US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun meets with US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein (C), in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. (AFP)
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Lebanon's President Michel Aoun and Lebanon's Finance Minister Youssef Khalil meet with a delegation from Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) consulting firm at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 20, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 October 2021

US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel

  • Amos Hochstein met President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Mikati and other ministers
  • Lebanon is ready “to continue to cooperate positively,” Aoun said

BEIRUT: Amos Hochstein, the US envoy appointed by the Biden administration this month to mediate Lebanon’s maritime border dispute with Israel, held talks on Wednesday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the future of the negotiations.
Aoun expressed “Lebanon’s readiness to continue to cooperate positively” with the process. However, the points of contention remain.
“The administration of President Joe Biden is ready to help Lebanon and Israel find a mutually acceptable solution to their common maritime borders,” the State Department said.
Hochstein, who is also the State Department’s senior adviser for energy security, also met Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Energy Minister Walid Fayyad and army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.
The speaker’s office said Berri’s discussion with Hochstein focused on “multiple files, particularly the demarcation of the maritime and land border between Lebanon and occupied Palestine. The framework agreement announced in October last year was confirmed.”
The US administration’s framework agreement for talks, which was implemented a year ago by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker, includes two demarcation zones, for land and maritime borders. In accordance with the agreement, the US acts as mediator at the request of both sides.
Lebanon has been seen as struggling with the demarcation of its maritime borders. After submitting a border proposal to the UN in 2011, Lebanese officials decided that it was based on mistaken estimates and demanded an additional 1,430 square kilometers, an area that includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field. The Israelis oppose this.
Berri told Hochstein: “We have a new opportunity to resume negotiations in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, thanks to the new US efforts in this context.”
He also highlighted “the importance of excluding Lebanon from the sanctions of Caesar’s law in the topics of piping Egyptian gas and electricity from Jordan through Syria to Lebanon.” Lebanon has been experiencing widespread power outages as a result of fuel shortages amid a crippling economic crisis. The Caesar Act is US legislation sanctioning the Syrian government for war crimes against the Syrian people.
“The US envoy conveyed to Berri an optimistic view about positive progress being achieved in what relates to these matters,” the speaker’s office said.
Oil industry governance expert Diana Al-Qaisi told Arab News: “The US mediator has reached out to the Egyptian minister of electricity regarding redirecting the Egyptian gas into Lebanon.”
She added that Hochstein’s talks in Lebanon focused on diplomacy and how best to facilitate negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on their maritime border to agree a mutually acceptable solution, though Lebanon continues to stand firm in its demands.
Lebanese officials have yet to agree a strategy for the next phase of negotiations and their starting point for talks on the border.
The focus of Lebanese authorities then shifted on Wednesday to the nation’s financial crisis and a forensic audit of Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank. President Aoun met a delegation from the company Alvarez and Marsal, who informed him that the audit of the bank’s accounts was due to begin on Thursday morning. Aoun urged them to work quickly due to the urgency of the task.
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund opened negotiations with the Lebanese government to agree a strategy to begin to address the country’s insolvency.
Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, stressed the need to address the losses faced by the financial sector and determine an accurate picture of the current financial situation in the country.
“Last time we had a full update of the situation was August 2020, before the resignation of the previous government, therefore many things have happened and we need to update the numbers and have a new baseline,” he said.


Arab coalition targets Iran Revolutionary Guard experts in Sanaa

Updated 25 min 37 sec ago

Arab coalition targets Iran Revolutionary Guard experts in Sanaa

RIYADH: The Arab coalition struck Iranian Revolutionary Guard experts in Yemen’s capital, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The coalition asked civilians in Sanaa not to gather near the targeted sites.

The operation complies with international humanitarian law and its customary rules, the coalition said.

The coalition has hit a number of sites in the capital in the past few weeks in an effort to deteriorate the capabilities of the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Previous attacks have targeted drone warehouses and experts belonging to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The Houthis repeatedly target the Kingdom with bomb-laden drones, mostly without causing much damage because of Saudi air defenses.

Houthi attempts to target civilians has been labeled as war crimes by the Kingdom.

The Arab coalition has been supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government regain full control of the country after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia has previously said that a political solution is the only way to permanent peace in Yemen. Launched in March, the Riyadh Initiative aimed to do just that. The plan includes a nationwide ceasefire and as well as of peace talks. However, the Houthi leadership has rejected the plan.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.


