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Posts tagged ‘Levant’

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.

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.

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/.

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.

PM hails Jordan’s early measures as additional sectors reopen

By JT – Jun 04,2020

AMMAN — Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Omar Razzaz on Thursday said that procedures announced by the government to reopen new economic sectors will have a positive impact on the economy.

Speaking from the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, Razzaz announced an array of phases for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which include a series of procedures and decisions to reopen further economic and service sectors.

The phases involve five levels of risk, ranging from “critical” to “low”.

The prime minister noted that these procedures coincide with the lifting of quarantines on several areas in Mafraq, Irbid and Jerash and other governorates.

He also stated that a total of 498,000 Jordanian workers have benefited from protection programs launched by the Central Bank of Jordan, the Social Security Corporation and the National Aid Fund during the pandemic.

Razzaz said that countries that were late in dealing with the pandemic “have paid the price twice”, and suffered economic and health repercussions, noting that Jordan’s early preparations contributed to the results seen at present.

As for the Defense Law, the prime minister said that the government is looking forward to the day on which it issues the last defense order once the Kingdom enters the “low risk” level.

Razzaz noted that the government is committed to applying the Defense Law at its minimum levels, without affecting private property or public freedoms.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/pm-hails-jordans-early-measures-additional-sectors-reopen.

Gov’t further eases lockdown as most sectors to resume operations Saturday

By JT – Jun 04,2020

AMMAN — The government on Thursday announced a decision allowing citizens to move freely between 6am and 12 midnight every day and cancelling the comprehensive curfew as of Saturday.

During a press conference at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said that shops are permitted to open between 6am and 11pm as of Saturday.

The minister added that mosques and churches will reopen for prayers as of Saturday, with worshipers allowed to go to mosques on foot to perform the dawn prayer, which falls within the curfew hours.

The government has also cancelled the odd-even traffic system for vehicles and permitted the public to commute between governorates.

Public transport vehicles will be allowed to operate at a 50 per cent passenger capacity, the minister added, noting that people over the age of 70 and those with chronic illnesses are still banned from movement.

The minister also announced the resumption of domestic aviation movement and tourist sites for domestic tourism, in addition to the reopening of nurseries, restaurants, hotels and motels.

Adaileh said that many sectors will remain closed in the current phase, such as wedding halls, condolence houses, youth activities (such as scout camps), cinemas, public parks, play areas, entertainment centers, schools and kindergartens, universities, colleges and institutes and training and cultural centers, as well as businesses that organize weddings, conferences, exhibitions, cultural events and festivals.

Visits to prisons and houses for the elderly will be allowed, he noted.

The minister said that these procedures coincide with the reaching of the “moderate risk” level.

He added that the new measures are subject to continuous monitoring and revision depending on the Kingdom’s epidemiological status and risk levels.

Also speaking at the conference, Health Minister Saad Jaber said that Jordan has entered the moderate risk level after registering less than 10 local COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days or after witnessing random test results that are 0.5 to 1 per cent positive.

The minister noted that the standards governing travelling from and to Jordan will depend on the epidemiological situation in other countries.

Jaber also announced a plan to build an intensive care hospital in the Kingdom.

For his part, Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tareq Hammouri said that the private sector has supported the government in dealing with the pandemic. The government has adopted a gradual approach in reopening the sectors after the full lockdown on the basis of health indicators.

The minister pointed out that the Kingdom now produces more than 1.5 million face masks daily, up from 30,000 masks prior to the emergence of the pandemic.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/govt-further-eases-lockdown-most-sectors-resume-operations-saturday.

UK F-35 fighters fly missions from Cyprus over Syria, Iraq

June 25, 2019

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Britain’s most advanced military aircraft, the Lightning F-35B, has flown its first missions over Syria and Iraq as part of ongoing operations against remnants of the Islamic State group, the U.K.’s defense secretary said.

Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement released Tuesday that that the jets’ first operational mission from a British air base in Cyprus was made following a highly successful training period.

“Their first real operational mission is a significant step into the future for the U.K.,” Mordaunt said. Six F-35B aircraft from 617 Squadron flown by three British Royal Navy and three Royal Air Force pilots, arrived at RAF Akrotiri on May 21 for a six-week deployment as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn.

British military officials had said there were no plans for the aircraft to conduct combat missions during their stay at RAF Akrotiri. But it was decided that they were ready to make their operational debut as part of Operation Shader — the U.K.’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State group — because of their “exceptional performance.”

Officials said the aircraft didn’t fire any weapons when flying alongside Typhoon jets during the missions over Syria and Iraq. The F-35 is the first aircraft to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short takeoffs and vertical landings.

The 617 Squadron jets will be deployed this autumn aboard Britain’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, for a battery of operational tests. The tests will be carried out off the east coast of the U.S. in preparation for the aircrafts’ first carrier strike deployment planned for 2021.

The U.K. now owns 17 F-35B aircraft with plans to procure a total 138 jets. According to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Website, British industry will build 15% of the more than 3,000 jets that are planned to be built. British officials say the program has already generated orders worth $12.9 billion and at peak production will support thousands of British manufacturing and engineering jobs.

