Monday, 31 October 2016

Iraqi Forces Make First Push into Mosul

Iraq troops made a dashing advance breaking through ISIS defense lines in an eastern suburb of Mosul on Monday, taking the battle for the insurgents’ stronghold into the city limits for the first time, a force commander said.

They made the gain as the U.S.-backed offensive to recapture Mosul — the largest military operation in Iraq since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 — after two weeks of fighting to clear surrounding areas of insurgents.

Commanders had warned earlier that the battle for the city, the hardline militants’ de facto capital in Iraq, could take weeks and possibly months.

Troops of the Iraqi army’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) moved forward on Gogjali, an industrial zone on the eastern outskirts. They then reached Karama district, their first advance into the city itself, an officer said.

“They have entered Mosul,” he said.

“They are fighting now in Hay (district) al-Karama.”

A Reuters correspondent in the village of Bazwaia saw plumes of smoke rising from a built-up area a few kilometres away which a commander said was the result of the clashes in Karama.

A Kurdish peshmerga intelligence source said he received a report saying seven ISIS militants were killed in the Aden district, adjacent to Karama, and two of their vehicles destroyed. Iraqi state television said there were clashes inside the city between residents and ISIS fighters.

The fighting ahead is likely to be more difficult as civilians still live there, unlike most villages taken so far by the Iraqi forces which were emptied of their Christian population.

ISIS singled out religious minorities in northern Iraq, including Christians and Yazidis, for killing and eviction after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014 over territory they captured there and in neighboring Syria.

Iraqi Forces Make First Push into Mosul

Syria’s Political Opposition Says Hopes Clinton Wins U.S. Presidency

Syria’s political opposition expressed on Monday hopes that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the U.S. presidential election next week because she has a better understanding of the conflict than Donald Trump, according to members of a delegation holding talks at the United Nations.

Khaled Khoja and Hind Kabawat said they trusted Clinton, a former U.S. Secretary of State, to deliver on the opposition’s top priority – protecting civilians.

Clinton has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” on the ground in Syria to protect non-combatants. Trump, however, says this could “lead to World War Three” due to the potential for conflict with Russia, which is providing military support to head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad.

Kabawat said Trump, who has never held public office and has no foreign policy experience, saw ISIS as the only alternative to Assad in Syria.

“For us a woman’s leadership at this time would be a good thing. Also for many, like Trump and others, they think that the Syrian conflict is comparing Assad with ISIS and they have to take one side or the other, and of course for them Assad will look more prominent than ISIS,” said Kabawat.

“She (Clinton) knows that is wrong. She knows that there is this moderate opposition that believes in democracy and freedom. This is what we are aiming for, to have a president of the U.S. with good experience who knows the difference between the different oppositions.”

Assad, whose forces have regained much territory against their opponents with the help of Russian warplanes, has branded all those opposed to his rule as “terrorists”.


Trump has said defeating ISIS should be a higher priority than trying to convince Assad to step aside, a departure from a long-held U.S. policy objective.

Khoja, leading the Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva, disagreed with this viewpoint.

“Dealing with only the ISIS issue will not help with solving the crisis in Syria or the region because the root cause of the crisis is the (Assad) regime itself,” he said.

Kabawat, an attorney and a member of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), added that the Syrian political opposition wanted to see women playing an equal role to men in the nation’s politics.

The opposition delegation, which has links to the Free Syrian Army but not with ISIS or al Qaeda-linked groups, is in Geneva this week to press for the release of Syrian detainees, sidelined during months of futile peace talks.

Khoja said more than 100 armed groups had shown their willingness to cooperate but there had been no sign of cooperation from Assad’s regime or Russia, adding that the United Nations should form a committee on the matter.

“If it’s needed, if there is a response from the regime side to release the detainees and stop killings inside Syria, then we can have the representative of the military groups also in this committee, and if the regime wants to send someone to this committee, we can discuss it,” Khoja said.

The Syrian Network of Human Rights has documented more than 90,000 detainees held by the Syrian government, 6,000 held by ISIS and 2,400 held by the rest of the opposition, but estimates the real numbers are twice as high.

Syria’s Political Opposition Says Hopes Clinton Wins U.S. Presidency

Yemen’s Peace Roadmap: Feasible

Yemen’s government had brushed off the recently proposed draft for a peace solution by the U.N. special delegate Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, labeling it harshly as unsound and flawed. Despite its arguable conditions, the proposition is still worth a positive take.

One of the proposal’s highly constructive features is that it preserves the constitutional legitimacy of the country, and refuses coup plots aiming to demolish the rule of law.

Mr. Ahmed’s initiative states that all insurgency militiamen should withdraw from central cities, such as Sanaa, Al Hudaydah and Taiz— more so, coup militants are urged to turn in all arms.

One must keep in mind that the above mentioned conditions had long inhibited the progress of peace talks over the past few months.

Not only does the withdrawal of militias and the hand in of illegal arms put an end to civil war, but it also proves that the only existing legitimate armed forces are those constitutionally recognized. Moving forward with the proposal also serves as a tell on whether coup forces harbor serious intentions on achieving peace for Yemen, which cannot be shown otherwise by mere political negotiations of appointed delegates.

The U.N.’s proposal also calls for the insurgents to create a cut off zone separating Saudi Arabia from Yemen; coup militants would retreat behind a 30 km distance from all borderline territory. The drawback would thwart any potential clashes or aggression.

Yemen’s internationally-recognized government made an abrupt rebuff for the proposal, considering that the draft rewards the insurgency more than it backs legitimacy in Yemen.

The main objection was that a new vice president who holds executive power would be named whilst the legitimate president is left to serve as an unable figurehead–such is the case in Lebanon.

The internationally recognized president of Yemen and his deputy will not step down or hand over their powers to new leaders without certain conditions being met- which is a very reasonable case made.

Even though the objection is justifiable, a one sided compromise cannot be asked of the warring parties in Yemen.

If Yemen’s President Hadi could impose a better solution whether through concession or force, anyone would back his proposition. Nonetheless, the case can’t be made so that either the insurgency or the government is left content.

Coup militias must also abandon their agenda on overruling the government and imposing their authority over Sanaa.

Albeit the proposition is flawed and beneath expectations, it still is the best there is, and definitely a better option than the fighting. More so, the draft is built on the basis of a previously approved draft called the Gulf initiative which introduces a period of political transition, which eventually leads to elections leaving the interim government in limited power.

The critical phase would kick-start as the better kept short – political transition comes to an end— the people of Yemen would have the right to self-determination. Yemen is a country which belongs to Yemenis themselves.

What is more is if the people elect a government outside the coup camps, composed of Houthis or the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh loyalists , then it would ascertain the interim government and international stance. As to who would rule Yemen; it remains a decision to be made by the people themselves, neither by Gulf countries nor Iran.

As for whether Mr. Ahmed’s proposal being a reward for the insurgency as some government officials would say—the argument can be settled if an effective implementation mechanism is found and enforced. If so, the draft is the best chance for mediation between the two conflicting parties to arrive to each of their demands.

What should be kept in mind is that no peace proposition ever made in Yemen objected to including the political blocs of the Houthi movement or Saleh loyalists in the country’s political future.

Only a limited list of names was put on figures prohibited of partaking in Yemen’s political transition.

What is new in Mr.Ahmed’s proposal is that the interim government’s vice presidency might be handed over to the insurgency camp, until elections are made.

Mr. Ahmed is expected to announce the date on the elections. It is noteworthy to mention that the interim vice presidency, like other posts in political transition, holds no effective power.

The proposal does not present a final outline for a solution, yet it serves to shorten the political rift—especially after many talks being held on an international scale in each of Kuwait, Riyadh, Switzerland and Britain.

The initial draft put forth this time presents a good chance for progress in negotiations and arriving to a peace solution that ends war in Yemen, restores legitimacy and blocks the way of foreign interference in the country’s sovereignty.

What is left is that the U.N. envoy proves successful in providing clear commitments from the Security Council on guaranteeing the withdrawal of insurgency militias and curbing the armaments of coup militants. The mechanism of implementation should not only control illegal armament of combatants but also ensure fighting any party that attempts on undermining constitutional authority.

Yemen’s Peace Roadmap: Feasible

Science's Biggest Blunder

Race is perhaps the worst idea ever to come out of science. Scientists were responsible for officially dividing human beings into Europeans, Africans, Asians and Native Americans and promoting these groups as sub-species or separate species altogether. That happened back in the 18th century, but the division lends the feel of scientific legitimacy to the prejudice that haunts the 21st.

Racial tension proved a major point of contention in the first 2016 presidential debate, and yet just days before, scientists announced they’d used wide-ranging samples of DNA to add new detail to the consensus story that we all share a relatively recent common origin in Africa. While many human species and sub-species once roamed the planet, there’s abundant evidence that beyond a small genetic contribution from Neanderthals and a couple of other sub-species, only one branch of humanity survived to the present day.

