UN Report Finds Jordan, Turkey, UAE Violated Libya Arms Embargo

 

Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have regularly violated the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya since 2011, according to a confidential report by UN experts seen Thursday by AFP.

The three countries “routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons with little effort to disguise the source,” a summary of a year-long study by the UN experts said.

According to diplomats, Jordan was accused of having trained troops of Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman in eastern Libya who launched an offensive in April in a bid to seize Tripoli.

The United Arab Emirates, another Haftar backer, is suspected of using attack aircraft on behalf of his forces.

READ ALSO: Baghdadi’s Wife Reveals IS Group Secrets After Capture

The UAE is suspected of involvement in a July 2 bombing of a detention center for migrants in a Tripoli suburb which left around 50 people dead.

The report does not definitively apportion blame for the attack but notes that the UAE is equipped with both US-made F-16s and French Mirage 2000-9s.

Turkey, which openly supports the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, is accused of supplying his forces with military material ranging from armored vehicles to drones.

“Both parties to the conflict received weapons and military equipment, technical support and non-Libyan fighters in non-compliance with the sanctions measures related to arms,” said the experts’ report, delivered to members of the UN Security Council on October 29.

“The panel also identified the presence of Chadian and Sudanese armed groups in support of forces affiliated” with Sarraj and Haftar, the report said, although they have had only a limited impact.

“Although the military capability of both parties was apparently enhanced, in reality the impact of the foreign armed groups to outcomes in the conflict was limited,” it said.

– ‘New phase of instability’ –
The 85-page document and a more than 300-page annex includes pictures, maps and copies of ship manifests of cargos delivered to Libya by sea.

The report is expected to be the subject of debate by the Security Council’s 15 members at the end of the month in the sanctions committee responsible for Libya. It is then expected to be approved for public release, probably in December.

The experts said they were awaiting answers to their questions from several UN member states.

“The panel identified multiple acts that posed a threat to the security, peace and stability of Libya,” they said.

Since Haftar’s offensive in April, a “new phase of instability, combined with the interests of several states and non state actors in the outcome, amplified the existing proxy conflict that took shape post-2011,” they said.

“Military operations have been dominated by the use of precision-guided munitions from unmanned combat aerial vehicles, which to a degree has limited the collateral damage normally expected from such a conflict,” they said.

The use of drones “has been massive by both sides,” a diplomat said, confirming accusations leveled previously by the UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame.

Another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the report does not mention the presence of Russian mercenaries in Libya.

Several hundred have been deployed in Libyan territory in recent months, taking part in combat in support of Haftar’s forces, US media reported earlier this week, a charge denied by Moscow.

The report also said that human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, although reduced considerably, “continues to finance networks that contribute to instability.”

The panel said there had been attempts by the National Oil Corporation in the east of the country to illicitly export crude oil.

“Refined petroleum products continue to be diverted by sea and overland, albeit at a lower level than in previous years,” it said.

UAE Calls For Talks To Defuse US-Iran Tensions

Brian Hook (L), the US special representative on Iran, listens to Saudi Lieutenant General Prince Fahd bin Turki (C), the commander of the Arab Coalition, during a visit to an army base in al-Kharj, south of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on June 21, 2019. The US said Iran has no right to respond to diplomacy “with military force”, a day after Washington said Tehran shot down a US drone over the Strait of Hormuz. “Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force,” Hook, told reporters in Saudi Arabia. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

 

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday called for negotiations to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran after Tehran shot down a US drone.

“Tensions in the Gulf can only be addressed politically,” Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote on Twitter.

He said the crisis in the Gulf region “requires collective attention, primarily to de-escalate and to find political solutions through dialogue and negotiations.”

“Regional voices (are) important to achieve sustainable solutions,” said Gargash.

Tehran on Thursday shot down a US surveillance drone which it said entered Iranian airspace, a claim denied by Washington which said the aircraft was above international waters.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the charge d’affaires of the UAE, from where it said the drone was launched, to protest Abu Dhabi’s decision to “put its installations at the disposal of foreign forces for aggression.”

The United States launched cyber attacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network in retaliation for the drone incident, according to US media reports Saturday.

Tehran is yet to react to the reports published by The Washington Post and Yahoo News.

US President Donald Trump said Friday he had called off strikes against Iran at the last minute, as such an attack would not have been a “proportionate” response.

‘We Did Not Suspend Issuing Tourist Visas To Nigerian Nationals,’ Says UAE

 

The United Arab Emirates has dismissed a report alleging that it reviewed the visa validity for Nigerians following the report of some Nigerians arrested for robbing a bureau de change in UAE.

