Middle East & Africa

Joint Statement by Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt angers the Turkish Foreign Ministry
Middle East & Africa

Joint Statement by Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt angers the Turkish Foreign Ministry

Turkey already having disagreements and conflicts with Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, however adding on to the already sour relationship, a joint statement by Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt was announced on Thursday, denouncing Turkish activities in northern Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean. However, Turkey’s foreign ministry has dismissed the joint statement.

On Thursday, the ministry stated that it “harshly denounces the declaration bearing outlandish allegations and claims.” 

The Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, and the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to stop its infuriating activities in the eastern Mediterranean during a trilateral regional summit in Nicosia on Wednesday. 

The joint statement also pressed Turkey to acknowledge Cyprus’ invitation to negotiate for an agreement about the maritime border. Greece and Cyprus have consented to a maritime border with Egypt while rejecting a similar agreement that Ankara marked with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

The joint declaration attacked Ankara as opposed to supporting harmony and strength in the region, Turkey’s foreign ministry stated. 

It rehashed that Turkey’s position and cooperation could only occur with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in the war-partitioned island.

According to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Deputy Prime Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The political answer for being found to the Cyprus issue is the key factor to ensure the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey on the Island and to add these rights on a strong foundation. Continuation of the solid and autonomous presence of the Turkish Cypiots is an absolute necessity to arrive at a final decision, and the relations between the TRNC and Turkey are composed likewise. 

“We will proceed with confidence to save and protect our privileges and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean.” 

Relations between the two nations have further exacerbated this year. In February, Turkey had allowed an enormous number of migrants to cross the fringe into Greece and the European Union, enraging the latter. 

For quite a while, Greece and Turkey have contrasted over rights on the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, which is enriched in gas and oil deposits. 

Turkey and Greece have twice disagreed throughout the last weeks – first when Turkey changed the prominent 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, and later over the opportunity to explore hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean sea. 

The summit occurred amid high strains between NATO allies Turkey and Greece over oceanic fringes and energy rights, The Associated Press detailed.

Greece and Cyprus have consented to the maritime border treaty with Egypt, while Turkey has marked a similar agreement with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

Displaced children in MENA bear brunt of COVID-19 crisis
Middle East & Africa

Displaced children in MENA bear brunt of COVID-19 crisis

Decades of conflicts and wars have resulted in widespread displacement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In recent years, the number of refugees has increased manifold, with over half of them being children. As per the World Migration Report 2020 by the United Nations, there are an estimated 31 million child migrants across the globe and around 13 million of them are refugees who have suffered vastly due to years of conflict and displacement.

According to reports, the ongoing crisis in Syria has resulted in the largest refugee crisis in the world with over 5.5 million registered refugees from Syria living in countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Crucially, 2.6 million of these refugees are children.

Amid the prevailing struggles, the Coronavirus pandemic has further intensified the crisis for refugees by pushing them into deeper poverty and increased risk of survival. Refugees and displaced populations in MENA countries are facing triple crises: conflict, COVID-19 and global economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Pandemic-induced lockdown measures and lack of basic social protections resulted in millions of refugees losing their source of income and livelihood. Children are bearing the brunt of the crisis as the education sector has come to a standstill. Experts have expressed concerns that the pandemic is threatening the reversal of years of progress made in providing proper education to millions of refugee children. With schools closed for months and pressing lack of income, families are pushing their children either into work to earn additional money for survival or early marriages.

Earlier in June, the UN had warned that Coronavirus could result in the death of 51,000 children in the MENA region by the end of 2020, noting that the pandemic is severely affecting the health of the children amid the lack of basic medical facilities. The WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNICEF had warned of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the health of children under the age of five.

Many of the countries in the region, including Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan are unable to contain the spread of the virus owing to their poor health infrastructure, unsanitary living conditions and limited testing capabilities. Millions of the internally-displaced people do not have access to proper food, which can spark mass migration across countries if aid is not provided urgently, according to the UN.

