Posts Tagged ‘Anwar Gargash’

UAE says Gulf Arab bloc still strong despite Qatar row

December 6, 2018

The United Arab Emirates said on Thursday the Gulf Cooperation Council remained valid despite a bitter row with Qatar that has fractured the bloc ahead of an annual summit next week.

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Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt have imposed a diplomatic and economic boycott on Qatar since June 2017 over Doha supports terrorism.

Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash. (File/AFP)

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“The main success of the council is in its economic aspects and the creation of a Gulf common market,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted.

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“The political crisis will end when the cause behind it ends and that is Qatar’s support of extremism and its interference in the stability of the region.”

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Last week, Qatar abruptly announced it was quitting OPEC after 57 years to focus on gas.

Reuters

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UN envoy pushes ahead for Yemen peace talks as wounded Houthis evacuated

December 4, 2018

The UN Yemen envoy sought on Tuesday to press forward planned peace talks in Sweden a day after the Arab coalition agreed for 50 wounded Houthi militia to be transferred to Muscat for medical treatment as part of the agreement.

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Envoy Martin Griffiths was in the Sanaa for meetings to evacuate the 50 wounded Houthi fighters for treatment in neutral Oman on Monday — a key Houthi precondition for the talks.

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (C) leaves after a meeting with the President of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa, on November 24, 2018. (File/AFP)

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A previous attempt by Griffiths to convene peace talks in Switzerland in September collapsed when rebels failed to show up.

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The United Arab Emirates, which is a key player in the coalition, said the evacuation of the wounded fighters showed its commitment to the talks in Sweden and the opportunity they provided.

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“We believe Sweden offers a critical opportunity to successfully engage in a political solution for Yemen,” the UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said.

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“Evacuating wounded Houthi fighters from Sanaa once again demonstrates the Yemeni government & the Arab coalition’s support for peace,” he said in a tweet.

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The UN envoy said on Monday that he was “pleased to confirm” the evacuation and “urged all Yemenis to work together in pursuit of peace.”

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International support for the new peace bid has been spurred by UN warnings that 15 million Yemenis are at risk of famine as the already dire humanitarian situation in the war-torn country deteriorates.

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The UN envoy has said he has secured the Houthis’ agreement to discuss handing over the city’s vital port to UN supervision to head off any disruption of the vital aid lifeline.

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No date has yet been set but hopes have been building that they could go ahead this week.

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Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah told reporters that a Houthi delegation was now set to leave Sanaa for Stockholm on Tuesday together with his country’s ambassador to Yemen.

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The UAE minister said on Tuesday that the talks must not lose sight of the demands made of the Houthis by Resolution 2216 passed by the UN Security Council in April 2015, a month after President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile as they overran the capital.

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“A stable state, important for the region, cannot coexist with unlawful militias,” Gargash said.

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“UN Security Council Resolution 2216 offers a workable roadmap.”

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The resolution demands that the Houthis recognize the legitimacy of Hadi’s government and withdraw from all towns and cities they had taken, including Sanaa.

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It also demands that they return all heavy weaponry they had taken from government arsenals, including the missiles which they have since used to launch persistent attacks into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

AFP

UN envoy visits Yemen combat zone in Hodeida

November 23, 2018

UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the battleground Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Friday to press the warring sides to exercise restraint ahead of planned peace talks in December.

Griffiths’s visit aims to send a message to the rebels, who control the Red Sea city, and the government forces, who have been attacking it with support from a Saudi-led coalition, to keep a lid on hostilities in the runup to the talks in Sweden, a UN source told AFP.

According to an AFP correspondent, clashes could be heard in the distance as the envoy visited the lifeline port from which nearly all the country’s imports and humanitarian aid pass.

© AFP/File | Yemeni government forces advance through a heavily damaged industrial district of the battleground Red Sea port city of Hodeida on November 18, 2018

Griffiths, who arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Wednesday, has met rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi and addressed “what can facilitate new discussions in December”, rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said.

Abdelsalam said that included “procedures needed to transport injured and sick for treatment abroad and bring them back”, a key sticking point during a previous failed attempt at talks in September.

Both warring sides have expressed support for the envoy’s mission to hold discussions.

– ‘Committed’ to peace talks –

The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, whose country is a key player in the Saudi-led coalition, reiterated Friday that the United Arab Emirates was “committed” to peace talks.

“The best way forward towards a sustainable political process is to support the Sweden talks and the work of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffith without prejudging these negotiations,” he said on Twitter.