Up for grabs was whether modern non-Africans stemmed from one or more migrations out of Africa. The newest data suggests there was a single journey — that sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, a single population of humans left Africa and went on to settle in Asia, Europe, the Americas, the South Pacific, and everywhere else. But this finding amounts to just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a scientific view that long ago rendered notion of human races obsolete.

“We never use the term ‘race,’ ” said Harvard geneticist Swapan Mallick, an author on one of the papers revealing the latest DNA-based human story. “We’re all part of the tapestry of humanity, and it’s interesting to see how we got where we are.”

That’s not to deny that people vary in skin color and other visible traits. Whether you’re dark or light, lanky or stocky depends in part on the sunlight intensity and climate in the regions where your ancestors lived. Nor is it to deny that racism exists — but in large part, it reflects a misinterpretation of those superficial characteristics.

“There is a profound misunderstanding of what race really is,” Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman said at an event the night after the presidential debate. “Race is a scientifically indefensible concept with no biological basis as applied to humans.”

Consider the fact that most of the race boxes people tick off on census forms were invented by creationists, such as Swedish biologist Carolus Linnaeus. In 1758, he declared that humans could be divided into races he described as white (European), red (Native American), black (African) and yellow (Asian). He also attributed various unflattering personality traits to all the races except for whites. In subsequent decades, scientists of European ancestry argued over whether God created the races separately or whether they diverged from a common creationist origin.

In the 19th century, scientists used race not just to classify people but to justify slavery by painting Africans as inferior, according to Joseph Graves, a geneticist at North Carolina A&T State University who spoke at Harvard this week. One of the world’s most prominent American scientists of the mid-1800s, Samuel Morton, collected skulls from all over the world and attempted to demonstrate that those of European ancestry had the world’s biggest heads and were, so he claimed, intellectually superior.

Scientists subsequently realized that Morton was wrong -– about whose heads were biggest and the connection between head size and intelligence. There is still controversy about whether Morton cheated or made a statistical error, but his conclusion remains debunked.

Graves — who is the author of several books, including 2005’s “The Race Myth” — said a key turning point occurred when Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859. From his travels around the world, Darwin realized that there was no scientific reason to divide people into four races. It made just as much sense to him, he wrote later, to divide them into anywhere between two and 63 races.

But not everyone took Darwin’s side. Another influential figure in 19th century science was Swiss-American biologist Louis Agassiz, whom Graves describes as a “giant” — both in his accomplishments and his sway over his contemporaries. Even after Darwin published his book, Agassiz continued to promote the notion that Africans and Europeans were different species. Agassiz proposed that the children of mixed couples would be infertile, as are the offspring of horses and donkeys. He was wrong, just like he was wrong in never accepting evolution.

Darwin’s powerful idea didn’t put an end to scientific racism — the eugenics movement of the Progressive Era, for example, tried to cloak racism in evolutionary theory — but in general, 20th-century researchers pushed racism to the scientific fringes. (Historians have shown that Hitler could only fake the scientific credibility of his racist ideology.) And in the 1980s, scientists used DNA to trace all humans back to an origin 200,000 years ago in Africa. This is recent in evolutionary time, given that our lineages split from that of chimpanzees perhaps 7 million years ago.

Refining the story, contemporary scientists have analyzed DNA collected from diverse populations — Aboriginal Australians, Papua New Guineans, Basques, Bedouins and Pygmies. The very nature of the project acknowledges that these groups are distinct enough that their DNA matters in deciphering the human story — but not so distinct that they represent separate races. Bones and teeth scattered through the Middle East and Asia show people left Africa in many waves, but according to this latest DNA analysis, only one of those waves made a substantial contribution to the current population of humans.

Why are people still so determined to believe that racial categories are distinct, unchanging and rooted in biology? “It’s not rational,” said Graves. He said one reason Americans are stuck in the 19th century when it comes to race is that many teachers are unprepared to teach human evolution or refuse to out of fear.

Graves sometimes quizzes his students by showing them an image of a man and asking them to guess where he comes from. It appears to show someone most Americans would identify as a black man, and Graves says people assume he’s from Africa or an African American community in the U.S. But he’s from the Solomon Islands, which are in the South Pacific.

This exercise shows that race is real in the public consciousness, if not in biology. But the science shows it doesn’t have to be this way forever.


Science's Biggest Blunder

Thwarted Terror Attack Targeted over 60,000 Fasting Muslims at ‘Al-Jawhara’

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, an iconic Arabian and international sports attraction also called Al-Jawhara, Arabic for jewel, was targeted by an ISIS terror plot.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry announced on Sunday that it foiled an attack by a terror cell which had planned to detonate a car bomb near the Al-Jawhara Football Stadium in Jeddah three weeks ago.

The planned attack targeted the site during peak time with over 60,000 spectators attending a World Cup qualifier match.

More so, event managers had organized for a meal on the day of the game, given that it coincides with an Islamic holy day of fasting. The audience was due to break their fast at the stadium.

The surgical neutralization of the terror attack, operated by the Saudi security forces, was notable in both proficiency and discretion—a case of crowd panic was deterred, in addition to the successful hosting of the game.

‘The Shining Jewel’, in Arabic (al-Jawhara Al-Moshe’ah), is a multi-use stadium and sports city located 60 kilometers north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The City was named after Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia when the stadium opened.

The stadium, a part of a compound of other sports facilities, was officially opened on May 1, 2014 exciting Saudi sports fans everywhere.

The city’s opening event hosted the final of the 2014 King’s Cup tournament between Jeddah’s Al-Ahli SC and Riyadh’s Al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab won 3-0, and were crowned their 3rd King’s Cup championship. The match was attended by then-King Abdullah, along with then-Crown Prince Salman and then-Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin.

For this inaugural fixture, safety and security plans were designed and implemented by Mr. Sol N’Jie and Mr. David Storr representing Sword Security, based in Ireland. Mr. Storr was the event safety officer.

Over 62,241 diverse fans filled the stadium. The tickets for the match were free– It was also reported that many fans were able to enter without tickets and the capacity could not be accurately counted.

The stadium added great value to Saudi league tournaments, as it had become home to most definitive playoffs.

Outside the main stadium, the city has three separate football fields and four small indoor arenas also used for football. It also has six tennis courts, and a large indoor arena for sports and other purposes. The city also has a main mosque, and six separate smaller mosques. The city is also equipped with a comprehensive media center, in which spacious rooms are used to broadcast press conferences for players, coaches, and football personalities.

The main stadium can fit up over 63,000 in attendance. Seats and stands are numbered and divided in a professional way.

Thwarted Terror Attack Targeted over 60,000 Fasting Muslims at ‘Al-Jawhara’

Ankara Seeks Clarification over U.S. Decision to Remove Diplomats’ Families from Istanbul

Ankara – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sought clarification from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over the latter’s decision to remove the families of U.S. consulate personnel in Istanbul due to security reasons.

Cavusoglu called his U.S. counterpart early on Sunday to discuss the State Department’s new travel warning, Turkish diplomatic sources said. They added that Kerry shared information with Cavusoglu on why such a decision has been taken, while the two foreign ministers also talked about ongoing joint anti-terror efforts.

The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel warning for the families of U.S. consulate personnel in Istanbul, ordering them to leave the country after it gathered “security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”

“The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country”, the U.S. State Department said.

“Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey,” the statement added.

The decision does not affect the consulate’s personnel in Istanbul and is only applicable for family members based in Istanbul, the statement also said.

Meanwhile, a Turkish opposition lawmaker has been injured after unidentified assailants attacked him late Saturday in a restaurant in the city of Aydin in southwest Turkey.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported that the deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulent Tezcan, was in a stable condition following the attack on his life. Tezcan was shot in the leg with a handgun, Anadolu said.

Turkish police officers later arrested Alp Arslan S., who confessed to have attacked the lawmaker.

Asked by reporters on the reason behind the attack, Arslan said, “These handcuffs are a medal of honor given to me by my state.”

The attack came two months after the CHP leader’s convoy was attacked by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists, on Aug. 25 in Artvin province. A member of the Turkish security forces was killed in the attack.

Ankara Seeks Clarification over U.S. Decision to Remove Diplomats’ Families from Istanbul

Yemeni Military Commander: We Won’t Allow Rebels to Take Back Bab Al-Mandab

Aden-A Yemeni military official asserted that the National Army and the Popular Resistance almost completely controls the strategic region of Kahboub overlooking the international strait of Bab al-Mandab. The official said that the Yemeni forces also continue to exhaust rebel militias with several means of combat.

Commander of the Kahboub operations General Jalal al-Qadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that several hit and run clashes were currently taking place between Yemeni forces and Houthi militias in the mountains of Hajijah and Qaleh and in al-Tabab.

The area is formed by a mountain range stretching from the al-Taqiya-al-Ardi point, 12 kilometers east of Bab al-Mandab, passing through the outskirts of Zabab in the Taiz province, which is controlled by rebels.

