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Posts tagged ‘Islamic Umma’

King commends CBJ measures to mitigate COVID-19 impact

By JT

Jul 08,2020

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Tuesday commended the measures taken by the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis on the national economy.

During a visit to the CBJ, King Abdullah said the measures helped the private sector weather the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), according to a Royal Court statement.

Speaking at a meeting attended by Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, His Majesty praised the CBJ’s role in maintaining monetary and financial stability and supporting economic growth in Jordan, as well as its success in strengthening the resilience and safety of Jordan’s banking system.

The King stressed the importance of developing e-government and e-payment services, urging continued coordination among all institutions.

His Majesty said the CBJ must continue with its programs to counter any future developments.

Jordan will come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger, the King reiterated, noting that the opportunities to achieve that are available, and the ideas discussed can help Jordan stand out regionally and internationally.

For his part, Prime Minister Razzaz said the economy has proven its resilience in facing the challenges imposed by COVID-19, commending the measures taken by the CBJ to help companies maintain liquidity and retain their employees.

He said nearly 13,000 SMEs have moved from the informal to the formal economy and have benefited from unemployment insurance after registering to benefit from mobile wallet services.

National Aid Fund beneficiaries have also been receiving support through mobile wallets, the prime minister added.

In a briefing presented at the meeting, CBJ Governor Ziad Fariz said Jordan’s monetary stability helped enhance its credibility and gained local and foreign trust.

Fariz outlined the CBJ’s projections for economic performance in the upcoming period, noting that foreign exchange reserves are within safe levels, which has reflected on monetary stability and helped maintain a low inflation rate at 3 per cent, while preserving the Jordanian dinar’s exchange rate against the US dollar at the same level since 1995.

The Kingdom’s reserves are sufficient to cover eight months of imports, which is a comfortable level, he added, stressing the stability of the banking and finance sectors and their ability to serve the economy.

CBJ officials highlighted the measures taken by the bank to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including a financing program targeting firms harmed by the crisis.

A total of 3,645 loans have been financed, disbursed to SMEs, professionals, and business owners, they explained. Some 43 per cent of the loans were disbursed to cover salaries, with the government covering their interest, and they have benefited 75,000 employees at a total value of JD156 million.

They said CBJ’s monetary response since the beginning of the crisis has amounted to 8 per cent of the GDP, which is among the highest levels in the region and has substantially contributed to containing the impact of COVID-19 on economic sectors.

They also noted the progress of CBJ’s strategy of financial inclusion, which succeeded in almost doubling the financial inclusion rate (from 24 per cent in 2014 to nearly 50 per cent).

The gender gap in financing dropped to 29 per cent, down from 53 per cent, while Jordan’s ranking on the World Bank Group’s latest Doing Business report rose from 134th to 4th place in terms of ease in getting credit, they said.

Royal Hashemite Court Chief Yousef Issawi, Adviser to His Majesty for Communication and Coordination Bisher Al Khasawneh, and Adviser to His Majesty for Policies and Media Kamal Al Nasser accompanied the King on the visit.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/king-commends-cbj-measures-mitigate-covid-19-impact.

Kosovo’s president to be questioned in war crimes inquiry

July 08, 2020

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s president said Wednesday that he would go to The Hague to be questioned by prosecutors investigating war crimes allegedly committed during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia.

Hashim Thaci said in a statement posted on Facebook that he was “invited by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office to be interviewed” on Monday. The prosecutor’s office connected to an international court set up in The Hague to look into allegations that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1990s war announced the indictment last month of Thaci and other former fighters.

Thaci was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation army, or KLA, that fought for independence from Serbia. Both the president and former Kosovo assembly speaker Kadri Veseli, who also was indicted, have denied responsibility for war crimes.

The indictment accuses them of being criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanian political opponents, as well as forced disappearances, persecution and torture. A pretrial judge at The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers hasn’t made a decision on whether to proceed with the case or throw it out.

Hundreds of former Kosovar independence fighters have been questioned by the Hague-based court since January of last year. War veterans have planned a demonstration for Thursday. Thaci has said that if the indictment stands he “will immediately resign as your president and face the accusations.”