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi — whose UN-recognised government was pushed out of Sanaa by the rebels in 2014 — has also said he supports the talks while vowing to “liberate” the city of Hodeida.

Despite a lull in fighting, Hodeida residents reached by telephone said on Friday that Huthi rebels have been bringing in reinforcements.

Dozens of families have fled Hodeida, as the rebels stationed snipers on top of peoples’ homes, according to residents and pro-government military officials.

The conflict in Yemen, which escalated when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015, has killed thousands and left up to 22 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN agencies.

– ‘Bursts of fighting’ –

Under heavy international pressure, the loyalists and their Saudi-led military backers have largely suspended a five-month offensive on Hodeida.

UN agencies say the closure of its port because of fighting or damage could put up to 14 million Yemenis at risk of starvation.

Humanitarian organisations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to the four-year war.

The UN’s World Food Programme said Friday it had distributed 30,000 food baskets — each containing enough to feed a family of six for one month — in Hodeida city.

“In a city that has been enduring on and off bursts of fighting, these food baskets have an added benefit of helping families to avoid travelling more than necessary to find food, limiting their own security risks,” WFP said in a statement.

“Despite the difficult situation, WFP is currently assisting 8 million Yemenis every month with food or food vouchers.”

The heads of the UN’s humanitarian and children’s agencies said the “recent de-escalation in fighting in Hodeida is providing a desperately needed respite to hundreds of thousands of civilians”.

The current peace push by Griffiths is the biggest effort in two years.

In September, a previous round of UN-led peace talks faltered when the Huthis refused to travel to Geneva, accusing the world body of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to Sanaa or secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.

Previous talks broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal and left rebel delegates stranded in Oman for three months.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, though some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

AFP

UAE welcomes ‘early convening’ of UN-led Yemen talks in Sweden

November 15, 2018

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Wednesday the Emirates welcomes the early convening of UN-led Yemen talks in Sweden.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather at a checkpoint in a street on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah. (AFP)

The UAE along with Saudi Arabia is a leading member of the Arab Coalition supporting pro-government troops in the war against the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

The UN said it planned to reconvene peace talks in Sweden by the end of the year. The last attempt in Geneva collapsed when the Houthi delegation failed to arrive.

د. أنور قرقاش

@AnwarGargash

We welcome early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden. At UNSC meeting on Friday, Coalition will urge all parties to take advantage of window of opportunity to restart political process.
We look forward to hosting Martin Griffiths this week in Abu Dhabi.

317 people are talking about this

“We welcome early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden,” Gargash, tweeted. He said the coalition would “urge all parties to take advantage of window of opportunity to restart the political process” at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday.

“We look forward to hosting (UN Yemen envoy) Martin Griffiths this week in Abu Dhabi,” Gargash added.

Fighting intensified this month around the crucial port of Hodeidah, which has been helf by the Houthis since they triggered the war in 2014 by seizing control of the capital Sanaa. The fighting has died down in recent days amid a flurry of diplomacy to bring a ceasefire to the city.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1404896/middle-east

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UAE supports ‘early convening’ of UN Yemen talks

November 14, 2018

The United Arab Emirates, a leading member of a pro-government coalition fighting in Yemen, said Wednesday it supports a UN plan for peace talks to be held in Sweden by the year’s end.

“We welcome early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden,” the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted in English.

Gargash said the pro-government coalition would “urge all parties to take advantage of window of opportunity to restart the political process” at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday.

“We look forward to hosting (UN Yemen envoy) Martin Griffiths this week in Abu Dhabi,” Gargash added.

Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, speaks during a press conference in Dubai about the situation in Yemen on August 13, 2018. (File photo / AFP)
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After failed peace talks in September, the UN is pushing to host a new round of negotiations between the Yemeni government alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the country’s Iran-linked Huthi rebels by the end of the year.

The United States, Britain and France — three of the main arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia — have also called for an end to nearly four years of conflict, particularly in the Red Sea city of Hodeida.

The Saudi-led alliance this month stepped up an offensive to take Hodeida, controlled by the Huthis since 2014. The city is home to Yemen’s most valuable port, crucial for food imports and aid delivery.

The Hodeida campaign has sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis in war-hit, impoverished Yemen, where 14 million people face mass starvation.