Pompeo threatens sanctions following U.N. arms ban against Iran expires
Middle East & Africa

Pompeo threatens sanctions following U.N. arms ban against Iran expires

Iranian authorities have welcomed the lifting of a 13-year old UN arms ban on their military and called it a ‘groundbreaking day’, asserting they were happy to be free to purchase and sell weapons in order to establish their nation’s security. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed gratitude towards his country for the showing resistance and diplomatic efforts despite constant US pressure since the past four years, and this uncalled-for ban is lifted.” according to analysts, decade-long sanctions have badly impacted Iran’s economy.

On Sunday, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned nations that if any individual or nation will help Iran’s weapons program then we will slap sanctions on them. This stand would probably add more to the pressures between Washington and Tehran. 

Pompeo said in a statement, “For a decade, nations have shunned from selling weapons to Iran under various UN standards. Any nation that currently challenges this prohibition will be choosing to fuel strife and pressure over-improving harmony and security.” 

Under the U.N. arms ban, the trade of certain conventional arms to Iran was a violation under the U.N. Security Council.

The United Nations had restricted Iran from purchasing major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid pressures over its atomic program. A previous ban focused on Iranian arms exports. 

The U.N. Security Council declined in August to support the U.S. effort to expand the arms ban on Iran. In response to the announcement of the recent lifting of the arms ban, last month Washington had unilaterally re-imposed U.N. sanctions on Tehran.

According to critics, the ban lift would be a huge risk to many nations as Russia and China are the two nations that are likely to help Tehran. 

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency projected in 2019 that if the arms ban ended, Iran probably would attempt to buy Su-30 warrior planes, Yak-130 trainer airplane, T-90 tanks, and also S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia, and China additionally could sell Iran’s arms, DIA added. 

The U.N. arms bans, nonetheless, didn’t prevent Iran from sending weapons assault rifles and ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. However, Tehran continues to deny providing arms support to the Houthis, weapons experts, and international powers consistently linked Iranian weapons to the rebels, AP detailed. 

The US has straightforwardly dismissed the ban lift and said in a statement that the US is ready to utilize its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or nation that buys, sells, or help supply raw material to or from Iran. Including those who will help provide specialized training, financial aid, and other help related to weaponry. 

The US State Department cautioned all nations and organizations not to exchange arms with Iran or might have to face sanctions from the US Treasury Dept. 

The arrangements set in UN Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA would permit Tehran, starting Oct. 18, to purchase conventional weapons, Ballistic missiles, and related technology, from tanks to heavy artillery, and from fighter planes to cutting edge submarines. However, this could assist Iran to expand its controversial nuclear program while fueling more tensions in the West.

Greece accuses Turkey of holding FM’s plane that the latter firmly denies
Middle East & Africa

Greece accuses Turkey of holding FM’s plane that the latter firmly denies

On Thursday, Greece censured Turkey for purposely holding up a official aircraft carrying its Finance Minister Christos Staikouras back from Iraq, leaving it hovering for 20 minutes before allowing it to cross Turkish airspace.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry representative Hami Aksoy reported in a statement that these claims are bogus. Greece had approached Turkey to give approval for the Finance Minister’s plane to travel to and from Iraq through Turkish airspace, Aksoy included.

He further stated that “The plane took off from Iraq without introducing a flight plan. At the point when the plane entered our air space, a flight plan was immediately requested from Iraqi officials, and the flight was securely completed after the order was initiated.”

Whereas, the Greek administration’s representative Stelios Petsas warned that the episode doesn’t happen again.

Pressures between the two NATO allies tightened in a dispute about maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been boiling in the midst of allegations and counter-allegations to marine regions wealthy in natural gas.

Greece and Turkey have disagreed twice in the course of recent weeks – first, when Turkey changed the famous 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, and afterward over the opportunity to exploring hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Relations between the two countries have worsened this year. In February, Turkey had permitted a huge number of migrants to cross the border into Greece and the European Union, angering the latter.

The two nations are a part of the 30-member NATO coalition, and Turkey is officially a nominee for full membership of the EU, of which Greece is a part.

For a long time, Greece and Turkey have differed over rights on the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, which has exceptional gas and oil deposits. On July 21, Turkey reported that the drilling vessel Oruc Reis would explore a disputed section of the sea for natural gas and oil. Greece reacted by alerting its coastguards, navy, and air force.

