Posts Tagged ‘al Jazeera’

Qatar Says Won’t Negotiate Until Economic Boycott Ends

June 19, 2017

DOHA — Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures, its foreign minister said, ruling out discussions over Qatar’s internal affairs including Al Jazeera TV.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which severed relations two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Image result for Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahmanal-Thani

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants and stirring up unrest, charges Doha denies.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Doha. “Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward.”

He said Kuwait’s ruler was the sole mediator in the crisis and that he was waiting for specific demands from Gulf states in order to take resolution efforts forward.

“We cannot just have (vague) demands such as ‘the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism,'” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation, he said, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he said.

Qatar’s Gulf critics have accused Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected those accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

Image result for LNG, Qatar, photos

The crisis has hit civilian travel, some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses. But it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia’s arch regional foe Iran.

“We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman,” he said. “Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar.”

(Reporting by Tom Finn; writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Qatar Crisis: Turkey Says Dispute Harms Islamic World, Working for Resolution

June 14, 2017

ANKARA — The crisis surrounding Qatar is damaging for the Islamic world and Turkey is working to help resolve the issue through diplomacy, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey was sending food assistance to Qatar after neighbouring Gulf Arab states severed ties with Doha and imposed sanctions saying it supports terrorism and courts regional rival Iran.

Kalin also said a Turkish military base in Qatar, set up before the regional spat, was established to ensure the security of the whole region and did not have an aim of any military action against any country.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk)

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Bahrain lawyer arrested for suing over Qatar blockade

June 14, 2017

Prominent human rights activist says Bahrain’s constitution outlaws imposing sanctions on fellow Gulf bloc countries.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa joined the blockade on Qatar along with other Gulf nations [Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters]

A prominent human rights lawyer in Bahrain has been arrested after launching a lawsuit against the government over its restrictions imposed on neighbouring Qatar.

Issa Faraj Arhama al-Burshaid was detained after challenging Manama’s sanctions, which include blocking Qataris from staying in the country along with other economic penalties.

He filed the case with the Supreme Administrative Court in Manama against the Cabinet, Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry.

READ MORE: UAE: ‘No military component’ in actions against Qatar

He described the measures taken by his country against Qatar as “arbitrary”.

“This siege has broken up family ties and hurt all Bahraini families,” said Burshaid. “The decision to cut diplomatic relations violates Bahrain’s constitution and laws.”

Bahrain on Thursday declared it a crime – punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine – to show “sympathy or favouritism” to Qatar or to object in any way to Bahrain’s decision to break relations and impose economic and border restrictions on its neighbour.

The United Arab Emirates made a similar move – with a possible 15-year penalty – prohibiting criticism of its government or sympathy towards Qatar “whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form”.

Bahrain’s director-general of the Anti-Corruption and Financial and Electronic Security agency said Burshaid was arrested because materials were posted on social media that “damage the social fibre and national unity”.

The Ministry of the Interior issued a statement on June 8 saying any sympathy to the government of Qatar – or objection to measures by Bahrain published on social media or otherwise – is a punishable crime.

The director-general said the necessary legal measures are being finalised to bring Burshaid’s case to prosecutors.

The Bahraini lawyer argued the sanctions against Qatar violate articles of Bahrain’s constitution, which clearly indicates the country must maintain economic unity among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Burshaid also noted the constitution prohibits imposing any bans on Qataris.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

He said accusations of Qatar “supporting terrorism” must be dealt with by the UN Security Council, not by just a few nations.

While the ban on Qataris staying in Bahrain breaks families up in the two countries, it also imposes restrictions on the free movement of Bahraini citizens, Burshaid said.

Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain along with Egypt severed ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting “terrorism”, and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.

Source: Al Jazeera News

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Will Israel Pull The Plug on Al Jazeera? Qatar Says It Will Not Discuss Killing Al Jazeera as Part of any Middle East Deal

June 13, 2017

DEBATE ERUPTS OVER AL JAZEERA OPERATIONS IN ISRAEL

BYARIK BENDER, JPOST.COM STAFF
JUNE 13, 2017 12:29

The Qatar-based network’s Jerusalem bureau chief speaks to JPost’s sister publication following reports that Israel was reviewing shuttering the cable station’s office here.

al jazeera

The Al Jazeera logo seen in a studio [Illustrative]. (photo credit:AFP / STAN HONDA)

Al Jazeera fired back on Tuesday after it emerged that the government in Jerusalem was reviewing the Qatar-based network’s operations in Israel.

