Yemeni government back in Aden under deal with separatists

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Yemen's Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed arrives in Aden Monday. (AFP)
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Saudi forces stand guard during the arrival of Yemen's Prime Minister in Aden Monday. (AFP)
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Yemen's Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed arrives in Aden Monday. (AFP)
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Saudi forces stand guard during the arrival of Yemen's Prime Minister in Aden Monday. (AFP)
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Saudi forces stand guard during the arrival of Yemen's Prime Minister in Aden Monday. (AFP)
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Yemen's Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed arrives in Aden Monday. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Yemeni government back in Aden under deal with separatists

  • Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed landed in Aden, fulfilling a key point in the power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia
  • Saeed was accompanied by five key ministers from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government

ADEN: Yemen’s internationally recognized government returned to the war-torn country on Monday for the first time since it was forced out by southern separatists during clashes last summer.
Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed landed in Aden, fulfilling a key point in the power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia that ended months of infighting with separatists in Yemen’s south.
“The government’s priorities in the next stage are to normalize the situation in Aden first and then consolidate state institutions on the ground ... as a guarantor of stability,” Saeed told The Associated Press when he disembarked onto the tarmac.
He described the government’s return as “foundational for the improvement of civic services,” but added that “security challenges cannot be overlooked, especially at this stage.”
Saeed, accompanied by five key ministers from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, was received by local officials and Saudi forces at the air base.
“Today we are uniting our efforts to defeat the Iranian project in Yemen and restore the state,” the government said in a statement.
In August, the separatists, overran Aden and drove out forces loyal to President Hadi, who has been based in Saudi Arabia since 2015.
The outbreak of violence between nominal partners in the coalition fighting against Iran-allied Houthi rebels added a new twist to the country’s complex civil war.
The power-sharing deal, signed earlier this month in Riyadh, calls for both sides to pull their forces out of Aden. That leaves the city under the coalition’s control, with only a presidential guard for Hadi’s protection if the exiled president were to return.
The agreement also asks that the separatists break up their militias and integrate them into Hadi’s forces.
“The plan for incorporating the security services needs to be clear and transparent,” Saeed told The Associated Press. “We have the support of the Saudis and the coalition leaders, factors that will help to implement the agreement through promising steps on the ground.”
The conflict in the Arab’s world’s poorest country started in 2014, when the Houthi rebels captured the capital, Sanaa, along with much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015 to drive out the Houthis and restore Hadi’s government.

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Palestinian strawberry farmers hope for rich pickings as export markets open up this season

Updated 5 min 55 sec ago

Palestinian strawberry farmers hope for rich pickings as export markets open up this season

  • “This season may be different in terms of production volume and quality.”

BEIT LAHIA/GAZA: Farming in the Gaza Strip can be unpredictable at the best of times, but for strawberry grower Akram Abu Khousa years of toil under Israeli restrictions are starting to bear fruit.

The Palestinian farmer is celebrating the success of the first major export of his crop from Gaza to Gulf markets, business he hopes will compensate him and his fellow growers after years of heavy financial losses suffered due to Israeli blockades and restrictions on border trade crossings.

“Over past years we have faced problems with marketing, which was almost confined to the local market. This forced us to reduce prices significantly and inflicted heavy losses on us, as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the Gaza Strip,” Abu Khousa told Arab News.

“This season may be different in terms of production volume and quality.”

The blockade imposed by Israel following the success of Hamas in the second Palestinian legislative elections in early 2006, led to huge losses for strawberry farmers, and caused the areas of cultivated land to be reduced to only 450 dunums (111 acres) in 2015.

However, Israel increased the export allowance in 2017, reviving hopes among farmers of a more prosperous future.

The strawberry harvest season begins in early December and continues until the end of March.

This year Abu Khousa planted an area of more than eight dunums (almost 2 acres) of strawberries in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, seven dunums of which were in the traditional way and one using hanging pots.

“The trend for hanging planting has increased the rate of production. One dunum cultivated in the modern way gives more than three times the traditional cultivation,” he said.

The soil and climate of Beit Lahia contain characteristics that distinguish the area from the rest of the Palestinian lands, making it ideal for the cultivation of high-quality strawberries.

SPEEDREAD

The blockade imposed by Israel led to huge losses for strawberry farmers, and caused the areas of cultivated land to be reduced to only 450 dunums in 2015.

At the beginning of December, Abu Khousa and other strawberry farmers began the process of harvesting and exporting their crops to West Bank cities. The Ministry of Agriculture had asked them for samples, and after testing their quality, the daily average of trucks allowed to leave Gaza was determined by the Israeli side.

The price of 1 kilo of strawberries locally, usually at the beginning of the season, was about 10 shekels (nearly $3), but gradually decreased, reaching four shekels at peak periods.

“If the export process does not continue, we will suffer a major setback and loss,” added Abu Khousa. He pointed out that local sales did not cover the basic cost of production.

He noted that the vast experience of the farmers of Beit Lahia made them capable of producing crops to meet strict international specifications.

The strawberry season provides hundreds of work opportunities during harvest times, helping to alleviate high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip.

According to the latest data from the Palestinian Statistics Center, jobless rates were running at 53 percent, and 67 percent among youth.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, Adham Al-Basyouni, told Arab News: “Israel has tried over the years of the blockade to control the export of strawberry products in particular, because it knows that it is one of the distinct crops that come out to the West Bank and European and Arab markets.”

The success of the experimental export of strawberries — which included 8 tons going to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — had been a major boost for farmers and the local economy in Gaza, said Al-Basyouni, and he hoped it would be a prelude to further shipments of strawberries and other crops.

Strawberries are exported through Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing in the Gaza Strip, and then moved on to Jordan via King Hussein Bridge, and from there to the Gulf states.

The director of the Agricultural Cooperative Society in Beit Lahia, Mohamed Ghaben, said: “Gaza strawberries have very high-quality specifications and compete with the global product.”

There were 1,700 dunums planted with strawberries this season, compared to 1,100 dunums last season, and he expected production levels this time round to reach 5,000 tons, half of which were planned for export, he said.

The cultivation of strawberries in the Gaza Strip began at the end of the 1960s, with an experimental area estimated at one-and-a-half acres, and after achieving remarkable success, it gradually expanded until it reached 2,500 dunums in 2005.