Archive for January, 2018

Free Syrian Army subgroups unite to form national army

December 31, 2017

Around 30 sub-groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have unified under the banner of the country’s “National Army”, the Syrian interim government announced on Saturday.

The announcement came after the head of the interim government, Jawad Abu Hatab, met the subgroup leaders in the northern city of Azaz.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Abu Hatab noted their primary aim as keeping hold of the area liberated from Daesh through Operation Euphrates Shield and defending people by standing against the Assad regime and terror groups like Daesh and the PKK/PYD.

In the wide-ranging Euphrates Shield Operation launched last summer, the Free Syrian Army — with the support of the Turkish army — had cleared 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of land along the Turkish-Syrian border of terrorist elements.

Abu Hatab said they have unified three army corps through the project totaling 22,000 soldiers.

“First army corps is the one trained in Turkey. The second and the third consists of nearly 30 groups,” he said, adding that the most important matter is to form an army from the whole region.

“This is possible with Turkey’s support,” Hatab said, who also recalled Turkey’s efforts through Operation Euphrates Shield, which let thousands of Syrian refugees to return to their country.

Chief of General Staff of the interim government Col. Haitham Ofeisi said the formation of the “National Army” was the result of the unification of three corps.

“First we took this decision in the Euphrates Shield Operation Zone. Of course, we have made this decision with the support of Turkey,” he said adding that they would continue the process in remaining places.

Ofeisi vowed that they would clear Daesh and PKK/PYD terrorists group as well as Assad forces from the region while more army corps would be formed under the General Staff in the freed areas.

“We believe that the future of Syria will be good and we will go to all lengths of this revolution that we have started in 2011.

He said one of the targets “is to give all type of struggles against the division of our lands by Daesh and PKK/PYD terrorist organizations”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171231-free-syrian-army-subgroups-unite-to-form-national-army/.

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Syria Muslim Brotherhood rejects Russia-sponsored peace talks

December 28, 2017

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has categorically rejected the Sochi conference sponsored by Russia scheduled for the end of January.

In a statement released yesterday, the group said that the conference is an attempt to consolidate the Russian occupation and ignore the political solution stipulated in the Geneva resolutions, which starts with the formation of a fully-fledged transitional authority which does not include Bashar Al-Assad and his regime.

The group reiterated its adherence to the principles of the Syrian revolution of overthrowing Al-Assad and his regime and rebuilding the country as a state of justice, freedom, equality and human dignity.

It also called on all revolutionary forces and Syrian national figures to boycott the Sochi conference. The Syrian opposition negotiating body said there was widespread rejection of the conference among opposition groups.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, the guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria agreed at the conclusion of the Astana 8 meeting last week to hold the Syrian national dialogue conference in the Russian resort of Sochi on 29-30 January.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171228-syria-muslim-brotherhood-rejects-russia-sponsored-peace-talks/.

Syria rebels reject Russian-led peace initiative

2017-12-26

BEIRUT – More than three dozen Syrian rebel groups, including influential Islamists, have rejected a Russian-led initiative for talks next month in Sochi on ending Syria’s war.

Russia and Iran, both key allies of Syria’s regime, agreed with opposition backer Turkey on Friday to hold a “Congress of National Dialogue” in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29 and 30.

Syria’s government swiftly said it would attend but rebels have pushed back, calling it a Russian bid to eclipse a United Nations-led process in Geneva.

“We completely reject Russia’s attempt to circumvent the Geneva track,” the rebels said in a joint statement published Monday.

“We call on all forces to stand in one rank against these alarming dangers.”

It was signed by 40 factions, including Islamist powerhouse Ahrar al-Sham and groups that have been backed by the United States such as the Mutasem Brigades.

Some of the factions played a significant role in the rebellion since the war broke out in 2011 but most have either been sidelined by other groups or control only small pockets of land.