“If they try to discontinue our activity in Israel and close our office here, we will petition the High Court of Justice,” Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid al-Omari told The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication Maariv.

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Al-Omari made the remarks following reports that the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office had launched an initiative to study the possibility of shuttering the cable station’s presence in Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera has come under fire in Israel on accusations of biased coverage. On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman blasted the broadcaster, charging that it produces Nazi- and Soviet-style propaganda.

Speaking to Maariv on Tuesday, al-Omari denied allegations that the network was used for incitement and propaganda, stating that the charges were part of a smear campaign against Al Jazeera.

A veteran journalist with Israeli citizenship, al-Omari stated that Al Jazeera has previously faced similar situations of attempts to close down its presence in Jerusalem.

“We not only have a right but a duty to petition the High Court of Justice,” he said. “We reject all of the allegations and the incitement campaign against us.”

“How can Israel continue to argue to the world that it is part of a democratic and universal dialogue if it behaves like a dark dictatorship,” he charged.

Al Jazeera has found itself at the center of a recent dispute in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran.

Founded in 1996 as part of Qatar’s efforts to turn its economic power into political influence, Al Jazeera won millions of viewers across the Arab world by offering uncensored debate rarely seen on other local broadcasters in the region.

Al Jazeera lists the location of its office in Jerusalem as “Palestine.” It also has regional branches in Gaza and Ramallah.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have respectively closed down Al Jazeera offices in Riyadh and Amman as the network has caused suspicion among many governments over the air time it gave to Islamist groups in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

Speaking to Maariv, al-Omari raised the question of whether Israel was following suit with those Arab countries that have already closed local Al Jazeera branches following the Qatar crisis for the purpose of bolstering regional ties.

“What’s wrong with Al Jazeera?” he asked. “We are duly registered, law-abiding workers who pay taxes and behave according to journalistic ethics. From day one we have been registered. Everything is transparent, everything is coherent.”

In a scathing verbal attack against the news organization on Monday, Defense Minister Liberman asserted that Al Jazeera “is not media” and “it’s not journalism.”

“It’s truly an instrument of incitement and propaganda in the disgraceful style of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union,” he said, noting that the organization, which has a cable new station in English and Arabic as well as a website, never writes or produces negative articles against Iran.

Al-Jazeera and the Foreign Press Association declined to respond to Liberman’s remarks.

Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Debate-erupts-over-Al-Jazeera-operations-in-Israel-496710
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Al Jazeera off the table in any Gulf crisis talks: FM

Qatari news broadcaster will not be discussed in any negotiations to end blockade against Doha, says foreign minister.

 Al Jazeera staff work inside the network's headquarters in the capital Doha on June 8 [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]
Al Jazeera staff work inside the network’s headquarters in the capital Doha on June 8 [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]

Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, its foreign minister says.

Reports have suggested countries behind the economic sanctions on Qatar – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and others – are demanding the closure of Al Jazeera, a media group that has been targeted in the Middle East because of its critical reporting.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris, France on Monday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he had no idea why the Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations imposed a blockade on Qatar.

“It’s not about Iran or Al Jazeera,” he said. “We have no clue about the real reasons… Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security.”

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

But he said Qatar does not accept “foreign dictations”.

“Doha rejects discussing any matter related to Al Jazeera channel as it considers it an internal affair,” Qatar News Agency quoted the foreign minister as saying. “Decisions concerning the Qatari internal affairs are Qatari sovereignty – and no one has to interfere with them.”

After the crisis erupted last week, Saudi Arabia closed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh and halted its operating license, accusing the network of promoting “terrorist groups” in the region.

Jordanian officials quickly followed announcing the closure of the Al Jazeera bureau in Amman and the withdrawal of its operating license.

Egypt long ago kicked Al Jazeera out of the country after confiscating its Cairo bureau’s equipment.

The government of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has locked up several Al Jazeera journalists for months. Producer Mahmoud Hussein has been jailed in Egypt now for 175 days.

Journalist watchdog Reporter’s Without Borders has  condemned the crackdown on Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: Qatar Airways urges action against Gulf boycott

Al Jazeera denounced the Saudis’ restrictions against it saying, “We call upon the government to respect the freedom of press and allow journalists to continue do their job free of intimidation and threats.”