The fighting in Kosovo left more than 10,000 dead, most of them ethnic Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign in 1999 that forced Serbian troops to stop their brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanians and leave Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Serbia refuses to recognize. Thaci called on Kosovo’s majority ethnic-Albanian population “to stand united in dealing with the challenges that our country is facing.”

“Civic unity, inter-ethnic coexistence, institutional stability, trust in the institutions, are necessary for Kosovo to make its vision to be part of NATO, of the European Union, and to maintain eternal friendship with the United States of America a reality,” he said.

Thaci’s indictment led to the postponement of a White House meeting between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia that was organized by U.S presidential envoy Richard Grenell. Thaci was traveling to Washington for the discussions when the indictment was announced.

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are scheduled to hold European Union-supervised talks in Brussels on Sunday, the first negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries in more than 19 months.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will host the meeting. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel plan to hold virtual preparatory talks with the three on Friday.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Princess Raiyah weds Faris Ned Donovan in the United Kingdom

By JT

Jul 07,2020

AMMAN — With the blessings of His Majesty King Abdullah, HRH Princess Raiyah married Faris Ned Donovan in the United Kingdom.

Her Majesty Queen Noor, Jordan’s Ambassador to the UK Omar Nahar and the Donovan family attended the brief ceremony, held in accordance with lockdown regulations due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a Royal Court statement.

Her Royal Highness was engaged to Donovan on October 26, 2019.

Princess Raiyah, born in Amman in 1986, is the daughter of His Majesty the late King Hussein and Her Majesty Queen Noor.

She holds an undergraduate master’s degree in Japanese studies from Edinburgh University in Scotland, a master’s degree in Japanese literature from Columbia University in New York and is currently a PhD candidate in pre-modern Japanese literature at UCLA, the statement said.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/princess-raiyah-weds-faris-ned-donovan-united-kingdom.

Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sofia’s status

July 01, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) — In its more than 1,400-year existence, the majestic domed structure of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has served as the Byzantine Empire’s main cathedral, a mosque under the Ottoman Empire and a museum under modern Turkey, attracting millions of tourists each year.

The 6th-century building is now at the center of a heated debate between nationalist, conservative and religious groups who are pressing for it to be reconverted back into a mosque and those who believe the UNESCO World Heritage site should remain a museum, underscoring Istanbul’s status as a bridge between continents and cultures.

On Thursday, Turkey’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, begins reviewing a request by a group devoted to reverting Hagia Sophia into a mosque. They are pressing to annul a 1934 decision by the Council of Ministers, led by secular Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, that turned the historic structure into a museum. A decision could come later Thursday or within two weeks, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who leads an Islamic-oriented party, has previously spoken about possibly changing Hagia Sophia’s status to a mosque but has said his government would await the Council of State’s decision.

Analysts believe that Erdogan — a populist, polarizing leader who in nearly two decades in office has frequently blamed Turkey’s secular elites for the country’s problems — is using the Hagia Sophia debate to consolidate his conservative base and to distract attention from Turkey’s substantial economic woes.

“This is not just a debate about a building,” said Soner Cagaptay, Turkey analyst for the Washington Institute. “Ataturk established Hagia Sophia as a museum to underline his vision of secularizing Turkey. And nearly 100 years later, Erdogan is trying to do the opposite.”

”(Erdogan) feels the pressure of popular support dwindling and therefore he wants to use issues that he hopes will remobilize his right-wing base around nativist, populist, anti-elitist topics,” said Cagaptay, author of the book “Erdogan’s Empire.”

Built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, where emperors were crowned amidst ornate marble and mosaic decorations. Four minarets were added to the terracotta-hued structure with cascading domes and the building was turned into an imperial mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople — the city that is now Istanbul.

The building opened its doors as a museum in 1935, a year after the Council of Ministers’ decision. Islamist groups, however, regard the symbolic structure as a legacy of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and strongly object to its status as a museum. Large crowds have gathered outside Hagia Sophia on the May 31 anniversary of the city’s conquest to pray and demand that it be restored as a place of Muslim worship.

In the past few years, Turkey has been allowing readings from the Quran inside Hagia Sophia and Erdogan himself has recited prayers there. This year, he oversaw by video conference the recital of the “prayer of conquest” on the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest.

