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Palestinians still committed to making just peace with Israel: Abbas

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Mahmoud Abbas

Jerusalem, Sep 14 (IANS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the Palestinian people are still committed to making just peace with Israel.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting at his headquarters in Ramallah with the leaders of three main religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, in the Palestinian territories.

He stressed on the necessity of making peace with Israel based on international resolutions related to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, Xinhua reported.

Abbas was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA as saying that the Palestinian people deserve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, “which will be open for the three main religions”.

“Palestine is a model to be followed and a good example in coexistence and social peace,” the Palestinian leader said.

The religious leaders affirmed to Abbas their support to his policies that aim at achieving the hope and aspiration of the Palestinian people, namely freedom and independence.

Abbas is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 27.

Ahmad Majdalani, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that Abbas’ speech “will be like the worksheet for the coming stage”.

He told the official Voice of Palestine Radio that the Palestinians will carry on with their steps that will be escalated within the coming period, in response to the American and Israeli policies and measures that were taken to terminate the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the US administration led by President Donald Trump as a peace broker, after Trump announced last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and relocated the US ambassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city in May.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2014 after nine months of US-sponsored talks failed to make progress to resolve the decades-long conflict.

Middle East

Iran and Saudi Arabia: China’s new launch pads in the Middle East

Two years ago, the Washington Post had reported, based on analysis of satellite pictures, that Saudi Arabia was making a missile factory near the central Saudi town of Al-Watah.

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Iran & Saudi Arabia

New Delhi, Sep 18 : China has flagged Iran and Saudi Arabia as its bridgeheads for expanding its influence in the Middle East, taking advantage of Tehrans international isolation and Riyadhs focus on nuclear energy.

Faced with renewed pressure from the United States, which has attempted to disrupt Iran’s economic lifelines, including critically important oil and gas exports, and much more, Iran has reached out to China for support.

China, in turn, has grabbed the strategic opening, keeping in mind, its larger ambition of drawing the Middle East in its orbit of influence.

In June, Iran approved a quarter century blue print of strategic collaboration with China, with bold economic and security dimensions, worth around $600 billion. Under the pact, energy hungry China will buy Iranian oil, Tehran’s primary export, for 25 years, at highly concessional rates. In return for assured energy supplies, China will revive Iran’s moribund economy, which would be integrated in a China-centred ecosystem, covering trade, finance, investments, and market access. China would also cyber-network Iran, piloted by the telecom giant Huawei, especially in the 5G domain.

Specific infrastructure projects, the foundations of Iran’s new economy, would include airports, high-speed railways and subways. China would also develop free-trade zones in Maku, in north western Iran; in Abadan, where the Shatt al-Arab river flows into the Persian Gulf, and on the gulf island Qeshm, the New York Times reported.

China plans to establish a joint commission for developing weapons and tap Iranian talent for scientific research, including cyberwarfare. This initiative is expected to anchor China’s military presence in the Middle East, bolstered by an unprecedented ability to gather intelligence in the region. In going ahead with the deal, China, for the first time, would become a frontline player seated in the Middle East cockpit, empowered to seriously influence the region, which includes Israel, Iran’s arch-foe.

China’s military ambitions in the Middle East also stood out with its participation in 2019, in a trilateral naval exercise in the Indian Ocean, with Iran and Russia as partners.

China’s massive outreach to Iran, fully recognizes Tehran as a geopolitical pivot — a country whose importance is derived by its sensitive geographical location. Iran sits on the doorstep of South Asia, Central Asia and Europe. Its external orientation has a major spill over impact, across a large geographical space, across contiguous regions.

China views Iran as a launch pad for spreading the Beijing centred Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive transcontinental connectivity project, meant to launch China’s rise as an unrivalled great power.

China wants to extend the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of BRI in more than one direction. In the north, it has already announced its intent to stretch CPEC to resource rich Afghanistan, which has massive reserves of lithium, the feedstock for the electric car revolution that China wants to lead. Already, the Afghan Taliban are in deep conversation with the Chinese for projects that can be kick-started after a new government takes over in Kabul, following the ongoing US brokered reconciliation talks between Taliban and the Afghan government.