The Yemeni commander said that militias made several attempts to encircle the National Army and the Resistance in the strategic Kahboub mountains. “But, they failed,” he said.

Al-Qadi said that the national army and the resistance are directing their attacks towards the mountain range area overlooking Kahboub to prevent militias from advancing through the mountains leading to Bab al-Mandab.

The Yemeni commander said that militias were desperate to reach Bab al-Mandab. But, he added that their attempts were impossible despite the presence of well-trained rebel units.

The military official said the heroic and highly-trained forces of the Third Brigade were able to defeat the militias on the frontlines of Kahboub.

Al-Qadi said the militias were desperate to reaching the mountain range east of the strategic Kahboub region, located 18 kilometers away from Bab al-Mandab.

The commander said that the Yemeni Army and the Popular Resistance were now advancing on the outskirts of northern Zabab in the Taiz province.

“In case the legitimate forces advance to Zabab, the supply line of militias in Zabab-Omri-Bab al-Mandab will be attacked by the army and the resistance,” he said.

Yemeni Military Commander: We Won’t Allow Rebels to Take Back Bab Al-Mandab

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Victims, Executioner on Same Land

How can innocent, tortured spirits live in peace while their oppressors haven’t paid for their acts and may never do? Chilean-American novelist Ariel Dorfman has raised this question in his book “Death and the Maiden”, inspired from a real incident that took place in Chile. It is the story of Paulina who was raped when she was a medical student by a sadist monster on the music of Franz Schubert’s quartet “Death and the Maiden”.

After 15 years, Paulina met him again at her husband’s house, who became a member of a committee investigating crimes of the former regime…what would she do? Nothing. But his confession would be sufficient to calm her soul.

This is what also happened in South Africa; executioners have confessed and writers of reports who led thousands of people to death have received forgiveness from their victims in crowded gatherings. Confessions omit the crime.

However, this never happened in our countries, and victims still live on the same land with executioners, who put the mask of victims.

Many people who have suffered from torture have their discrete stories, which they haven’t revealed yet. According to Dorfman, silence is the ugliest crime ever.

But what about the victims killed under torture in the dictators’ prisons? Why don’t we remember them anymore? Who killed them? We only know big killers.

A witness should always be present to tell all the past’s atrocities with its hidden prisons, fake courts, execution sessions, names of missing persons, accomplice judges, and writers of reports; people who will read about this in the future must also exist. The past will never go on if we didn’t look at its hidden details, reveal them, and most importantly release our spirits from them. Only justice can do all that; only justice can kill our primitive desires of vengeance and the personal attempts to fulfill the missing justice.

Victims, Executioner on Same Land

New Earthquake Rocks Italy, Buildings Collapse but No Deaths

A powerful earthquake struck Italy on Sunday in the same central regions that have been rocked by repeated tremors over the past two months, with more homes and churches brought down but no deaths reported.

The quake, which measured 6.6 according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was bigger than one on Aug. 24 that killed almost 300 people. Many people have fled the area since then, helping to avoid a new devastating death toll.

With thousands already made homeless, a leading seismologist warned that the earthquakes could go on for weeks in a domino effect along the central Apennine fault system.

The latest quake was felt across much of Italy, striking at 7.40 a.m. (0640 GMT), its epicentre close to the historic Umbrian walled town of Norcia, some 100 km (60 miles) from the university city of Perugia.

Panicked Norcia residents rushed into the streets and the town’s ancient Basilica of St. Benedict collapsed, leaving just the facade standing. Nuns, monks and locals sank to their knees in the main square in silent prayer before the shattered church.

“This is a tragedy. It is a coup de grace. The basilica is devastated,” Bishop Renato Boccardo of Norcia told Reuters.

“Everyone has been suspended in a never-ending state of fear and stress. They are at their wits’ end,” said Boccardo, referring to the thousands of tremors that have rattled the area since August, including two serious quakes on Wednesday.

Italy’s Civil Protection unit, which coordinates disaster relief, said numerous houses were destroyed on Sunday in the regions of Umbria and Marche, but either they were deserted at the time or most of the residents managed to escape in time.

Civil Protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said no deaths had been reported and around 20 people were injured, none of them critically. He said it was too early to say how many more people had lost their homes.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised a massive reconstruction effort regardless of cost and took advantage of the disaster to resume his frequent criticism of the European Union’s public finance rules.

“We will rebuild everything, the houses, the churches and the businesses,” he told reporters. “Everything that needs to be done to rebuild these areas will be done.”

He said he would have “no regard for technocratic rules” and would consider all money spent to make Italy’s schools and hospitals earthquake-proof to be outside EU limits on budget deficits.

Local authorities said towns and villages already battered by August’s 6.2 quake had suffered further significant damage.

“This morning’s quake has hit the few things that were left standing. We will have to start from scratch,” Michele Franchi, the deputy mayor of Arquata del Tronto, told Rai television.

Experts said Sunday’s quake was the strongest here since a 6.9 quake in Italy’s south in 1980 that killed 2,735 people .

New Earthquake Rocks Italy, Buildings Collapse but No Deaths

Oman’s Central Bank Director: a Gulf Common Currency has Become a Matter of Time

Riyadh- Hamood bin Sangour Al-Zadjali Director of the Central Bank of Oman made a statement saying that a common Gulf currency has become indisputable and it is only a matter of time before its realization.

Oman is not one of the countries pushing for a common currency, yet serious measures are being studied to achieve this initiative, Mr. Al-Zadjali told Asharq Al-Awsat.

In his statement Mr. Zadjali clarified that Oman’s central bank will not prohibit local banks willing to expand into Saudi Arabia or other GCC members from opening up new regional branches. Gulf countries in general do not require international bonds, global trade trusts Gulf’s strong economy, hence gulf bonds are sufficient for any economic move, said Mr. Al-Zadjali.

“Gulf countries enjoy an excellent financial reputation, national debt of Gulf countries remains at its lowest rate compared to other countries—Gulf countries have a distinguished ability to carry forward its financial commitments, and keeping a clear record,” said Mr. Al-Zadjali.

The senior bank official also cited the great asset capacity held by Gulf countries, especially the oil reservoir. Assets continue to draw in foreign investment in Gulf bonds and property, particularly at the low international interest rates.

Mr. Al-Zadjali highlighted that some international interest rates follow a negative interest rate policy which gives a notable advantage for Gulf bonds and investment opportunities.

Gulf countries have long been natural attractions for foreign investment whether through bonds subscription or direct investment; vice versa Gulf countries tend to invest in economically beneficial projects.

Any common currency to be announced is expected to be pegged either to the dollar or a basket of currencies because the volume of trade of the Gulf states with the countries of the European Union is much larger than that of their commerce with the United States. .Gulf exports of oil to the European Union are estimated to constitute about 70 per cent of European imports .

Oman’s Central Bank Director: a Gulf Common Currency has Become a Matter of Time

Scotland Yard: ‘Lifting Hezbollah’s Flags in Ashura Violates Terrorism Laws’

London- Scotland Yard police continues the investigation it has launched on lifting the so-called “Hezbollah” flags by a number of demonstrators who marked Ashura Day on Wednesday, October 12.

Asharq Al-Awsat received a statement issued by Scotland Yard on Friday saying: “By the virtue of Section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000, whoever shows a flag or any other instrument in public place, aiming at raising doubts on his/her affiliation or support for an outlawed group, is considered to have committed a crime.”

Meanwhile, sources close to Scotland Yard said that the investigation officers are still investigating the incident and are seeking to receive more photographs and films from independent sources in Ashura this year.

Head of the Muslim Association of Britain, Dr. Omar el-Hamdoon told Asharq al-Awsat: “It would have been much better if the commemoration was kept in its frame of religious practices, away from Hezbollah flags which were unfitting and only fueled division among the Muslim community.”

El-Hamdoon said it was important to keep sectarian feuds away from religious events and from the British community.

Director of London’s Al-Maqreze Center for Historical Studies Hani Sibai told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hezbollah was hoisting the party’s flags in London to “compensate for their losses in Syria, its dismay in Yemen and its alignment with Russia against the innocent Syrians.”

Sibai said: “Shi’ites believe that Sunnis are the sons of those who had killed al-Hussein; therefore, they are also trafficking in religion every year by inciting unrest during religious commemorations, which is unacceptable.”

“Police have got to know that Hezbollah flag will be lifted in the march, Head of the Islamic Observatory Center Yasser al-Seri told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone call.

Al-Seri said: “The hoisting of Hezbollah slogans during the procession was supposed to be reported to the police or any organizer from the Ashura march.”

Al-Seri added that all the protests are usually filmed by Scotland Yard in order to save the pictures of participating activists within the activities of combating terrorism or to prepare a security archive for the future.

He also confirmed that lifting Hezbollah’s flag by the virtue of British laws falls under the penalty of anti-terrorism laws.

