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Posts tagged ‘Injustice on the Arabian Peninsula’

Algeria’s Belhadj slams boycott of Qatar

June 15, 2017

Co-founder of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has criticized the siege imposed by a number of Gulf and Arab countries on Qatar.

In an interview with Quds Press, Belhadj strongly criticized the involvement of Islamic institutions and using them to achieve political purposes against the State of Qatar.

“The involvement of the Muslim World League, with the aim of gaining legitimacy for the siege against Qatar, is an insult to this institution and to the teachings of Islam which refuse such behavior in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

The Muslim World League should have remained neutral towards this dispute and sought to heal the rift instead of involving itself in such a way.

Belhadj pointed out that Qatar is not the target of the blockade, but the aim is to strike every Arab or Islamic country that wants to support the oppressed or the Palestinian cause.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-algerias-belhadj-slams-boycott-of-qatar/.

Saudi king gives Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar

June 15, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar. In an attempt to force Nawaz Sharif to take sides, the monarch jibed, “Are you with us or with Qatar?” the Express Tribune has reported.

The king posed the question during a meeting between the two leaders in Jeddah on Monday as part of the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis. “Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia it will not take sides in the brewing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East after Riyadh asked Islamabad ‘are you with us or with Qatar’,” the newspaper pointed out.

Pakistan has been treading a careful path since Saudi and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the Saudi government wants Pakistan to side with the kingdom.

Citing a senior government official, who was briefed on the talks at the monarch’s palace in Jeddah, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan would not take sides in any event that would create divisions within the Muslim world. “Nevertheless, in order to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan offered to use its influence over Qatar to defuse the situation. For this purpose, the prime minister will undertake visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey,” the newspaper added.

Sharif traveled to Jeddah accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials to discuss the emerging situation in the Gulf. It is thought that Prime Minister Sharif’s mediation visit to Saudi did not achieve any immediate breakthrough.

According to an official statement, Sharif met King Salman in Jeddah and urged an early resolution of the impasse in Gulf in the best interest of all Muslims.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-saudi-king-gives-pakistans-prime-minister-an-ultimatum-over-qatar/.

Jordan plunges into economic crisis following Qatar blockade

June 14, 2017

Jordan’s economy has incurred losses worth $2 million since a closure of the Saudi land borders last week against the Jordanian exports heading to Qatar as a result of the Gulf diplomatic rift.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and began an economic blockade against the Gulf state. Jordan later joined the move by announcing a reduction in diplomatic representation with Qatar.

According to sources at Jordan’s Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables, Jordanian traders who have previously signed exporting contracts with Qatar, started exporting their products by air.

Jordanian shipments’ volume to the Gulf state has also dropped to 90 tons per day, down from 600 tons per day before the blockade.

According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has prevented the entry of 85 Jordanian trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits, and over 10 trucks which were loaded with livestock heading to Qatar, following the rift.

Qatar has begun pursuing alternative routes and agreeing on new deals with other countries to counter the blockade imposed by most of its neighboring Arab states. Turkey was ready to help resolve the dispute, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while Iranian officials have offered to send food to Qatar by sea.

Moreover the Danish company, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which owns the world’s biggest container line, has worked to bypass the transport ban imposed on Qatar by using alternative routes. Last Friday, it announced that it would begin container shipments to Qatar via Oman, avoiding trade restrictions imposed on the Gulf state by Arab countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170614-jordan-plunges-into-economic-crisis-following-qatar-blockade/.

Muslim pilgrims begin hajj, but this year without Iranians

September 10, 2016

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Close to 2 million people from around the world began performing the first rites of the Islamic hajj pilgrimage on Saturday, which calls for entering into a state of physical and spiritual purity and circling the cube-shaped Kaaba with their palms facing upward in supplication and prayer.

Notably absent this year are Iranian pilgrims. Last year, some 64,000 Iranians took part in the hajj, but disputes with the Saudi government prompted Tehran to bar its citizens from taking part this year.

Saudi Arabia has blamed Iranian officials for the decision and suggests it was politically motivated to publicly pressure the kingdom. Iran says Saudi “incompetence” caused a crush and stampede during last year’s hajj that killed more than 460 of its citizens. On Friday, thousands of Iranians marched through the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities to protest Saudi Arabia, chanting prayers against the kingdom’s Sunni rulers after midday prayers.

The hajj is one of the world’s largest pilgrimages. It draws the faithful to the holy city of Mecca and areas around it for five intense days of rituals and prayers aimed at erasing past sins and drawing Muslims closer to God. The pilgrimage is required of all Muslims to perform once in their lifetime.

To begin the hajj, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims circle the Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque. In a sign of humility and equality before God, the pilgrims shed symbols of materialism, entering a state of “ihram.” Women forgo makeup and perfume and wear loose-fitting clothing and a head covering, while men dress in seamless, white terry cloth garments.