On Tuesday, Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, considered the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, noted that Hagia Sophia had served as a place of worship for Christians for 900 years and for Muslims for 500 years.

“As a museum, Hagia Sophia can function as a place and symbol of encounter, dialogue and peaceful coexistence of peoples and cultures, mutual understand and solidarity between Christianity and Islam,” he said.

Bartholomew added: “the potential conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will turn millions of Christians across the world against Islam.” Greece also strongly objects to attempts to change Hagia Sophia into a mosque, arguing that its designation as a historic monument must be maintained.

“I hope that President Erdogan does not proceed with something that will deeply hurt Turkey,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said. “This monument has endured many things and it will always return, but Turkey’s image will take a severe blow.”

Turkish media reports say the government was considering the possibility of keeping Hagia Sophia open to tourists even if it were turned into a mosque. That status would be similar to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, which sits right across from Hagia Sophia and functions both as a house of worship and a tourist spot.

Hurriyet and other media have reported that Hagia Sophia could be reconverted into a mosque by a public holiday on July 15, when the country marks the fourth anniversary of the foiling of an attempted coup.

Cagaptay, the analyst said, the Hagia Sophia issue would likely have a “temporary impact in keeping Erdogan’s base with him.” “(But) if he does not deliver economic growth, I can’t see him winning elections as he did in the past,” Cagaptay said.

Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed.

Turkey sees rise in daily coronavirus cases following easing

June 14, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey is “moving away from the target,” the country’s health minister warned Sunday as the daily number of new coronavirus cases rose above 1,500 following the relaxation of restrictions.

Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 1,562 new cases were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily figure since June 3. Reporting 1,330 recoveries, he said: “Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is rising.”

Koca also reported 15 deaths due to coronavirus, taking the total since the first case on March 11 to 4,807. Turkey has recorded a total of 178,239 coronavirus cases. At the start of June, the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young.

A weekend curfew that was due to be implemented last week was canceled, ending the series of part-time lockdowns in place since April. Koca called for people to switch to a period of “controlled social life” from Monday to halt the rise in cases.

Belgium votes on recognizing State of Palestine, imposing sanctions on Israel

June 25, 2020

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives will today be voting on whether to “formally recognize the State of Palestine.”

The resolution, said Socialist MP Malik Ban Achour, urges the federal government “to formally recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel and to consider this recognition as a contribution by Belgium to the solution based on the coexistence of two democratic and independent states having the right to live in peace and security with mutually recognized, accepted and respected borders. ”

The 150-member House of Representatives will also debate a second resolution calling for the government to prepare a list of ‘’counter-measures’’ to be implemented if the Israeli annexation plan goes ahead on 1 July.

MPs from left-wing parties, including the Socialist Party and members of the French and Green parties, proposed the resolutions.

Earlier this week, more than 1,000 members of parliament from across Europe signed a letter warning Israel against annexing parts of the occupied West Bank.

The legislators said they “share serious concerns about President Trump’s plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the imminent prospect of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory.”

According to private daily Al-Bawaba, the resolution supporting EU punitive measures against Israel passed in a committee earlier this month with an easy majority and is likely to pass in the plenary.

However, the measure to recognize a Palestinian state passed by one vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee and is considered less likely to be approved by the plenary.

Sweden became the first EU member to officially recognize Palestine in 2014, though other parliaments have since called on their governments to do so.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200625-belgium-votes-on-recognising-state-of-palestine-imposing-sanctions-on-israel/.

China, Korea, Egypt report rise in virus cases as curbs ease

June 14, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases in two months on Sunday and infections in South Korea also rose, showing how the disease can come back as curbs on business and travel are lifted.

Meanwhile, Egypt reported its biggest daily increase on Saturday. Infections were rising in some U.S. states as President Donald Trump pushed for businesses to reopen despite warnings by public health experts.

China had 57 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday, the National Health Commission reported. That was the highest since mid-April and included 36 in the capital, Beijing, a city of 20 million people.

Beijing’s cases all were linked to its biggest wholesale food market, which was shut down Saturday, the official China News Service reported, citing the city’s disease control agency. It said 27 worked there and nine had direct or indirect exposure to it.

