Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Land of the Arab Revival’

5 Jordanians go missing in Saudi Arabia

December 3, 2017

Five Jordanian nationals have gone missing in Saudi Arabia, according to a Jordanian foreign ministry source.

The five were on a hunting trip in the northwestern Tabuk region when they disappeared, the source told Anadolu Agency, requesting anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to media.

He, however, denied reports that the five had been found dead.

There was no comment from Saudi authorities on the report.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171203-5-jordanians-go-missing-in-saudi-arabia/.

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Access to food ‘precarious’ for Syrians stranded near Jordan

October 31, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief called for immediate “life-saving” access to 50,000 displaced Syrians stranded on the sealed border with Jordan, as aid officials reported a sharp drop in food supplies in the remote desert camp since Syrian government forces advanced toward the area in the summer.

Black market prices for food have soared and malnutrition is on the rise among young children in the Rukban camp, the officials said. Mark Lowcock, the U.N. official, told the U.N. Security Council in a Syria briefing that a long-term solution is needed for getting aid to Rukban.

He said that “the best approach is to find a solution from within Syria” — an apparent shift after U.N. agencies held months of largely unsuccessful talks with Jordan about access to the camp. Speaking to the Security Council after meetings with Jordanian officials on Monday, Lowcock said U.N. agencies are “straining every sinew” to find a way to deliver aid from Syria.

Jordan sealed its border with Syria in June 2016, after a cross-border car bomb by Islamic State extremists killed seven Jordanian border guards. The pro-Western kingdom has defended the closure, saying its security trumps humanitarian considerations, and that the attack underscored warnings that Rukban has been infiltrated by IS sympathizers.

The international community is reluctant to pressure Jordan, which is hosting a large number of refugees. In all, more than 5 million Syrians fled their country since 2011, including about 660,000 registered refugees in Jordan.

Jordan’s foreign minister told European Union diplomats last month that Syria and the international community, not Jordan, bear responsibility for Rukban. U.N. aid deliveries to Rukban from inside Syria would require permission from the government in Damascus and also pose safety risks for staff crossing front lines.

Since Jordan’s border closure, U.N. agencies have only carried out two distributions from Jordan, in addition to a partial one in June. At one point, food was hoisted by cranes from Jordan and dropped off near Rukban. A subsequent system of delivery, through a Jordanian contractor, has repeatedly broken down.

The recent deterioration in Rukban followed a temporary cease-fire for southwestern Syria in early July. As fighting ebbed in the southwest, Syrian government forces and their allies advanced in the southeast.

Commercial food shipments from other areas of Syria to Rukban dropped by about 70 percent since the Syrian government’s advances, said Firas Abdel Aziz, a Jordan-based activist for Jusoor al-Amal, a charity that operates in the camp.

The price of bread has doubled, sugar is up six-fold and the cost of rice has tripled, he said. Lowcock said that “as limited commercial supplies are reaching Rukban, access to food is precarious and the overall situation remains dire.” The situation will become more acute as winter approaches, he added.

While a long-term solution is needed, “immediate access to enable life-saving assistance for the civilian population is critical,” he said. A U.N.-run clinic continues to operate on Jordanian soil, several kilometers from Rukban, and receives 100 to 150 patients per day, said other aid officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing talks with Jordan.

The population size of Rukban has fluctuated, said Abdel Aziz. In early September, residents of a smaller border tent camp, Hadalat, evacuated the area as Syrian troops advanced, with many fleeing to Rukban. Abdel Aziz said hundreds more families arrived recently from another flashpoint of fighting in Syria’s far east.

U.N. satellite images from late September indicated there are close to 10,000 shelters in the camp, an increase of 6.6 percent from three months earlier.

Associated Press writer Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

New multi-specialty medical center inaugurated at Zaatari camp

By JT

Nov 16, 2017

AMMAN — Deputizing for HRH Princess Muna, Minister of Health Mahmoud Sheyyab on Wednesday inaugurated the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) new multi-specialty medical center at Zaatari refugee camp, a SAMS statement said.

With this new enterprise, SAMS, a leading medical relief organisation with offices in the US, Syria and its neighboring countries, in addition to Greece, provides dignified and high-quality healthcare to refugees living in the camp.

