Archive for October 12, 2012


Saturday 1 October 2011

TRIPOLI: A Turkish Airlines passenger plane landed in Tripoli’s Mitiga airport from Istanbul on Saturday in the first international commercial flight to Libya since the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi in August.

Flags representing Turkey and Libya’s new leadership flew outside the airport as the plane landed while inside the building, passengers waited patiently and queued at the check-in desk to board the return flight.

“We are going to Turkey for business because it has been a long time since we traveled. We are happy that the airline is back in the meantime and we thank God,” said Tripoli resident Mohammed Al-Jaroushi.

The United Nations Security Council resolution imposed in March a no-fly zone for civilian flights over the country as part of international efforts to protect anti-government protesters under attack from Qaddafi loyalists.

Diplomats say civil airliners and flights carrying official delegations are allowed to fly into the country provided they notify monitors of their flight plans in order to avoid NATO attack.

A diplomat contacted by Reuters said he believed the Turkish Airlines flight would have had special clearance to enter the country.

Tripoli’s main international airport, which is a separate facility south of the capital, has yet to resume normal operations.

Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil told reporters: “We started in Benghazi as humanitarian support and also we had a flight here. We’ve been bringing people here and we’ve been going back and bringing (aid) to the needy and the wounded people.”

“Best wishes to Libya. God willing, it will eventually be much better than today.”

A UN Security resolution on Sept. 16 eased some sanctions on Libya but kept the no-fly zone in place, despite calls from Russia and South Africa for it to be lifted.

However, the resolution did remove an obligation on all member states to deny permission to any aircraft registered in Libya, or owned or operated by Libyan nationals or companies to take off from, land in or overfly their territory.

Source: Arab News.


Sep 30, 2011

New York – The African Union mission in Somalia was Friday authorized to increase its military strength to 12,000 troops.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution raising the troops ceiling and extended the presence of the UN Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until October 2012.

The resolution allowed AMISOM to take ‘all necessary measures’ to carry out its mandate in the Horn of African country, which has been hit by severe drought and famine, and an insurgency that has prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Widespread insecurity and piracy are the other constant challenges of the transitional government in Somalia.

The resolution also called on the government in Mogadishu to abide by the terms and carry out the keys tasks in the political roadmap in the coming 12 months. The transitional period is shifting to an elected government, which is to assume political responsibilities by next year.

Source: Monsters and Critics.


Oct 2, 2011

Cairo – Representatives of Syria’s main opposition grouping said there were several Arab and foreign countries ready to recognize their Syrian National Council, the founding statement of which they officially released on Sunday.

The council ‘is a frame for the opposition and the peaceful revolution and represents the revolution inside and outside,’ Burhan Ghalioun, the chairman of the 140-member council, told reporters in Istanbul.

Ghalioun said he had no worries about gaining the support of the international community and that the council expected to have a busy schedule of meetings with friendly countries.

The Syrian National Council was first founded in the Turkish city in late August.

Source: Monsters and Critics.


Sat Oct 1, 2011

The United States, in an unannounced meeting between Washington and Ankara officials, has reportedly agreed to train Turkey’s intelligence forces.

The deal was made when Director of the US National Intelligence Agency James Clapper traveled to Turkey on September 18, and met with Chief of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan.

In his talks with other Turkish top officials, Clapper also discussed a planned deployment of a US radar system as part of a NATO-backed missile defense system in the eastern Turkish province of Malatya.

Turkey announced earlier in September that it has agreed on the deployment of the X-Band radar on its territory.

Political observers say the White House is trying to boost its influence on Turkey.

Source: PressTV.


October 11, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Escalating tensions with Russia, Turkey defended its forced landing of a Syrian passenger jet en route from Moscow to Damascus, saying Thursday it was carrying Russian ammunition and military equipment destined for the Syrian Defense Ministry.

Syria branded the incident piracy and Russia called the search illegal, saying it endangered the lives of Russian citizens aboard the plane. The accusation by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan contradicted denials by both Russia and Syria that anything illegal had been aboard the Airbus A320 that was intercepted over Turkish airspace late Wednesday.

“Equipment and ammunitions that were being sent from a Russian agency … to the Syrian Defense Ministry,” were confiscated from the jetliner, Erdogan told reporters in Ankara. “Their examination is continuing and the necessary (action) will follow.”

