UAE rebuts false allegations regarding Sheikha Latifa

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The communique provided evidence that Sheikha Latifa was at home and living with her family in Dubai. (WAM)
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Updated 25 December 2018

UAE rebuts false allegations regarding Sheikha Latifa

DUBAI: The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a statement on Monday via the state run WAM, detailing a communique by the UAE Mission in Geneva rebutting allegations regarding Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al-Maktoum.
Below is the statement in full:
“On Dec. 21 2018, the UAE Mission in Geneva delivered a communique regarding H.H. Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al-Maktoum to the Office of Special Procedures at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The communique responds to and rebuts false allegations and provided evidence that Her Highness Sheikha Latifa was at home and living with her family in Dubai.

The communique provided evidence that Sheikha Latifa was at home and living with her family in Dubai. (WAM)

“At the request of the family, on Dec. 15 2018, Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland, met with Sheikha Latifa in Dubai.
“The photographs taken during the afternoon they spent together have been shared, with their consent. During her visit to Dubai, Robinson was reassured that Sheikha Latifa is receiving the necessary care and support she requires.”

Will Turkiye and Syria succeed in turning the page on decade-long enmity?

Updated 1 min 39 sec ago

Will Turkiye and Syria succeed in turning the page on decade-long enmity?

  • Relations have remained frosty since Ankara and Damascus severed diplomatic ties in 2011 following the eruption of Syria’s civil war
  • President Erdogan’s recent announcement he could invite Assad to Turkiye “at any moment” has elicited mixed reactions from Syrians

ATHENS/QAMISHLI, Syria: Since 2022, senior Syrian and Turkish officials have periodically met in Moscow for talks mediated by Russia. But those meetings have failed to result in a thaw in their icy relations.

It is a different matter now, however, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcing his desire to restore formal ties with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad.

He said earlier this month that he could invite Assad to Turkiye “at any moment,” to which the Syrian leader responded that any meeting would depend on the “content.”

Ankara and Damascus severed diplomatic ties in 2011 following the eruption of Syria’s civil war. Relations have remained hostile ever since, particularly as Turkiye continues to support armed groups resisting the Assad regime.

Since the civil war erupted in 2011, Turkiye has supported armed Syrian factions in their fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad, left. AFP

What, then, is the motivation for changing course now? And what are the likely consequences of Turkish-Syrian normalization of ties?

Syrian writer and political researcher Shoresh Darwish believes President Erdogan is pursuing normalization for two reasons. “The first is preparation for the possibility of the arrival of a new American administration led by Donald Trump, which means the possibility of a return to the policy of (a US) withdrawal from Syria,” he told Arab News.

“Erdogan will therefore need to cooperate with Assad and Russia.”

The second reason, Darwish says, is Erdogan’s desire to get closer to Syrian regime ally Russia after Turkiye’s drift toward the US following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Indeed, as a NATO member state, the conflict has complicated Turkiye’s normally balanced approach to its ties with Washington and Moscow.

“Ankara’s cooperation with Moscow is difficult in terms of the Ukrainian issue,” said Darwish. “As a result of the significant Western interference in this issue, their cooperation in Syria represents a meeting point through which Erdogan wants to highlight his friendship with Putin and Moscow’s interests in the Middle East.”

Those in Syria’s opposition-held northwest, which is backed by Turkiye, see an Ankara-Damascus rapprochement as a betrayal.

During one of several protests in Idlib since the beginning of July, demonstrators held signs in Arabic that read: “If you want to get closer to Assad, congratulations, the curse of history is upon you.”

Abdulkarim Omar, a political activist from Idlib, told Arab News: “Western Syria, Idlib, the Aleppo countryside, and all areas belonging to the opposition completely reject this behavior because it is only in the interest of the Syrian regime.

“The Syrian people came out 13 years ago and rose up in their revolution demanding freedom, dignity, and the building of a civil, democratic state for all Syrians. This can only be achieved by overthrowing the tyrannical Syrian regime represented by Bashar Assad. They still cling to this principle and these slogans and cannot abandon them.”

Those living in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led and US-backed Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, or AANES, which holds much of Syria’s territory east of the Euphrates River, are also wary of the consequences of normalization.

“There are fears among the population that reconciliation may be a prelude to punishing the Syrian Kurds for their political choices,” said Omar.

Incursions into Syria from 2016 to 2019 saw Turkiye take control of several cities, many of which were previously under the control of the AANES.

Turkiye’s justification for its 2018 and 2019 incursions and continued presence on Syrian territory was its aim to establish a “safe zone” between itself and the armed forces of the AANES — the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkiye views the SDF as a Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group that has been in conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s.

