Yemen’s Al-Ghaydah airport reopened after Saudi-funded renovation

Passengers disembark from a Yemen Airways plane at Al-Ghaydah airport. (SPA)
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Updated 21 July 2023

Yemen’s Al-Ghaydah airport reopened after Saudi-funded renovation

  • People in Al-Mahra expect more carriers to operate direct flights from province to domestic, international destinations
  • Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council expresses appreciation for the efforts of the Saudi leadership

AL-MUKALLA: A Yemen Airways plane landed at Al-Ghaydah airport in Yemen’s eastern province of Al-Mahra on Thursday, marking the airport’s first official reopening for commercial flights in eight years.

Local authorities in Al-Ghaydah, the provincial capital of Al-Mahra, celebrated the reopening of the airport as scores of passengers descended from the plane to be greeted by cameramen, people performing traditional folklore dances and songs, and officials.

The Yemenia plane arrived from Aden — Yemen’s interim capital — and landed for one hour at Riyan airport in Hadramout province, where local authorities also held a similar ceremony to mark the launch of direct flights from Riyan to Aden and Al-Ghaydah airport.

During the celebrations in Al-Ghaydah, Yemeni Transport Minister Abdul Sallam Humaid pledged to launch direct flights between airports in Al-Mahra, Hadramout and Socotra to international destinations, noting that Al-Mahra is the country’s second-largest province and that the reopening of the airport would boost economic and investment opportunities.

As part of a deal with the Yemeni government to renovate airports and seaports in government-controlled areas in 2020, the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, or SDRPY, reconstructed Al-Ghaydah airport by rebuilding the airport’s halls, air traffic tower and terminals, and equipping the site with navigation and telecommunication systems, firefighting vehicles and security machines.

The SDRPY said in a tweet on Thursday that the reopening of Al-Ghaydah airport will benefit 500,000 people, adding that the program refurbished the airport with equipment and buildings that meet the International Civil Aviation Organization’s requirements for airports.

Under the same deal, the SDRPY would also renovate Aden airport, expand Aden seaport, and enhance safety equipment at Socotra airport, in addition to expanding Nashtoon port in Al-Mahra and renovating Yemen’s border crossings with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Rashad Al-Alimi, chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, on Thursday congratulated residents of Al-Mahra on the reopening of the airport.

He said that Al-Ghaydah airport is the fourth operational airport in the government-controlled provinces, following Aden airport, Seiyun airport and Riyan airport.

“This is a joyous day for the Yemeni people, mainly the residents of Al-Mahra province, with the opening of Al-Ghaydah International Airport as the fourth airport in the liberated governorates, following years of suffering and travel difficulties caused by the Houthi militia,” the Yemeni leader said on Twitter, thanking Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian operations in Yemen.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to this accomplishment, notably the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, which was one of the Kingdom’s qualitative development interventions.”

The public in Al-Mahra also welcomed the airport’s reopening and requested that Yemenia and other airlines establish direct flights from the province to domestic and international destinations.

Salem Ahmed Al-Saqqaf, an Al-Ghaydah-based aid worker, told Arab News that the reopening of the airport would allow locals, including medical patients, to travel swiftly and easily, and would also allow local and international aid workers to travel to the province.

For years, locals have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to access the province’s closest operational airport in Hadramout, he added.

“The airport’s opening is a lifeline for people in Al-Mahra because the distance between Al-Mukalla and Aden is great. Patients can now go to Cairo,” Al-Saqqaf said.

The aid worker expressed hope that the airport will remain operational and that flights to other countries will be scheduled.

The Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council on Friday meanwhile expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Saudi leadership in the rehabilitation of the airport.

The council stressed that the resumption of flights to the airport would stimulate investment activities and alleviates the suffering of travelers, state news agency Yemeni News Agency reported.

Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate

Updated 17 sec ago

Iranians vote in elections as conservatives expected to dominate

  • Iran has also been badly affected by international sanctions that have led to an economic crisis
  • Fearing escalation, Iraq asked Iran to help rein in groups

TEHRAN: Iranians voted on Friday in elections for parliament and a key clerical body, amid fears of a low turnout and with conservatives expected to tighten their grip on power.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for a strong turnout, was the first to cast his ballot. He vote at a polling station in central Tehran, state television reported.
The elections are the first in Iran since widespread protests erupted after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.
Since the last elections, Iran has also been badly affected by international sanctions that have led to an economic crisis.
More than 61 million of Iran’s 85 million people are eligible to vote for members of parliament as well as the clerics of the Assembly of Experts, which selects Iran’s supreme leader.
There were fears of a low turnout, however, after a state TV poll found more than half of respondents were indifferent about the elections.
“Suppose that I vote: what would it change?” asked a 21-year-old from Kurdistan province who gave her name only as Hanna, for fear of reprisals. “They (the elected officials) do not respect their promises.”
Her comments were echoed by Hashem, a 32-year-old from the southwestern province of Khuzestan. “The problem with the elections is that people are not happy with this system because of the political and economic situation,” he said.
Another voter, Moradiani from south Tehran, said she would heed Khamenei’s call to vote.
“The leader said that participating in the elections is an obligation,” she said, “just as it is obligatory for us to pray.”
Polls closed at midnight (2030 GMT), after voting hours were extended several times during the day, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Local Fars news agency estimated the turnout to stand at “more than 40 percent.”
“The plan to boycott the elections, designed by foreign enemies and their internal supporters, failed with the participation of around 25 million people,” it said, without elaborating

Iran’s last parliamentary election in 2020 saw turnout of 42.57 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Hadi Tahan Nazif, spokesman for the Guardian Council which vets candidates, voiced optimism about Friday’s turnout, saying it was “even better” than four years ago.
Khamenei had on Friday appealed for people to vote, saying: “Onlookers from all over observe the affairs of our country; make (Iran’s) friends happy and ill-wishers disappointed.”
The supreme leader had previously warned that Iran’s “enemies want to see if the people are present.” Otherwise, he added, “they will threaten your security in one way or another.”
Those watching, he said, included the United States, “most of the Europeans, evil Zionists, capitalists and big companies.”
Iran considers the United States, its Western allies and Israel “enemies” of the state and accuses them of seeking to intervene in its internal affairs.
On the eve of the elections, the United States said they would be unfair.
“I have no expectation that Iran’s elections will be free and fair, and I suspect that a great number of Iranians have no expectation that those elections will be free and fair,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington.
Candidates for parliament are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose members are either appointed or approved by the supreme leader.
They have approved a total of 15,200 candidates, out of nearly 49,000 applicants, to run for seats in the 290-member parliament.
Conservatives and ultra-conservatives, who hold 232 out 290 seats in the 2020 parliament after reformist and moderate candidates were disqualified, are expected by analysts to dominate once again.
A coalition of parties called the Reform Front said it would not take part in “meaningless, non-competitive and ineffective elections.”

Former Iranian president, the reformist Mohammad Khatami, was quoted in February by the conservative Javan daily as saying that Iran was “very far from free and competitive elections.”
Conservatives are also expected to maintain a firm grip on the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body exclusively made up of male Islamic scholars.
A total of 144 candidates are running but many hopefuls were disqualified, including moderate former president Hassan Rouhani.
The Israel-Hamas war has sent tensions in the region soaring, with pro-Tehran groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen all involved in clashes with either Israel or its Western allies.
The elections also take place amid crippling international sanctions and mounting economic hardship in Iran, where inflation has hovered around 50 percent and the rial has sharply depreciated against the dollar.
“The prices are extremely high and continue to increase,” Masoumeh, a 40-year-old housewife, told AFP in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar ahead of the vote.
“I don’t think that the representatives who will be elected will be able to improve this situation.”

