French president Macron calls for ‘new pact’ with Algeria in reconciliation visit

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press after a visit to the European Saint-Eugene Cemetery in Algiers during a three-day visit to Algeria aimed at mending ties with the former French colony. (AFP)
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Updated 26 August 2022

French president Macron calls for ‘new pact’ with Algeria in reconciliation visit

  • Macron had proclaimed a “new page” in relations on Thursday
  • On Saturday Macron and Tebboune to sign “joint declaration for a renewed, concrete and ambitious partnership”

ALGIERS: President Emmanuel Macron called Friday for a “new pact” with Algeria and “truth and recognition” of the past, on day two of a visit to France’s former colony aimed at mending troubled ties.
The trip follows months of tensions between Paris and the North African country, which earlier this year marked six decades of independence following 132 years of French rule.
The three-day visit also comes as European powers scramble to replace Russian energy imports — including with supplies from Algeria, Africa’s top gas exporter, which in turn is seeking a greater regional role.
Macron had proclaimed a “new page” in relations on Thursday, after meeting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and announcing the creation of a joint commission of historians to examine the colonial period and the devastating eight-year war that ended it, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
On Friday, Macron — the first French president to be born after Algerian independence in 1962, told journalists he wanted “the truth, and recognition, otherwise we’ll never move forward.”
And on Saturday Macron and Tebboune are to sign “a joint declaration for a renewed, concrete and ambitious partnership,” the French presidency said.
Addressing members of the French community in Algeria later Friday, Macron spoke of his love for the North African country.
“Many people want to promote the idea that France should hate Algeria, or Algeria should hate France,” he said.
“But we are at a moment where we can build a new pact.”
Macron earlier laid a wreath at a monument to those who “died for France,” in the mixed Christian-Jewish Saint Eugene cemetery which was a major burial ground for Europeans during colonial times.
French soldiers sang the Marseillaise as cicadas buzzed in the background.
Macron then visited the Jewish part of the cemetery, accompanied by prominent French Jews.
Later in the day he was set to meet young Algerian entrepreneurs and discuss creating a French-Algerian incubator for digital start-ups, as part of a visit his office said focuses on the future.
Tebboune on Thursday hailed “promising prospects for improving the special partnership” between the two countries.
Ties between Paris and Algiers have seen repeated crises over the years.
They had been particularly tense since last year when Macron questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the French occupation and accused the government of fomenting “hatred toward France.”
Tebboune withdrew his country’s ambassador in response and banned French military aircraft from its airspace.
Normal diplomatic relations have since resumed, along with overflights to French army bases in sub-Saharan Africa.
Algeria is seeking a bigger role in the region, buoyed by surging energy prices that have filled the coffers of Africa’s top natural gas exporter following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Macron’s office has said gas is not a major feature of the visit — although the head of French energy firm Engie, Catherine MacGregor, is in Macron’s 90-strong delegation.
The president said on Friday that Algeria had helped Europe diversify its energy supplies by pumping more gas to Italy, which last month signed a deal to import billions more cubic meters via an undersea pipeline from the North African coast.
Dismissing suggestions that Italy and France were “in competition” for Algerian gas, Macron welcomed the deal.
“It’s good for Italy, it’s good for Europe and it improves the diversification of Europe,” he told reporters.
He also dismissed suggestions that Italy and France were “in competition,” noting that France only relies on natural gas for a small part of its energy mix.
The two leaders discussed how to bring stability to Libya, the Sahel region and the disputed territory of Western Sahara, according to Tebboune.
They also spoke at length about the spiky issue of French visas for Algerians, and Macron said Friday they had “very freely” discussed the human rights situation in Algeria.
“These issues will be settled in full respect of Algerian sovereignty,” Macron said.
He urged young Algerians “not to be taken in” by the “immense manipulation” of social media networks by foreign powers including Russia and China.
Macron was due to visit the iconic Grand Mosque of Algiers on Friday before heading to second city Oran for a stop focused on the arts.


Bahrain making progress for human rights, says FM

Updated 8 sec ago

Bahrain making progress for human rights, says FM

  • Bahrain signed the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement with the US last week
  • Bahraini minister stressed the importance of diplomatic and economic cooperation between countries

NEW YORK CITY: Bahrain has grown immensely in diplomatic cooperation, human rights, tolerance, and social progress, Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif Al-Zayani said on Friday.