“Naturally, the Syrian Kurds know that they will be part of any deal that Erdogan wants to conclude with Assad,” said Darwish. “This issue unnerves the Syrian Kurds, who see Turkiye as ready to do anything to harm them and their experience in self-administration.”

Darwish says the Syrian Kurds would accept reconciliation on three conditions. First they would want to see Turkiye remove its troops from Afrin and Ras Al-Ain. Second, an end to Turkish strikes against AANES areas. And third, a guarantee from the Assad regime “that the Syrian Kurds will enjoy their national, cultural, and administrative rights.”

But just how likely is a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus? Not very, according to conflict analyst and UNHRC delegate Thoreau Redcrow. “I find the prospects of an Erdogan and Assad detente very unlikely,” he told Arab News.

“Historically, Turkiye’s ideas of ‘normalization’ with Syria amount to a policy of one-way influence for Ankara’s benefit. In this arrangement, Turkiye continues to occupy Hatay (Liwa Iskenderun), which they seized from Syria in 1938, and make military incursion demands on their sovereignty, like with the Adana Agreement in 1998, but give nothing in return.”

Assad has made it clear in public statements that a meeting between him and Erdogan would only occur on the condition of a Turkish withdrawal from Syrian territory. Redcrow believes Turkiye has no intention of leaving.

“I cannot see Damascus being interested in being manipulated for a photo-op,” he said. “The Syrian government is far more prideful than some of the other regional actors who are happy to be one of Turkiye’s ‘neo-Ottoman vilayets.’”

Erdogan may be attempting to capitalize on the trend toward normalization among Arab countries, which began in earnest with Syria’s reinstatement into the Arab league last year. European states and the US, however, remain divided.

“Whereas Germany, France, Italy, and the UK in particular are more focused on how Turkiye can control the gateway into Europe and act as a ‘continental bouncer’ for refugees from the Middle East and Western Asia, the US is more focused on denying Russia and Iran full access to all of Syria again for strategic reasons, like Mediterranean Sea access and the ‘Shiite land bridge’ from Tehran to Beirut,” said Redcrow.

“The current status quo is far more beneficial to Washington than any reconciliation would be, as it would also endanger the northeast portions of Syria, where the US military is embedded with their most reliable military partners against Daesh in the SDF. So, Turkiye would not be given any kind of green light to place American interests at risk.”

The US House of Representatives in February passed the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023, which prohibits any normalization with Assad. In a post on the social media platform X on July 12, the bill’s author, Rep. Joe Wilson, voiced his disappointment with Erdogan’s calls for normalization, likening it to “normalizing with death itself.”

Though there may be little chance of reconciliation succeeding at this point, the approximately 3.18 million Syrian refugees living in Turkiye view even rumors of normalization with fear and dread.

“People are very afraid,” Amal Hayat, a Syrian mother of five living in southeastern Turkiye, told Arab News. “Since the rumors (of reconciliation) started, many people don’t even leave their homes. Even if they are beaten by their bosses at work, they are afraid to say anything for fear of being deported.”

Turkish authorities deported more than 57,000 Syrians in 2023, according to Human Rights Watch.

“A forced return would affect us a lot,” said Hayat. “For example, if a woman returns to Syria with her family, her husband may be arrested by the regime. Or if a man gets deported back to Syria and his wife and children stay in Turkiye, how will they manage? It’s difficult. Here, our kids can study. They have stability and safety.”

The fear of deportation has been compounded by waves of violence against Syrian refugees which swept Turkiye’s south in recent weeks. On June 30, residents of central Turkiye’s Kayseri province attacked Syrians and their property.

Anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkiye is partially due to economic issues, where Turks see underpaid or even unpaid Syrians as a threat to their prospects of employment.

“The Turks are very happy for us to return home,” said Hayat. “For them, it’s not soon enough. We are all living under a heightened level of stress. We are just praying that (Assad and Erdogan) don’t reconcile.”