The Xinfadi market was closed after 50 people tested positive for the virus in the Chinese capital’s first confirmed cases in 50 days. The world is seeing more than 100,000 newly confirmed cases every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

China, where the pandemic began in December, and other countries that suffered early on including South Korea, Italy and Spain have seen numbers of new infections decline. Brazil, India, the United States and other countries are seeing large increases.

China responded to the outbreak with the world’s most intensive anti-disease controls, isolating cities with some 60 million people and shutting down much of its economy in steps that later were imitated by some other governments.

The ruling Communist party eased most limits on business and travel after declaring victory over the disease in March. Some curbs still are in place including a ban on most foreign travelers arriving in the country.

On Saturday, authorities in Beijing locked down 11 residential communities near the Xinfadi market. White fencing sealed off a road leading to apartment buildings and drivers were required to show identification to enter the area.

South Korea’s government reported 34 more coronavirus cases, adding to an upward trend in infections. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 30 of the new cases were in the greater Seoul area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live. New cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church services, a large-scale e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.

The Egyptian Health Ministry announced 1,677 new confirmed cases. Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country and has its highest coronavirus death toll. The country has reported 1,484 deaths and 42,980 confirmed cases.

In the United States, the number of new cases in the southwestern state of Arizona has risen to more than 1,000 per day from fewer than 400 when the state’s shutdown was lifted in mid-May, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Gov. Doug Ducey is not requiring Arizona residents to wear masks in public despite warnings by public health experts outside the government. Elsewhere, bar owners in New Orleans were preparing to reopen. San Francisco restaurants resumed outdoor seating Friday and the California government allowed hotels, zoos, museums and aquariums to reopen.

The states of Utah and Oregon suspended further reopening of their economies due to a spike in cases. The latest Chinese cases raised the mainland’s total to 83.132, with 4,634 deaths, according to the Health Commission. South Korea has reported 12,085 cases and 277 deaths.

Also Sunday, China’s air regulator announced China Southern Airlines was required to suspend flights between Dhaka, Bangladesh, and the southern city of Guangzhou for four weeks after 17 passengers on Thursday’s flight tested positive for the virus.

Beijing allows each airline to make one flight per week on each route. Under rules announced June 4, a route will be suspended for one week if five passengers on a flight test positive and four weeks if the number rises to 10.

In Europe, France’s highest administrative court ruled Saturday that virus concerns no longer justify banning public protests. The Council of State’s decision allows for demonstrations and marches as long as health protections are respected. Events must be declared in advance to local authorities and not deemed a risk to public order.

The ruling came as an unauthorized protest against police violence and racial injustice wound down in Paris. Police had stopped at least 15,000 protesters from a planned march through the city Saturday, citing virus-related restrictions on any gathering of more than 10 people.

Associated Press writer Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and AP journalists worldwide contributed to this report.

Dana Reserve reopens after facelift

By JT – Jun 16,2020

AMMAN — The Kingdom’s largest nature reserve, the Dana Biosphere Reserve in southern Jordan, has reopened after rehabilitating its facilities to receive visitors after the tourism sector ground to a halt as a result of precautionary coronavirus measures and lockdowns.

Director of the reserve Amer Ruffou’ said that “good tourist activity” is being witnessed at the facility as local tourism is returning back to normal as part of the recovery phase following the government’s decision to open tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants across the country, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Ruffou’ said in a press release that the Dana Biosphere Reserve in the Tafileh Governorate, which covers a “spectacular landscape” along the face of the Great Rift Valley and is home to a variety of wildlife, had refurbished its facilities, including the Guest House, Al Rummanah Camp and the Old Tourist Village, as part of its preparations to welcome visitors.

The nature reserve’s management also launched promotional programs to attract tourist groups, he said, noting that the day and overnight visits are subject to public safety and health protection regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19, which are being observed by both visitors and workers.

Ruffou’ noted that a special team had been assigned to enforce safety precautions according to government instructions, with temperature-taking devices and sanitisers at the entrances of the guest house and the camp.

He said that the guest house consists of 24 hotel rooms and offers quality food and drinks, while the Al Rummanah Camp includes 30 tourist tents equipped with health facilities. The camp offers traditional meals, hot drinks and overnight accommodation.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/dana-reserve-reopens-after-facelift.