Writing last week in the Hindustan Times, former online Al Jazeera editor Ruben Banerjee said it was clear why some nations are going after the media network during the Qatar crisis.

“To stifle the voice of Al Jazeera, which prides itself for being the ‘voice of the voiceless’, will be criminal,” wrote Banerjee.

“Like every other organisation, Al Jazeera suffers from cliques and cabals… But these blemishes notwithstanding, Al Jazeera remains a beacon in a region where freedom of expression is at a premium.”

Source: Al Jazeera News

Al Jazeera TV Says It Is Combating Hack, But All Entities Operational

June 8, 2017

DUBAI — Pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera is combating a large-scale cyber attack but all its entities remained operational, a company source said on Thursday.

“There were attempts made on the cyber security of Al Jazeera but we are combating them and currently all our entities are operational,” said a senior employee who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Al Jazeera is the flagship broadcaster for Qatar, which is in a stand-off with fellow Arab states over alleged ties to terrorism, a row which is endangering stability in the region.

(Reporting by Tom Finn; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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UAE turns screws on Qatar, threatens sympathizers with jail

June 7, 2017

Reuters

By Sylvia Westall and Tom Finn | DUBAI/DOHA

The United Arab Emirates tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar on Wednesday threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring Qatari passport or resident visa holders entry.

Efforts to defuse the regional crisis — prompted on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran — showed no immediate signs of success.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash threatened more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make “iron-clad” commitments to change policies on funding militants. Qatar vehemently denies giving such support.

U.S. President Donald Trump took sides in the rift on Tuesday, praising the actions against Qatar, but later spoke by phone with Saudi King Salman and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His defense secretary, James Mattis, also spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security. Qatar hosts 8,000 U.S. military personnel at al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for U.S.-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group.

Kuwait’s emir has also been seeking to mediate, meeting Saudi’s king on Tuesday.

Qatar’s isolation from powerful fellow Arab states advanced, however.

UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.

“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.

On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 UAE dirhams, the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.

Since the diplomatic row erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have dominated Twitter in Arabic, a platform used widely in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words over Qatar’s role.

The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said all travelers holding Qatari passports were currently prohibited from traveling to or transiting through the emirates on government instructions.

Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, Etihad spokesman said in an email.

“This ruling applies to all airlines flying into the UAE,” the spokesman said in the statement.

Those breaking ties with Qatar are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the Maldives, Mauritania and Libya’s eastern-based government. Jordan has downgraded its diplomatic representation and revoked the license of Doha-based TV channel Al Jazeera.

SQUEEZE

Ordinary Qataris were loading up on supplies in supermarkets, fearing shortages. But financial markets were relatively calm after some recent jumps.

Qatar’s stock index was roughly unchanged after plummeting 8.7 percent over the last two days.

“Tensions are still high and mediation efforts by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council state Kuwait have yet to lead to a concrete solution, so investors will likely remain on edge,” said one Dubai-based trader.

Qatar has said it will not retaliate against the curbs.

“We are willing to sit and talk,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN late on Tuesday. He said his country was “protecting the world from potential terrorists”.

A Qatari official, however, said the rift was pushing Doha in the direction of leaving the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council, “with deep regret”.

Bans on Doha’s fleet using regional ports and anchorages are threatening to halt some of its exports and disrupt those of liquefied natural gas.

Traders on global markets worried that Riyadh’s allies would refuse to accept LNG shipments from the Gulf state, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter, and that Egypt might even bar tankers carrying Qatari cargoes from using the Suez Canal as they head to Europe and beyond.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall, Hadeel Al Sayegh, Celine Aswad, William MacLean; Writing by Jeremy Gaunt; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

German Foreign Minister: Trump Stirring Up Trouble Among Qatar’s Neighbors

June 7, 2017

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has accused the US president of stirring up conflicts in the Middle East and risking a new arms race as Qatar’s neighbors cut diplomatic ties. Saudi’s foreign minister is visiting Berlin.

Jemen Kämpfe (Reuters)

Gabriel told Germany’s Handelsblatt business newspaper that what he termed a “Trumpization” of interactions in the already crisis-shaken Middle East region was extremely dangerous.