SAMS President Ahmad Tarakji and SAMS Foundation Chairman Amjad Rass, attended the opening ceremony at Zaatari Camp, highlighting SAMS’s role in providing healthcare to refugees living inside and outside the camp.

The SAMS multi-specialty medical center will address the vast and urgent health care needs of 80,000 refugees currently living in Zaatari camp, the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, according to the statement.

Many refugees in the camp suffer from chronic and communicable illnesses and emotional trauma that have gone untreated due to a lack of consistent, specialized medical services. The new medical center is expected to provide 7,700 medical services per month, treating up to 350 patients on a daily basis, in various areas of specialty care, including cardiology, neurology, pediatrics, gynaecology, dental and orthopedics, as well as those pertaining to primary and preventative care.

At the front lines of crisis relief in Syria and its neighboring countries since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, SAMS has provided medical services in Zaatari for over three years, regularly heading medical missions in the area to offer free, quality care to refugees, with 95,637 medical services offered inside Zaatari Camp in 2016, the statement continued.

“The new medical center has been carefully designed to address the growing need for ongoing, quality medical care to refugees, following the recent closure of a number of health facilities in the camp. We are proud to announce that our center will be fully equipped to focus not only on treatment, but also on prevention, wellness and specialty care,” Tarakji was quoted in the statement as saying. “We are confident that the facility will serve as a beacon of hope and a place of respite for the camp’s residents, and in so doing, help provide them a future they can look forward to.”

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/new-multispecialty-medical-centre-inaugurated-zaatari-camp.

EXCLUSIVE: Jordan fears ‘turmoil’ as Saudis rush to embrace Israel

David Hearst

Thursday 16 November 2017

Saudi Arabia is bypassing Jordan in its headlong rush to normalize relations with Israel, offering concessions on Palestinian refugees which could endanger the stability of the Hashemite kingdom, and compromise its status as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, a senior official close to the royal court in Amman has told Middle East Eye.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of treating Jordan with contempt. “He deals with Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority as if they are the servants and he is the master and we have to follow what he does. He neither consults nor listens to us,” the official said.

The alarm bells went off in Amman following semi-official leaks suggesting that Saudi Arabia was ready to surrender the Palestinian right of return in exchange for putting Jerusalem under international sovereignty as part of a Middle East peace deal that would facilitate the creation of a Saudi-Israeli alliance to confront Iran.

Such a deal would compromise the special status of Jordan as the custodian of the Haram al-Sharif, as stated in the peace treaty Jordan struck with Israel in 1994.

“Half the population of Jordan are Palestinians and if there is official talk in Riyadh about ending the right of return, this will cause turmoil within the kingdom. These are sensitive issues both for Jordanians from the East Bank and Palestinians,” the official said.

Jordanian backlash

In fact, 65 percent of the population of Jordan are Palestinian, mostly from the occupied West Bank. They have Jordanian citizenship and access to medical care, but they are under-represented in parliament, and have little presence in the Jordanian army and security services.

Furthermore, any attempt to give the Palestinians more rights in Jordan would provoke a backlash among the Jordanian population, the official observed.

He said any final status deal involving Palestinian refugees would have to include a compensation package to Jordan, which the kingdom would expect to receive as a state.

On the deal itself, the Jordanian official said that what was on offer to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was worse than before.

“He (MbS) is concerned about the normalization of the Saudi relationship with Israel and he does not care about anything else. He needs a fig leaf to start off this normalization,” the official said.

A separate Western source in contact with some Saudi princes independently confirmed the importance of Israel as a factor behind a wave of recent arrests in Riyadh targeting princes, business tycoons and other influential Saudis.

He said several of the people arrested under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign had acted as “gatekeepers for Saudi funding” going to Israel. He suggested that MbS wanted to keep a monopoly of these contacts for himself. For this reason, he questioned whether those arrested would be put on public trial, or whether there would be secret trials.

This source dismissed the notion that what was a taking place in Saudi was a genuine anti-corruption drive: “The Saudi family do not rule Saudi Arabia. They own it. That is their view. They created the country. They own it, and therefore they cannot be corrupt.”

