US approves sale of $2 billion in missiles to UAE: Pentagon

Washington (AFP)

May 11, 2017

The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 160 missiles to the United Arab Emirates for an estimated $2.0 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The UAE government has requested the possible sale of 60 Patriot missiles with canisters and 100 Patriot guidance enhanced missiles, among other military equipment, according to a Department of Defense statement.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of an important ally which has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” it said.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_approves_sale_of_2_billion_in_missiles_to_UAE_Pentagon_999.html.

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Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, meet with pope

May 04, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday his first foreign trip as president will feature stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis, an ambitious foray onto the world stage that will include meetings with NATO and a summit in Italy.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

Trump, joining religious leaders in the Rose Garden on Thursday, said his first foreign trip would “begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders all across the Muslim world.” “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries,” Trump said.

The weeklong trip will mark the president’s first trip abroad and come about six weeks after the U.S. launched Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in the war-ravaged country.

The trip will inject Trump into the thorny quest for Middle East peace, a prospect that has proven elusive for Trump’s predecessors. The announcement follows Trump’s meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his optimistic pledge to mediate peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump has sought to forge strong ties with Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his presidency in hopes of facilitating peace. The visit to Israel will reinforce that alliance, officials said.

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” Trump said.

The Palestinians want to create a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Abbas noted that demand when he joined Trump at the White House.

But Netanyahu has rejected the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and ruled out partitioning Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. Netanyahu’s government has expanded settlements despite U.S. efforts to curb the construction.

The White House had said previously that Trump would travel to Belgium for the NATO meeting and Italy for the G7 summit before Memorial Day. The president previously called NATO “obsolete” but has since recanted after listening to European leaders make the case for the military alliance.

Trump will be making his first overseas trip late into the start of his presidency compared to his predecessors. Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany. The last first-term president to wait until May to venture abroad was Jimmy Carter in 1977.

His visit will also give him the opportunity to connect with Roman Catholics with his visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House said the president met privately Thursday with Roman Catholic cardinals.

Trump and Francis couldn’t be more different in their approaches to some of the pressing issues of the day, with immigration and climate change topping the list. Francis has spoken of the need for bridges between nations, not the walls that Trump has called for. He has called for an end to the use of fossil fuels, while Trump has pledged to cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord.

But both share a populist appeal and speak with a down-to-earth simplicity that has endeared them to their bases of supporters. And both share a common concern about the plight of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic militants.

Francis recently called for the U.S. and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula — an issue that is likely to feature in any Vatican audience.

During the campaign, when asked about Trump’s border wall with Mexico, Francis famously said anyone who wants to build a wall is “not Christian.” Trump shot back that it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question someone’s faith.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Vatican City contributed to this report.

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Turkey to naturalize some Syrian, Iraqi refugees

2017-01-07

ISTANBUL – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday announced that some of the millions of Syrian and Iraqis who have fled to Turkey would be given Turkish nationality.

“Our interior ministry is carrying out work, and under this work, some of them will be granted our nationality after all the necessary checks” have been carried out, Erdogan said in a speech broadcast on television.

“There are highly qualified people among them, there are engineers, lawyers, doctors. Let’s make use” of that talent, he argued.

“Instead of letting them work illegally here and there, let’s give them the chance to work as citizens, like the children of this nation,” he said.

Erdogan said the interior ministry “is ready to implement the measure at any time.” But he gave no further details, notably about how many would gain Turkish nationality.

According to Turkish government figures, the country is hosting more than three million Syrians and Iraqis who have fled war.

Erdogan outlined a naturalization plan last summer but the idea met with angry protests and xenophobic comments on social media.

The country’s political opposition saw the plan as a scheme to widen Erdogan’s electoral basis at a time when he is pushing for constitutional reform that will strengthen his powers.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=80716.

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Taliban say they didn’t plant bomb wounding UAE diplomats

January 11, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban say they did not plant the bomb in southern Afghanistan that wounded the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador and other diplomats the day before. They issued a short statement on Wednesday, blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse that killed five people and wounded 12.

The Taliban claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past — attacks that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group.