“US President Trump’s recent giant military contracts with Gulf monarchies raise the risk of a new spiral in arms sales,” Gabriel warned in the interview to be published Wednesday.

Außenminister Sigmar Gabriel (Picture alliance/dpa/M. Skolimowska)Foreign Minister Gabriel is to meet his Saudi counterpart in Berlin

His remarks came ahead of Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubeir’s visit to Berlin on Wednesday. Gabriel said it seemed the intention was “to more or less completely isolate Qatar and affect it existentially.”

“That is the completely wrong policy and certainly not the policy of Germany,” Gabriel said.

Germany is part of a six-nation group had pushed for the 2015 nuclear de-escalation deal with Iran – Saudi Arabia’s regional rival – to avert such a Middle East arms spiral, Gabriel added.

“A deep conflict between neighbors is actually the last thing we need,” Gabriel warned.

Trump takes credit

President Donald Trump on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that his recent trip was “already paying off,” and claimed that a speech he gave in Saudi Arabia had prompted Arab powers to isolate Qatar over its alleged backing of Islamist extremism.

Karte Countries that severed ties with Qatar ENG

“Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism,” Trump wrote.

By contrast, the Pentagon on Tuesday renewed praise for Qatar for hosting the largest US air base in the Middle East. “I consider them a host to our very important base at al Udeid,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davies. More than 11,000 US and coalition forces are deployed or assigned to al Udeid Air Base, from which more than 100 aircraft operate.

Saudi Arabien Rex Tillerson PK Adel al-Jubeir (Getty Images/F.Nureldine)US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir

“We continue to be grateful to the Qataris for their longstanding support for our presence and their enduring commitment to regional security,” Davis said. He added that the United States had no plans to alter its presence in Qatar.

Saudi comments in Paris

Visiting Paris on Tuesday, Saudi minister Adel al-Jubeir said energy-rich Qatar “has to choose whether it must move in one direction or another direction.” He demanded Doha end support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The cut in ties pits Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar – the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas. On Tuesday, Jordan said it was reducing its level of diplomatic representation with Qatar and canceling licenses of the Doha-based Al Jazeera television office in the country

Aviation links have been suspended and regional ports closed to Qatari ships as anxious residents started stockpiling food.

ipj/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)

http://www.dw.com/en/german-foreign-minister-accuses-us-of-stirring-up-middle-east-conflict/a-39138183

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Egypt Blocks 21 Websites for ‘Terrorism’ and ‘Fake News’

May 25, 2017

CAIRO — Egypt has banned 21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television and prominent local independent news site Mada Masr, accusing them of supporting terrorism and spreading false news.

The blockade is notable in scope and for being the first publicly recognised by the government. It was heavily criticised by journalists and rights groups.

The state news agency announced it late on Wednesday. Individual websites had been inaccessible in the past but there was never any official admission.

Reuters found the websites named by local media and were inaccessible.

The move follows similar actions taken on Wednesday by Egypt’s Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which blocked Al Jazeera and other websites after a dispute with Qatar.

Qatar said hackers had posted fake remarks by its emir criticising U.S. foreign policy but Saudi and UAE state-run media reported the comments anyway.

An official from Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority would not confirm or deny the blockage, but said: “So what if it is true? It should not be a problem.”

Two security sources told Reuters the 21 websites were blocked for being affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or for being funded by Qatar.

Cairo accuses Qatar of supporting the Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt in 2013 when the military removed elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against him.

Ties between Qatar and Egypt were badly damaged after Mursi’s fall. Doha welcomed a number of senior Brotherhood figures, although since then Qatar has asked several to leave.

Mada Masr, an Egyptian news website based in the country which describes itself as progressive and has no Islamist or Qatari affiliations, was also inaccessible.

Journalists at Mada Masr said the website was publishing articles on Facebook for now. It remains accessible outside Egypt or via proxy.

“Nothing explains this blockade more than a very clear intention from the authorities to crack down on critical media in ways that bypass the law,” Mada Masr Editor in Chief Lina Attalah told Reuters on Thursday.

The website is registered in Egypt and its journalists are based in the country, she said. No one from the government contacted the management before or after the 21 websites went down.

CLIMATE OF FEAR

Two other local websites, including that of a print newspaper registered with the authorities, were also down, as were several Brotherhood-affiliated websites and Egypt-focused ones that publish from abroad.

The Huffington Post’s Arabic website also was inaccessible, although the international version could be accessed.