The French President Emmanuel Macron showed support for Greece and stated that Turkey ought to be “sanctioned” for its infringement in the Aegean region. Following the mediation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkey declared a week ago that it had ended the drilling operation and it’s ready to talk about the issue with Greece.

On Thursday, Germany, and France also blamed Turkey for continuing to incite the EU with its activities in the eastern Mediterranean and demanded an explanation of its positions in seven days.

Why the African evangelicals are supporting Trump despite his contemptuous remarks on the continent
Americas, Middle East & Africa

Why the African evangelicals are supporting Trump despite his contemptuous remarks on the continent

Christians in Africa are among the most strong and surprising group of supporters of US President Donald Trump who are praying for his win in November elections. This is despite the fact that the President has been quite vocal with his derogatory and belittling remarks on the continent.

Nigerian Pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, a famous televangelist said in a June sermon, “Pray for him because when God places any of his children in a position, hell sometimes would do everything to destroy that individual.” He also said that the critics of Republican president dislike his supporters. The pastor’s broadcasts are popular across the world, including the US. He said, “They are angry at Trump for supporting Christians, you better know it. So the real ones that they hate are you who are Christians.”

The card of religion and Christianity and God has been in Trump’s court when it comes to African countries like Nigeria and Kenya, where he is quite popular contrary to the polarized image he has established in rest of the world. In January the Pew Research poll released Trump’s popularity figures. The supporters don’t seem to be bothered how Trump reportedly called all the African countries as “shitholes” back in 2018.

The fact that both Kenya and Nigeria are deeply religious countries has been reason for Trump’s popularity and support here. South of Nigeria has major churches, and Kenya is a country where politicians attend church sermons to meet their supporters. Religion plays a major role in these countries.

Trump has also gained support among the evangelical Christian groups in the continent due to the common stand against abortion, gay rights, and support for Israel. This was also why despite his Kenyan heritage former Democratic President Barack Obama didn’t win support among these African nations for his liberal views.

Richard Chogo, pastor at Deliverance Church in Kenya has praised Trump for his stand against contraception services in many African countries and cutting their funding of groups like Marie Stopes. He said for Obama’s standing, “The Obama administration had been pushing a liberal agenda here in Africa and that agenda was of concern to some of us Christian leaders. It was a relief that during Trump’s time he’s taken a bit of a back seat.”

Pastor Chogo has dismissed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as being “detoured from its vision” and has backed President Trump. He believes that his shortcomings should be ignored for the “common good”. He argues, “Are other people of colour less victims of racism? Is the life of an average black person better today than seven years ago? Or is the average black person worse off today under President Trump than during Obama’s presidency when BLM started?”

Trump has not left any opportunity to cash in on this support. He recently addressed his Christian supporters in tweets saying that this elections religious freedom and abortion are at stake. The evangelicals in Africa are calling winning of Trump as God’s will.

Lebanon: Saad Hariri’s chances of becoming the next PM are high
Middle East & Africa

Lebanon: Saad Hariri’s chances of becoming the next PM are high

Having resigned from the post of Prime Minister of Lebanon, almost a year back due to protests, Saad Hariri is presently in the race to head the nation once again. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for a meeting with parliamentary blocs on Oct 15, to name for a new PM and form a new government.

Monday’s meeting between President Aoun and Hariri was excellent. On Thursday, in an interview on MTV Hariri stated that he was a potential candidate for PM, including that he would be ready to strike a deal with IMF and implement policy reforms in the nation.

Beirut has witnessed a series of protests after the massive blast that impacted thousands of lives. Around 300,000 individuals lost shelter and are in dire strait situation amid loss of job. Such a disaster is humongous for an economy that is nearing a economic collapse. Indeed, even before this catastrophe, Lebanon was requesting for a USD 5 billion credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to face the progressing financial crisis in the nation. 

In comparison to 2019, the latest protest after the port blast reveals a total loss of confidence of the citizens in Lebanon’s political establishment. Last year’s protests were triggered due to additional taxes, corruption, and unemployment that later depleted the economic and political conditions even further. 

The administration’s failure to address these issues head-on and start policy reforms has expanded the misery of Lebanese people and their annoyance against the current regime. 

The Lebanese government drastically failed to bring any reform or find solutions to resolve issues confronting the nation. As per critics, one cannot deny the corruption and inefficiency of government that lead to the current state of misery.