Scotland Yard: ‘Lifting Hezbollah’s Flags in Ashura Violates Terrorism Laws’

Lebanon: Aoun is Close to Win the Presidential Elections…His Opponents will Face Him with Blank Papers

Beirut- The political picture of Monday’s session to elect a new President in Lebanon became clearer after Future Movement leader Saad Hariri informed Saturday the country’s political and religious references that all available facts confirm the election of MP Michel Aoun as president with a two-third majority of deputies’ votes.

However, on Monday Aoun will not face the other candidate head of the Marada Movement MP Suleiman Franjieh, but he would rather face white papers (blank).

Franjieh asked all Aoun’s opponents Saturday not to place his name in the ballot box, but to place a blank paper.

Speaker Nabih Berri agreed with Franjieh. Berri still insists to firmly oppose the election of Aoun as president.

It became clear that Franjieh and Berri resorted to this strategy to show that a large number of MPs were against Aoun’s presidency. The two men decided to abandon their support for Franjieh in order to prevent votes from dispersing between Franjieh and white papers.

According to the latest count, the head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc is expected to receive the votes of at least 83 MPs. Aoun needs at least 86 votes to win during the first round of elections. But, in the second round, Aoun needs only 65 votes.

Director of Statistics Lebanon Rabih haber told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun has already secured 87 votes, which will make him a president from the first round. “Franjieh’s calls to vote with a white paper would not have a moral effect on Aoun,” Haber said.

The meetings launched last week by Hariri with members of his parliamentary bloc and some independent MPs helped narrow the number of votes who had opposed the election of Aoun as president. Future Movement member MP Mohammed Abdelatif Qabbara told Asharq Al-Awsat: “All the deputies who had attended last Friday’s meeting of the parliamentary bloc heard from President Hariri a detailed explanation about the reasons which have led him to support Aoun.”

Qabbara said that former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora did not oppose Hariri’s plan. According to Qabbara, Siniora “reiterated his support to the bloc’s unity in all the decisions.”

On Saturday, Hariri had visited a number of leaders including Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Raid and Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian.

During his meeting with Hariri, the Maronite Patriarch had described Monday’s presidential session as the “White Monday.”

Hariri responded: “We will reach a conclusion that we hope would make next Monday a White Monday.”

The former Premier said a new page is unfolding to all Lebanese, while big challenges face the Cabinet and the State to revive its institutions and economy.

Lebanon: Aoun is Close to Win the Presidential Elections…His Opponents will Face Him with Blank Papers

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Western, Asian States Respond to Yemen’s Rebels: Mecca is a Red Line

Riyadh, Aden – Islamic, Arab and Western reactions emerged on Saturday as a response to the ballistic missile launched last Thursday by Yemeni rebels against the Holy Mecca and which the Saudi Air Defense intercepted.

The ambassadors of seven countries to Riyadh condemned the attack in telephone calls conducted by Asharq Al-Awsat, saying Holly Mecca was a red line for all Muslims. The ambassadors of Germany, Singapore, Ireland, Turkey, Peru, Greece and Afghanistan asserted their objection to any attack against Islamic targets, and stated that the international community should not allow such crimes to pass without punishment.

Meanwhile, the efforts of U.N. envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to reach a solution to the Yemeni crisis returned to “square 1,” after he presented a new plan that substantially and comprehensively contradicts the three references, according to Yemen Government’s Spokesman, Rajeh Badi.

Badi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the three references, including the Gulf initiative and its executive mechanisms, Security Council resolution 2216 and the outputs of the national dialogue should be the foundation of any negotiations based on an agreement reached since Geneva 1.

Commenting on the options of the next government, Badi said: “The government is keen on implementing peace and protecting the political track that would prevent a war. When we see a vision chiming with the spirit of the three references, then the Yemeni government would be ready to start any political track.”

Also, Yemeni presidential advisor Yassin Makawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the roadmap presented by Ould Cheikh “constitutes a dangerous initiative to legitimize rebel militias around the world… this constitutes a true threat to peace worldwide.”

On Saturday, Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi refused to take the proposal handed to him by the U.N. envoy during a meeting held in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the British government reasserted it supports all efforts exerted to achieve the mission of Ould Cheikh and to reach a compromise to solve the Yemeni crisis.

Western, Asian States Respond to Yemen’s Rebels: Mecca is a Red Line

EU Data Protection Watchdogs Warn WhatsApp, Yahoo on Privacy

European privacy watchdogs warned WhatsApp on Friday over sharing user information with parent company Facebook, and cautioned Yahoo over a 2014 data breach and scanning of customer emails for U.S. intelligence purposes.

The popular messaging service’s recent change in privacy policy to start sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook – the first policy change since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 – has attracted regulatory scrutiny in Europe.

The Italian antitrust watchdog on Friday also announced a separate probe into whether WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with Facebook.

The European Union’s 28 data protection authorities said in a statement they had requested WhatsApp stop sharing users’ data with Facebook until the “appropriate legal protections could be assured” to avoid falling foul of EU data protection law.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy involves the sharing of information with Facebook for purposes that were not included in the terms of service when users signed up, raising questions about the validity of users’ consent, the authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), said.

A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.

“We’ve had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law,” she said.

Facebook has had run-ins with European privacy watchdogs in the past over its processing of users’ data. However, the fines that regulators can levy are paltry in comparison to the revenues of the big U.S. tech companies concerned.

The EU data protection authorities also wrote to Yahoo over a massive data breach that exposed the email credentials of 500 million users, as well as its scanning of customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

Yahoo said they were aware of the letter and would work to respond as appropriate.

The watchdogs asked Yahoo to communicate all aspects of the data breach to the EU authorities, to notify the affected users of the “adverse effects” and to cooperate with all “upcoming national data protection authorities’ enquiries and/or investigations.

“The reports (about email scanning) are concerning to WP29 and it will be important to understand the legal basis and justification for any such surveillance activity, including an explanation of how this is compatible with EU law and protection for EU citizens,” the watchdogs said in their letter to Yahoo.

The regulators will discuss the Yahoo and WhatsApp cases in November.

EU Data Protection Watchdogs Warn WhatsApp, Yahoo on Privacy

European Absence Gives Liverpool Chance to End Long Wait for League Title

Arsène Wenger must be a genius if he can come up with a points total that will be necessary to win the title. Between 82 and 86 points, since you ask. Either that or he was having a little joke, which has been known to happen. “He must have more experience of the English league than I thought,” the Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said, making his own little joke. “Because I have no idea how many points it will take.”

Leaving aside the matter of how Wenger expects a more competitive league to result in a higher points total than the 77 that meant Claudio Ranieri’s side claiming the title last season (they would finish the season with 81), the one thing that can be said with certainty about Leicester’s success is they were greatly helped by having no midweek distractions. No Europe to start with, out of the League Cup in October and a third round exit from the FA Cup. Several managers made the point that playing just one game a week was an advantage to Leicester, and while there may have been an element of sour grapes in defeat to that observation, that does not mean it cannot be true.

As a result Leicester find themselves in Europe this season, and whether deliberately or not, they seem to be concentrating their efforts on the Champions League. No one can blame them, they might never get another chance, and unless there is a sudden upturn in Premier League results they do not appear likely to repeat last season’s table-topping feat. Fair play to them though, by virtue of beating Crystal Palace at the weekend they were the only English team involved in European competition to return to the domestic programme with a victory, even if the Foxes remain in the bottom half of the table.

‘At the top end, it is becoming clearer than ever that Liverpool are in prime position to do what Leicester did last season and profit from being able to concentrate on the league. It would be insulting to describe Jürgen Klopp’s side as the new Leicester, given the histories of the two clubs, so let us just say they have a similar opportunity. Liverpool are currently joint top with City and Arsenal, the three clubs separated only by goal difference, and would have hit the heights and the headlines before now but for their inexplicable collapse at Burnley, and an inability to keep a clean sheet apart from when playing at home to Manchester United.

They are advancing in the League Cup, one of the competitions in which they reached a final last year, though as Klopp was able to name an entirely new team for the visit of Tottenham, fixture overload is unlikely to be a worry. Liverpool’s second-string side even includes a first-rate striker in Daniel Sturridge, the England international whose goals took his side into the EFL Cup last eight. And though the forward’s inability to hold down a first-team spot at present will always be a talking point around Anfield, the fact is he is far from the only player with a strong case for being promoted from the reserves.

Leicester succeeded last season with a small squad, relieved that no serious injuries knocked them off their stride. Liverpool have a much larger and stronger squad, and still only the domestic competitions to worry about. Klopp said at the start of the season that being out of Europe was the last thing a club of Liverpool’s stature wanted, though he did not deny it could be turned to their advantage. The feeling at the start of the season was Manchester United too could make a strong push for the league as long as they could find a way to limit the collateral damage Europa League football might inflict, though early indications are that they are failing on both those fronts, despite or perhaps even because of their lavish summer spending.