The minister referenced the signing of the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement between the US and Bahrain, signed last week, which will enhance coordination between the two countries in defense, security, technology and investment.

Al-Zayani stressed the importance of dialogue and good-neighborliness in the approach to settling international disputes, a peace process supporting an independent Palestinian state, and the solution of conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sudan “in a way that preserves the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries.”

Al-Zayani also called for the implementation of international conventions “to criminalize religious, sectarian and racial hate speech. We must prevent the misuse of ‘freedoms’ in media and digital platforms for religious contempt or to incite extremism, terrorism and intolerance.”

Cooperation in security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cybercrime and international navigation was critical, he added.

On economic cooperation, the minister welcomed the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic corridor, which was unveiled during the G20 summit in New Delhi this year. The corridor is to connect India with Europe via the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Greece.

Al-Zayani also praised Saudi Arabia for announcing earlier this month the establishment of a global water organization to be based in Riyadh.

The minister discussed many of his country’s recent strides in ensuring human rights, including the creation of an impartial, independent judiciary supported by international human rights experts, promotion of the freedom of press and media, encouragement of trade unions, and criminal justice and corrections reform.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain is proud of the advancement of women, and her contribution as active partner in the process of comprehensive development. She is a minister, a parliamentarian, a judge and ambassador,” he said, adding that Bahraini women made up 22 percent of the cabinet, 56 percent of the workforce in the government sector, and 34 percent of the diplomatic corps.

Arab officials talk peace prospects at New York MENA Forum

Updated 8 min 56 sec ago

Arab officials talk peace prospects at New York MENA Forum

  • Future of the region in the spotlight amid flurry of UNGA activity
  • Report by co-host SRMG Think calls for MENA to seize opportunity for regional cooperation

NEW YORK CITY: Arab and international officials and energy and finance experts in New York City at the MENA Forum have discussed the latest political and economic trends in the region, including prospects for peace in Yemen, the shifting role of the US and Saudi Arabia’s rapid non-oil growth.

Co-hosted by SRMG Think and the Middle East Institute at the Yale Club on Friday, the forum’s theme was “Unlocking the region’s potential for prosperity, security and a sustainable global future.”

Officials from a range of Gulf and Arab nations spoke at the forum, including Rania Al-Mashat, Egyptian minister of international cooperation; Ayman Safadi, Jordanian deputy PM; Mariam Al-Mheiri, UAE minister for climate change and environment; and Majed Al-Ansari, Qatari adviser to the prime minister and foreign minister.

Energy and finance experts also took part in panels and fireside chats, including Dr. Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy and MENA research at RBC Capital Markets; Francesco La Camera, chief of the International Renewable Energy Agency; Dr. Sara Vakhshouri, SVB Energy founder and president; and Amer Bisat, Blackrock managing director and head of emerging markets.

The US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, also discussed the operation to offload oil from the Safer tanker in the Red Sea, as well as his experiences negotiating with the Houthi militia.

Turkiye’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Yildiz discussed Ankara’s vision for the future.

A common theme at the forum was the de-escalation in tensions in the Middle East in the wake of the Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement, and rumors that the Kingdom is considering normalization with Israel.

Lenderking was asked about the potential for peace in Yemen, almost a decade since the country’s conflict began.

He said: “There’s no space in Yemen right now, given the situation that we see for errant approaches from in the region.

“At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, they all want to see peace. There may be differences in approach, but they all want to see this conflict ended.

“And I think you can see that in the efforts Saudi Arabia and Oman are exerting to bring this conflict to a close with UN and international support.”

But Lenderking warned of the need for a deal with the Houthi militia, adding that the humanitarian situation was dire and required a resolution through political means.

“You don’t solve the humanitarian situation in Yemen without a political deal, unless you get agreement between the two parties that drives this situation into a formal peace agreement.”

Qatari ministerial adviser, Majed Al-Ansari, in a fireside discussion, spoke about the future of the US-Gulf relationship.

Despite strong US military activity in Qatar and Washington’s presence in the region “not diminishing from a security perspective,” Al-Ansari said there has been “incoherence” in the US’ Middle East policy.

He added: “This has cost the region a lot. But it has also cost the US and its image in the region a lot.

“And this is why you get a lot of questions from your partners in the region now, (saying) ‘Listen, we need guarantees.’

“We need something on paper, because when push comes to shove, we are really not sure if the US will help or not.”