Turkiye calls Israeli claims Erdogan arming Hamas ‘lies’

Updated 8 sec ago

Turkiye calls Israeli claims Erdogan arming Hamas ‘lies’

  • “Israel’s dirty propaganda and psychological pressure aimed at our country and our president will remain ineffective,” ministry says

ISTANBUL: Turkiye on Sunday slammed Israeli claims Ankara was arming and funding Palestinian militant group Hamas as “lies,” accusing Israel of trying to direct attention away from the war in Gaza.
The angry rebuttal came after Israel’s Foreign Minister Katz accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “supplying arms and money to Hamas to kill Israelis.”
In a post on X in Turkish, Katz claimed that the Israeli security services had dismantled “terrorist cells” that were “under directions from Hamas headquarters in Turkiye.”
In response, Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry said that Israel’s top diplomat was “trying to conceal the crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians behind a series of lies, slander and disrespect.”
“But Israel’s dirty propaganda and psychological pressure aimed at our country and our president will remain ineffective,” the ministry’s statement added.
Israel’s offensive against Hamas has killed at least 38,983 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Ankara has been a fervent critic of Israel’s conduct of the war, which was sparked by a bloody Hamas assault on October 7, with Erdogan repeatedly trading barbs with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Dubbing him the “butcher of Gaza,” Erdogan has accused Netanyahu of seeking to “spread the war” across the wider Middle East, a point repeated in the foreign ministry’s statement.
It accused “the members of Netanyahu’s government” of “wanting to provoke a regional war to stay in power,” calling for them to be tried in international courts.
“Turkiye will continue to defend the right of the Palestinian people to live in justice and peace,” the foreign ministry added.

Israel’s Yemen strike will embolden Houthis: analysts

Updated 17 min 32 sec ago

Israel’s Yemen strike will embolden Houthis: analysts

  • “This can attract new recruits and solidify their base"

DUBAI: Israel’s first attack on Yemen’s Houthis, who have defied months of strikes by the United States and Britain, will likely only embolden the militant group, analysts say.
Saturday’s strike on the port city of Hodeida, which themilitant group say killed six people and triggered a massive fire, will provide the Houthis with “political capital,” said Maged Al-MadHajji, co-founder of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies think tank.
“They legitimize Houthi claims that they are waging a war with Israel,” which could widen the militant group's appeal amid growing anger in Yemen over the Gaza war, he told AFP.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, the Houthis have positioned themselves as a key member of Tehran’s regional network of allies, which includes armed groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
They have launched nearly 90 attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November and on Friday, a Houthi drone attack breached Israel’s intricate air defenses, killing one person in Tel Aviv, triggering Israel’s strike on Hodeida.
Hours after the Hodeida attack, hundreds of Yemenis took to the streets of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, chanting — “death to America, death to Israel” — as they waved Palestinian flags.
“For the rebels, these attacks serve as a powerful propaganda tool. They can rally their supporters by framing themselves as defenders against a new external aggressor,” said Afrah Nasser, non-resident fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC think tank.
“This can attract new recruits and solidify their base.”

Themilitant group have already withstood repeated US and British strikes, aimed at deterring Houthi attacks on shipping, since January.
Gregory Johnsen, associate director of the Institute for Future Conflict at the US Air Force Academy, said that the Houthis “want nothing more than to be seen fighting the ‘American-Zionist’ alliance.”
In a social media post, the Yemen expert said “this helps them domestically, by intertwining Houthi goals with the Palestinian cause, which is very popular in Yemen.”
It also “mutes domestic dissent and neutralizes local rivals,” he said.
The Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year to prop up the internationally-recognized government.
Nearly a decade of war has failed to weaken the militant group who control large swathes of the country, including much of its Red Sea coast.
“The past decade of internationalized civil war in Yemen demonstrates that the Houthi leadership is undeterred by military strikes,” said Elisabeth Kendall, a Yemen expert at the University of Cambridge
“The Houthis will be emboldened by their growing notoriety and relish their engineered status as defenders of Palestine,” she told AFP.

Hodeida’s port, a vital entry point for fuel imports and international aid for Houthi-held areas of Yemen, had remained largely untouched through the war.
Andreas Kreig, a military analyst and senior lecturer in security studies at King’s College London, said Israel’s strike “won’t significantly erode the Houthi supply chain” of weapons.
“Component parts for missiles can be delivered along various routes and do not require massive port facilities,” he told AFP, adding that “Iran has highly diversified supply chains and will find different routes” to deliver weapon components that can be assembled domestically.
The Houthis, however, will not emerge unscathed from the Israeli attack, which could hamper future fuel imports and has already sparked fears of shortages amid a severe financial crunch.
The strike, which destroyed storage tanks, “will result in severe fuel shortages across northern Yemen, affecting critical services like diesel generators for hospitals,” said Mohammed Albasha, senior Middle East analyst for the US-based Navanti Group.
“Additionally, the damage to the power station in Hodeida, coupled with the blistering summer heat, will significantly worsen the suffering of the local population,” he told AFP, adding that reconstruction would “be both costly and challenging.”
Nicholas Brumfield, a Yemen expert, said the attack is “going to have dire humanitarian effects on the millions of ordinary Yemenis living in Houthi-held Yemen.”
It will drive up “prices for not just fuel but anything carried by truck,” he said on social media.