He did not provide details, but Turkish media said the seized cargo included missile parts as well as radio receivers, antennas and other military communications equipment. “As you know, defense industry equipment or weapons, ammunitions … cannot be carried on passenger planes,” Erdogan said. “It is against international rules for such things to pass through our air space.”

Erdogan refused to say how — or from whom — Turkey had learned that the twice-weekly scheduled flight would be used to transport military gear to Syria. “As you will appreciate, those who gave the tip, which establishments, these things cannot be disclosed,” he said.

The United States said it backed Turkey’s decision to intercept the plane. “Any transfer of any military equipment to the Syrian regime at this time is very concerning, and we look forward to hearing more from the Turkish side when they get to the bottom of what they found,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

She declined to comment on Turkish reports that the intelligence on the plane’s contents had come from the United States. The plane was allowed to continue to Damascus after several hours, without the cargo.

Turkish-Syrian relations have plummeted over the conflict in Syria, which has expanded into a civil war that threatens the stability of the Middle East. Syrian opposition activists estimate more than 32,000 people have been killed since March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began.

Turkey has called for Assad to step down, while Damascus accuses Turkey of supporting the rebels. The two neighbors have traded artillery fire over Syria’s northern border throughout the past week. Hours before Erdogan’s statement, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovsky held talks with Turkish officials at the Foreign Ministry.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the Kremlin was concerned that the lives and safety of the 35 passengers, including 17 Russian citizens, had been endangered. “The Russian side continues to insist on an explanation for the Turkish authorities’ actions toward Russian citizens and on the adoption of measures to avoid such incidents in the future,” Lukashevich said in a statement.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the pilot of the Syrian Air jetliner had been warned of Turkey’s intention to ground it as he approached from the Black Sea and he was given the opportunity to turn back, but declined.

Rejecting claims that passengers were ill-treated, the ministry said those on board were allowed to leave the plane if they wanted and that there was a medical crew and ambulances on standby. It also said the pilot did not provide a passenger list and therefore Turkish officials did not know there were Russians on board until after the plane landed.

Separately, the Foreign Ministry said it had submitted a formal protest note to Syria for the violation of civil aviation rules and declared Syrian air space unsafe for Turkish planes. In Damascus, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi rejected the Turkish accusations as “absolutely untrue,” saying the plane was not carrying ammunition or any illegal cargo. Turkey’s decision to force the plane to land amounted to piracy, said Transportation Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Said.

The general manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency also blasted Turkey’s forced landing of the plane, calling it “contrary to regulations and aviation norms.” The plane’s pilots were not asked to land but were surprised by the Turkish F-16 fighter jets that intercepted the flight, the official, Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif, told reporters in Damascus.

A Syrian Air engineer who was aboard, Haithan Kasser, said armed Turkish officials entered the plane and handcuffed the crew before inspecting packages that he said contained electrical equipment. The Moscow airport that cleared the Syrian plane for takeoff denied it carried any forbidden cargo.

“No objects whose transportation would have been forbidden under aviation regulations were on board,” said Vnukovo Airport spokeswoman Yelena Krylova, ITAR-Tass reported. She said all documentation was in order, though she would not say who sent the cargo.

Meanwhile, family and supporters of two journalists believed to be detained in Syria appealed in Istanbul for their release. Arzu Kadoumi said her husband Bashar Fahmi, a reporter for Al-Hurra network, and his Turkish cameraman, Cuneyt Unal, had been missing for 53 days.

Inside Syria, battles continued in the southern Idlib province that abuts the Turkish border as rebels sought to consolidate control of a strategic town on the country’s main north-south highway. Rebels said they captured Maaret al-Numan on Wednesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes continued Thursday after rebels attacked a military convoy and nearby army checkpoints. The fighting killed more than a dozen people, the Observatory said.

The Observatory also said eight people were killed and another eight wounded when unknown gunmen fired on their bus near the coastal city of Tartous. Syria’s state news agency SANA said the men were Syrian workers returning from Lebanon.

In the southern province of Daraa, gunmen shot dead the brother of a member of Syria’s parliament while raiding his home, the Observatory and SANA said. The parliament member, Khalid al-Abboud, regularly defends the Syrian regime on TV.