A panel at the forum — featuring Vakhshouri, Croft and La Camera — discussed energy developments in the region as well as the transition toward renewables through investment.

Vakhshouri stressed the role of national priorities in allocating renewables, saying that Saudi Arabia’s “low-cost resources” and “high government investment” favored the adoption of green and blue hydrogen as viable alternative energy sources.

Blackrock’s Amer Bisat, speaking one-on-one with SRMG Think senior adviser, Hazar Caracalla, hailed the Gulf’s transition away from oil dependency.

He said: “The non-oil sector in the GCC, particularly in Saudi, is 80 percent above where it used to be in 2014. Even in per capita terms, it is 50 percent above where it was around nine years ago.”

Bahrain landmarks go green to honor 93rd Saudi National Day

Updated 23 September 2023

Bahrain landmarks go green to honor 93rd Saudi National Day

MANAMA: Bahrain landmarks and vital facilities lit up in green color and hoisted Saudi Arabia’s national flag in a nod to the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day, which is observed on September 23.

Bahraini citizens also joined in the celebration by decorating their cars with the Saudi flag, and the country’s governorates holding special events, programs and celebrations, state news outlet Bahrain News Agency reported.

The festivities held across the country reflected the depth of the solid deep-rooted fraternal Bahraini-Saudi relations, the report added.

Mideast faces prospect of ‘environmental catastrophe’: Iraqi PM

Updated 23 September 2023

Mideast faces prospect of ‘environmental catastrophe’: Iraqi PM

  • Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani highlights Iraqi efforts to create regional group to tackle climate change
  • Report by Ministry of Water Resources warns Tigris, Euphrates rivers could dry out completely by 2040

NEW YORK: The Middle East will be at the forefront of “environmental catastrophe” if the international community fails to get back on track with its efforts to curb climate change, Iraq’s prime minister said on Friday.

Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani told the UN General Assembly in New York that his country is already experiencing the detrimental effects of temperature rises, with low waters on the Tigris-Euphrates river system.

“The environmental catastrophe will be more severe for Iraq and the countries of the region, with an unprecedented rise in temperatures, which render normal forms of life extremely difficult, approaching impossible,” he said.

“Our two rivers are exposed to the brunt of the effects of drought resulting from climate change. We have an urgent need to preserve rights to water resources and international river basins.”

A report by Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources in 2021 warned that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers would dry out completely by 2040 due to the persistence of droughts and declining water levels that are being driven by climate change.

Al-Sudani highlighted Iraq’s efforts to engage with neighboring states to create a regional coordination mechanism for the management of transboundary water systems, and to tackle drought, dust storms and heatwaves.

“We call for the establishment of a regional grouping, which includes the countries of the Gulf shores, from Iraq and Iran, and the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council — those countries most exposed to rising temperatures,” he said.

“At the national level, we’ve taken necessary steps to reduce emissions and stop burning associated gases and polluting the environment.

“We’ve also initiated several projects in the field of waste recycling and encouraging the trend towards clean energy.”


Turkish police detain 10 accused of Daesh links, minister says

Turkish police stand guard in Ankara, Turkiye. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2023

Turkish police detain 10 accused of Daesh links, minister says

  • Under judicial control rulings, the suspects may leave police detention but they have certain conditions and oversights imposed on them

ANKARA: Turkish police detained 10 people believed to be linked to Daesh and have arrested five of them, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Friday.
Yerlikaya said Turkiye’s MIT intelligence agency, police, and counter-terrorism squads carried out an operation in the western coastal city of Izmir after intelligence showed the suspects had hidden supplies in the city.
The authorities discovered explosive gels, materials used to make explosives, as well as weapons and ammunition hidden in the mountainous region of Izmir’s Bornova district, Yerlikaya added.
“As a result of the operation, 10 suspects were detained. Of these, five were arrested and judicial control rulings were made for five others,” the minister said on social media platform X.
Under judicial control rulings, the suspects may leave police detention but they have certain conditions and oversights imposed on them.
Footage from the operation, shared by Yerlikaya on X, showed several police cars in a mountainous area, with police searching inside of a small cave for the hidden materials. It also showed authorities searching a house and detaining the suspects. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.
Daesh has conducted numerous attacks across Turkiye, including on a nightclub in Istanbul on Jan. 1, 2017, in which 39 people were killed. Turkish police have carried out several operations targeting the militants.