Archive for April 15, 2016


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Turkey has not given up its condition to lift the Gaza siege in return for normalizing relations with Israel, Turkish Presidency Spokesman Ibrahim Kalın said Monday, adding that the two sides have not reached a final agreement yet and that talks would continue over the coming weeks.

Al- Araby al- Jadeed news agency cited a source familiar with the Turkish foreign ministry as saying that Israel has accepted two out of three of Turkey’s conditions, including to publicly apologize for what happened in the Mavi Marmara incident and to pay $20 million in compensation for the activists’ families.

Israel has also agreed to facilitate the access of Turkish ships to the Gaza Strip to deliver aid.

Ankara also demanded that the electricity situation in Gaza improve by sending a power generating ship. According to the source, the Israeli delegation did not object to the Turkish demand but asked for more time to consult with the government in this regard.

The Turkish foreign ministry said on Friday that the negotiating teams from both sides have agreed to rapidly reach a deal on normalizing ties after talks in London.

“The teams made progress towards finalizing the agreement and closing the gaps and agreed that the deal will be finalized in the next meeting which will be convened very soon,” the ministry said in a statement.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/24966-turkey-sticks-to-condition-that-israel-lifts-siege-on-gaza-in-return-for-normalising-relations.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

The release of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the abolition of executions of Muslim Brotherhood leaders are just some of the conditions Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would put on the restarting of relations between his country and Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s government, Egyptian columnist Imad Adib said.

Almesryoon.com reported Adib saying that Erdogan is scheduled to meet with the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz next week. It is expected that King Salman will ask Erdogan to deal with Al-Sisi.

Adib said he expects Erdogan to say yes for the sake of the support of the Sunni front and for the sake of cooperation for development and against terrorism.

Erdogan was served a blow in the wake of Morsi’s ouster, Adib explained, especially in the eyes of Washington and the West where he’d marketed the Brotherhood’s rule.

If he said yes to dealing with Al-Sisi, Adib said, this would mean that Erdogan had relinquished his support for the Brotherhood and recognized their failure as well as Al-Sisi’s legitimacy.

Adib said Erdogan would agree to starting dialogue with Al-Sisi on the condition that Morsi is released, the Muslim Brotherhood be allowed to participate in political life and abolition the death sentences passed down to their members and leaders.

This, Adib said, would leave the ball in Egypt’s court.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/24945-morsis-release-is-erdogans-condition-to-deal-with-sisi.

09.04.2016

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his call for reform of the UN Security Council on Saturday, pointing out the unfairness of the lack of a Muslim permanent member.

“The world is bigger than five,” Erdogan said at an inauguration ceremony in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district. “We cannot convict the fate of world’s 196 states from the two lips of five UN Security Council permanent members. It was the circumstances of the World War I.

“Now the UN’s functioning must be reformed. There is no Muslim country among the five – all of them are Christian, non-Muslim. What is that approach? Is it fair? It’s not!

“We are looking for a fair world. We are fighting for a fair world.”

Erdogan said Turkey raised the issue of Security Council reform at every international meeting and called for a body that represents all continents and religious groups.

The council, which has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, has 15 members including five permanent members with veto power over any resolution – China, France, Britain, the U.S. and Russia.

Permanent members often use their veto to protect their interests or those of their allies and in the past Erdogan has criticized the blocking of UN resolutions on Syria by Russia and China.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/erdogan-calls-for-un-security-council-reform/552229.

14/04/2016

BEIRUT – Students have been at the forefront of a recent protest movement in Syria’s Druze-populated Suweida province calling for comprehensive reforms in the regime-controlled region.

The newly-formed “You Broke Us” campaign called for Suweida residents to hit the streets early Thursday afternoon, the latest protest organized by the movement making a raft of social and economic demands that implicitly blame the government with mismanaging the province.

“You Broke Us” announced its public presence on March 13 in an opening statement in which it vowed to organize a “long-term protest” until its demands to help “build a better future for the province” were met.

The organization’s manifesto is not overly political and does not take any firm stance on the regime’s presence in Suweida, similar to a previous grassroots movement that briefly held a series of protests in the fall of 2015.

Instead, “You Broke Us” lists eight main problems it says are blighting the lives of the province’s residents: rampant corruption, poor electrical services, declining provision of fuel and heating gas, the firing of state employees who refuse military service, the fixed salary of state employees amid the inflation wracking the country, high prices for basic commodities, increased lawlessness, and poor healthcare.

