarships-for-gaza-university-students.

UK lawmakers wary of government plan for Syria airstrikes

November 03, 2015

LONDON (AP) — The British government insisted Tuesday that it is still considering airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria, even though an influential group of lawmakers said the military action would be “incoherent” and ineffective without a plan to end the country’s civil war.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee dealt a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to expand U.K. action against the militants from Iraq into Syria. The committee — dominated by members of Cameron’s Conservative Party — said the debate about airstrikes “is a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to the conflict in Syria.”

Committee chairman Crispin Blunt, a Conservative legislator, said he feared the government was “responding to the powerful sense that something must be done … without any expectation that its action will be militarily decisive, and without a coherent and long-term plan for defeating (IS) and ending the civil war.”

The Royal Air Force is part of a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq. But in 2013 British lawmakers unexpectedly rejected the government’s proposal for military action against President Bashar Assad’s forces in neighboring Syria.

Treasury chief George Osborne said Tuesday that the government still hoped to ask lawmakers for a mandate to launch strikes against I.S. in Syria. “But we are not going to go to the House of Commons unless we would be clear that we would win that vote and there would be a consensus for that action, and at the moment it’s not clear that there is a majority for it,” he said.

In a report, the foreign affairs committee said Russia’s intervention in the conflict in support of Assad’s government “has complicated even further any proposed action in Syria by the U.K.” It said that without an international strategy to end Syria’s civil war, “taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent.”

The committee said the government needs to answer fundamental questions about the proposed airstrikes — including their legality without United Nations approval and whether they would have support from regional powers including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Until then, it said, “we recommend that it does not bring to the House a motion seeking the extension of British military action to Syria.” The committee’s report is not binding on the government, but its warnings will make it harder for Cameron to gain lawmakers’ approval for airstrikes.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said RAF airstrikes had had “a substantial impact in degrading (IS) in Iraq” and that further military action was still on the table. “It is right that we continue to use military force against ISIL while we use diplomatic power to work towards a political solution in the Syrian civil war,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the militant group.

General: Russia sends anti-aircraft missiles to Syria

November 05, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has sent anti-aircraft missiles to Syria in order to safeguard its jets involved in airstrikes against militants in the war-battered Arab country, the commander of the Russian Air Force was quoted as saying Thursday.

Russia has been carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in Syria since the end of September at the request of President Bashar Assad, Russia’s long-term ally. Russian officials have insisted that their military involvement in Syria will be limited to an air force operation.

Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that the anti-aircraft missiles are there to project Russian fighter jets from a possible attack or hijack while on mission.

“There can be different emergencies, such as hijacking the jet on the territory of a neighboring country or an attack on it,” he said. “We should be prepared for that.” Bondarev did not specify the type of missiles Russia provided.

Russia and Western nations have been engaged in intense diplomatic talks in the past few weeks, aiming to bring about a political settlement in Syria, which has been torn by a civil war since 2011 that has killed 250,000 people and forced millions to flee.

A Russian deputy foreign minister said earlier this week that Moscow is aiming to host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. He said the Syrian government has agreed to participate but it’s unclear which opposition groups might come.

Russia says it doesn’t mind if Assad stays or steps down

November 03, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — In an apparent effort to set the stage for transition talks, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday that Moscow does not consider it a matter of principle that Syrian President Bashar Assad should stay in power.

Asked whether it was crucial for Moscow that Assad stays, Maria Zakharova said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “Absolutely not, we’ve never said that.” “What we did say is a regime change in Syria could become a local or even regional catastrophe,” she said, adding that “only the Syrian people can decide the president’s fate.”

Russia is believed to be Assad’s strongest backer and has previously balked at the West’s suggestions that the Syrian president should be ousted. Russia in September began carrying out air strikes at Islamic State fighters in Syria at Assad’s request.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies that Moscow is aiming to host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. Bogdanov said the Syrian government has agreed to participate, but that it is unclear which opposition groups might come. He did not give a specific date for the proposed talks.

The talks are expected to be discussed Wednesday at a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura, Bogdanov said. Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow last month, which was viewed as a signal that Russia ultimately seeks a political settlement after weeks of heavy airstrikes in Syria, although the terms of such an arrangement are uncertain.

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