AFP

UAE blames Iran’s ‘aggressive policies’ for U.S. sanctions

November 3, 2018

The United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Saturday that Iran’s “aggressive policies” were “largely responsible” for the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

Image result for Anwar Gargash, photos

Anwar Gargash

Washington will on Monday reintroduce far-reaching sanctions on Iran’s vital oil sales and banking sectors to try to force the Islamic Republic into negotiations to scrap its nuclear energy and ballistic missile programs and end its support for proxies in conflicts across the Middle East.

Iran’s top leader was earlier reported as saying that U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies face opposition across the world as Washington prepared to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s vital oil-exporting and financial sectors.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alexander Smith

Reuters

Apple watch worn by Saudi journalist may have transmitted evidence of his death, Turkish paper reports

October 13, 2018

Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded his own death, a Turkish newspaper reported Saturday morning.

Khashoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 , according to Sabah newspaper.
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The moments of his “interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud,” the pro-government, privately owned newspaper paper reported. The Turkish newspaper said conversations of the men involved in the reported assassination were recorded.
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Security forces leading the investigation found the audio file inside the phone Khasshoggi left with his fiancé, according to Sabah.
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Related image
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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Upon noticing the watch, Sabah reports, Khashoggi’s assailants tried to unlock the Apple Watch with multiple password attempts, ultimately using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock the smart watch. They were successful in deleting only some of the files, Sabah reported.
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However, on its website, Apple does not list fingerprint verification as one of the Apple Watch’s capabilities. A representative from the company confirmed to CNN the watches do not have the feature.
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It was not immediately clear whether it would have been technically feasible for Khashoggi’s Apple phone to transfer audio to his phone, which he had given to his fiancee before entering the consulate.
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CNN cannot independently verify Sabah report and is seeking comment from both Saudi and Turkish officials.
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Mohammed Bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
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Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in his disappearance and says he left the consulate that afternoon. His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate, says she did not see him re-emerge.
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Turkey has called on Saudi officials to provide evidence that he left the consulate, as they claim.
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Saudi Arabia Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz said reports that the Saudi government ordered the killing of Khashoggi are “lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom,” according to a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) published early Saturday.
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Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s minister of interior. (SPA)
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Abdulaziz also said “some media” have circulated “false accusations” regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance.
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On Friday, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that showed Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate. But it was unclear how Turkish authorities obtained the evidence.
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The evidence, which was described to the source by a Western intelligence agency, showed there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate. There is also evidence of the moment that Khashoggi was killed, the source said.
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Turkish security units analyzed how Khashoggi’s reported killing unfolded with the use of a translator, according to Sabah.
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Sabah also reported that investigation units are currently examining all cell phone and landline records from the consulate and the consul general’s residence on October 2.
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Efforts to locate Khashoggi’s body are ongoing, Sabah reported.
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Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, went into the consulate to obtain paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. He hasn’t been seen in public since.
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CCTV images show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
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The Washington Post reported late Thursday that the Turkish government had told US officials that it was in possession of audio and video recordings proving that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, citing unnamed US and Turkish sources.
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The audio recording in particular provided “persuasive and gruesome evidence” that a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the Post reported.
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“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” one person with knowledge of the recording told the Post. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
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International pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the regime and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is known colloquially as MBS.
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The business world has also signaled its disquiet, with British tycoon Richard Branson saying he’s pulling back from two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia and has suspended discussions with Riyadh about a $1 billion investment in Virgin’s space companies. Business leaders have also started pulling out of a key conference hosted by MBS in late October.
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CNN confirmed Friday that it too would no longer participate in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative conference, known as “Davos in the desert.” CNN was a media partner for the event.
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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reaffirmed his commitment to attend the Riyadh summitwhile expressing concerns about Khashoggi’s status.
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“The conference is on for now, I am going,” he told reporters Saturday at the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting in Indonesia.
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He also suggested that his plans could change as details from the investigation are released.
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Focus on 15 Saudi men

Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.
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On Thursday, a US official familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US had intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.
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Washington’s “working assumption” is that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence. “We are pretty clear eyed it is likely to have happened and it didn’t end well,” the official said. The source did caution that this was the latest assessment and no conclusions had been made.
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An aerial image of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
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A source who knows Khashoggi told CNN that Saudi authorities made several attempts to reach out to Khashoggi in 2017, including proposing he lead a think tank funded by the state. The source says that Khashoggi rejected the ideas and over the following months his much sharper criticism of the government, in its domestic policy and relating to the crisis with Qatar, ended any dialogue.
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The source, who maintains high-level contact inside the kingdom, says that senior figures in the Royal Court in Riyadh were especially infuriated by Khashoggi’s criticism of the decision by the Saudi authorities to classify in September 2017 the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi as terrorists. At the same time, the source says, Khashoggi became more wary of returning to the kingdom.
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Three days before his disappearance, Khashoggi — speaking to a BBC journalist in an off-air conversation after a radio interview — said he did not think he would ever be able to return to Saudi Arabia.
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Asked when he might be able to go home again, Khashoggi says: “I don’t think I’ll be able to.”
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The BBC several days ago said it decided to publish the off-air conversation “in light of the current circumstances.”
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“When I hear of an arrest of a friend who did nothing… makes me feel I shouldn’t go,” Khashoggi is heard saying. “That friend of mine… maybe he was talking critically over something at a dinner party. That’s what we are becoming in Saudi Arabia, we are not used to that, we never experienced [this],” he added.
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A delegation from Saudi Arabia has arrived in Turkey for the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday.
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Trump rules out immediate action on arms sales

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US President Donald Trump has said his administration was being “very tough” with Saudi Arabia as it investigates Khashoggi’s case.
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But Trump said Thursday that he was reluctant to take action, particularly on the issue of arms sales. “There are other things we can do,” he told reporters at the White House.
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“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” Trump said, referring to a US arms deal with Saudi Arabia. “If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation.”
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The US signed a nearly $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia in May 2017, when Trump made Saudi Arabia a stop on his first foreign trip as president. The stop was seen, in part, as an endorsement of the strong relationship between Trump, Jared Kushner — his son-in-law and senior adviser — and bin Salman.
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France’s Foreign Ministry said it had demanded that Saudi Arabia provide a “complete and detailed response” with regard to the reported killing of Khashoggi, whose disappearance “raises serious questions about his fate.”
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“France demands that the facts are clearly established,” the ministry said.
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Gulf Arab states came out in support of Saudi Arabia, however, in the first wave of official reactions from its neighbors.
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In a tweet Thursday, the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash, called media reports on the matter “a fierce campaign” run in coordination with “inciting parties.”
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Image result for Anwar Gargash, Photos
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United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash
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“The repercussions of political targeting of Saudi Arabia will be dire on those who inflame it,” he said.
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Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmad, said that “Saudi Arabia is the target, not the search for truth.”
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Turkish investigation

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Saudi officials had agreed to allow Ankara to inspect the consulate as part of Turkey’s investigation into the missing journalist. But it was not clear Friday whether this inspection had taken place. A senior Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity had previously told CNN that “the Saudis are not cooperating fully with the investigation. They are not open to cooperating.”
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On Friday, a Saudi official said that he “welcomed” an announcement by the Turkish President to form a joint team of experts from both countries to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance and that he was “fully confident of the team’s ability to accomplish the mission,” according to a statement from the Center for International Communication at the Saudi Information Ministry.
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He said the “Kingdom attached utmost priority to its citizens’ safety and security, irrespective of their location.”
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Sabah, a pro-government private newspaper in Turkey, on Tuesday listed 15 names alongside photographs of men who authorities believe were flown into Istanbul from Riyadh. The state-run Anadolu news agency later published similar details on eight of the individuals.
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One of the Saudi men was identified by Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency and Sabah as Salah Muhammed al-Tubaiqi. He is listed on an official Saudi health website as the head of the forensic medicine department at the interior ministry.
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Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, head of the forensic medicine department at the Saudi interior ministry.
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Another member of the group identified by Turkish official media, Muhammad Saad al-Zahrani, has appeared on Saudi state TV alongside MBS.
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See also:
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Trump Says He Will Speak With Saudi Arabia’s King Salman About Missing Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

http://time.com/5423878/trump-saudi-arabia/

and

Companies back away from Saudi business over missing journalist

https://www.axios.com/companies-saudi-arabia-conference-khashoggi-disappearance-153deaec-1282-4723-91f2-2ea8998d5fe2.html

Yemen peace talks collapse in Geneva after Houthi no-show

September 8, 2018

Yemen peace talks collapsed on Saturday after three days of waiting for the Houthi movement delegation, but the United Nations envoy vowed to press ahead with diplomacy.

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UN envoy Martin Griffiths addresses a news conference in Geneva on September 8, 2018. Reuters

The Houthi’s failure to come to Geneva for the first talks in three years was “the elephant in the room”, but did not signify the peace process was deadlocked, U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said.

Griffiths, who held three days of talks with a Yemeni government delegation, said he would meet in coming days with the Houthi leadership in Sanaa and Muscat, Oman.