Biden says ‘hoping’ for Gaza ceasefire deal by Ramadan

Updated 10 min 42 sec ago

Biden says ‘hoping’ for Gaza ceasefire deal by Ramadan

  • Biden had said at the beginning of this week that he expected a deal by Monday for a six-week halt in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, but has steadily walked back the timeline

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said Friday he was “hoping” for a ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas conflict by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but agreement was still not sealed.
“I’m hoping so, we’re still working real hard on it. We’re not there yet,” he told reporters at the White House when asked if he expected a deal by Ramadan, which will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
“We’ll get there but we’re not there yet — we may not get there,” Biden added, without elaborating, as he headed to his helicopter to spend the weekend at the presidential Camp David retreat.
Biden had said at the beginning of this week that he expected a deal by Monday for a six-week halt in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, but has steadily walked back the timeline.
The 81-year-old Democrat announced earlier Friday that the United States would soon start airdropping aid to Gaza, a day after dozens of desperate Palestinians were killed rushing an aid convoy.
Biden has said the incident could complicate talks, but would not comment Friday on what was holding up a deal, adding: “I’m not going to tell you that because that’ll get involved in the negotiations.”


Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

Updated 02 March 2024

Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

  • The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament

TUNIS: A judge has released a top official in Tunisia’s biggest labor union, one day after he was detained, the union said.
The Tunisian General Labor Union denounced the detention of Tahar Mezzi, saying it was a politically motivated attempt to undermine union rights.
Mezzi is the deputy secretary-general and the union’s head of the private sector.
He was detained two days before a huge protest called by the UGTT against what it said was a “violation of union rights and the disruption of social dialogue.”
A judicial official said the judge also ordered a travel ban on Mezzi.
The UGTT did not say on what grounds Mezzi was detained.
Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Since last year, police have arrested at least four senior union officials.
The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President  Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament.
But the voice of the union, which was widely seen as the biggest force in the country, has been significantly diminished since last year after the arrest of some officials.
Some political parties and activists have accused UGTT of inaction, retreating from its role, and choosing silence instead of confronting Saied’s authoritarian approach.
Saturday’s protest will be the first in months.


How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

Updated 24 min 45 sec ago

How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE leveraging renewables and environmental policies to protect future growth and prosperity
  • Without action now, parts of the MENA region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity

RIYADH/DUBAI: The Middle East and North Africa region is at a crossroads. As temperatures rise, water scarcity intensifies and desertification spreads, the region’s immense economic potential is at risk unless bold action is taken.

Fortunately, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have been taking steps to adopt sources of renewable energy, not only to meet their own commitments to slashing carbon emissions, but to take a lead in the global energy transition.

The Sakaka Solar Plant project in Saudi Arabia's northern province of Jouf, spread over an area of 6 square kilometers, generates 940,000MWh electricity and supplies enough clean energy to power 75,000 households. (SPA)

This adoption of renewables has come hand in hand with a broader regional push to diversify economies away from oil, invest in carbon capture, storage and utilization, and roll out policies designed to protect natural habitats and expand green spaces.

There is a lot at stake for the MENA region, which is viewed as being uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Indeed, several studies suggest parts of the region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity.

In November and December last year, Dubai hosted the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at which states agreed to a historic set of measures to stop average global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

People walk outside Expo City in Dubai on December 12, 2023 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. (AFP)

The agreement called for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner ... so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

It also called for the creation of a fund to help vulnerable countries pay for climate-related damage, and the publication of landmark assessments on the world’s progress in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, it called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030, the speeding up of efforts to reduce coal use, and the adoption of technologies for carbon capture, storage and utilization.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Although not all nations were satisfied with the text of the deal, it did mark an important step forward, building on the ambitions laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Speaking at the Paris headquarters of the International Energy Agency on Feb. 20, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said that meeting the goals agreed under the “UAE Consensus” would require “unprecedented action” by global stakeholders.

“Solidarity overcame polarization, inclusivity prevailed over finger-pointing and the spirit of partnership brought the best of humanity together,” he said of the COP28 summit.

“To keep this spirit alive and build on the momentum achieved at COP28, the UAE Consensus set a new direction and a clear course correction. We must now turn an unprecedented agreement into unprecedented action. Now is the time for all stakeholders to step up.”

COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber is seen on a screen as he speaks during a high-level round table on COP energy and climate commitments organized by the International Energy Agency at its headquarters in Paris on February 20, 2024. (AFP)

While many Western nations appear to be rolling back their climate commitments, the Middle East and North Africa region has risen to the challenge.

One bold example of this is the Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021 to protect the Kingdom’s environment, conserve wildlife, and plant billions of trees, while enabling sustainable economic growth.