Klopp’s summer spending was not quite as lavish, though acquisitions such as Sadio Mané (£30m) and Georginio Wijnaldum (£25m) could hardly be described as frugal, but the point is the manager has the squad he wants and a way of playing that is already proving successful. If that already sounds like Leicester of last year, the key to what would be a first title in 27 years might be to emulate the Foxes and move out in front at the top of the table. The next couple of months appear to offer an opportunity. Between now and Christmas Liverpool are not scheduled to meet a top six team until they travel to Goodison on 19 December, by which time it is by no means certain Everton will still be in the top six.

Ronald Koeman’s side had no excuse for losing at Burnley at the weekend. They failed to create enough chances in a game they dominated and paid the price, but they could not point to tiredness as a contributing factor as they had no European involvement to disrupt a full week of preparation.

Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, on the other hand, were – and after dropping points in the Premier League on their return, they could argue that they were handicapped by a greater workload than their opponents. In theory bigger clubs have bigger squads, and Champions League regulars can usually name two different sides of almost equal strength. In practice, however, rotation comes with complications of its own and the greater factor in the league match is normally the comparative freshness and readiness of an opponent such as Bournemouth, Chelsea or Middlesbrough, who will have had the whole week to work towards a single game. Chelsea are perhaps unused to being billed among the feisty minnows raring to go, yet as they took the lead against Manchester United with just 30 seconds on the clock it rather proves the point.

City also dropped league points at the weekend, though that is a different scenario again. Their opponents, Southampton, had also been in European action during the week, probably feeling quite good about themselves after occasionally outplaying Internazionale at San Siro but still returning home on the end of a 1-0 defeat. City had played a day earlier, but could not accept their humbling in Barcelona quite as philosophically, after having to chase around the Camp Nou with 10 men and ending up on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline. “That was tiring,” Guardiola admitted, quite reasonably, before making the point that not only do games in England come thick and fast – City at the moment are in the middle of a sequence of six matches in 18 days, two of which are against Barcelona – but Premier League encounters tend to be contested over the full 90 minutes with few opportunities for resting on a comfortable lead or taking a late breather.

For Liverpool, the biggest test of the rest of the year will be Manchester City at home on New Year’s Eve. Can their match against City on the last day of 2016 really be billed as a title showdown? It is Liverpool’s task in the coming weeks to make sure that it will be.

(The Guardian)

European Absence Gives Liverpool Chance to End Long Wait for League Title

Saudi-led Coalition's Spokesman: Ballistic Missile Was Launched from a Mosque towards Mecca

Jeddah – Houthi leadership is promoting for its news war by firing missiles at Mecca, home to some of Islam’s most sacred sites, and suggesting its victory after it had failed to impose control over Yemeni cities.

Houthis relied in targeting Mecca on their allies; former president Ali Abdallah Saleh and international parties, prominently Iran who is supplying the militias with weapons and long-range missiles.

Houthis tried to attack Mecca by launching a missile which was intercepted and destroyed by the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) before it could do any damage – about 65km from Mecca.

Military experts believe that the long-range ballistic missile was launched from 500km over the border and was intercepted before it reached Mecca.

These missiles are considered old and inaccurate in targeting locations and don’t have any direct effect. Yet, with Iranian experts to support Houthis, they could develop the performance of the missiles and adjust their range and destructing power.

Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, advisor at the minister of Defense’s office, said nothing proves the lies and deceit of the Houthis more than their attack on the most sacred Islamic site.

Asiri said pointed out that Houthis used Iran’s missile altering techniques, the one which was provided to Lebanese Hezbollah.

Asiri, who is also the Saud-led coalition’s spokesman, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Houthis’ operations on the Saudi border are not over. He explained that they will continue to try to infiltrate into the kingdom’s territories and launch ballistic missiles, but the RSAF will always be prepared to intercept.

Asiri explained that the missile was launched from a mosque in Saada. He added that Houthis’ slogans are “Death to America! Death to Israel”, meanwhile they target Mecca, Muslims’ holiest land.

He added that when Royal Saudi Forces targeted the location where the missiles were launched, they found it was a mosque.

“These people know no religion and have no morals. They are using mosques, schools, and hospitals for their criminal acts,” he continued.

Asiri reiterated that the coalition will continue to support the legitimacy forces both politically and militarily. He explained that the U.N. and Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are working on the political part to ensure reaching a settlement in Yemen, while the coalition forces continue to counter the military attacks of Houthis.

A Yemeni source close to the matter said that Houthi leadership has been promoting for Mecca attack and is educating their followers on how to invade the holy site.

According to Deputy Chief of Staff Maj-Gen Naser al-Taheri, Houthis took advantage of the cease-fire to bring more weapons and missiles from Iran.

In September, Yemeni armed forces apprehended different kinds of missiles coming from Tehran, Iran and were intended to be used by militias. The deputy chief praised the important role of the armed forces and the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Nawaf Al-Faghem, deputy chairman of the security committee at the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, said that by targeting Mecca, Houthi militias broke all rules and violated all principles.

According to Faghem, this incident only means that Houthis are failing in targeting the security of Saudi Arabia and thus began resorting to such actions.

He added that this confirms they are a terrorist group supported by Iran and axis of evil.

The deputy chairman also commended the Royal Saudi Air Force and explained that this missile is relatively old and can only cause minimal damage at a small area.

Saudi-led Coalition's Spokesman: Ballistic Missile Was Launched from a Mosque towards Mecca

Obama’s Former Advisor: Hillary Will Push for Syrian Civilians’ Protection If She Becomes President

Washington – Ambassador Frederic Hof Director of Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East – Atlantic Council and Former U.S. Special Advisor on Transition in Syria recounted during his interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper his expectations for the new U.S. administration’s policies for the Arab region.

Hof spoke in details about the Syrian crisis and possibility of the new administration going on a military movement to protect Syrian civilians and remove Bashar al-Assad from power.

The director felt optimistic about Mosul operation in Iraq to liberate it from ISIS control. He also advised the coming U.S. administration to fix what the current administration ruined in the relationship with the Middle East.

When asked about his evaluation of how Obama administration dealt with the Syrian crisis, Ambassador Hof said Obama considered that a U.S. military intervention in Syria will make the situation worse.

Hof had a different opinion. He believed that the administration took several wrong decisions where it could have prevented humanitarian crises in Syria. He spoke of two wrong decisions Obama took when he refused to arm the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and refused to launch a military campaign on Assad regime when he used the chemical weapon in Eastern Ghouta.

He said that one of the problems in Syria is that what happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria.

The ambassador didn’t criticize the role Secretary John Kerry played in the Russian-U.S. agreement. He believed that Kerry did what he could to push Russia to cooperate.

According to Hoff, both Kerry and Obama realize that as long as civilians are the target of military operations, there won’t be a political operation in the country or serious negotiations about a political agreement.

The problem is that Russia’s statements didn’t agree with its policies. The Russian intervention in Syria since September 2015 was for one purpose: to save Bashar al-Assad from military defeat.

The ambassador explained that the situation in Syria is very similar to that in Iraq. He said that a gap was created in eastern Syria due to the lost legitimacy of Assad just like illegitimacy of government of Nouri al-Maliki. He said that the gap was filled with ISIS.

By assuming that Raqqa has been retrieved and that ISIS can be defeated militarily in Syria, the problem won’t be solved unless Assad, his family and entourage leave the political scene.

When asked about how would Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump handle the situation, the ambassador explained that Hillary will ask the minister of defense and chief of staff to set real options for Syria that don’t include military movement or occupation.

The only thing that worries Bashar al-Assad is having enough gasoil in the helicopters used for dropping explosive barrels on residential neighborhoods, he said.

He added that he believes that Clinton will take several steps to ensure the safety of the civilians and will be open for the idea of peaceful negotiations to solve the crisis.

As for Trump, Hof admitted there are many questions about his policy towards Syria. VP candidate Mike Pence stated that civilians should be protected. Yet, Trump suggested an initiative with Russian President Vladimir Putin and proposed that counter-terrorism in Syria should be left to Russia.

But, Hof is sure that if Trump won and studied the situation carefully in Syria, he will have better idea that what he was promoting during his campaign.

The former advisor doesn’t expect any military action to remove Assad from power. He added that if U.S. wanted a modest military action to protect civilians, it will open the way for diplomatic and political solutions.

The ambassador said he can’t predict what will the situation be in Syria in the coming two or three years, but he is sure that if U.S. didn’t interfere to protect the civilians, then nothing good will happen there.

When asked about his evaluation for the situation in Iraq and the Mosul liberation operation, the ambassador said that so far it is going well. He is sure that ISIS will be completely defeated in Mosul, but doesn’t know how long will it take. He revealed that plans are being studied currently for real combat within the city.

Hof also considered that the Obama administration learned from the 2003 occupation of Iraq, and had devised a plan for after the liberation of Mosul to ensure stability in the area. He also mentioned that Obama admitted that one of his regrets was not insisting on leading the operations in Libya.