The Royal Court in Amman is also concerned by the pressure being applied on Jordan to join an anti-Iran campaign and the potentially dire consequences of what it considers “reckless” Saudi policies.

“Things in Syria are going to the benefit of Iran and its allies. The Jordanian approach was to try to open channels with Iran and Russia and to calm down the Iranians and have some sort of agreement in the south,” MEE’s source said.

“But the Saudis are in full confrontation mode, destabilizing Lebanon. If Iran wants to retaliate, it could retaliate across the whole region, which could affect Jordan directly and that is the last thing Jordan would want them to do.”

When pressed by the Saudis, Jordan scaled back its diplomatic relations with Qatar, but notably did not cut them as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt did on the day the blockade was announced. Jordan did, however, close the office of Al Jazeera, the Qatari television network which Saudi has called on Doha to shut down.

Unlike the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah has not been invited to go to Riyadh to express these frustrations in person. He has visited Bahrain, but went home shortly after.

Broken promises

The third source of Jordanian concern about the way Saudi is behaving is economic.

Jordan has lost money as a result of the regional boycott of Qatar, and is currently losing income it earned through the transit of goods. This is a result of the re-opening of a crossing between Saudi and Iraq at Arar, a crossing that had been closed for 27 years since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Before Arar opened, all trade from Iraq passed through Jordan. With the opening of Arar, Iraq will start to use Saudi ports in the Red Sea to export to Europe, instead of the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

There is anger in the royal palace about promises of aid from Saudi Arabia, but no signs of the cash arriving in its bank accounts.

A separate Jordanian source told MEE: “The Jordanian king and the Jordanian authority are angry about promises made by the Saudis  to compensate Jordan for its loss of income with Qatar, and the fact that nothing has been received from them so far.”

A fourth Jordanian grievance is MbS’s recent announcement of plans to build the high-tech mega city of Neom which is set to stretch across the kingdom’s borders into Jordan and Egypt. The official said that Jordan was “not well briefed” about the project, fostering the suspicion that the primary beneficiary in the city’s construction will not be Jordan or Egypt, but Israel which has established a regional lead in high-tech exports.

He said there were “some positive comments” on the Jordanian side, but overall it reacted cautiously to the announcement.

The official doubted whether Israel would be stampeded into a war with Hezbollah and suggested that MbS had miscalculated the reaction to his offensive on Lebanon, following the Lebanese Prime Minister’s Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation in Riyadh earlier this month.

Hariri, who is a Saudi citizen with significant business interests in the country, has not yet returned to Beirut and Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday that he believed he was being detained there.

“The analysis of Jordan is that neither Israel nor the US will go for a war, and that we Jordanians will be saddled with the consequences of a direct confrontation with Iran and we will pay the consequences for this,” the official said.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-jordan-braces-turmoil-saudis-rush-embrace-israel-1491957420.

Jordan plans new city to ease crowding and congestion

Monday 6 November 2017

Jordan has announced plans to build a new city east of the capital Amman in order to ease rising population density and traffic congestion.

The project to build the city some 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) from Amman was part of a drive to stimulate the economy and attract long-term investment, the government said in a statement published on Sunday.

Touted as “environmentally friendly, sustainable and smart”, the new city would be built on a major highway that links Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The project was aimed at finding “drastic solutions to rising population density and traffic congestion” in Amman and the northeastern city of Zarqa, said the statement carried by the official Petra news agency.

Amman is home to four million people while 1.3 million make up the population of Zarqa and, according to the statement, their combined populations are due to reach 10 million by 2050.

The project would “invest in clean and renewable sources of energy and water treatment” as well as provide affordable housing, the statement said.

It would be built in five phases with the first one ready by 2030 and the last expected to be completed in 2050.

“State institutions and ministries will be moved to the new city throughout the project’s various stages,” it added.

Cash-strapped Jordan hopes the project will attract private and foreign investors.

The tiny desert kingdom is devoid of natural resources and has been severely affected by wars in its neighbors Syria and Iraq with refugees from both countries seeking haven in Jordan.