Hassan Diab took over as the Lebanese PM on January this year, amid demonstrations that were seething three months after his forerunner Hariri resigned in October 2019. The main task of Diab was to address the concerns and demands raised by the dissenters. 

The coronavirus outbreak and the Beirut blast further worsened the economic situation of the nation. The current caretaker government run by Diab also failed to prevent Lebanon’s crumbling infrastructure.

Soon on August 12, Diab resigned due to a developing dissent by angry residents over the Beirut blast, unemployment, homelessness, fragile health care system, falling of currency rates and the corrupt regime politics.Currently, Diab is a caretaker PM until a new government is formed.

The final decision of the former Lebanese PM, Saad Hariri, to run for the post indeed relies upon the parliamentary bloc’s readiness to support him, a senior source in the Future Bloc stated. Asharq Al-Awsat reported. 

Hariri stated that he supports the initiative taken by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who urged political parties to accelerate actions and form a new government and put aside their disparities to spare the nation from financial breakdown. If Hariri is chosen, it would be his third term to serve as the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Israel, Jordan sign deal to allow flights to use each other’s airspace
Middle East & Africa

Israel, Jordan sign deal to allow flights to use each other’s airspace

Jordan and Israel on Thursday signed a historic agreement allowing their commercial flights to pass through each other’s airspaces. As reported by Israeli media, the deal was signed between the civil aviation authorities of both the countries.

With the signing of this agreement, lengths of flights will significantly reduce between Israel, the GCC countries and the Far East on one hand and from Jordan to Americas and Europe on the other. It will further contribute to saving of fuel  costs and reductions in flight prices.

According to a statement issued by Israel’s Transport Ministry, Israeli and Jordanian flights are permitted to use each other’s airspace during weeknights between 11 pm and 6 am local time. On weekends, they will be given an extended window of 12 hours, with the provision of 24-hour window during 12 holidays per year.

In the statement, Israeli Transport Minister Miri Regev also noted that the agreement will help the country in becoming more integrated into the region.

“We are opening up new ways of cooperation in the fields of transportation and economy,” she said.

Israel and Jordon did not use each other’s airspace for flights to other destinations across the world, even though direct flights have been operating between the two countries for years. Amman and Jerusalem entered into the accord after several years of negotiations as talks were accelerated by the recent breakthrough of Abraham Accords between Israel and other Arab Gulf countries. Earlier in September, historic peace deal was signed between the UAE and Israel paving way for normalising ties in the region. At the same time, Saudi Arabia had also announced the opening of its airspace to all flights flying to and from the UAE.

This agreement will also facilitate flights from the UAE and Bahrain to use the Israeli airspace to fly to their destination countries.

“UAE and Bahrain airlines, as well as carriers from all over the world, will in the near future be able to begin flying over Israel to destinations in Europe and North America, and back,” the statement added.

As per media reports, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) played a crucial role in negotiating the terms of the accord.

Neighbouring countries Jordan and Israel had signed a peace agreement in 1994 even as they have had hostile relations over the past years.

UN urges capitalising on the lull in fighting to stabilise Libya
Middle East & Africa

UN urges capitalising on the lull in fighting to stabilise Libya

Speaking at the start of a high-level summit on Libya, the general secretary of the UN talked about working towards lasting peace, beginning with the diligent implementation of the arms embargo.

The virtual high-level summit on Libya, which got underway on the sidelines of the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, comes at a time that there has been increasing pressure on both sides of the civil war in Libya, and those supporting them, to de-escalate fighting and come to the negotiating table. The participants included foreign ministers on Turkey, Russia, the UAE, Egypt and other states indirectly involved in the war, representatives from neighbouring countries and senior members of regional organisations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about working towards lasting peace and urged the various states involved in the war to do so with not only their words but also their actions. This meant the “full and unconditional implementation” of the arms embargo that was agreed upon at the Berlin Conference in January this year. This is currently being openly flouted with many nations continuing to supply weapons and mercenaries to fuel the conflict.

There has been an uptake in the import of these resources in preparation for a crucial fight in Sirte, one that both sides of the conflict have been waiting at the edge of for several months now. In contrast to the number of fighters on the ground, there has actually been a drastic reduction in violence and casualties in the past few months. The UN Support Mission in Libya said that 19 civilians were killed between June and September this year, compared to 358 between April and June.