Hof said that he doesn’t think the U.S. has devised a post-ISIS plan or to prevent the surfacing of other extremist groups like ISIS.

He added for a plan to be effective, it should from the district itself to prevent a vacant in ruling that could lead to ISIS-like organization from coming to rule. He said that Iraqi leaders should form a legitimate local government to prevent such organizations.

He reiterated that U.S. and other countries can help but the real change should come from within Iraq.

When asked about his vision for the type of relationship between the coming U.S. administration and the Middle East, Hof believes it depends on the new president’s decision on whether he or she want to stay or be involved in the region on solid bases.

If the answer is yes, then the next step should be to convince the U.S. public that remaining in the Middle East is important.

But, and according to Hof, Americans see the Middle East as a troublesome area. However, for him, the ambassador said that it is crucial to maintain a relation with the Middle East.

Hof believes that the Obama Administration failed in maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia and worked on establishing new associations with Iran and Cuba.

He concluded that probably one of the most important jobs of the new president is to build and cherish relations with partners in the Middle East.

Hof said that reviving those relations is important for U.S. itself and is related to the country’s national security.

Obama’s Former Advisor: Hillary Will Push for Syrian Civilians’ Protection If She Becomes President

Aoun’s Path to Baabda: Wars and Reconciliations

Beirut- Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun has not had an easy path to the presidential palace. The “impossible” was made possible by Future Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri’s approval to back Aoun for the presidency.

The doors of Baabda Palace, which have been closed since ex-President Michel Suleiman’s tenure ended in May 2014, will open again after the parliament’s expected vote to end the presidential vacuum.

In his efforts to reach Lebanon’s top post, Aoun waged bloody and cruel wars. He also carried out reconciliations that challenge the logic of politics. The result was in his favor after the last obstacle to his path to Baabda Palace was dissipated.

Aoun’s presidential dream began in September 1989 when former President Amin Gemayel appointed him as prime minister to a six-member interim military government after the parliament failed to elect a new president.

But the country fell into more chaos as a result of the presidential vacuum and the resignation of half of the government’s members. The rival government of Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss continued to control large parts of Lebanon.

Liberation War and Syria

Aoun then moved to Baabda Palace and controlled Beirut’s eastern sector.

According to Free Patriotic Movement officials, Aoun had contacts with Syria before and after his appointment as prime minister of the interim military cabinet.

Elie Mahfoud, a former FPM official, said that Aoun had sent an envoy to meet with then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. The message that Aoun sent to Assad was clear in asking the Syrian leader to consider him “a small officer in his army.”

He said in the message that “we should legitimize its (Syria’s) military presence in Lebanon to confront any possible attack against it.”

Despite Mahfoud’s claims, FPM sources strongly denied the presence of such a letter, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that the intentions of the people behind such rumors are known.

The sources stressed that “Aoun’s history is pure as snow.”

After all efforts failed to reach a political settlement, Aoun declared a Liberation War against Syria that failed to make huge geographic changes but led to destruction and war on both sides of the Green Line that separated East and West Beirut.

Aoun later decided to impose his authority on the rest of the Lebanese territories after he rejected the Taef Accord, which was signed by Lebanese deputies in Saudi Arabia, under an Arab and international sponsorship. But fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out in 1990 between the two sides. It was called the Elimination War.

Elimination War

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea joined the parties that backed the implementation of the agreement, and Aoun’s military influence became limited to Baabda Palace and the southern sector of Mount Lebanon.

When Aoun refused to abide by international agreements, the Syrian regime received the “green light” to invade the general’s area of influence. On the morning of October 13, 1990, Syrian warplanes entered Beirut’s airspace for the first time to bomb the presidential palace and army bases that fell under Aoun’s control.

Syrian troops backed by Lebanese soldiers allied with President Elias Hrawi then moved from three fronts towards the areas of Aoun’s influence.

Aoun then fled to the French embassy from where he instructed his units to follow the orders of Army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud who had been appointed by the Hoss government.

He then went into exile in France.

The French Exile

During his presence in France, Aoun worked hard to end Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon. He was a main backer of the Syria Accountability Act, a bill of the United States Congress passed into law on December 12, 2003.

Resolution 1559 that was adopted by the U.N. Security Council in 2004 came against the backdrop of the Syria Accountability Act, said former MP Ghattas Khoury.

Anti-Aoun activists have recently broadcast an old voice recording in which the FPM chief describes Syria as a terrorist state and criticizes the so-called Hezbollah as an extension of the Iranian regime.

Aoun’s Return and the Era of Agreements

The confrontation between Aoun on one side and Syria and Hezbollah on the other drew to a close following the end of the neighboring country’s hegemony on Lebanon.

Syria withdrew from Lebanon after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, paving the way for Aoun’s return to Lebanon after a 15-year exile.

Aoun’s supporters joined the March 14 alliance that was formed during large-scale demonstrations held against Syria following Hariri’s murder. But the FPM chief surprised the public by announcing that his “problem with Syria was over. We will build the best of ties with it.”

Less than a year after his return to Lebanon, Aoun struck an understanding with Hezbollah, which is Syria’s main ally. His FPM became a de facto member of the March 8 alliance.

During the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, Lebanese areas whose residents are Aoun’s supporters opened their doors to the people escaping the Israeli aggression. Aoun soon became Hezbollah’s candidate for presidency. But the party’s support for the FPM chief wasn’t enough to bring him to Baabda Palace after the end of President Emile Lahoud’s term.

His dream was shattered as a result of the March 14 coalition’s strong opposition to him.

Normalization of Ties with Assad

The reconciliation with the Assad regime was culminated during a visit that Aoun made to Damascus in 2008. He considered the trip as “the end of an old stage and the beginning of a new era.”

When the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014, Aoun’s ambition to reach Baabda Palace took a strong hit as result of different alliances in the parliament.

Things became worse when the legislature’s term was extended twice. But the lawmakers of his bloc and Hezbollah MPs continued to boycott parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a new president.

Parliament’s Paralysis

Aoun and his ally Hezbollah resorted to paralysis in their confrontation with the March 14 alliance. The boycott of their MPs of the sessions set for electing a head of state caused lack of quorum at the parliament, which left the country without a president.

Saad Hariri’s agreement with Marada leader MP Suleiman Franjieh to back him for the presidency angered Geagea, who dropped out of the presidential race and announced his support for Aoun after the two sides signed a “Declaration of Intent.”

The Christian Alliance

The “Declaration of Intent” between the FPM and the LF stated the importance of abiding by an independent foreign policy that serves Lebanon’s interest and respects international law by having friendly relations with all countries, mainly Arab states, to consolidate Lebanon.

After the LF’s support for Aoun, the only obstacle left was Saad Hariri, who has the largest bloc in the parliament (33 MPs.) Despite years of counter-accusations and disputes, their paths crossed and Hariri backed Aoun’s presidential aspirations.

Aoun, who is expected to be elected on Monday, was eventually able to clinch a deal with Hariri despite accusations by the FPM chief’s critics of being “edgy and stubborn.”

He made a lot of diplomatic maneuvers to appease his staunchest foes to realize his big dream.

Aoun’s Path to Baabda: Wars and Reconciliations

Syrian Rebels Launch Latest Push to Lift Aleppo Siege

Beirut- Syrian opposition factions launched a wide-scale offensive to free Aleppo’s eastern neighborhood and lift the regime-imposed siege. The rebel-launched operation is being called “Aleppo’s Epic Battle,” with an arsenal of missiles and projectiles targeting regime-controlled areas.

Rebels took over the regime-held suburbs making a dashing advance whilst aiming to take down project 3000 located in the city’s western vicinity. Fighting extends at a 15 km long front at Aleppo’s west, rebel sources said.

Ammar Sakkar, military spokesperson for Fastaqim Union rebel group in Aleppo, said hundreds of fighters were taking part in the offensive.

“All the revolutionary factions, without exception, are participating in the battle,” he told the Associated Press.

An estimated 300,000 people are under regime siege in eastern Aleppo, where residents report declining or damaged supplies of necessities including food, water, electricity and medicine.

Regime forces, backed by their Russian allies, have stepped up attacks in Aleppo in recent weeks in an attempt to retake the rebel-held area.

Rebels broke the siege on eastern Aleppo in early August, opening up a new route into the city from the south.

Later, regime forces re-imposed the blockade.

Aleppo has been a focus of the Syrian war since regime forces besieged it in July, part of an early push to reclaim a major city that has been partly controlled by rebels since 2012. The rebel-held eastern side has since been heavily bombarded, with help from Russian forces, killing hundreds of civilians and drawing harsh international condemnation.

Elsewhere, rebels fired dozens of rockets into the outskirts of Qardaha, the home town of Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad in the north-west of the war-devastated country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rebels also shelled areas near the Hmeimim air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, which is a launchpad for Russian airstrikes against rebels, the Observatory added.