Libyan presidential hopefuls petition against PM’s candidacy

Updated 5 sec ago

Libyan presidential hopefuls petition against PM’s candidacy

TRIPOLI: Candidates for Libya’s presidential election have petitioned against the interim prime minister’s bid and a Tripoli court is to examine their request, media reports said Sunday.
Influential former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha was among several presidential hopefuls to have filed appeals against Premier Abdulhamid Dbeibeh’s candidacy, the reports said.
The Tripoli appeals court accepted their petitions and will examine them before giving a ruling.
If it rejects Dbeibeh’s bid, he will have 72 hours to appeal, according to the reports.
A source close to Bashagha told AFP the court would look specifically into complaints that Dbeibeh did not resign his post three months before submitting his candidacy, in accordance with Libya’s electoral law.
The December 24 polls come as part of a push to end a decade of violence in oil-rich Libya following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Libya’s electoral commission HNEC said earlier this month it had rejected the candidacy of Qaddafi’s son, Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi.
He was among 25 candidates rejected on legal grounds as well as based on information from officials, including the public prosecutor, it said.
For Seif Al-Islam, the HNEC pointed to articles of the electoral law stipulating that candidates “must not have been sentenced for a dishonorable crime” and must present a clean criminal record.
Seif Al-Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes committed during the Libyan uprising.
He was also sentenced to death by a Tripoli court for crimes committed during the revolt that toppled his father, but later pardoned by a rival administration in eastern Libya.
A total of 98 candidates, including two women, had registered for the December polls, according to the HNEC.
Among the most notable hopefuls is Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army in control of the country’s east and parts of the south.
Dbeibeh, 62, had promised during talks with the UN that he would not stand in the presidential polls.

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A Middle East hospitality project pushes the boundaries of sustainable construction

Updated 30 November 2021

A Middle East hospitality project pushes the boundaries of sustainable construction

  • Developers of Dubai’s Heart of Europe resort say sustainability is at the core of the project
  • The project features a 1 km “Rainy Street,” an outdoor snow plaza and the world’s first floating smart police station

DUBAI: From forest fires and landslides to desertification and flooding, the effects of climate change increasingly are manifesting in all manner of destructive ways, laying waste to animal and plant habitats and vulnerable rural communities.

But urban areas not immune to the risks either and, as such, they too are being forced to adapt.

THE FLOATING SEAHORSE

The UN has warned that by 2030 greenhouse-gas emissions need to be reduced by between 25 and 55 percent of 2017 levels. With these figures in mind, developers are exploring innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint of cities while also improving the quality of life for residents.

Josef Kleindienst is one of them. He is the chairman of Kleindienst Group, the deverloper of the Heart of Europe project that is underway in Dubai. Rather than simply build sustainably, the firm says it aims to change the climate.

The Heart of Europe occupies a section of Dubai’s World Islands, a collection of man-made islands off the coast of the city built in the shape of a map of the world. When complete, it is expected to be be an upscale, eco-friendly resort showcasing the use of the latest technology to mitigate the effects of climate change in urban locations.

According to the developer, Heart of Europe will include, among other things, a cooling, climate-controlled Rainy Street, an outdoor snow plaza and the world’s first floating, smart police station.

“The vision was to create a touristic project while bringing in innovation on these islands,” Kleindienst told Arab News.

GERMANY

“The islands project was launched in 2003, and a coral nursery was built on a structure, producing 100,000 corals a year to plant on our reefs. The interesting part for me is that Dubai always had futuristic visions, and this is pure sustainability.”

According to the developer, sustainability is at the core of the Heart of Europe, which will include more than 500,000 square meters of coral reef, and olive trees from Andalusia in southern Spain.

The project, once operational, will feature sustainable landscaping that is free of pesticides and fungicides, and irrigated with recycled water, says the developer. It will be automobile-free, powered by clean energy and will eventually offer visitors sustainable water transportation.

Solar panels will supply much of the resort’s power requirements, while its water supply will be completely recycled and reused for purposes such as flushing toilets and watering plants, says the developer.

HONEYMOON ISLAND

It adds that, in addition, the Heart of Europe will have zero-discharge and zero-microplastics policies to help protect marine life around the islands, and the wider waters of the Arabian Gulf.

The Coral Institute, an in-house research and development center, has been entrusted with creating new coral reefs, helping to expand the marine ecosystem, and working to rebalance the underwater environment as part of Kleindienst Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility program.

Beginning next year, the institute also plans to regenerate and develop corals from 10 reefs and diving sites around the globe, according to the Kleindienst Group.

FASTFACTS

• The Heart of Europe has a zero-discharge and zero microplastics policy to ensure the protection of the Arabian Gulf and marine life.

• It is powered by solar and hydro fuels, has pesticide and fungicide free landscaping, a car-free environment, and recycles water.

In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a report on the megatrends that are shaping the future of tourism. It said sustainable tourism is a growth area that will radically change the industry. Tourism is a resource-intensive human activity, it said, yet it can play a pivotal role in driving the transition to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy.