Since arriving in Mecca over the past several weeks, hundreds of thousands have chanted, “Labayk Allahuma Labayk,” or “Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am.” While following a route the Prophet Muhammad once walked, the rites of hajj are believed to ultimately trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are named in the Bible.

The Interior Ministry says more than 1.3 million people from 160 different countries have arrived to the kingdom to perform the hajj this year. Most pilgrims will spend the evening outside Mecca in a valley called Mina that houses more than 160,000 tents. They will head to an area called Arafat on Sunday for the pinnacle of the pilgrimage, an emotional day of repentance and supplication.

For the first time in more than three decades, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric will not be delivering this year’s prestigious hajj sermon on Sunday. Al-Riyadh newspaper reported Saturday that Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, who has delivered the sermon since 1981, will be replaced by Sheikh Saleh bin Hamid.

Hamid previously served as chairman of the top consultative Shura Council and was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Council before serving as a royal adviser. The newspaper did not give a reason for the change.

The mufti sparked controversy this week when, in response to the Iranian criticisms, he was quoted as saying that Iran’s Shiite leaders “are not Muslims.”

Jordanians to replace UAE forces in war on Yemen: Report

Thu Apr 14, 2016

Jordanian military forces and advisers will be replacing UAE troops fighting in the Saudi war on Yemen, following reports of serious disputes among the few “coalition” members, a report says.

Yemen’s Khabar news agency, citing informed sources, reported on Thursday that the decision had been made following a recent visit by Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud to Jordan.

Prince Mohammad, who is the Saudi defense minister, met King Abdullah in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba and signed a package of agreements, including on development of military cooperation.

The report said the deployment of Jordanian forces will now be coming after the United Arab Emirates withdrew the bulk of its military force from Yemen’s Ma’rib following a series of military setbacks.

The Saudi crown prince also traveled to the UAE in an effort to mend fences after reports of significant frictions between the two allies over the war on Yemen.

Emirati authorities are reportedly angry with a Saudi decision to dismiss a former general with close ties to the UAE.

In February, the Saudi kingdom sacked Khaled Bahah and appointed Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar to lead the fight against Yemen’s Houthis.

Ahmar has been based in Saudi Arabia since the Houthis took over Sana’a in 2014.

Jordanian military forces reportedly took part in the Saudi operation in Aden last July following the flight of Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Early on Thursday, Saudi military aircraft carried out a fresh round of aerial assaults against the Nihm district of Sana’a Province, though there were no immediate reports of possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

The development came only hours after Saudi-backed militiamen fired a barrage of artillery rounds at Dhubab, Harir and al-Jumhuri districts in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz and Ghorab and al-Madaniyah neighborhoods in the provincial capital city of Ta’izz.

Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on March 26, 2015, in a bid to bring Hadi — who is a staunch ally of Riyadh — back to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

More than 9,400 people have been killed and at least 16,000 others injured since the onset of the aggression.

The Saudi strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/04/14/460698/Yemen-Jordan-UAE-forces/.

Egypt cedes two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Egyptian government on Saturday evening said a new maritime border agreement with Riyadh would put the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran – long considered Egyptian possessions – within Saudi territorial waters.

“The Red Sea islands [Sanafir and Tiran] fall within Saudi territorial waters in light of the new border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” the Egyptian government said in a statement.

On Friday, Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail signed the deal with Saudi officials at the presidential palace in Cairo in the presence of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the latter of whom is currently visiting Egypt.

The government statement went on to describe the agreement as an “important achievement” that would allow both countries to take full advantage of their “rich natural resources”.

It added that the border demarcation deal was the “result of six years of hard work and 11 rounds of meetings”, noting that two technical committees had used the latest scientific methods to accurately demarcate the maritime border between the two countries.

“Ratification of this agreement will allow Egypt to take advantage of the exclusive economic zone in the Red Sea and will provide Egypt with exploration opportunities for additional natural resources,” the government statement read.

It went on to note that the deal would be brought before Egypt’s parliament – which is dominated by pro-regime MPs – for ratification.

Criticism

The agreement came in for heavy criticism by opposition figures, including many prominent former officials and parliamentarians.

In a joint statement, they asserted their “total rejection” of “all agreements concluded by this illegal regime, including the relinquishment of Egypt’s historical right to territorial waters, land and airspace, along with the management of its airports and wealth and its territorial jurisdiction and national sovereignty.”

The statement was signed by former MP Tharwat Nafi; Saif Abdul Fattah, a former adviser to ex-President Mohamed Morsi (who was ousted in a 2013 military coup); journalist Abdul Rahman Yousef; former MP Gamal Heshmat; former MP Hatem Azzam; former government minister Amr Darrag; Tariq al-Zumr, head of the Building and Development Party; Ayman Nour, a former presidential candidate; Ihab Shiha, head of the Asala Party; Yahiya Hamid, former assistant to ousted President Morsi; and Muhammad Mahsoub, a former government minister.