Russia began an air campaign in Syria in 2015 to help Assad’s authoritarian regime.

Syrian Rebels Launch Latest Push to Lift Aleppo Siege

Friday, 28 October 2016

Russian Jet Flew near Coalition Plane over Syria

A Russian fighter jet flew so close in front of an aircraft of the U.S.-led coalition over Syria this month that the plane felt the jet’s wake, a U.S. coalition spokesman said on Friday.

On Oct. 17 the Russian jet passed within about half a mile of the larger coalition plane, Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, told reporters during a video news conference.

The Russian actions did not appear to have been “done with nefarious intent” and the two aircraft communicated, Dorrian said. He added that U.S. and Russian officials followed up the next day through a previously set up communication mechanism.

The incident highlights the risks over the complicated and crowded airspace over war-torn Syria as both the coalition and Russia carry out air campaigns.

“I think it is a significant enough incident that it required follow up,” Dorrian said. “We don’t like to fly our aircraft within a half a mile of each other, I can assure you of that.” Dorrian did not identify which country the coalition plane belonged to or what types of planes were involved.

The American and Russian militaries have a communication channel in place aimed at reducing the risk of collisions and other incidents, and top U.S. civilian and military officials speak by video conference with their Russian counterparts to discuss operation safety.

The incident follows similar close encounters between Russian and American planes. In September, a Russian fighter jet came within 10 feet (3 meters) of an American spy plane over the Black Sea.

Russian Jet Flew near Coalition Plane over Syria

U.N. Says ISIS Using ‘Tens of Thousands’ as Human Shields in Mosul

ISIS has abducted “tens of thousands” of men, women and children from areas around the Iraqi city of Mosul and is using them as human shields as Iraqi government troops advance, the U.N. rights office said on Friday.

The militants killed at least 232 people on Wednesday, including 190 former Iraqi security forces (ISF) and 42 civilians who refused to obey their orders, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

Credible reports suggest that ISIS “has been forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes in sub-districts around Mosul and has forcibly relocated numbers of civilians inside the city itself since the operation began on the 17th of October to restore Iraqi government control over Mosul,” Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

Nearly 8,000 families, of roughly six people each, were abducted in sub-districts including Shura, she said.

The terrorist group’s “depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Shamdasani said.

“Many of those who refused to comply were shot on the spot,” the spokesperson told reporters.

The reports, corroborated by the U.N., were “by no means comprehensive but indicative of violations”, she added.

She stressed that the number of people killed in recent days could be higher.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has voiced deep concern at reports that some individuals in the areas south of Mosul have “embarked on revenge killings and have vowed on television that there would be ‘eye-for-eye’ revenge against those who sided with ISIS,” Shamdasani said.

Some villagers have also been prevented from returning to their villages due to their perceived support of the terrorist group, she added.

U.N. Says ISIS Using ‘Tens of Thousands’ as Human Shields in Mosul

70 Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship for Committing Crimes of Terror

Manama–Bahrain’s High Court of Appeal has decided to uphold a decision to revoke the citizenship of 55 Bahrainis, and sentence five people to life in prison, and 51 others to jail terms of up to 15 years over charges of establishing a terrorist organization that targets policemen in Bahrain.

Also Thursday, the Fourth High Criminal Court sentenced 15 defendants for crimes and offences related to setting up a terror group and joining it, funding terrorism, causing an explosion, planting explosive objects, arson for the purpose of terror, rioting and possessing incendiary devices. The 15 suspects were stripped of their nationality and ordered to pay collectively BD 10,200 in compensation for damaged items. They were accused of attempted murder, arson for terror purposes, rioting and possessing Molotov cocktails.

All suspects were stripped of their citizenship and received sentences varying between seven years and life in prison.

Chief Prosecutor of the Terror Crimes Prosecution, Isa al-Rowai, said that the First High Court of Appeal upheld the verdict issued against a number of suspects who were convicted over charges of founding, organizing and managing an illegal group to paralyze the constitution and laws, preventing state institutions and authorities from exercising their responsibilities, and undermining national unity through the use of terrorist means.

The defendants formed a terrorist organization and recruited Bahraini individuals with the aim of escalating terrorist acts in the country by targeting national security and sensitive installations, including the embassy of Saudi Arabia.

They also planned to carry out attacks with the intent of killing policemen, as well as disrupting public order, preventing public authorities from exercising their work, jeopardizing people’s safety and security and attempting to overthrow the political system.

The court charged defendants with receiving training on making explosives and weapons. They were also accused of smuggling firearms and explosives into the country, as well as smuggling fugitives by sea.

The defendants were charged with raising funds in Bahrain to buy equipment needed for carrying out criminal activities, rallying and covering the group’s activities in the media to promote their terrorist goals under the slogan of Revolutionary Media.

The investigation also revealed that a defendant had issued orders to one of the accused to carry out terrorist acts during the national celebrations and to target the Saudi embassy and King Fahad Bridge. Several ready-to-use bombs intended for their terrorist acts were found.

70 Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship for Committing Crimes of Terror

Yemeni Minister: Any Solution Other than Ending Coup Is a Time Bomb

London- Yemeni Minister of State Yasser Al Raeini stated that the government is committed to the political solution represented in the Gulf initiative, its executive mechanism, outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and the U.N. resolution 2216.

“Anything that contradicts with these does not relate to us, starting from the government keenness to settle peace and to respond to the Yemeni aspirations to end the coup,” said Raeini.

Raeini told Asharq al-Awsat that the basic solution is to put an end to the coup and that other solutions are time bombs that would worsen the condition. He added that the fact that the militias violated the last truce in its’ first minutes reveals the undermining of exerted efforts to stop the war and alleviate the suffering of citizens.

“Rebels continue their mobilization in battlefronts without taking into consideration the consequences in triggering bloodshed and destruction on the level of society and economy,” said Raeini.

He added that the coup is originally based on killing and destroying and that these militias never adhered to agreements and charters agreed upon and continued to reject any initiatives or efforts exerted to reach a solution since day one.

Speaking on the military and political escalation, the minister of state declared that these steps fall within hurdling peaceful solutions and provoking international parties that show keenness on achieving peace.

The minister highlighted the importance of the international community role in putting pressure on the rebels to make them abide by the U.N. resolution 2216 and previous pledges as well as supporting the government in its quest to halt the coup.

Yemeni Minister: Any Solution Other than Ending Coup Is a Time Bomb

Presidential System Ignites Debate in Turkey

Ankara-Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to propose to parliament a Constitutional amendment to establish a presidential system based on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to expand his powers and shrink the government’s authorities.

During AKP’s conference, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the proposal makes part of a new constitution that will be set for the country and that will be referred to the parliament soon, regardless of the position of “other” parties.

Yildirim used the word “others” to refer to the Republican People’s Party, one of the biggest opposition parties, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, which backs the Kurds. The two parties have opposed the presidential system since it was proposed for the first time in 2013-2015 and when the AKP resumed talks about it a couple of weeks ago.

However, features of the presidential system, which will be included in the new constitution, have not been revealed yet, whether it will be like systems in France or the U.S. or like the presidential systems of the Middle East.

The new proposal has raised many questions and concerns in the Turkish community over fears of transforming the country’s democracy into a dictatorship.

The Nationalist Movement Party headed by Devlet Bahceli has approved the proposal of the new system. He recently made new statements during a keynote speech before his party’s representatives in the parliament, saying the final stance concerning the JDP’s proposal will be taken once it is discussed. He also noted that if the proposal was approved in the parliament, a popular referendum can be carried out without concerns.

Officials from the Justice and Development Party including Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag have announced that the country will witness a referendum on the new constitution and presidential system by the beginning of 2017, and most probably between April and May.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party, criticized Bahceli for his position from the presidential system and ironically suggested to crown Erdogan as the only king of the country. Observers suggest that Bahceli has chosen to back the AKP’s proposal after he faced increasing pressure and threats from his party because of his policies.

Following his election in 2014, Erdogan reset the presidential system as one of his goals and called on the Turkish people to give the ruling party more than 400 seats in the parliament so it can adopt this system in June 2015. But this proposal faced opposition back then even among members of the AKP.

After the failed coup attempt in July, Erdogan sought to calm tension with the opposition. Therefore, he postponed talks on the presidential system and pledged to maintain rule with the current parliamentary system.

The constitutional amendment in Turkey needs the approval of 376 out of 550 members in the parliament. The AKP, which is represented by 317 MPs, needs support from other parties to pass such a proposal.

The Nationalist Movement Party, which has pledged to back the proposal of the new system, is represented by 40 seats in the parliament.

Presidential System Ignites Debate in Turkey

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Lebanese Economy Minister: Absence of Saudi Investors, Tourists Led to Financial Crisis

Beirut–Lebanese Minister of Economy, Dr. Alain Hakim, said that the economic situation in Lebanon has witnessed some deterioration due to the political crisis that hampers the work of the government’s financial and economic institutions.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Thursday, Hakim said that the absence of Gulf investors and tourists, in particular from Saudi Arabia, has had negative repercussions on the country’s investment and tourism sectors, adding that the toppling of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government in 2011 and the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict have resulted in a high political price.

