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Middle East

Saudi Arabia approves continuance of blockade against Qatar

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Riyadh, July 17 : The Saudi Arabian cabinet on Monday approved continuance of the measures that four Arab countries adopted against Qatar on June 5.

The blockade will remain until Qatari authorities commit themselves to the “just and all demands” of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, Efe news agency reported.

These measures include the recognition of Doha support for terrorist groups and the adoption of measures to achieve stability and security in the region as agreed at the regular cabinet session held in Jeddah and chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The four Arab countries severed relations with Qatar in June and accused the small Persian Gulf country of supporting terror groups.

The quartet also imposed an economic and trade blockade and closed land, sea and air borders against Qatar.

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.

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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.

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Middle East

Russia to supply Syria with S-300 missile system

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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.

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Middle East

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

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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.

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