Following the arrest, there were reports that the UAE reviewed the visa validity for Nigerians from three months to one month, however, the UAE has described those reports as inaccurate.

The UAE Embassy in a statement via Twitter on Friday explained that it had not suspended tourist visas for Nigerians.

It said, “In the light of the press reports published this morning, and alleging that the United Arab Emirates has suspended issuing tourist visas to Nigerian nationals, the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Abuja would like to announce this news is inaccurate and stresses the importance of getting the news from its official channels.”

READ ALSO: Saudi Arabia: We Must Protect The Innocent And Neutralise Frame Ups – Shehu Sani

On Sunday, five suspects were arrested for allegedly robbing a Bureau de Change office in Sharjah of Dh2.3 million.

The suspects who are said to be Nigerians, reportedly barged into the exchange and smashed the glass barrier between the customers and the staff, and stole the money in multiple currencies and fled.

Police however said on Sunday that moments later they were apprehended.

Pope Francis’ Historic Visit To UAE In Pictures

The presidential palace in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi during a reception for Pope Francis./ AFP

 

Pope Francis, the first leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to visit the Arabian Peninsula, will attend an interfaith meeting in the UAE on Monday as part of his outreach to Muslims.

 

READ ALSOPope Francis Makes History With Muslim Dialogue In UAE

Pope Francis Makes History With Muslim Dialogue In UAE

Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with a dignitary as he is accompanied by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (L), during his welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019,/ AFP

 

Pope Francis, the first leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to visit the Arabian Peninsula, will attend an interfaith meeting in the UAE on Monday as part of his outreach to Muslims.

The pope’s highly publicised 48-hour visit to the United Arab Emirates will also include an open-air mass on Tuesday for 135,000 of the Muslim country’s million Catholic residents.

The pontiff, who made history when he touched down in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, said he came “as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together and to travel paths of peace together”.

READ ALSOPope Francis’ Historic Visit To UAE In Pictures

The pope is expected to raise the issue of Yemen, devastated by a war in which the UAE is a key player, with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Yemen is home to what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Huthi rebels.

More than 10 million Yemenis now risk imminent starvation.

– Open-air altar –
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb — imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning — greeted the pope with an embrace on Sunday night as the pontiff arrived in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

The emirate’s crown prince was also at the airport to greet the pontiff, who has made strengthening ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy.

Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, the pope will lead a mass in a stadium in the capital, which local media say will be the largest public gathering ever in the UAE.

The UAE has dubbed 2019 its “year of tolerance”, but rights groups have criticised the country for its role in Yemen, where an estimated 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance including the UAE joined the government’s fight against the Huthis in 2015.

Rights groups, which have slammed the UAE over its intolerance of dissent, have also urged the pope to raise the issue of Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati activist serving a 10-year prison term.

– Pope addresses Yemen war –
Before heading to the Gulf on Sunday, Pope Francis urged warring parties in Yemen to respect a truce agreement and allow deliveries of food aid.

“The population is exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, but cannot access food depots,” he said.

“The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God.”

The pope and his host Sheikh Mohammed are also expected to discuss “terrorism” and violence.

The UAE, which prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity, is a member of the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.

The UAE has eight Catholic churches. Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four.

Qatar and Bahrain have one each, while ultra-conservative Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim places of worship.

Muslims make up nearly four-fifths of the UAE’s population, but the country is also home to nearly a million Catholics, according to the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia.

Migrants from Asian countries make up about 65 percent of the population.

Pope Francis Lands In UAE For Historic Visit

 

Pope Francis landed in the United Arab Emirates Sunday on the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula — the birthplace of Islam.

The pope touched down in Abu Dhabi for the 48-hour trip during which he will meet leading Muslim clerics and hold an open-air mass for some 135,000 Catholics.

The pontiff will take part in an interreligious conference on Monday, meeting Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning.

Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, he will lead mass in a stadium in Abu Dhabi — set to be the largest gathering ever in the UAE, according to local media.

His visit comes with the UAE engaged in a long-running military campaign in Yemen and embroiled in a diplomatic spat with nearby Qatar.

Before heading to the Gulf, the pontiff urged warring parties in Yemen, where the UAE backs the government against Huthi rebels, to respect a truce agreement.

READ ALSO: Taliban To Meet Afghan Opposition In Moscow – Official

“I appeal to all parties concerned and to the international community to allow the urgent respect of established accords to ensure the distribution of food,” he said.

“The population is exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, but cannot access food depots, he added.

“The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God.”

‘Great week’

Nearly one million Catholic migrants reside in the UAE, mostly hailing from the Philippines and India. Around 135,000 have secured precious tickets to Tuesday’s mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

On Sunday morning, hundreds of Catholics queued in drizzling rain outside St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi to get their passes.