In case Iran agrees, CPEC can also be extended westwards from Pakistan’s contiguous Baluchistan province through which a large section of the corridor passes. In case that happens, Tehran will inch closer to being co-opted in the rapidly expanding Chinese political orbit.

China has also gate-crashed into the inner core of Iran’s rival-in-chief, Saudi Arabia, by agreeing to partner with Riyadh in the nuclear arena — a zone where most countries are reluctant to enter. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman has been quoted as saying in 2018 that in case Iran develops a nuclear bomb, Riyadh will also follow suit.

Blinded by its ambition to bulldoze into the Middle East, China is reported to have shared technology to enrich uranium — the feedstock for a bomb. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with China’s help , has built a facility for the extraction of uranium yellowcake, a potential precursor to fuel a nuclear reactor. The plant is located near the remote desert city of Al Ula, the daily reported. The presence of the site, which has not been publicly acknowledged has raised serious concerns that Saudi Arabia, engaged in a seething and violent geopolitical rivalry with Iran, in several regional theatres including Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, may be engaging in the nuclear weapons programme with the support of China.

Uranium when lowly enriched is used in electricity generation, but when refined to purity above 90 per cent, it can be used to making the core of an atomic bomb.

The Saudi Energy Ministry has “categorically” denied to the Wall Street Journal that the Kingdom has built a uranium ore milling facility. But he acknowledged that Chinese companies have been contracted for the exploration of uranium within Saudi Arabia.

The recent interaction between China and Saudi Arabia can be traced to a 2012 agreement for the peaceful development of atomic energy. Subsequently, Riyadh has signed agreements with China National Nuclear Corp and China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp.

China and Saudi Arabia have been partners in beneath- the- radar covert collaboration in the past. In 1988, Saudi Arabia bought Chinese DF-3 Silkworm ballistic missiles, which have been reportedly embedded with the Kingdom’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF).

Two years ago, the Washington Post had reported, based on analysis of satellite pictures, that Saudi Arabia was making a missile factory near the central Saudi town of Al-Watah.

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Middle East

Iran’s president opens new academic year amid COVID-19 challenges

Iran’s Education Ministry announced plans for reopening schools in low-risk regions and said that classes of high-risk regions would be held online.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Tehran, Sep 14 : The new academic year of Iran’s universities and higher education centers officially began with a message of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, state TV reported.

In his online speech, Rouhani stressed the significance of virtual education at the universities to avoid adverse impacts of novel coronavirus, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

The start of new academic year was announced earlier this year, and each university has the authority to decide the implementation of its educational programs.

Some courses will be held virtually, and some by combination of face-to-face and virtual sessions, according to the report.

On September 5, the Iranian president officially announced the opening of new school year.

Iran’s Education Ministry announced plans for reopening schools in low-risk regions and said that classes of high-risk regions would be held online.

Iranian educational centers were closed for nearly four months during the last academic year as the novel coronavirus broke out across the country in February.

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Disaster

Israel announces 3-week nationwide coronavirus lockdown

The lockdown was set to begin at 1100 GMT on Friday, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the government would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in a bid to quell soaring novel coronavirus cases.

“Today in the government meeting we reached a decision on a strict (lockdown) plan for three weeks, with an option that it will be extended,” he said in a televised statement.

The lockdown was set to begin at 1100 GMT on Friday, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays.

“Our goal is to stop the increase, to reduce the contagion,” which has crossed the threshold of 4,000 new cases a day, Netanyahu said.

Under the lockdown guidelines to be finalised in the coming days, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, meaning prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted.

Restaurants are set to be closed to on-site dining and movement will be limited to 500 metres (1,650 feet) from one’s home.

“I know these measures will exact a heavy price from all of us,” Netanyahu said.

“This is not the holiday time we’re used to, we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”

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