Mustefa Sejari, a top Mutasem Brigades figure, said on Tuesday that rebels could not see Russia as an honest broker.

“From the beginning, we said whoever wants to play an intermediary and guarantor role in Syria needs to be neutral, fair, and honest in its support of political transition,” Sejari said.

“Russia has not done these things — it is a partner in the killing of the Syrian people,” he added.

Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations, but it has since morphed into a complex war drawing in world powers, including Russia.

Repeated attempts to reach a political solution to the war have failed, with the UN-backed process in Switzerland bearing little fruit.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran began hosting talks between Syria’s government and armed rebels in Kazakhstan earlier this year, and announced the Sochi conference at the most recent round last week.

The United Nations has yet to firmly endorse the summit, and opposition representatives have largely been wary of it.

The main stumbling block over any political solution remains the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with much of the opposition sticking firm to calls for his ouster.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86561.

Fatah lights 53rd anniversary torch in Gaza

January 1, 2018

The Palestinian Fatah movement lit its 53rd anniversary torch of freedom in Gaza on Sunday, Anadolu has reported. The event took place in the presence of hundreds of Fatah supporters in the Square of the Unknown Soldier in the middle of Gaza City.

The movement’s yellow flag was raised alongside photographs of the late President Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah regards itself as the torchbearer of Palestinian liberation, and has lit a symbolic torch every year since its foundation on 1 January, 1965.

Fatah’s Central Committee member Ahmed Hellis told the rally that the torch will be kept alight as a symbol against all aggressors. The movement, he pointed out, has been involved in several struggles to achieve Palestinian national unity.

“This is the choice of the movement,” he insisted. “Today, we are sticking with national unity more than any time in the past due to the dangers engulfing our cause and our national rights.” He added that Fatah will continue its unity efforts with other national and Islamic factions despite “disparities” in their views. “We will continue looking for the common factor among the Palestinian factions because Palestine needs all the Palestinians.”

Earlier, Fatah had announced that it would turn the celebration of its anniversary into popular resistance activities in solidarity with Jerusalem and against the US move.

Fatah was founded as a military movement with the goal of liberating Palestine. It became involved in direct and indirect secret talks with Israel until a peace deal was agreed in 1993. In 1998, Fatah dropped all articles of its Charter calling for military resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180101-fatah-lights-53rd-anniversary-torch-in-gaza/.

Jordan gets German military vehicles for border control

January 14, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Germany’s defense minister says her country is delivering millions of dollars’ worth of equipment to Jordan’s military to improve the kingdom’s border surveillance. Jordan borders Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State extremists held large areas until being pushed back in recent months by a U.S.-led military campaign. Jordan is a key ally in the battle against IS.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attended a handover ceremony near Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Sunday. Germany is providing two training planes and dozens of military support vehicles to Jordan, worth a total of $22 million.

Von der Leyen says the equipment is meant to “improve mobility at the border,” as part of a plan to support Jordan. She praised Jordan as an anchor of stability in a violence-wracked region.

Bitcoin appeal beats ban and warnings in Jordan

2018-01-14

By Roufan Nahhas – Amman

Amman – Despite its uncertain value and an official warning against trading with it, Jordanians are seeking to make transactions with bitcoin, the cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system that has been providing fast and big profits. While some are attracted to the digital currency, which has sky­rocketed in value over the past year, others look at it with skepticism.

The Central Bank of Jordan and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission warned against deal­ings with any virtual currency, es­pecially bitcoin, but trades through financial brokers are still being con­ducted, though in a very limited way, the Jordanian Exchange Asso­ciation said.

“The whole world is doing it, so why not us?” asked one bitcoin dealer, who spoke to The Arab Weekly on condition of anonym­ity. “I bought some digital currency last year and I saw my money grow more than 200%. I can cash the money anytime but I don’t need it now so I am waiting for the right moment.”