Tiran Island (80 square kilometers) lies at the entrance of the Strait of Tiran, which separates the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea only six kilometers from the Sinai coast. Sanafir Island (33 square kilometers) is located to the east of Tiran Island.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/24935-egypt-cedes-two-red-sea-islands-to-saudi-arabia.

Allies follow Saudis in cutting ties with Iran amid tensions

January 05, 2016

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom’s lead Monday and scaled back diplomatic ties to Iran after the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic, violence sparked by the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said they would sever ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did late Sunday. Within hours, the United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d’affaires, while other nations issued statements criticizing Iran.

The concerted campaign by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia highlights the aggressive stance King Salman and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have adopted in confronting Iran, a longtime regional rival.

“What we have seen during the last 24 hours is unprecedented … It shows you Saudi Arabia has had enough of Iran and wants to send a message,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at Emirates University. “This is the Saudis saying: ‘There is no limit to how far we will go.'”

The standoff began Saturday, when Saudi Arabia executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges — the largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom since 1980.

Al-Nimr, a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, long denied advocating violence. News of his execution has sparked Shiite protests from Bahrain to Pakistan.

In Iran, protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. Late Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the kingdom would sever its relations with Iran over the assaults, giving Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave his country.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority suspended all flights to and from Iran, saying the move was based on the kingdom’s cutting of diplomatic ties. Iran expressed “regret” over the attacks on the diplomatic missions in a letter to the United Nations on Monday and vowed to arrest those responsible. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Iran’s U.N. envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters have been arrested and that authorities are searching for other suspects.

In response to a Saudi letter, the U.N. Security Council late Monday strongly condemned the attacks by Iranian protesters on Saudi diplomatic posts. The council statement, agreed to after hours of negotiations, made no mention of the Saudi executions or the rupture in Saudi-Iranian relations.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have long vied for influence in the Middle East. Their rivalry deepened following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the chaos of the Arab Spring, which gave rise to proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

An early battleground was Bahrain, where the Shiite majority staged mass protests in 2011 demanding political reforms from the Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates sent in troops to help quash the revolt, viewing it as an Iranian bid to expand its influence.

Bahraini officials since have accused Iran of training militants and attempting to smuggle arms into the country, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. In October, Bahrain ordered the acting Iranian charge d’affaires to leave within 72 hours and recalled its own ambassador after alleging that Iran sponsored “subversion” and “terrorism” and funneled arms to militants.

Sudan, which has been looking to Saudi Arabia for aid since the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011, on Monday announced an “immediate severing of ties” over the diplomatic mission attacks. Sudan once was closer to Iran, but in recent years has tilted toward Saudi Arabia, and has contributed forces to the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen.

The UAE, a country of seven emirates, has a long trading history with Iran and is home to many ethnic Iranians. It said it would reduce the number of diplomats in Iran and recall its ambassador “in the light of Iran’s continuous interference in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states, which has reached unprecedented levels.”

Saudi Arabia had previously severed ties with Iran from 1988 to 1991 over rioting during the hajj in 1987 and Iran’s attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf. That diplomatic freeze saw Iran halt pilgrims from attending the hajj in Saudi Arabia, something required of all able Muslims once in their lives.

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Ali Esfanani, spokesman of the Judicial and Legal Committee, said security issues and the fact that Iranian pilgrims wouldn’t have consular protection inside the kingdom made halting the pilgrimage for Iranians likely, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

World powers have sought to calm the tensions. On Monday, Germany called on both sides to mend ties, while Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed senior diplomat as saying Moscow is ready to act as a mediator.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was en route to Riyadh on Monday with plans to later visit Tehran. Iran, a staunch supporter of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the opposition, have participated in three rounds of international talks aimed at ending the conflict. De Mistura has set a Jan. 25 target date for a fourth round of talks.

The White House urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to not let their dispute derail efforts to end the Syrian civil war. “Hopefully they will continue to engage,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “It is so clearly in the interests of both countries to advance a political solution to the situation inside of Syria.”

Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Moualimi said late Monday tha tSaudi Arabia will attend the Jan. 25 talks in Geneva on Syria. Iran has not said whether it will attend. Meanwhile, al-Nimr’s family is holding three days of mourning at a mosque in al-Awamiya village in the kingdom’s al-Qatif region in predominantly Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia. Authorities have already buried the sheikh’s body in an undisclosed cemetery, his family said.

Early Monday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said a shooting targeting security forces in the village killed a man and wounded a child. It offered no motive for the attack, nor for another it said saw a mob beat and briefly kidnap a man who was driving through the area.

Associated Press writers Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, Malak Harb in Dubai, Nour Youssef and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Josh Lederman in Washington, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Adam Schreck in Koh Samui, Thailand, and Abdi Guled contributed to this report.

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