“Due to its cross-cutting nature and close connections to numerous sectors, even small improvements will have important impacts,” the report said.

MARBELLA

“It will become increasingly important for governments and industry to work together in a proactive approach to ensure the sustainable development and management of attractions for the benefit and enjoyment of local communities and tourists.”

Countries, cities, islands and other destinations that fail to embrace the sustainability trend will most likely lose business, because consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the environment, it added.

“Dubai has been looking to do this since 2003, because they added a zero-discharge regulation on these islands,” Kleindienst said. “We are not allowed to discharge anything that could pollute the air or the water. This is as sustainable as it can be if you want to protect the environment.”

One of the novel innovations in the Heart of Europe development, according to Kleindienst, is the Rainy Street, a 1km thoroughfare that uses sensor-controlled technology to generate precipitation that helps to provide visitors with a comfortable climate even during scorching summer temperatures that can surpass 50 degrees Celsius.

COTE D’AZUR

Along the street, which will host shops, restaurants and bars, an ambient air temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius will be maintained through the using of state-of-the-art technology that can literally control the outdoor climate.

“We invited consultants and specialists from around the world to bring us solutions,” Kleindienst said.

“The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Institute in Germany is number one when it comes to building these technologies, which use water and remove humidity from the air. When the temperature goes above 27 degrees Celsius and humidity hits 60 percent, it releases rain.”

PORTOFINO

Another climate-control innovation is the snow plaza, according to the Kleindienst Group. It uses a similar concept to the air conditioning systems used in malls, which cool water to 5 degrees Celsius to create cool air. By further reducing the water temperature to 2 C, snow can be generated.

“We started working on the technologies in 2008 and we’re now ready,” Kleindienst said. “It took over 4 years (just) to develop, test and optimize the technology required to achieve the vision for the masterplan. We tested it on the hottest days in the middle of summer and it works — it will come from a piping system, just like in the movies.”

MARBELLA

The Heart of Europe’s initial soft opening began on Oct. 28 with the connection of all utilities. About 300 technical tests will be carried out over the course of a month and, if all goes to plan, it will soon begin to welcome guests at a reduced capacity ahead of its full launch with opening of the Monaco boutique hotel. But Dubai could be just the start.

“We have been invited to Saudi Arabia and Egypt to discuss projects there, but our goal is to complete this project first before discussing expansion,” Kleindienst said.

COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland, this month, has once again highlighted the importance of issues such as sustainability and conservation. Kleindienst said his company is rising to the challenge.

SWEDEN

“We should take care of the environment,” he added. “We didn’t know how fast climate change would come and how significant the impact would be on our lives.

“We must bring back the planet, the climate and nature to how it was before, and sustain it for our children and their children. It’s a big obligation for us.”

In line with the growing trend toward sustainability, eco-friendly tourism projects are being launched across the region. The Hatta Sustainable Waterfalls in Dubai, for example, is due for completion at Hatta Dam by November next year. The falls will collect water, recycle it and pump it back to the top of the dam.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, launched the Sustainable Tourism Global Center last month. The global travel and tourism sector is responsible for about 8 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, and the Kingdom has therefore prioritized support for the sector to help accelerate its transition to net zero.

“(These emissions are) expected to grow if we don’t act now,” Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s minister of tourism, said at the official launch of the center.

THE FLOATING LIDO

“Tourism is also a highly fragmented sector; 80 percent of businesses in tourism are small and medium-sized enterprises who rely on guidance and support from sector leadership. The sector must be part of the solution.”

The Kingdom is working with global partners that prioritize tourism, small and medium enterprises and the climate to create a broad coalition that can lead the tourism industry’s transition to net zero, he added.

“By working together and delivering a strong joint platform, the tourism sector will have the support it needs. The STGC will facilitate growth while making tourism better for the climate, nature and communities,” Al-Khateeb said.

 


Iran nuclear deal talks resume, chair feels ‘positive’

Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora speaks to journalists in front of the Coburg palace after a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2021

Iran nuclear deal talks resume, chair feels ‘positive’