Sudan, Iran trade ambassadors after eight-year rupture

Updated 40 min 11 sec ago

Sudan, Iran trade ambassadors after eight-year rupture

  • Sudan and Iran agreed last October to resume diplomatic relations
PORT SUDAN: Sudan’s de facto leader, army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, received on Sunday an Iranian ambassador and sent his own to Tehran, the government said, cementing a rapprochement after an eight-year rupture.
Sudan and Iran agreed last October to resume diplomatic relations, as the army-aligned government scrambled for allies during its war with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The Sudanese government, loyal to the army in its 15-month fight against the RSF, announced in a statement that Burhan had received Tehran’s new ambassador Hassan Shah Hosseini in Port Sudan.
The Red Sea city has become Sudan’s de facto seat of government since Khartoum became wracked by fighting.
This is “the beginning of a new phase in the course of bilateral relations between the two countries,” foreign ministry undersecretary Hussein Al-Amin said as Burhan sent off Sudan’s new ambassador to Iran, Abdelaziz Hassan Saleh.
Sudan broke off relations with Iran in 2016 in a show of solidarity with Saudi Arabia, after the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was attacked following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Several Saudi allies in the region also cut ties with Iran at the time.
In March 2023, however, Riyadh and Tehran announced the restoration of their relations following an agreement brokered by China.
Iran has since moved to cement or restore relations with neighboring Arab countries.
Since Sudan’s war began in April 2023 a number of foreign powers have supported rival forces.
In December Sudan expelled diplomats from the United Arab Emirates on allegations that the Gulf state was funnelling weapons to the RSF.
The UAE has denied taking sides in the conflict.
Egypt and Turkiye have backed the army.
The United States in February voiced concern at reported arms shipments by Washington’s foe Iran to Sudan’s military.
Around that time, the army recovered some territory after months of defeats at the hands of the RSF.
Sudan has also recently drawn closer to Russia, which experts say has reconsidered its previous relationship with the RSF, with which it had links through the mercenary Wagner group.
Sudan under former strongman Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019, developed close relations with Iran’s clerical state.
The war in Sudan has killed tens of thousands of people, with some estimates placing the death toll as high as 150,000, according to the US envoy to Sudan, Tom Perriello.
It has also created the world’s worst displacement crisis — with more than 11 million uprooted, according to the United Nations — and brought the country to the brink of famine.

Israeli army vaccinating Gaza troops against polio

Updated 40 min 48 sec ago

Israeli army vaccinating Gaza troops against polio

JERUSALEM: Israel has started vaccinating its troops in Gaza against polio and supplying vaccines for the Palestinian population after health agencies said the virus has been found in the territory, the military said on Sunday.

Army authorities have begun “a broad vaccination operation for all ground troops, both regular and reserves,” said a military statement.

The army did not give a figure for the number of soldiers involved, but thousands of regular and reservist troops are reported to be fighting in the war, which has raged since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

The statement said the order was given after the army carried out sample tests in Gaza, where most of the population is displaced. The war has decimated health and sanitary infrastructure.

UN agencies said this week that the Global Polio Laboratory Network found type-2 poliovirus in six environmental samples collected on June 23.

Israel’s Health Ministry said it had made similar findings. No human cases have been reported.

The Israeli army said it was also working with other organizations to take vaccines for the Gaza population into the territory. It said that 300,000 vaccines have so far been supplied.

The highly contagious virus is caught by drinking contaminated water or oral contact. It can cause paralysis and, in extreme cases, death.

Wastewater runs between tents in many camps for the displaced, and freshwater is increasingly scarce.

With fuel limited, aid agencies rarely send out trucks with water, and pumps at wells cannot be used.

Many people walk long distances to get safe water from points set up by volunteers.

Northern Gaza is suffering particularly badly from food and water shortages after major Israeli offensives.

Ahmed Al-Shanbari, a father living in a camp in Jabalia, said the water his family has “is not suitable for drinking or cooking.”

“My children suffer from kidney disease, jaundice, itching and coughing. There is no treatment in northern Gaza,” he said.

Shanbari said the family spends four hours each day searching for a source of water.

The military said it had decided with the Health Ministry “that troops operating in the area should undergo vaccination against the virus to maintain the health of both the soldiers and Israeli citizens.”

It said vaccinations would be carried out as troops are “refreshed” in and out of Gaza.

There are about 170,000 full- time soldiers and another 300,000 reservists in the Israeli army.