“Since its inception, SGI has implemented a range of initiatives to protect and conserve the Kingdom’s vital ecosystems,” Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha, deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture, told Arab News.

Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha

“For example, the National Greening Program, which is driving nationwide tree-planting efforts across Saudi Arabia and is underpinned by two key guiding principles: firstly, maintaining ecosystem balance, and secondly, utilizing renewable water resources.

“The program follows a nature-based regeneration approach to allow its ecosystems to flourish over time.”

Faqeeha said several dedicated initiatives under the SGI are being actioned to protect biodiversity hotspots through the designation of protected areas.

“SGI also aims to promote sustainability by raising awareness and reducing the adverse impact of economic sectors on the ecosystems, driving all these efforts by engaging all relevant stakeholders from the public, private, and third sectors,” he said.

Saudi Arabia's National Greening Program has been in full swing since 2021. (SPA)

Other significant steps the Kingdom has taken to safeguard biodiversity include the establishment of a dedicated national environmental framework, underpinned by the National Environment Law.

Several agencies have been established to carry out this work, including the National Center for Wildlife, National Center for Vegetation Cover, National Center for Environmental Compliance, and the National Center for Waste Management.

Under his ministry’s oversight, Faqeeha said these agencies “regulate and monitor critical environmental domains linked to biodiversity conservation, such as terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems, land and vegetation cover, environmental media, waste management, (and) underscore the commitment to biodiversity conservation in the Kingdom.”

The picture is similar in the UAE. Under the General Environment Policy of 2021, authorities are working to preserve ecosystems, promote diversification and economic prosperity, integrate climate change and biodiversity considerations into various sectors, and support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Keeping its marine waters constantly clean is part the UAE's sustainability goals. (Supplied)

All these plans are crucial if countries in the Middle East and North Africa region hope to address the effects of climate change, which are already impacting precipitation patterns, causing water scarcity and harming agriculture, thereby threatening livelihoods and food security.

In the Gulf states, in particular, climate change is already contributing to an increase in the salinity of groundwater. According to a report by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Gulf water supplies will come under additional strain over the next 20 years due to the region’s booming population and the scarcity of rainfall.

Officials in these countries believe it is therefore critical to plan now in order to mitigate and adapt to these challenges if they are to protect future growth and prosperity.


Shoukry: Egypt hopeful of Gaza ceasefire deal before Ramadan

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, attends the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Antalya, Turkey, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP)
Updated 02 March 2024

Shoukry: Egypt hopeful of Gaza ceasefire deal before Ramadan

  • Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki, speaking at the same panel with Shoukry, said Israel would not announce a ceasefire unless international pressure is imposed on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government

ANTALYA: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Friday said Cairo was hopeful that talks could agree on a ceasefire in Gaza before the start of Ramadan.
Gaza truce talks have been taking place in Paris since last week in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting in the Palestinian enclave between Israeli forces and Hamas and to secure the release of Israeli and foreign hostages.
“I can say that we have reached a point of understanding. We will still exert every effort with our brothers in Qatar, the US, and others close to the negotiations. We are hopeful that we can reach a cessation of hostilities and exchange of hostages,” Minister Sameh Shoukry said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkiye.
“Everyone recognizes that we have a time limit to be successful before the start of Ramadan,” he said.
A proposed deal from the start of Ramadan on March 10 and 11 includes a 40-day pause in all military operations and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages at a ratio of 10 to one, a senior source close to the talks told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We will continue to strive in collaboration with the United Nations, with our partners to relieve the suffering of the Gazan people and to increase the level (of aid). This cannot happen practically without the cessation of hostilities,” Shoukry said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki, speaking at the same panel with Shoukry, said Israel would not announce a ceasefire unless international pressure is imposed on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
“If we are not able to reach a ceasefire in the next two or three weeks, is clear we will see another round of attacks on Rafah and the continuation of a genocide,” he said.
Also on Friday, Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Al-Qassam brigades, said seven hostages who had been held in Gaza were killed as a result of Israeli bombardment.
It was not immediately clear when the seven died.
The Al-Qassam brigades confirmed that the number of hostages killed due to Israel’s military operations in Gaza has now exceeded 70 captives, Abu Ubaida added in a statement on Telegram.