“I think the pope coming really opens doors for conversations about tolerance that the whole world needs to hear,” said Collins Cochet Ryan, a 39-year-old expectant mother from the US.

For Indian Doris D’Souza, who lives in Goa, Pope Francis’s trip to the UAE was not to be missed.

“Since I came to know about the pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi, we jumped (at) the opportunity to be witness.”

The UAE capital’s main streets and those leading to St. Joseph’s Cathedral — which the pope is set to visit on Tuesday — were lined with Vatican City flags and banners of the interreligious meeting.

‘Terrorism vs. love’

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash extended an official welcome to Pope Francis on Sunday.

“It is a visit that carries great humanitarian value, and the UAE adds a new (chapter) in the history of fraternity and tolerance,” he tweeted.

He took an apparent jab at Qatar, which hosts Islamist cleric Youssef al-Qardawi and is engaged in a bitter standoff with its Gulf rivals.

Gargash pointed out the difference “between those hosting a cleric of violence and terrorism… and those who host the pope and the Al-Azhar sheikh for a dialogue of love and communication”.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, cut all ties with Doha in June 2017 over allegations it supports extremists.

The UAE prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity.

It has eight Catholic churches. Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four.

Qatar and Bahrain have one each, while ultra-conservative Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim places of worship.

Rights controversy

The UAE has however been criticised by rights groups for its involvement in a bloody Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, where an estimated 10,000 people have been killed in four years of war.

Millions of Yemenis face imminent starvation, according to the UN.

Rights groups have also slammed the Gulf state for upholding a 10-year prison term against activist Ahmed Mansoor on December 31 — two weeks after the UAE declared 2019 the “Year of Tolerance”.

“Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said Sunday.

“But the UAE has shown how sensitive it is to its image on the global stage, and Pope Francis should use his visit to press UAE leaders to meet their human rights obligations at home and abroad.”

Jubilant Qataris Take To The Streets To Celebrate UAE Victory

Qatari fans cheer after their national team defeated UAE to qualify to the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on January 29, 2019, in the Qatari capital Doha.
STR / AFP

 

Doha exploded in noisy celebration on Tuesday as jubilant Qataris flooded the streets and roads after their national team’s victory over bitter sporting and political rivals, United Arab Emirates.

Traffic along one of the city’s main highways, the Corniche, was jammed bumper-to-bumper with exultant fans celebrating the thumping 4-0 Asian Cup semi-final victory, many honking horns or waving Qatari flags from car roofs, and others showing four fingers to emphasise the emphatic victory.

“I am so happy, of course, because now we will play in the final,” Abdul, 24, smoking a cigarette on the side of the road and watching the celebrations.

“But for us, this match is better than the final, it’s revenge for everything bad they (the Emiratis) have said.

“They say we are not good people, we are terrorists. All Qataris are very happy.”

His Syrian friend Hattim agreed.

“This is history. Qatar has God with it. Qatar always acts the right way,” he said.

Another Qatari celebrating on the roof of a nearby car said the result was much “sweeter” because of the opposition.

 

Eager Indian sellers were quick to cash in on the celebrations, charging 100 Qatari Riyals ($28, 24 Euros) on the Corniche for giant flags.

Nearby, those who accidentally got caught up in the noisy celebrations held their hands over their ears as so many drivers blew their horns.

‘Qataris deserve it’

The political overtones of the last four match were impossible to ignore.

The game took place against the backdrop of the continuing, Gulf Crisis, which has pitched Qatar against a group of neighbouring former allies, including UAE.

That group of countries has boycotted Qatar for the past 19 months, accusing it of supporting terrorism, among other allegations, a charge which the 2022 World Cup host denies.

Immediately after the victory, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister took to Twitter to celebrate.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, the foreign minister and one of the leading figures during the crisis, pointedly called the victory a “wonderful performance… with high sports ethics”, after the partisan UAE crowd pelted Qatar with shoes and booed the national anthem during the match.

The semi-final was watched by big crowds throughout Doha, including at a packed and noisy Souq Waqif, in central Doha, where a giant screen showed the match live.

There, Qataris, alongside hundreds of fans from other countries including Egypt, France, Jordan and Algeria, watched the match intently.

At first, the crowd were nervously quiet but as Qatar’s dominance became apparent, fans become much noisier.

 

Qataris danced through the half-time break with their team 2-0 in front, and in the second half cheered every block and tackle as “Al-Annabi (The Maroons)” fought to hold onto their lead.

There were special cheers every time cameras showed despondent Emirati fans and especially when UAE’s Ismail Ahmed was sent off.

The final whistle saw the start of wild celebrations in the Souq, with more music and dance.