“They would have like to get here, we didn’t make conditions sufficiently correct to get them here,” Griffiths told a news conference, declining to elaborate.

The Houthi group said on Friday it was still waiting for the United Nations to guarantee that the flight carrying its delegation to Geneva would not be inspected by Saudi coalition forces and could evacuate some of its wounded.

Griffiths, referring to peace processes, said on Saturday: “A restart is a very delicate, fragile moment. People are coming at a time when perhaps all of their constituencies are not fully engaged and don’t see ahead of time results that will come out of talks.

“So I don’t take this as a fundamental blockage in the process,” he added.

Confidence-building measures such as prisoner releases, increasing humanitarian access, especially to the city of Taiz, and reopening Sanaa airport were discussed with the government, he said.

Agreement has been reached for medical evacuations from the Houthi-held Yemeni capital of Sanaa, to start in a week with a flight to Cairo, he said, calling it an “early achievement”.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen’s war against the Houthis in 2015 with the aim of restoring the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The humanitarian situation has worsened sharply since, putting 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation and ruining the already weak economy.

Yemeni foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani, who led the government delegation, accused the Houthis of being “totally irresponsible” and of “trying to sabotage the negotiations”.

“If they were sincere in reaching peace, they should have come, even if we were meeting in separate rooms,” he told a separate news conference before leaving the Swiss city.

Yamani also strongly criticized Griffiths, who took over as mediator in February.

“We want the U.N. to be firmer in bringing the other party to the negotiations,” he said.

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Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states, tweeted: “Despite the serious setback in Geneva the way forward is still a political solution. What is perhaps clearer now to the international community is the unwillingness of the Houthis to engage in good faith with such a process.”

Yemen pro-govt forces seize Hodeida airport from rebels

June 20, 2018

Emitari-backed Yemeni government forces seized Hodeida airport from Huthi rebels on Wednesday, the coalition said, in a major step towards retaking the key Red Sea port city.

“The airport was completely cleared, Thank God, and is under control,” coalition commander for the Red Sea coast, Abdul Salaam al-Shehi, said in a video posted by the United Arab Emirates’ official WAM news agency.

Last Wednesday, government forces launched an offensive to clear Hodeida of rebel fighters who have held it since 2014, raising UN concerns for vital aid shipments and commercial food imports through the city’s docks.

© AFP | Emitari-backed Yemeni government forces advance into Hodeida airport on June 19, 2018 in a major step towards recapturing the strategic Red Sea port city from Shiite rebels. .UAE-backed Yemeni government forces fought their way into Hodeida airport today, pressing an offensive that has seen some of the most intense fighting of a three-year war against Shiite Huthi rebels.

The airport is disused but housed a major rebel base just inland from the coast road into the city from the south.

It lies just eight kilometres (five miles) from the city’s port, through which three-quarters of Yemen’s imports pass, providing a lifeline for some 22 million people dependent on aid.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths held four days of talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa in a bid to avert an all-out battle for the city but flew out on Tuesday without announcing any breakthrough.

The United Arab Emirates and other members of a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in support of the government in 2015 have accused regional arch foe Iran of using Hodeida as conduit for arms smuggling to the rebels. Tehran has denied the allegation.

AFP

Saudi-led coalition storms Yemen’s Hodeidah airport compound

June 19, 2018

Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition stormed the airport compound of Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah on Tuesday after fierce battles with Iran-aligned Houthis fighting to defend their sole port, residents and Yemeni military sources said.

Hodeidah port's cranes are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeidah, Yemen

FILE PHOTO: Hodeidah port’s cranes are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeidah, Yemen June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

The capture of the airport would be an important gain for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have said they can seize the heavily defended city quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions facing starvation.

“They have stormed the airport,” an anti-Houthi Yemeni military source told Reuters.

A resident also said the compound had been stormed.

“This is the first time we hear the clashes so clearly. We can hear the sound of artillery and machinegun fire,” the resident, who requested anonymity, told Reuters, adding that warplanes bombarded the airport earlier in the morning.

The Western-backed alliance launched the onslaught on Hodeidah seven days ago in order to turn the tables in a long-stalemated proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has compounded instability across the Middle East.

The upsurge in fighting has wounded and displaced dozens of civilians and hampered the work of aid groups in the port city, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis depend on aid, and 8.4 million are on the verge of starvation.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Monday that the coalition was taking a measured approach to minimize risks to civilians, and allowing the Houthis an escape route inland to their bastion in the capital Sanaa.

Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Robert Birsel

Reuters