“I know that there are many doubts surrounding the bitcoin but I have many friends in the United States who have made big fortunes there. The digital currency world is happening and we need to be part of it,” said the 31-year-old, adding that his initial $1,000 investment saw big returns in just four months.

“There are other options that are strong, too, and worth investing in. I am being careful not to invest a lot of money (in bitcoin) but it is fine with me to focus on one currency and see how things go,” he said.

While digital currencies are a trendy trading item, many Jordani­an economists have raised concerns about dealing with them.

“We are happy that the authori­ties banned dealings in such a vir­tual world because these curren­cies are not controlled by the price of gold or in any other normal way. Still, there is some interest here in Jordan to invest in them,” said jour­nalist Ziad Momani.

“The virtual world is full of threats and this could be one way for laundering money. So it is better to forget about it though some Eu­ropean countries allowed dealings with it.”

Fahed Khaled, 40, a business­man, said he is interested in invest­ing in digital currency but finds it risky and unclear.

“It is a kind of revolution on tra­ditional currency and, despite all warnings, many people are making money depending on how much you are willing to invest,” he said. “I find it a bit risky but I am sure every­one will follow soon as the world is catching up. We can see, for exam­ple, the British Central Bank plans to issue its own digital currency, so it is a matter of time only.”

“Today, there are many options in which a person can invest digi­tal currency but the general feel­ing, at least here, is not encourag­ing, although around the world and in the United States, for instance, there are machines in the streets where you can buy or sell bitcoins, which means it is legal to do so and I am sure soon it will be all over the world,” he added.

Some countries, such as Austral­ia, the United Kingdom, the Unit­ed States, Finland, South Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia have taken a positive stance towards bitcoin, others have banned the use of vir­tual currencies. In the Arab world, those restricting the use of bitcoin include Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

Innovations often take time to be accepted in the Arab region. Egypt announced a ban on using any type of virtual currency and the coun­try’s top Islamic cleric issued a fat­wa against the currency. However, many people are trying to demon­strate the positive aspect of dealing with bitcoin, taking to social media to encourage others to trade with it.

“Bitcoin Egypt” is a Facebook page managed by Atef al-Khateeb, a Cairo-based bitcoin trader, with more than 2,000 followers. Khateeb said he is lucky to trade with bitcoin and invites followers to follow suit.

Last year in Dubai, the company behind a $325 million luxury hous­ing development said it would accept bitcoin payments, which shows confidence in the currency.

“The world cannot be wrong and if respectful companies are saying OK to bitcoin, I think there should be some truth in it,” Khaled said. “What is wrong about making mon­ey the easy way, many people are (doing it), bitcoin or no bitcoin.”

While many Arabs are hoping to become the next Erik Finman, the teenage bitcoin investor who reput­edly turned $1,000 into more than $5 million, they need to wait until their governments agree to enter the new world, even a virtual one.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86774.

Israel plans for railway connecting it with Saudi Arabia

January 16, 2018

The Israeli government has begun preparing plans to build a railway linking Israel with Saudi Arabia to transfer goods and people, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported yesterday.

Reporting the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the London-based website said that the 15 million shekels ($4.5 million) cost of the plans for this project was included in the 2019 budget, which was approved three days earlier.

The initial plan for the project is to build a railway station in the city of Bisan with a railway network which travels through Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Currently, Yedioth Ahronoth said, Israel is transporting goods arriving in Haifa Port and heading to Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States through Jordan, noting that the war in Syria led these countries to use Israeli ports instead of those in Syria.

The paper reported that the Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called this railway the “Peace Line”, adding that Israel would open a new commercial crossing to deal with goods exported by the Gulf States and Iraq through Israeli ports.

According to the Israeli newspaper, the Israeli Railway Commission has already formed a team of experts to lay down plans for this project, which, it said, would improve Israel’s international status as the railway will connect Europe with the Middle East.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180116-israel-plans-for-railway-connecting-it-with-saudi-arabia/.

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