Although the campaign has avoided anti-regime rhetoric, it launched an implicit broadside against local government figures in a March 22 post, saying: “We send a message to the concerned dirty and corrupt authorities that the people soon will direct their judgments against you, O criminals.”

So far, the student-led civil society movement’s protests have focused on the dismissal of public teachers who refused to sign-up for state military reserve service, a heavy-handed regime move that ran contrary to Suweida residents’ long-running opposition to conscription in the Syrian army to potentially fight in far-off battlefronts.

The first student protest over the matter was held on March 1 in front of Suweida’s Department of Education amid a heavy presence of security forces. Although the sit-in came over a week before the official launch of “You Broke Us,” the group has since claimed it organized the demonstration.

In the ensuing weeks, “You Broke Us,” dozens of students have gathered five subsequent times for marches and sit-ins, all of which were peaceful in nature and were not brutally suppressed by regime forces, as other protests in the early days of the Syrian uprising were.

Their latest protest on April 12 went beyond the local situation, with “You Broke Us” organizers saying the rally was in response to the situation in not only Suweida, but the country as whole. The call for action for the sit-in railed against “injustice, corruption and the violation of the rights of young people.”

Although Suweida is under regime control, a number of grassroots movements have sprung up in the past two years to protest decreasing living standards in the Druze-populated province.

In the fall of 2015, the short-lived “We Are Being Strangled” movement organized a series of protests, one of which turned into an unprecedented show of anger on September 2 when demonstrators went as far as storming the provincial government’s local HQ in Suweida.

Two days after the protest, the leader of the fiercely independent Sheikhs of Dignity Movement—the most powerful group challenging regime authority in Suweida—was assassinated by a massive car bombing in the provincial capital.

The Sheikhs of Dignity never made any official statement of support for the “We Are Being Strangled” movement, and the group has also remained mum on the recently-formed student protest group.

Although the Sheikhs of Dignity and its armed affiliates insist they are neutral, they have struck increasingly challenging positions against the Syrian government, and have announced they seek self-security.

Source: NOW.

Link: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/566869-druze-youths-protest-in-syrias-suweida.

Wednesday, 06 April 2016

A fighter aircraft belonging to the Syrian government was shot down by a surface to air missile on Tuesday, Syria’s SANA news agency has reported. Pro-regime media sources said that the pilot of the Sukhoi-22 was captured after his jet was downed in the town of Eis, near Aleppo.

No Syrian faction has claimed responsibility for bringing the fighter down. However, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebels from Al-Nusra Front were responsible.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/24867-syrian-regime-jet-downed-near-aleppo.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Arab Israeli politicians yesterday announced the formation of a new party called Al-Wafaa and Al-Islah (Gratitude and Reform), AlKhaleejOnline.com reported. Sheikh Husam Abu Leil, the chairman of the new party, said in a press conference held in Nazareth: “We announce the birth of Al-Wafaa and Al-Islah party as a political, popular and non-parliamentary party based on Islamic values.”

“We reaffirm sticking to our national principles, as well as to undermining all plans aiming to expel us from our homeland. We pledge to help all our people in the occupied land.”

AlKhaleejOnline.com said it expects the party to be the political cover for the Islamic Movement which was banned in November last year. Many of the new party’s leaders were members of the Islamic Movement, including Abu Leil who was the second deputy head of the movement.

The party will not run for seats in the Knesset.

When asked whether the Israeli government might ban his party like it banned the Islamic Movement, Abu Leil said: “All of us, in occupied Palestine, are being targeted by the ruling institution [Israeli government].”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/24967-palestinians-in-israel-launch-new-islamic-movement.

Author Osama Al Sharif

April 6, 2016

Two incidents in March have heightened tensions between Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Group (MBG) and the government to the point of raising speculation about the future of the 70-year-old Islamist movement.

In the first incident, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the MBG’s political arm, received notice March 13 from the governor of Aqaba ordering the closure of its office in that port city to comply with a court order. The closure was based on a complaint by the Muslim Brotherhood Society (MBS), an offshoot founded last year by disaffected MBG members, regarding a legal dispute over ownership of the property. It is the first time the IAF has been involved in a dispute between the MBG and the MBS.