The United Nations says Jordan is hosting more than 650,000 refugees from Syria alone, while the kingdom puts their number at 1.4 million.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jordan-plans-new-city-ease-crowding-and-congestion-797860535.

Jordan: Syrian refugee camp holds recruitment fair

October 6, 2017

50 Jordanian companies and factories took part in a recruitment fair in the Zaatari refugee camp yesterday in an effort to help Syrian refugees find work.

The exhibition, organized by the Zaatari Employment Office in cooperation with UNHCR and the International Labor Organisation (ILO), is the first of its kind in the camp located in Mafraq, 85 kilometers northeast of Amman. It is being held nearly two months after the Jordanian Ministry of Labor began issuing work permits to refugees residing in refugee camps allowing them to work outside of the camps.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor indicate that more than 7,000 Syrian refugees residing in the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps were issued work permits.

Ahmed Orabi, owner of a Jordanian clothing factory, participated in the exhibition hoping to get skilled Syrian tailors and seamstresses. “The Syrians are skilled textile workers who have a good reputation in the field,” he explained, adding that there are about 35 refugees currently working at his factory.

Orabi received dozens of requests for employment from the refugees which he will review. He told Alaraby Al-Jadeed:  ‘I am looking for workers with experience. It is not a problem if they have minimal experience, as they can be trained quickly.”

The Jordanian Labor Law applies to Syrian refugees in terms of working hours and minimum wages, while the factory, located in a city about 30 kilometers from the camp, provides transport.

Refugees also benefit from financial exemptions provided by the Jordanian Labor Ministry in order to encourage them to apply for work permits. The fee for a working permit is $14.

Jordan began granting work permits to Syrian refugees living outside the camps following the Supporting Syria and the Region conference held in London in February last year. This came after European countries promises to facilitate the entry of Jordanian exports into their countries, in exchange for granting 200,000 work permits to refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171006-jordan-syrian-refugee-camp-holds-recruitment-fair/.

Amman suitable for metro project — field study

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto

Sep 09,2017

AMMAN — A study conducted by the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation (CREM) for the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) has confirmed that the topography of the city allows the implementation of the Amman Metro, a GAM official told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Following a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2016 between the two parties, CREM started a field study in the capital with the aim of analyzing the potential path the metro would take if established in Amman.

The study concluded that the launch of such a project would be possible on the ground.

The GAM official called these results “very positive” and “encouraging”, noting that CREM is currently preparing a more detailed study on the implementation of the metro in the city — which is expected to connect the north and south of the city through a single line.

Furthermore, the official said that, if the project was found feasible, it would be implemented in parallel with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with a common station connecting both systems.

“Amman needs the metro as part of the integrated transportation system, which aims to build a comprehensive transportation network where the two systems would work together,” the official stated.

Once completed, the detailed study will be submitted to the GAM later this year, along with the estimated cost and the detailed plans for the project.

If feasible, the construction and the operation of the Amman Metro will “probably” be conducted under a DBOT (design, construction, operation, transfer) model, the official said, adding that other options are yet to be considered.

The establishment of the Amman metro would reduce the “frustration” of commuters facing daily transportation hustle, the official added, stressing that many complaints were expressed over the lack of regulations in the bus service earlier this year.

However, the project still raises discrepancies among the population.

“We definitely need a new transportation infrastructure”, said student Ghazal Aburaad. “However, finding the necessary funds and organisations will present great challenges,” she continued, noting that “the government will not be able to do this without partnerships”.

This view was shared by Hazem Zureiqat, founder of the public transportation advocacy campaign Maan Nasel, who stated that “the main challenge is going to be with institutions and management”.

“If the government wants to implement this plan, it will probably have to subsidize it,” said Zureiqat, adding that the metro is a very costly system.

Furthermore, Zureiqat pointed out that this is not the first study on the implementation of a metro line in Amman, referring to the feasibility study conducted in 2010 by a French company.

“When the results of that study came out, the cost of line per kilometer was up to JD140 million, and that is why the priority was given to the BRT,” he said.

“However, the BRT is not enough and Amman needs a rail-based transportation system”, he concluded.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/amman-suitable-metro-project-%E2%80%94-field-study.

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