First Arab mission to Mars designed to inspire youth

By Dana Moukhallati

Dubai (AFP)

June 9, 2020

The first Arab space mission to Mars, armed with probes to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, is designed to inspire the region’s youth and pave the way for scientific breakthroughs, officials said Tuesday.

The unmanned probe Al-Amal — Hope in Arabic — is to blast off from a Japanese space centre on July 15, with preparations now in their final stages.

The project is the next giant step for the United Arab Emirates, whose colossal skyscrapers and mega-projects have put it on the world map.

The UAE sent its first astronaut into space last year and is also planning to build a “Science City” to replicate conditions on Mars, where it hopes to build a human settlement by 2117.

Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, said that apart from the ambitious scientific goals, the mission was designed to hark back to the region’s golden age of cultural and scientific achievements.

“The UAE wanted to send a strong message to the Arab youth and to remind them of the past, that we used to be generators of knowledge,” he told AFP.

“People of different backgrounds and religion coexisted and shared a similar identity,” he said of the Arab world, where many countries are today wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.

“Put your differences aside, focus on building the region, you have a rich history and you can do much more.”

– Narrow window –

Sarah al-Amiri, the mission’s deputy project manager, said it was imperative that the project have a long-term scientific impact.

“It is not a short-lived mission, but rather one that continues throughout the years and produces valuable scientific findings — be it by researchers in the UAE or globally,” she told AFP.

She said that the probe will provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in Mars’ atmosphere with the use of three scientific instruments.

The first is an infrared spectrometer to measure the planet’s lower atmosphere and analyse the temperature structure.

The second, a high-resolution imager that will provide information about the ozone; and a third, an ultraviolet spectrometer to measure oxygen and hydrogen levels from a distance of up to 43,000 kilometers from the surface.

The three tools will allow researchers to observe the Red Planet “at all times of the day and observe all of Mars during those different times”, Amiri said.

“Something we want to better understand, and that’s important for planetary dynamics overall, is the reasons for the loss of the atmosphere and if the weather system on Mars actually has an impact on loss of hydrogen and oxygen,” she said, referring to the two components that make up water.

Sharaf said that fueling of the probe is to begin next week.

It is scheduled to launch on July 15 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center and return to Earth in February 2021, depending on many variables including the weather.

“If we miss the launch opportunity, which is between mid-July and early August, then we’d have to wait for two years for another window,” Sharaf said.

But hopes are high that the mission will take place as scheduled, and not be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a new sign of warming ties between Israel and Gulf Arab nations, the Jewish state Tuesday wished the UAE success with the mission.

We “hope this step will contribute towards deeper cooperation between all countries in the region,” its foreign ministry’s “Israel in the Gulf” Twitter account wrote in Arabic.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: https://www.marsdaily.com/reports/First_Arab_mission_to_Mars_designed_to_inspire_youth_999.html.

Turkey to buy additional S-400 missile defense system from Russia

by Ed Adamczyk

Washington DC (UPI)

Jun 10, 2020

Turkey will purchase an additional Russian-made S-400 air defense system, the head of Turkey’s Defense Industries Administration said.

“We have a basic agreement on the supply of the second batch of the Russian S-400 system, and there are some technical issues regarding transport operations,” Ismail Demir said in a television interview earlier this week. “Ankara is also interested in proposals to purchase Patriot and Eurosam air defense systems.”

A Turkish official said the sale would go on despite production and delivery issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey received a loan from Russia to partially finance the $2.5 billion purchase of the S-400 system of ground-to-air armaments. An agreement was signed in December 2017 and the first “Triumf” missiles and missile launchers arrived in Turkey in July 2019.

The deal caused a crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations, with Washington demanding an end to the sale in exchange for the opportunity to purchase American Patriot systems.

The United States also threatened to delay or cancel the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and impose sanctions, but Ankara did not yield to U.S. pressure.

The S-400 missile includes a command and control center capable of coordinating several battalions of troops, a radar detection system and ultra-long-range missiles.

Russia has said that the missiles are designed to destroy aircraft, and cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against ground installations, and can engage targets up to 250 miles away or at an altitude of up to 18 miles.

Source: Space War.

Link: https://www.spacewar.com/reports/Turkey_to_buy_additional_S-400_missile_defense_system_from_Russia_999.html.

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