Following the MBS’ registration in March 2015, the government asserted that the MBG lacked legal registration. It was therefore prevented from holding public rallies and other events. The MBG insisted that it has had a known legal presence since its establishment in the 1940s. In the second incident, on March 31, the governor of Amman informed MBG officials that because their group was not officially registered, they were prohibited from holding internal elections to select Shura Council members and a general overseer.

It remains unclear whether the government is moving closer to banning the MBG or whether it is forcing it to limit its activities to the IAF, which has been officially registered as a political party since 1992. The government’s actions follow parliament’s adoption in March of a new election law, which all Islamist parties in the kingdom had welcomed. The IAF boycotted the 2013 local elections to protest the one-person, one-vote electoral system, which had been in place for decades and has been removed in the new law. Under the old law, voters could only cast their ballot for a single candidate, even if there were multiple parliamentary seats available in their district. Now a voter can cast a number of votes equal to the number of available seats in his district.

Khaled al-Kalaldeh, Jordan’s minister of political development, denies that the government is considering banning the MBG. He told Al-Monitor, “The government is dealing with this issue with restraint knowing the weight of the group and its party on the popular political scene.” Kalaldeh admitted, however, that there might be pressure from certain political centers inside the government that want a confrontation in light of recent divisions within the Islamist movement.

He also emphasized that forbidding the MBG to hold internal elections is based on the legal complaint made by the registered MBS, which has claimed that the MBG is illegally using its name. “The fact is that the [MBG] is not a legal entity, and this has nothing to do with any government position,” Kalaldeh asserted.

The MBG has been struggling with internal divisions for years. In 2013, a group of moderate members calling for bold reforms launched what became the Zamzam Initiative. They opposed the movement’s decision to boycott elections and wanted the MBG to sever its historical ties to the main group in Egypt. In addition, they called on the MBG to focus on national issues and to act as an opposition in the political system. Having been repeatedly rebuffed by the hawkish leadership of the MBG, the members behind Zamzam, who were later expelled from the MBG, decided to form their own movement. On March 26, the Zamzam leadership unveiled plans to establish their own political party to contest legislative elections expected to be held later this year.

Irhail al-Gharaibeh, general coordinator for the Zamzam Initiative, told Al-Monitor that he expects the government to dissolve the MBG, because it is not registered in Jordan, and defended the decision to prevent the group from holding internal elections. “It has no legal structure, and if the group insists on holding elections, then the authorities must intervene and take action,” Gharaibeh said.

According to Gharaibeh, the divisions within the MBG are long-standing, but they resurfaced following the events of the Arab Spring. “We wanted to have flexibility in political action and to avoid the mistakes of the past,” he said. “But the conservatives rejected our efforts, and we as reformers had to take action through what we call conciliatory democracy.”

Gharaibeh warned that the Islamist movement in Jordan could collapse if it fails to adapt and that it should break from its ideological trenches and accept competition based on merit rather than tribe. He reiterated the decision by the Zamzam Initiative to contest future elections as a moderate Islamist party.

Ali Abu al-Sukkar, former chairman of the MBG’s Shura Council, dismissed speculation that the government’s recent decisions might eventually lead to banning the group. “Practically and historically, we had a good working relationship with governments, and we were never extreme in our policies,” he told Al-Monitor.

Abu al-Sukkar described the present relationship as tepid, but said it would never result in a total break. “The rise of the Islamist movement in the region has raised fears here, and the presence of Daesh [the Islamic State] has created a fear of Islamist parties,” he said. Abu al-Sukkar also said the MBG will hold its internal elections before the end of this month, regardless of the government’s position.

Meanwhile, the MBS has announced its intention to participate in this year’s parliamentary elections, but has not yet filed for a political party license. On April 3, its Shura Council adopted a unanimous decision to end years of political boycott, which began with the 2013 IAF election boycott.

The fragmentation of the Islamist movement is already having an effect on society. On March 30, the Teachers Association, the largest professional union in Jordan, held general elections and the results clearly revealed the MBGs waning popularity. The group’s candidates lost ground to independents, who won 56% of the seats on the union’s central committee.

These results will be used by MBG critics to point to its exaggerated influence on the Jordanian electorate. The real test, however, will be how the IAF performs in legislative elections in competition against the two new planned Islamist parties. Meanwhile, as the government’s legal siege against the MBG continues, the group’s big showdown, its internal elections, awaits the end of this month.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/muslim-brotherhood-group-jordan-government-tension.html.