Tuesday’s Kandahar assault wounded Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and what Emirati officials described as “a number of Emirati diplomats.” Emirati officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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May visits Saudi Arabia without headscarf

April 04, 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May has forgone wearing a headscarf during her visit to Saudi Arabia. May stepped off a plane in the Saudi capital of Riyadh Tuesday morning without the headscarf the kingdom favors for women.

Under the kingdom’s dress code, Saudi women are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public, but covering one’s head is not required for foreigners. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama also declined to wear headscarves during visits to the country.

May is getting a mixed reaction on social media to the move. Some users see it as a display of feminism, while others call it disrespectful. May’s Downing Street office had no comment on her wardrobe choice.

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Kushner, Dunford meet with Iraqi prime minister

April 04, 2017

BAGHDAD (AP) — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford met Monday in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The visit marks an early foray for the Trump administration into the situation in Iraq. It comes against the backdrop of an ongoing investigation into civilian deaths in an area of Mosul near the site of an air-strike by U.S.-led coalition forces last month.

Dunford invited Kushner and Thomas P. Bossert, a presidential assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, on the trip to meet with Iraqi leaders and U.S. forces and receive an update on the fight against the Islamic State group. Capt. Greg Hicks, a spokesman for Dunford, said Kushner was “traveling on behalf of the president to express the president’s support and commitment to the government of Iraq and U.S. personnel currently engaged in the campaign.”

The meeting with al-Adabi came after some confusion regarding Kushner’s whereabouts Monday morning. Kushner’s travel plans initially were revealed late Sunday by a Trump administration official who said Kushner wanted to see the situation there for himself and show support for Baghdad’s government.

The official said Kushner had already arrived. But when presented with information indicating that was not accurate, the official said the timing of his arrival was unclear but confirmed that Kushner was scheduled to be in Iraq on Monday. Such visits from high-ranking officials are typically kept secret out of security concerns.

The administration official who provided the information late Sunday wasn’t authorized to speak about confidential meetings by name and demanded anonymity. Kushner’s West Wing portfolio is robust. He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing, recently launched a task force meant to modernize government using lessons drawn from the private sector, and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with the Middle East, Canada and Mexico.

And though Kushner had no previous diplomatic or government experience, Trump also tasked him with trying to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump told Kushner at a gala a few days before his inauguration.

Kushner was also the latest Trump associate to be swept up into the ongoing probe into contacts with Russian officials. The White House confirmed last week that he had volunteered to be interviewed by the Senate intelligence committee. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a “private interview” about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.

Kushner is married to Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka. He was expected to have a major role in meetings later this week between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

His visit came just two weeks after al-Abadi said he was assured by the president the U.S. will accelerate its support for his country’s struggle against the Islamic State group. Al-Abadi met with Trump and Kushner in Washington recently and said he had the impression that the United States would take a more aggressive approach, although he did not say what that might entail.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently presented Trump with the outlines of a comprehensive approach to defeating IS and other extremist groups on a global scale, but specifics have yet to be worked out. Officials have indicated that the approach is unlikely to depart radically from the Obama administration’s strategy, at least with regard to ongoing efforts in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq was part of the Trump administration’s original travel ban but was removed from the revised version after a request from the Pentagon and the State Department highlighting Iraq’s key role in fighting the Islamic State. The second travel ban, which restricts immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, has been halted by a federal court. The U.S. Justice Department has announced an appeal.

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Lolita C. Baldor, Vivian Salama and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

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Qatar pays Gaza electricity costs for three months

January 16, 2017

The Amir of Qatar, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, has ordered his government to pay the costs of Gaza’s electricity supply for three months, official sources announced on Sunday. Qatar’s Ambassador to Palestine told the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah that his country will pay $4 million per month as part of this agreement.

Mohamed Al-Emadi released a press statement to explain that the funds will be transferred to the PA “immediately” in order to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian in Gaza. He also noted that there are intensified contacts with the authority regarding current proposals to find a permanent solution for the crisis.

The ambassador explained that these decisions were made after a meeting between Amir Tamim and senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh in Doha.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170116-qatar-pays-gaza-electricity-costs-for-three-months/.

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