“Congratulations! Congratulations! They deserve it,” said one unnamed jubilant Qatari immediately after. “The Qatari people and the residents deserve it.

“We’ve hit them with four goals.”

He added that the victory was for the country’s leaders, including the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Nearby, an excited Algerian, Karim, said Qatar should now beat Japan in Friday’s final.

“It’s very fair, they gave a great performance, they deserve it,

“Inshallah, they deserve the cup.”

UAE To Resume Diplomatic Service In Damascus After Seven Years

File photo of damaged buildings in Damascus

 

The United Arab Emirates to resume diplomatic service in Damascus embassy on Thursday, an official said, seven years after it severed ties with Syria over the violent repression that triggered the war.

An official at the information ministry invited journalists “to cover the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus today”.

The move is seen as another step in efforts to bring the regime of President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab fold after years of diplomatic isolation.

A visit to Damascus by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month had been interpreted by some observers as a sign of that trend.

Rumors of the Emirati embassy reopening have circulated in recent days as renovation work was spotted getting underway at the building.

The UAE broke ties with Syria in February 2012, as the repression of nationwide protests demanding regime change was escalating into a war which has now killed more than 360,000 people.

AFP

Briton Sentenced To Life For Spying Gets Pardon In UAE

 In this file photo taken on November 23, 2018, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the United Arab Emirates on November 26, 2018, for pardoning a British academic sentenced to life in prison on spying charges. HO / Daniela Tejada / AFP

The United Arab Emirates on Monday pardoned a British researcher who was sentenced last week to life in prison for spying, an official statement said.

Matthew Hedges was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the occasion of National Day.

“Mr. Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed,” the statement said.

AFP

Wife Of UK Scholar Jailed In UAE Blames London

A handout picture released by the family of Matthew Hedges via the Detained in Dubai organization on October 11, 2018, shows British student Matthew Hedges (R) and his wife Daniela Tejada (L) posing in an undisclosed location.  DETAINED IN DUBAI / AFP

The wife of a British scholar who was sentenced to life for spying in the United Arab Emirates accused the Foreign Office on Thursday of ignoring her pleas for help.

The sentencing of 31-year-old Matthew Hedges on Wednesday shocked Britain and put political pressure on Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Britain views the UAE as a strategic Middle East ally which it supplies with arms.

Hedges’s wife Daniela Tejada said upon her return from Dubai that the Foreign Office was putting its diplomatic interests above those of an innocent citizen who was placed under arbitrary arrest.

“I got the impression that they were putting their interests with the UAE above a British citizen’s rightful freedom and his welfare and his right to just a fair trial, just to freedom,” Tejada told BBC Radio’s Today programme.

“They were stepping on eggshells instead of taking a firm stance.”

Hedges was detained at Dubai airport on May 5 while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Hunt began to speak out about the case after Hedges’s family went public with news of his arrest in October.

The scholar was released on bail on October 29 and top British officials appeared stunned by Wednesday’s court decision.

Prime Minister Theresa May told a session of parliament she was “deeply disappointed” and instructed the Foreign Office to “continue to press this matter at the highest level with the Emiratis”.

Hunt himself issued a statement minutes after the sentencing saying he was “deeply shocked”.

Tejada said she pleaded with the Foreign Office to force the UAE to release Hedges from solitary confinement throughout his pre-trial detention.

“They just disregarded my requests. They said that it wasn’t part of their job, that it wasn’t part of their duty.”

Her voice broke down several times as she described the fear that gripped her husband during the sentencing.

“He was very, very scared when he was standing in front of the judge,” said Tejada.

“He started shaking when the translator told him the sentence. He actually had to ask to double-check if he had heard right.”

AFP

UK Warns UAE Of Repercussions Over Spy Student Sentence

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt (C) arrives to meet with his Iranian counterpart in the capital Tehran on November 19, 2018.
ATTA KENARE / AFP

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of “repercussions” after a United Arab Emirates court on Wednesday sentenced British student Matthew Hedges to life in jail having convicted him of spying.

“I am deeply shocked and disappointed,” said Hunt. “Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.”

The minister warned the UAE that “the handling of this case… will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.

“I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider,” he added.

Hunt said he had personally raised the case at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during a visit to Abu Dhabi on November 12.

Hedges, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student at Durham University in northern England, was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

He was detained at Dubai airport on May 5.

AFP

UAE Court Sentences Student To Life For Spying

 

A United Arab Emirates court sentenced British student Matthew Hedges to life in jail on Wednesday after convicting him of spying, a family spokesperson said. 

“We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison,” the spokesperson told AFP.

“The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present.”

Hedges, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student, was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 when he was detained at Dubai airport on May 5.

AFP