VIENNA: Negotiators in Vienna resumed talks Monday over reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, with the United States taking part at arms length as in previous rounds since the Trump administration pulled out of the accord three years ago.
Hopes of quick progress were muted after a hard-line new government in Tehran led to a more than five-month hiatus in negotiations. But the European Union official chairing the talks sounded an upbeat note after the first meeting concluded.
“I feel positive that we can be doing important things for the next weeks,” EU diplomat Enrique Mora told reporters.
All participants had shown a willingness to listen to the positions and “sensibilities” of the new Iranian delegation, Mora said. At the same time, Tehran’s team made clear it wanted to engage in “serious work” to bring the accord back to life, he said.
The remaining signatories to the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain — convened at the Palais Coburg, a luxury hotel where the agreement was signed six years ago.
A US delegation headed by the Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, was staying at a nearby hotel where it was being briefed on the talks by diplomats from the other countries.
President Joe Biden has signaled he wants to rejoin the talks. The last round, aimed at bringing Iran back into compliance with the agreement and paving the way for the US to rejoin, was held in June.
“There is a sense of urgency in putting an end to the suffering of the Iranian people,” said Mora, referring to the crippling sanctions the US re-imposed on Iran when it quit the accord.
“And there is a sense of urgency in putting the Iranian nuclear program under the transparent monitoring of the international community,” he said.
“What has been the norm over the first six rounds will be again the practice in this seventh round,” Mora added. “Nothing new on working methods.”
The United States left the deal under then-President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran in 2018.
The nuclear deal saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran now enriches small amounts of uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Iran also spins advanced centrifuges barred by the accord and its uranium stockpile now far exceeds the accord’s limits.
Iran maintains its atomic program is peaceful. However, US intelligence agencies and international inspectors say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program up until 2003. Nonproliferation experts fear the brinkmanship could push Tehran toward even more extreme measures to try to force the West to lift sanctions.
Making matters more difficult, United Nations nuclear inspectors remain unable to fully monitor Iran’s program after Tehran limited their access. A trip to Iran last week by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, failed to make any progress on that issue.
Russia’s top representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, said he held “useful” informal consultations with officials from Iran and China on Sunday. That meeting, he said, was aimed at “better understanding ... the updated negotiating position of Tehran.” He tweeted a picture of a meeting Monday he described as a preparatory session with members before Iran joined the discussions.
A delegation appointed by new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is joining the negotiations for the first time. Iran has made maximalist demands, including calls for the US to unfreeze $10 billion in assets as an initial goodwill gesture, a tough line that might be an opening gambit.
Ali Bagheri, an Iranian nuclear negotiator, told Iranian state television late Sunday that the Islamic Republic “has entered the talks with serious willpower and strong preparation.” However, he cautioned that “we cannot anticipate a timeframe on the length of these talks now.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, meanwhile, suggested Monday that the US could “receive a ticket for returning to the room” of the nuclear talks if it agrees to “the real lifting of sanctions.” He also criticized a recent opinion piece written by the foreign ministers of Britain and Israel that pledged to “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a video address delivered to nations negotiating in Vienna, warned that he saw Iran trying to “end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing.”
“Iran deserves no rewards, no bargain deals and no sanctions relief in return for their brutality,” Bennett said in the video that he later posted to Twitter. “I call upon our allies around the world: Do not give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the meeting “the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table” after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
“We want those talks to work,” Truss said. “But if they don’t work, all options are on the table.”
In an interview with NPR broadcast Friday, US negotiator Malley said signs from Iran “are not particularly encouraging.”
Russia’s Ulyanov said there’s pressure to get the process moving after “a very protracted pause.”
“The talks can’t last forever,” he tweeted on Sunday. “There is the obvious need to speed up the process.”
Mora, the EU official, said participants in Monday’s meeting had agreed on a plan of work for the coming days. Diplomats planned to discuss the issue of sanctions on Tuesday, followed by a meeting on Iran’s nuclear commitments Wednesday.


Turkey’s Erdogan says he will visit UAE in February

Updated 29 November 2021

Turkey’s Erdogan says he will visit UAE in February

  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan oversaw the signing of nearly a dozen cooperation deals during the latter’s visit to Ankara last week
  • Erdogan hailed the visit of the crown prince as a ‘step that is instrumental in starting a new era between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates’

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he plans to pay a return visit to the United Arab Emirates in February as the two countries move to put years of tense relations behind them.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince visited Ankara last week, making his first official trip to Turkey since 2012 and the highest-level visit by an Emirati official since relations between the two countries hit a low.

Erdogan and the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, oversaw the signing of nearly a dozen cooperation deals during the visit, while a top Emirati official said the UAE has earmarked $10 billion for investment in Turkey.

Erdogan told a group of journalists on his return from a trip to Turkmenistan late Sunday that the crown prince’s visit took place in an “almost family like” environment and hailed the visit as a “step that is instrumental in starting a new era between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.”

“God willing, I will make a return visit to the UAE in February,” Erdogan told journalists, adding that the country’s foreign minister and intelligence chief would travel before him to prepare the groundwork. His comments were reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency and other media on Monday.

Turkey is trying to mend its frayed ties with regional powers after finding itself increasingly isolated internationally.

Erdogan told journalists on board his plane that Turkey plans to mend with other regional powers — including Egypt and Israel — in the same way that it is with the UAE, and would reappoint ambassadors to those countries.

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