The Observatory said gunmen also killed the son of another legislator, Mohammed Kheir al-Mashi, at his home in Idlib province. The activist claims could not be independently verified because of restrictions on reporting in Syria.

Meanwhile, state-run Syrian TV reported an explosion in the capital Thursday night near the Ministry of Education and the Military Court. A Syrian official said the blast wounded two people.

Jordans reported from Istanbul. Associated Press reporters Matthew Lee in Washington, Albert Aji in Damascus, and Nataliya Vasilyeva and Max Seddon in Moscow contributed to this report.

by Adam Nicky

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jordanian Businesses Divided over Potential Impact

AMMAN – Mohammed Abu Hassan owns a small shoe factory in the Sahab Industrial Zone on the eastern edge of Jordan’s capital, Amman. He is struggling to keep his factory open and he is worried that the new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could put him out of business.

“We are already losing our traditional local market and we worry that this agreement will be the beginning of the end, unless the government takes measures to protect local industries,” he told The Media Line.

While the FTA allows Jordan to export goods tax-free to Canada, it also allows Canadian firms to export to Jordan, increasing competition. The economy of Canada, with more than 34 million people, dwarfs that of Jordan’s population of six million.

Jordan imports more than it exports. In 2010, according to government statistics, it imported almost $15 billion worth of goods, and exported just $5.8 billion worldwide. When it comes to Canada, in 2012, Jordan exported $10 million dollars worth of good and imported $54 million.

Jordanian officials say the FTA offers new opportunities for Jordanian businesses seeking to explore North American markets or to partner with Canadian companies who want to enter the oil-rich Gulf States.

“The agreement gives Jordanian industries an opportunity to expand, but they must step up their level and find a place in the cutthroat market,” Hatem Halawani, the head of Jordan’s Chamber of Commerce, told The Media Line.

He said that textiles, chemicals, jewelry and limestone are poised to compete in the Canadian market. He dismissed concerns that the agreement could negatively affect local businesses like Abu Hassan’s shoe factory, with the country being swamped with cheaper or better products from larger industrialized nations.

But businessmen in Jordan are concerned that small firms could even go out of business.

“Local products face a daunting task to compete with products from industrialist nations” said Mohammad Abu Fares, owner of a Jordanian petrochemical factory. “We had hailed a similar agreement with the European Union a few years ago, but we ended up importing European products and we were not able to export to the EU because of their strict rules,” he told The Media Line.

Jordan enjoys a similar FTA with the US, Turkey and Pakistan. Textile and pharmaceutical companies say they have already benefited.

Jordan’s Minister of Trade Shabeeb Amari hailed the agreement as a landmark, saying it would inject life into the country’s anemic economy. Tourism, which had previously been an important component, is struggling because of the Arab Spring. Although Jordan has been relatively quiet, many tourists are staying away from the Middle East entirely.

“The [Canadian] agreement will herald a new era of cooperation and allow more investment between the two countries,” he told The Media Line. “It will provide protection to products from both sides and increase investment in various fields.”

The head of the Jordanian-Canadian Businessman’s Association, Nabeel Khouri, who is also the head of the Arab Petrochemical Company, said the agreement will open up new markets for Jordanian products. He said the total trade volume of $89 million annually will improve and predicted that the FTA will mean more cash pouring into the Jordanian economy as Arab investors seek to reach the Canadian market via Amman.

Canadian officials said the agreement will provide Canada with a gateway to the Middle East.

“Jordan is the best opportunity for Canada to establish a hub or a gateway into the Middle East,” Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast said during a news conference in Amman to mark the launch of the FTA. “What set Jordan apart from other countries is that it is moderate and stable. Canada appreciates that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jordanian officials said they are working to upgrade the competitiveness of Jordanian manufacturers.

“The FTA will be the catalyst for our project to improve the level of Jordanian products through providing companies with the needed expertise to upgrade their quality in line with international standards,” Nayef Esteiteh, head of the Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation, told The Media Line. “We brought in a Canadian expert who is working with three factories in the food processing sector to help them set up strategies to conquer the Canadian market and link up with Canadian partners.”

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