State news agency MENA cited a senior security source as saying the websites were blocked because they supported terrorism and that the government would take legal action.

“A senior security source said 21 websites have been blocked inside Egypt for having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well as publishing lies,” MENA said.

Mahmoud Kamel, who sits on the board of Egypt’s official press union, said was a clear attack on freedom of speech.

“This move is unacceptable. We oppose all blocking of news websites but this is unfortunately part of the general climate of fear we are experiencing in Egypt,” he told Reuters.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Islamist, secular and liberal opposition alike since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then the military chief, toppled Mursi.

Since then, hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested, including journalists. Sisi told CNN in 2015 that Egypt has “unprecedented freedom of expression”.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty, Eric Knecht and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alison Williams)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin: Syrian Cease Fire Will Come Into Force at Midnight (22:00 GMT) Thursday — Turkey and Russia would act as guarantors under the plan

December 29, 2016

BBC News

1145 GMT, December 29, 2016

The Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed a ceasefire and to begin peace talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced.

The ceasefire is due to come into force at midnight (22:00 GMT) Thursday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkey and Russia would act as guarantors under the plan.

The two countries back opposing sides in the conflict, which has raged for more than five years.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38460127

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Fate of Syria ceasefire plan remains unclear

Opposition bloc tells Al Jazeera it has yet to receive a draft of a truce plan agreed by Russia and Turkey.

1045 GMT, December 29, 2016

Al Jazeera

  It remains unclear which opposition groups have been taking part in ceasefire negotiations [Mohamed Mounzer Masri/Reuters]
It remains unclear which opposition groups have been taking part in ceasefire negotiations [Mohamed Mounzer Masri/Reuters]

The fate of a nationwide truce for Syria remains unclear with the Syrian National Coalition, the country’s main political opposition bloc, telling Al Jazeera that it has still not received a draft plan from either Turkey or Russia.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency had reported on Wednesday that a ceasefire plan had been submitted to Syria’s rival parties and could come into force as early as midnight.

But the coalition, which represents the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups fighting across the country, told Al Jazeera that it was yet to receive a draft of the document.

Labib Nahhas, the foreign relations head of the powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group, said the faction was “aware of ongoing discussions between Russia and Turkey about a nationwide ceasefire”.

He said rebel factions had not been presented with any official proposal.

“Russia wants to exclude Eastern Ghouta from the ceasefire, which is not acceptable,” he told the AFP news agency, referring to a rebel-held area outside Damascus.

Meanwhile, sources told Al Jazeera that a new meeting was planned in Ankara on Thursday, this time between Syrian rebels, Turkey and Russia.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, told broadcaster A Haber in an interview that Ankara was aiming to establish the ceasefire before the new year.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Gaziantep in neighbouring Turkey, said it remained unclear which opposition groups had been taking part in previous negotiations.

“A senior official from the Free Syrian Army says that the FSA has rejected a proposal by Russia that Douma, one of its strongholds near the capital Damascus, would not be included in the ceasefire agreement,” Stratford said.

OPINION: Who are we to say the Syrian revolution is dead?

On Wednesday, a source requesting anonymity had told Anadolu that “terrorist organisations” would be excluded from the deal.

This would most certainly exclude the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

If successful, the latest proposal could form the basis for upcoming political negotiations between Damascus and the opposition, overseen by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital Astana, Anadolu added.

Ankara has hosted a succession of closed-door talks between Russia and Syrian opposition rebels over the past weeks.

Ankara and Moscow have been on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Turkey seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

The Syrian civil war started as a largely unarmed uprising against Assad in March 2011, but quickly developed into a full-on armed conflict.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, estimated in April that more than 400,000 Syrians had been killed since 2011.

Calculating a precise death toll is difficult, partially owing to the forced disappearances of tens of thousands of Syrians whose fates remain unknown.

Almost 11 million Syrians – half the country’s prewar population – have been displaced from their homes.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/syria-ceasefire-161229053544917.html

Two Opinions on China in The South China Sea: China Is Trying To Correct “Many Centuries” of Wrongs Committed Against China — And The Philippines Should Sue China For $177 Billion In South China Sea Rent And Damages

July 16, 2016

China’s territorial claims are driven by a sense of historical victimisation. Now the historical victim has turned into a contemporary bully.

A Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea [Reuters]

A Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea [Reuters]

By Salvatore Babones

Al Jazeera

 

The judges have spoken: China has no legal basis for its claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea. China’s “nine-dash line” territorial claims, which cover most of the South China Sea, will not be recognised under international law.

Vietnam and the Philippines have historically administered most of the rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, but in recent years China has aggressively pursuedterritorial claims in the area.

Since 2012 China has engaged in large-scale land reclamation efforts on islands it controls.

The July 12 ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration resolves a case brought against China by the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. There are no enforcement provisions in this convention, so there is nothing to prevent China from continuing to expand its presence in the South China Sea.

Aggressive actions

But China’s aggressive actions have alienated all of its maritime neighbours. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei all dispute China’s expansive interpretation of its maritime borders.

The South China Sea is thought to harbour large reserves of oil and gas, but these are mainly located in undisputed coastal areas, not far out at sea.
ALSO READ: Hague ruling could spark China-Japan row
And while the South China Sea is strategically important to China, all countries in the region share China’s interest in keeping it open.

Protesters throw eggs at a picture of the US president outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong to protest about the Hague ruling in Hong Kong [EPA]

 

China’s true interest in the South China Sea has much more to do with history and politics than with oil and security. The South China Sea dispute is not about China’s interpretation of international law. It’s about China’s interpretation of itself.

From the Ming to Xi Jinping

Chinese politicians and China scholars like to pretend that China is a timeless civilisation that dates back past the dawn of history.

But the real roots of modern China can be found in the Ming dynasty that unified the Chinese empire under Chinese rulers nearly eight centuries ago, in AD 1368.

It was then that China recognisably assumed more or less its modern borders. Perhaps more importantly, it was under the Ming dynasty that China first encountered the Western world, emerged from feudalism, and formed many of the basic social structures that persist to today.

 

Ming China had no serious challengers among its neighbours. Unlike Europe, where many small states vied for territory – and survival – China reigned supreme over its region.

Ming China had no need for well-defined borders because all of East Asia was to some degree under Chinese control, contained within China’s “tianxia” or system of rule.

When the first Portuguese adventurers reached the mouth of southern China’s Pearl River Delta in 1513, this system began to break down.

China’s Wanli Emperor enjoying a lavish boat ride on a river with a large entourage of guards and courtiers.
— Unknown Ming court artist – Paludan, Ann. (1998). Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors: the Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

At first the Portuguese were treated as just another minority group. Over time, the Western powers (and Japan) became more aggressive in asserting territorial claims.

Though they never conquered China itself, the Western colonial powers did carve up most of Southeast Asia.

They also carved up the oceans. Vietnam’s maritime claims in the South China Sea are based on old French colonial claims, and the Philippines traces its claims back to the Spanish colonial period.

Contemporary borders

Though the countries of Southeast Asia have every right to their contemporary borders, it still irks many Chinese people that those borders were drawn by others, mostly without China’s consent.
ALSO READ: China’s aggressive posture in South China Sea
The maritime borders of the South China Sea were set in stone (as it were) by strong Western countries at a time when China was too weak to contest them.

Now the Western powers are gone and China is the strong one, once again surrounded by a panoply of relatively weak neighbours, just as it was 500 years ago.

This must be very frustrating for Xi Jinping and the rest of China’s contemporary leaders. It is certainly frustrating for Chinese nationalists. But for good or for bad the borders are what they are.

Many Chinese people, perhaps the majority, feel that their country has been unfairly treated by history. They are probably right.

China is a great and ancient civilisation that experienced its weakest period just as the map of the world was solidifying into its current form.

Nonetheless, no one in Asia today wants to reopen the question of borders, not even China.

 

China has pushed its maritime claims over uninhabited rocks and reefs. It has gone so far as to install people on those rocks and reefs. But it has made no move to contest already-populated islands.

China may have been unfairly treated by history, but so were many other countries.

China may spend billions of dollars to populate artificial islands in the middle of the ocean. But it won’t change China’s history, and it won’t do much for China today.

China refutes the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and has vowed to ignore it.

The world shouldn’t pay much attention if it does. China will make no friends by changing itself from a historical victim into a contemporary bully.

Salvatore Babones is a comparative sociologist at the University of Sydney. He is a specialist in global economic structure.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/07/china-cares-south-china-sea-160714105126859.html

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