The UN wants to use this lull in the violence to kick start the peace process through ceasefire and dialogue. They hope that developments like the expected resignation of Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, the PM of the Government of National Accord, the lifting of the oil blockade and the calls of ceasefire from both sides of the war will encourage a return to the political process. The first face-to-face military talks with five representatives from each side is due to take place in Geneva is a couple of weeks.

Lebanon Parliament passes the Anti-Corruption Bill, however, critics doubt its Efficacy
Middle East & Africa

Lebanon Parliament passes the Anti-Corruption Bill, however, critics doubt its Efficacy

Lebanon has been famous for all the wrong reasons lately, because of its financial mismanagement and corruption. Since Oct, the people of Lebanon were holding an anti-government protest. However, political analyst and critics doubt the efficacy of the new law as Lebanon has been facing the challenges of systemic corruption by elite powers since the beginning. 

Finally, on Wednesday, the Lebanese Parliament cast a ballot by amending the existing law on illicit enrichment. The new law makes it simpler to press charges against high-level authorities and lawmakers, including sitting MPs and ministers. 

The law establishes the structure for future clarity, responsibility, and anti-corruption laws. It additionally sets an accurate definition regarding what comprises defilement and decides punishments for bribery. It Includes three years of detainment and a fine of around double the estimate of the bribe. 

The law also makes provision for creating the most long-awaited National Anti-Corruption Commission that would refer legal cases to the judiciary, examine allegations of defilement in the public sector, and administer the law. 

The new illicit enrichment bill revises the previous 1999 law, which was a merger of a 1953 law on illegal enrichment and a 1954 law on the declaration of asset. Authorities were allowed to keep their assets secret unless a panel of judges found evidence of any wrongdoing or crime.

Currently, the bill will be transferred to President Michel Aoun for his signatures. It will be a noteworthy improvement in a nation that is battling with its most terrible financial crisis.

US Defence Secretary visits North Africa to bolster regional security cooperation
Middle East & Africa

US Defence Secretary visits North Africa to bolster regional security cooperation

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper is visiting Maghreb countries this week with the aim to bolster military and security cooperation with the leaders of the North African nations. According to US defence officials, Esper is also seeking to push back activities of Russia and China in the region through his tour.

“The focus of the trip is to strengthen our current alliances and partnerships in the region, as well as reaffirm the enduring U.S. military commitment to the African continent,” a senior DOD official said, as per the official statement.

On Wednesday, Esper arrived in Tunisia as the first stop of his regional tour where he met top officials of the country including President Kais Saied. During the meeting, US Defence Secretary signed a 10-year military cooperation deal with Tunisian President and hailed the US-Tunisia cooperation over the conflict in Libya.

After Washington designated Tunisia as “a major-non NATO ally of the United States” in 2015, the two countries have been working on counterterrorism efforts aimed at ISIS-linked groups.

Esper also laid a wreath and delivered a speech at North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage in honour of the US soldiers who died in the North African campaign during the World War II. In his speech, Esper attacked China and Russia, accusing them of continuing “to intimidate and coerce their neighbours” with “malign and predatory behaviour” aimed at “undermining African institutions.”

On Thursday, Mark Esper is scheduled to visit Algeria for the next leg of his tour. According to media reports, he will be the first Pentagon chief to visit Algeria in 15 years. In Algeria, he will be holding talks with President AbdelmadjidTebboune, who serves as the Minister of Defence and Commander of the Armed Forces of the country.

As per official reports, the Pentagon chief will end his regional tour with a visit to Morocco’s capital Rabat on Friday.

With this three-day tour, Esper is seeking to boost US cooperation with the three North African nations, along with facilitating peace and regional stability and counter terror threats across various parts of the region. Western Africa’s Sahel has been under terror threat amid the ongoing jihadist in-fighting in the region. Islamic State group (IS) have been engaged in fierce clashes with al-Qaeda militants in parts of Burkina Faso and Mali.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Defence Secretary visited the island republic of Malta and held talk with the country’s Prime Minister Robert Abela and President George Vella.

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