Connect with us

Middle East

Qatar rivals look to next move in Cairo talks

Published

on

Qatar Crisis

Arab states that have cut ties with Qatar held talks in Egypt on Wednesday to discuss their next move in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, as Doha called for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry welcomed his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the talks at a ministry building in central Cairo, a month after the countries severed ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting extremism.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi foreign ministry said they had received Qatar’s response to their demands — which include Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera — and would respond “at the right time”.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have not said what steps they could take next, but there are fears of a wider embargo that would hurt the Qatari economy, with credit ratings agency Moody’s announcing it was changing Qatar’s outlook to negative over the crisis.

The countries issued the 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to respond. The deadline was extended by 48 hours on Sunday at the request of Kuwait, which is mediating in the crisis, and Qatar handed in the response on Monday.

The contents of the response have not been disclosed, but Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Tuesday that the list of demands “is unrealistic and is not actionable”.

Qatar has denied any support for extremism and accused the countries of seeking to infringe on its sovereignty.

The other demands include Qatar downgrading ties with Iran — Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival — and shutting down a Turkish military base in the emirate.

– Qatar urges dialogue –

Qatar has said repeatedly it is ready for talks on the crisis and Sheikh Mohammed on Wednesday repeated that Doha is ready for dialogue.

“We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbours,” he told the Chatham House think-tank in London.

He accused Saudi Arabia and its regional allies of “demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege”.

Riyadh and its supporters have severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food.

They also ordered Qatari citizens to leave their territories and took various steps against Qatari firms and financial institutions.

The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy exporters and key Western allies who host US military bases.

Energy-rich Qatar has been defiant throughout the crisis, insisting it can weather action taken against it.

On Tuesday it even announced a major boost in planned natural gas output, with Qatar Petroleum saying it would increase production to 100 million tonnes a year by 2024, up 30 percent from current levels.

– ‘Economic and financial risks’ –

Qatar is the world’s leading producer of liquefied natural gas.

Its energy riches have transformed Qatar into one of the world’s wealthiest countries, a major international investor and a regional player that will host the 2022 football World Cup.

Concern has been growing, however, that a drawn-out crisis could have an economic impact.

Moody’s said it was changing its credit rating outlook for Qatar to negative from stable, citing “the economic and financial risks arising from the ongoing dispute”.

“The likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months,” the agency said.

Some critics of Qatar have accused it of links to extremist organisations including the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

But a British think-tank said Wednesday that foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain mostly originates from Saudi Arabia.

“While entities from across the Gulf and Iran have been guilty of advancing extremism, those in Saudi Arabia are undoubtedly at the top of the list,” Tom Wilson, a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a hawkish London-based foreign policy think-tank, said in a statement.

In a statement to the BBC, the Saudi embassy in London said the claims were “categorically false”.

Middle East

Saudi king inaugurates Mecca-Medina high speed train line

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

Published

on

Makkah to Madinah New High speed train

Riyadh, Sep 26 : The Saudi king inaugurated a high-speed rail line connecting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on Tuesday.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz declared, in a ceremony held in the Saudi city of Jeddah, that the service has formally begun and boarded one of the new trains for the inaugural trip between Jeddah and Medina, a spokesman for the construction consortium told Efe news agency.

“We thank Allah for the growth and prosperity in all fields in our country, and we thank Allah Almighty for His grace. Thank you,” the king said, according to the Saudi official news agency SPA.

Initially, the routes of the line will be limited and eight daily trips will be offered between Mecca and Medina for four days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

A consortium including 12 Spanish firms along with two Saudi firms has been tasked with building the second phase of the project.

“This inauguration is a milestone for Spanish engineering, which has demonstrated the ability of our companies and engineers to build a high-speed train under extreme weather conditions,” Iranzo said, according to a statement from the consortium.

The inauguration was attended by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and other Saudi officials, as well as by Spain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alvaro Iranzo, and the president of the High Speed Spanish Consortium, Jorge Segrelles, among others.

Bashar Al Malik, executive director of the Saudi railway company, told EFE that the actual start of service will begin on October 4.

He pointed out that the commercial operation of the line will begin within nine days, but without giving more details.

Al Malik said he expects the high speed line to overcome the difficulties and obstacles that have caused its delay, mainly due to sandstorms.

The Spanish consortium said in a statement that tickets will be able to be reserved “in the coming weeks.”

Regular trains will start operating on the line from next month between the stations of Makkah Al Mukarramah, Madinah, Sulaymaniyah in Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City, while trains to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport will begin around mid-2019.

The line is aimed at doubling the number of visitors and pilgrims to the holy cities and is in line with Saudi Arabia’s development plan, Vision 2030, which aims to expand the economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

With a fleet of 35 trains, carrying up to 417 people each, the service is expected to ferry around 60 million passengers yearly.

The trains will cover the distance between Mecca and Medina in under two hours, less than half the time that it takes to cover the same distance by road.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Russia to supply Syria with S-300 missile system

Published

on

Putin-and-Assad

Moscow, Sep 24 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday about his decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence, including providing it with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

“Both sides noted readiness for further joint efforts to achieve long-term normalization in Syria, restoration of its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” a Kremlin statement said, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will supply an S-300 air defence system and identification, friend or foe equipment to Syria within two weeks after its Il-20 surveillance plane was mistakenly downed by Syria’s S-200 system last week.

In areas adjacent to Syria over the Mediterranean, Russia will carry out radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, airborne radars and communications systems of combat aircraft attempting to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, Shoigu said.

The Russian Defence Ministry has said that the Il-20 plane with 15 servicemen on board was shot down by mistake on September 17 by a Syrian missile due to a simultaneous Israeli air strike that confused Syria’s S-200 air defence system.

The Israeli military rejected the accusation that its jets deliberately used the Il-20 as a shield and led to its downing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’s decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence was made after week-long discussions between the leadership of the country and military experts.

He said that the deployment of the S-300 system in Syria does not target a third country.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Abbas says to address UN assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians

Published

on

Mahmoud Abbas

Ramallah, Sep 16 : Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he will address the upcoming UN General Assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting he chaired for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Xinhua reported.

“We will go to the United Nations to confront the world with the issues that our people are suffering,” said Abbas, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN headquarters in New York on September 27.

The addressed issues include the Israeli decision to demolish Al-Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin village east of Jerusalem, and the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the holy city, he added.

“We are consulting with our brothers in Jordan to form a unified position to go to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice on what is going on at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas noted.

The Palestinian President said the final decision will be made by the PLO central council after he returned from the UN assembly.

The United States and the Palestinians have almost severed ties since US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Most Popular