Asked about concerns regarding the economic situation in Lebanon, Hakim said: “Of course, the economic situation has deteriorated due to the political situation that hampers the making of necessary economic and financial decisions.”

He added that Lebanon incurred heavy burdens due to the ongoing crisis in Syria and its negative consequences, including the closure of borders, which harmed the Lebanese exports, and the flow of Syrian migrants.

Hakim added that the decline in investments rates affected the economic cycle and the Lebanese employment and industrial sectors.

The Lebanese economy minister stressed the need to implement necessary reforms and to adopt the proposed reform plan that was recently submitted to the government.

“We have tried several times to convince our Arab brothers to come back to Lebanon, but it is clear that we have paid a high economic price due to the toppling of Saad Hariri’s government and the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian war,” Hakim said.

Lebanese Economy Minister: Absence of Saudi Investors, Tourists Led to Financial Crisis

U.S. Treasury Chief: JASTA Could Have Serious Implications

Riyadh–U.S. Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew said the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) could have “serious implications” for U.S. – Gulf interests.

In remarks on Thursday at the opening of the first joint meeting of the Cooperation Committee of the GCC Ministers of Finance and the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Lew said JASTA “would enact broad changes in long-standing international law regarding sovereign immunity that, if applied globally, could have serious implications for our shared interests.”

The U.S. Congress last month voted overwhelmingly to override President Barack Obama’s veto of JASTA.

The Treasury Secretary said the Obama administration has proven its determination to hold people responsible when they commit “horrendous acts”, but “there are ways to do that without undermining important international legal principles.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said that the joint meeting of the finance ministers of the GCC member states with the U.S. Treasury Secretary falls within the framework of the agreement between the leaders of the GCC member states and Obama to strengthen strategic ties between the two sides.

In a statement delivered at the outset of the meeting, Assaf said that officials discussed financial and economic relations and mutual cooperation between the Council and the U.S.

He noted that the meeting saw discussions over the possibility to forge a free trade agreement between the GCC countries and the U.S., as well as an agreement to avoid double taxation.

Assaf said participants also tackled the JASTA law, noting that the U.S. official has been urged to curb the serious consequences of this law, which has tremendous negative impacts on the United States and other countries.

Assaf valued the role assumed by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and his keenness to strengthen cooperation between GCC member states and the U.S.

U.S. Treasury Chief: JASTA Could Have Serious Implications

Egypt: Life Sentences Against Brotherhood Leader and 36 Others Upheld

Egypt’s Appeals Court, the highest judicial authority in Egypt, yesterday upheld the life sentences that were given to the spiritual leader of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie and 36 others after their appeals were rejected.

The verdict issued by the Appeals Court is final and may not be challenged. Badie has been charged with a number of different crimes and has also been sentenced to death but this sentence is not final.

The Shubra Al-Khaimah Criminal Court sentenced Badie and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood including Safwat Higazi, Mohamed Beltagy, Osama Yassin (the former Minister of Youth), Bassem Ouda (the former Minister of Supply and Interior Trade) and others to life in prison in July 2014. Ten of the accused in the case were sentenced to death in absentia.

The defendants were accused of inciting violence and blocking a main road in the Nile Delta city of Qalyubia after the breakup of the Rabiah Al-Adwiyah sit in and protests by supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi that took place in July 2013.

Meanwhile, calls were made to expand the political participation of the youth and to support their freedoms on the second day of Egypt’s first ever National Youth Conference (NYC) which was launched on Tuesday in Sharm El-Sheikh under the auspices of President El-Sisi.

Participants in a session entitled “The relationship between public freedoms and political participation” stressed that successive constitutions in Egypt have ensured the political freedom of every citizen and have considered it a fundamental right. They also stressed that the 2014 constitution was the most liberal in terms of guaranteeing freedoms.

Egypt: Life Sentences Against Brotherhood Leader and 36 Others Upheld

Scientists Find a New Drug that Reverses Alzheimer's Disease

London – In two separate events, scientist made medical breakthrough that will probably lead to curing two illnesses: Alzheimer’s and colorectal cancer.

Scientists at Cleveland Clinic announced a new drug that reverses Alzheimer’s disease in mice, while scientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered a fast, noninvasive method that could lead to the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

In their new study, the Cleveland Clinic scientists said that the experimental drug shows promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease by preventing inflammation and removing abnormal protein clumps in the brain that are associated with the disease.

The drug, NTRX-07, is believed to work by decreasing the amount of inflammation caused by the plaques and tangles of protein aggregates, a hallmark progression of AD, as well as by boosting the function of neighboring neurons and regenerative cells in the brain.

“NTRX-07 uses a different mechanism than many other Alzheimer’s drugs currently available, as it targets the cause of the disease, not just the symptoms,” Lead researcher at Cleveland Clinic Dr. Mohamed Naguib said in a press release.

The researchers discovered that NTRX -07 memory-restoring abilities while studying the drug’s potential to treat a complex, chronic pain condition called neuropathic pain. “Patients who have neuropathic pain have chronic neuroinflammation,” said Dr. Naguib. “This is a compound that blunts that inflammation.”

Researchers tested NRTX-07 on mice bred to have similar brain neurodegenerative issues as seen in Alzheimer’s. They found that inflammation produced in response to the disease caused changes in the brain’s microglia cells — immune cells that typically remove dangerous amyloid plaques (protein clumps) in the brain. As the amyloid plaques accumulated in the mice, the microglia (immune cells) were unable to remove them, leading to inflammation and damage to nerve cells, which caused decreased cognitive ability.

The team presented its findings at the 2016 Anesthesiology Annual meeting.

Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) and Johns Hopkins Medical School combined two preexisting methods of molecular analysis and found a noninvasive and fast method that could help in early detection of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide with nearly 1.4 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012, according to the World Cancer Research Fund International. The disease is usually detected through Colonoscopy which is costly.

To identify the molecules for colon cancer in the feces the scientists used a technology called ion mobility-mass spectrometry. IMMS is found in sensor devices worldwide that sniff out illicit drugs, chemical warfare agents and explosives in airports.

The researchers first identified metabolic products from normal colon tissue in both humans and mice. IMMS can measure hundreds of metabolites simultaneously, such as enzymes, fats, glucose and amino acids. They found the lipids, fatty acids, and amino acids were changing.

Dr. Herbert Hill, a Regents professor at WSU said: “The exciting part is being able to see differences in the stool.”

He added: “This could lead to a noninvasive, more comprehensive early-warning detection method for colorectal cancer, but a lot of research needs to be done before it can be actually realized.”

Scientists Find a New Drug that Reverses Alzheimer's Disease

Venezuelan Ambassador: Saudi Arabia is a Close Friend, We Aim to Stabilize Oil Market

Riyadh – Venezuela confirmed that the upcoming OPEC meeting will pave the way for a new step in the oil market.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC are expected to agree on freezing or decreasing oil production to rebalance the prices during the coming stage.

Joseba Achutegui, Venezuelan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Saudi Arabia is not only a partner OPEC state, but also a close friend to his country.

He added that President Nicolas Maduro visited Saudi Arabia for its status at OPEC and being the world’s first oil exporter. The ambassador added that the President discussed with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz means to promote relations, reviewed areas of bilateral cooperation, and the latest developments including cooperation for the stability of oil market.

The ambassador also mentioned that during his meeting with the King, President Madura expressed his ideas about the agreement reached in Algiers, as well as the upcoming meeting of the tech committee of OPEC and non-OPEC countries.

Achutegui confirmed that Saudi-Venezuelan relations are at its best since diplomatic relations has been established between the two countries. He added that during the past months, many ministerial visits have been exchanged and the two countries signed a tax agreement.

The ambassador related the previous visits of President Maduro to Saudi Arabia in 2015, to pay his respects following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, and to attend the Summit of South America-Arab Countries.

Achutegui explained that Venezuela tried over the past 22 months to achieve a unified opinion about reinstating market stability and joining interests of both OPEC and non-OPEC oil countries.

The Venezuelan ambassador reiterated that his country is optimistic and confident that the initiative will have fruitful agreement which will create a new cycle of market and reasonable prices stability. He also referred to President Maduro’s saying that this will benefit both the countries that produce and export oil, as well as the market and thus lead to the resumption of investments.

Ambassador Achutegui expressed his country’s relief to the statement of Saudi Minister Khalid al-Falih in London last week.

Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources al-Falih said that the current down cycle is nearing an end.

The ambassador concluded that Falih confirmed what Venezuelan government said before about decreasing production. He also added that by freezing or decreasing oil production, OPEC sends a message to the market saying it encourages investments.

Venezuelan Ambassador: Saudi Arabia is a Close Friend, We Aim to Stabilize Oil Market