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Thread: The Oh-So-Fun Middle East!

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  1. #111
    Saudi king slams Iran, US Jerusalem move at Arab summit

    Agence France-Presse / 07:59 AM April 16, 2018

    DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday slammed Iran’s “blatant interference” in the region and lashed out at the US over Jerusalem as Arab leaders met in the kingdom for their annual summit.

    The 82-year-old monarch dubbed the Arab League meet the “Jerusalem summit” as he took aim at Washington’s decision to recognize the disputed city as the capital of Israel and transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

    The final statement released by the league declared the move “null and illegitimate”.

    Under the auspices of Riyadh, seventeen heads of state from across the Arab world - not including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - gathered in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, home to Saudi oil giant Aramco, as world powers face off over Syria and tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran.

    The meeting opened only 24 hours after a barrage of strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France hit targets they said were linked to chemical weapons development in Syria, which was suspended from the league seven years ago.

    A seat marked “Syrian Arab Republic” sat empty in the hall.

    Saudi Arabia’s king turned his attention with long-time foe Iran — only 160 kilometers (100 miles) across the Gulf from Dhahran.

    “We renew our strong condemnation of Iran’s terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries,” the king said.

    And despite being a stalwart ally of the United States, the ruler also criticized US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shift the US embassy there.

    “We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” Salman said. “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories.”

    Donation diplomacy

    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir however insisted Riyadh would maintain “strong, strategic” ties with Washington.

    “There is no contradiction with having very strong strategic ties with the US while telling your friends where their policy should change,” Jubeir said in response to a question by AFP.

    “That’s what friends are for.”

    At a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday, Arab ministers focused heavily on blocking the embassy move, unanimously condemning Trump’s decision and moving to block Israel’s bid to secure at seat at the UN Security Council this June.

    King Salman, whose country has for decades declared a policy of support for the an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, on Sunday announced a $150 million donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in the eastern part of the holy city.

    Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of the king and heir to the region’s most powerful throne, had days earlier said Israel also had a right to its own state during a tour of the United States.

    Proxy wars with Iran

    Riyadh and Shiite rival Tehran back opposing sides in a range of hotspots across the mainly Sunni Muslim Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor, Yemen.

    Both parties in the Yemen war have drawn harsh condemnation from the United Nations. Saudi Arabia and its military allies landed on a UN blacklist last year for the killing and maiming of children.

    A Security Council resolution aimed at Iran’s failure to block supplies of missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels, which the insurgents regularly fire at Saudi Arabia, was vetoed in February by Russia.

    The summit also comes with Saudi Arabia and Qatar locked in a months-long diplomatic standoff, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to Iran.

    Both states have supported US-led air raids against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

    Tensions have eased slightly in recent months but Qatar still only sent its representative to the Arab League to the Dhahran summit.

    Among the leaders in attendance was Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, who walked the red carpet and was greeted by King Salman.

    Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.

    Summits of the Arab League, established in 1945, rarely result in action. The last time the bloc made a concrete move was in 2011, when it suspended Syria’s membership over the Assad regime’s role in the war.

    Syria’s war, the most complex of the region’s conflicts, is the main point of contention pitting Riyadh and its allies, who mainly back Sunni rebels, against regime backer Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

    Gulf Arab states have made massive donations to Syria but have not officially offered asylum to Syrians. / cbb
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  2. #112
    COURAGE SAN BEDA! / ¡ÁNIMO SAN BEDA!
    Understand? / ¿Entiendes?

  3. #113
    ^ LOL indeed...

    Meanwhile...

    Israel marks 70 years as a nation as new and old challenges lurk

    Agence France-Presse / 08:29 AM April 19, 2018

    JERUSALEM - Israel celebrated 70 years since the country’s foundation on Wednesday, lauding its improbable economic success and military prowess, but facing a range of political and security challenges.

    The anniversary of the proclamation of the state of Israel by founding father David Ben-Gurion began at sundown on Wednesday under the Hebrew calendar, but falls on May 14 according to the Western calendar.

    At the traditional Jerusalem torch-lighting ceremony kicking off what Israelis call Independence Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed what he called “real seeds of peace” he said were beginning to sprout among some of Israel’s Arab neighbours.

    He did not elaborate, but there have been signs of warming ties, particularly with Saudi Arabia which — like Israel — sees Iran as a growing threat.

    “Our hand is outstretched in peace to all of our neighbours who want peace,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

    “And to our enemies who think that we are a passing phenomenon, I have news for you: In 70 years from now you fill find here a country seven times stronger than what we have done so far. This is just the beginning!”

    The ceremony will be followed throughout the evening by open-air concerts, public dancing and fireworks across Israel.

    Earlier, at a remembrance day ceremony, Netanyahu spoke of the “barbaric zealotry of radical Islam” and reiterated warnings about Iran and its presence in neighbouring Syria.

    He has said that Israel cannot accept the Islamic republic entrenching itself militarily in the war-torn country, where Tehran is backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

    An air strike attributed to Israel on April 9 at Syria’s T-4 airbase left 14 people dead, including seven Iranian personnel.

    Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened a response.

    Israel has refused to confirm or deny the strike, though satellite photographs were distributed this week through Israeli media purporting to show Iranian drones at airfields in Syria.

    Some Israeli analysts interpreted the move as a message to Iran that Israel could strike its positions if it carries out an attack against the Jewish state.

    Israel also alleges that a drone which penetrated its airspace in February was sent by Iran “armed with explosives and was tasked to attack”.

    It was shot down by an Israeli helicopter, and Israel in retaliation attacked what it said were the drone’s Iranian control systems in Syria.

    “The Israeli defence establishment understands that the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard is most likely to be the designated unit that will try to wage an attack against Israel,” an Israeli security source said this week, declining to comment further.

    Israel has also reduced its air force’s participation in an exercise in the United States next month, with army radio reporting the decision was due to the tensions.

    Gaza protests

    But beyond its concerns over Iran, Israel is also facing protests and clashes along its border with the Gaza Strip that have led to intense scrutiny of its open-fire rules.

    Israeli forces have killed 34 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others since the protests began on March 30. There have been no Israeli casualties.

    Tens of thousands have taken part in the main protests, but a smaller number of Gazans have approached the border fence, throwing stones and rolling burning tyres at Israeli forces.

    Israel says firebombs and explosive devices have also been used.

    It has pledged to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the fence, and alleges there have been attempts at all three.

    Israel also alleges Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, is using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

    Palestinians however say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to soldiers, while the European Union and UN chief Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation.

    The protests are set to last six weeks, but they peak on Fridays after the main weekly Muslim prayers.

    They are likely to escalate around May 14, when the United States is expected to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

    The embassy move has deeply angered the Palestinians, who see the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

    On Wednesday evening, the Israeli defence ministry said security inspectors at a crossing from the north of the occupied West Bank found a bomb concealed in a Palestinian lorry, apparently meant for an Independence Day attack inside Israel.

    The ministry’s Twitter account said that the inspectors located “a powerful explosive device” hidden in the vehicle’s roof.

    Still, even with security threats a constant concern, Israelis were also taking account of their successes, having built the so-called “start-up nation” with its strong hi-tech industry and the most powerful military in the Middle East. /cbb
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI


 
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