Israeli defense minister apologizes for Palestinian’s death

June 01, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister apologized on Sunday for the Israeli police’s deadly shooting of an unarmed Palestinian man who was autistic. The shooting of Iyad Halak, 32, in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, drew broad condemnations and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces.

Benny Gantz, who is also Israel’s “alternate” prime minister under a power-sharing deal, made the remarks at the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. He sat near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made no mention of the incident in his opening remarks.

“We are really sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz said. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”

Halak’s relatives said he had autism and was heading to a school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot. In a statement, Israeli police said they spotted a suspect “with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol.” When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire, the statement said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later said no weapon was found.

Israeli media reported the officers involved were questioned after the incident as per protocol and a lawyer representing one of them sent his condolences to the family in an interview with Israeli Army Radio.

Lone Palestinian attackers with no clear links to armed groups have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in recent years. Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force in some cases, either by killing individuals who could have been arrested or using lethal force when their lives were not in danger.

Some pro-Palestinian activists compared Saturday’s shooting to the recent cases of police violence in the U.S.

Israeli leader vows to push ahead with annexing West Bank

May 25, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday pledged to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in the coming months, vowing to move ahead with the explosive plan despite a growing chorus of condemnations by key allies.

The Palestinians, with wide international backing, seek the entire West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state. Annexing large chunks of this territory would all but destroy the faint remaining hopes of a two-state solution.

In an apparent reference to the friendly administration of President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said Israel had a “historic opportunity” to redraw the Mideast map that could not be missed. Israeli media quoted him as saying he would act in July.

“This is an opportunity that we will not let pass,” he told members of his conservative Likud party. He added that the “historic opportunity” to annex the West Bank had never before occurred since Israel’s founding in 1948.

The comments threatened to push Israel closer to a confrontation with Arab and European partners, and could deepen what is becoming a growing partisan divide over Israel in Washington. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. It has settled nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers in the territory, but never formally claimed it as an Israeli territory due to stiff international opposition.

But the Trump administration has taken a much softer line toward Israeli settlements than its predecessors. Trump’s Mideast team is dominated by advisers with close ties to the settlements, and his Mideast plan, unveiled in January, envisions leaving some 30% of the territory under permanent Israeli control while giving the Palestinians expanded autonomy in the rest of the area. The Palestinians have rejected the plan, saying it is unfairly biased toward Israel.

With Trump’s re-election prospects uncertain this November, Israeli hard-liners have urged Netanyahu to move ahead with annexation quickly. The Israeli leader’s new coalition deal includes an official clause allowing him to present his annexation plan to the government in July.

Netanyahu told party members in a closed-door meeting that “we have a target date for July and we don’t intend to change it,” Likud officials said. The plan has already exposed a partisan divide in Washington. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the U.S. presidential elections, recently said that annexation would “choke off” hopes for a two-state solution. 18 Democratic senators warned in a letter this week that annexation could harm U.S.-Israeli ties.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said annexation would violate international law and vowed to use “all our diplomatic capacities” to stop it. Closer to home, the Palestinians last week cut off security ties — a valuable tool in a shared struggled against Islamic militants — with Israel to protest the annexation plan.

Saudi Arabia, an influential Arab country that maintains behind-the-scenes relations with Israel, announced its “rejection of the Israeli measures and plans to annex Palestinian lands.” The Arab League has condemned it as a “war crime,” and both Jordan and Egypt — the only two Arab countries at peace with Israel — have harshly criticized it.

Netanyahu spoke a day after beginning his trial on corruption charges. The prime minister launched a blistering tirade against the country’s legal system when he arrived at court, accusing police, prosecutors and media of conspiring to oust him. As he spoke, hundreds of supporters cheered outside.

Speaking to Likud on Monday, Netanyahu said he was “very moved” by the support. Critics have said his attacks on the justice system risk undermining the country’s democratic foundations.

PM praises ‘prominent role’ of National Anti-Pandemic Committee in virus fight

By JT – May 28,2020

AMMAN — Decisions and measures implemented by the government to deal with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic are mainly based on the recommendations of the National Anti-Pandemic Committee, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Omar Razzaz said on Thursday.

Chairing a meeting of the committee at the Prime Ministry, Razzaz stressed that the government has adopted the majority of the committee’s recommendations, turning them into decisions and measures to confront the pandemic, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The prime minister noted that these decisions have taken into consideration health, security and economic and social aspects in a way that meets greater national interests.

The premier praised the “great efforts” of the committee and the teams working in the field, which have played a “prominent role” in taking measures and immediate precautions that have contributed to mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the Kingdom.

Industry, Trade and Supply Minister Tareq Hammouri said that the work sustainability committee is awaiting the recommendations of the anti-pandemic committee and the possibility to implement them.

Health Minister Saad Jaber said that the committee has been a “main partner” to the government in combating the pandemic even before it reached the Kingdom, noting that several proactive medical measures that Jordan adopted have made the Kingdom a “model” in fighting the disease.

Members of the committee referred to the possibility that the Kingdom will see a rise in case numbers, highlighting the importance of following preventive measures, particularly social distancing, in markets and closed places and wearing face masks.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/pm-praises-%E2%80%98prominent-role%E2%80%99-national-anti-pandemic-committee-virus-fight.

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