Lebanon: Efforts to Contain Aoun-Berri Dispute

Hariri meets the Army Commander on Tuesday/NNA
Hariri meets the Army Commander on Tuesday/NNA
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Lebanon: Efforts to Contain Aoun-Berri Dispute

Hariri meets the Army Commander on Tuesday/NNA
Hariri meets the Army Commander on Tuesday/NNA

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been leading efforts to contain tension between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri after a dispute erupted between the two men last week over a decree to promote a number of officers, who graduated from the military academy in 1994, without the approval of the Finance Minister.

The Prime Minister sought to bring the views of the two sides closer, in his latest bid to contain the crisis ahead of Thursday’s scheduled cabinet session.

Presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the crisis over the decree is ongoing, denying that any party had proposed to the president “a formula” for solving the issue.

“We are still at the phase of containing the crisis. We have not yet moved to the solution phase.”

The sources said that any solution cannot circumvent the decree already signed by the president and the government, and which Speaker Nabih Berri says would require the signature of the Finance Minister.

Aoun and Hariri had signed the decree that sees the promotion of officers who graduated from the military school in 1994. However, Berri insists that the decree should be approved by the Finance Ministry, before going into effect.

“The status of the decree is final even if not yet published in the official gazette,” the sources said.

According to the same sources, Aoun is not in the process of dropping his stance regarding the issue, because such a move would hurt the image of the presidential seat.

For his part, a leading member from the Future Movement, Mustafa Alloush said on Tuesday that Hariri is trying to find a way to bring the views of Aoun and Berri closer.

“However, the results of his mediation are still unclear,” Alloush added.



UN Warns More Than One Million May Flee Sudan Fighting by October

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
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UN Warns More Than One Million May Flee Sudan Fighting by October

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned on Monday that estimates that about a million people might flee Sudan by October may be conservative and conflict there risks increasing people trafficking and spreading weapons across a fragile region

More than 350,000 people have already fled across Sudan's borders since war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted on April 15, with most heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

Furthermore, within Sudan itself, more than one million people have been displaced due to heavy fighting in the capital Khartoum and violence in Darfur.

The UNHCR initially predicted that around 800,000 Sudanese and 200,000 foreigners would leave Sudan in six months, but Grandi now believes these figures may be an underestimation.

Speaking during an interview in Cairo, Grandi said: “This projection, that in the next few months we'll reach these high figures, may even be conservative.”

“At the beginning, I didn't believe it would be, but now I'm beginning to be worried,” he said, according to Reuters.

Sudan's neighbors, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Libya have faced political upheaval or conflicts themselves.

Grandi expressed concern about the collapse of law and order in Sudan and said that with “a lot of people desperate to move on” the situation is ripe for creating conditions for human trafficking. He also said that the circulation of arms across borders could fuel the violence.

“We've seen it in Libya with the Sahel. We don't want a repeat of that because that will be a multiplier of crisis and of humanitarian problems,” he added.

The United Nations has appealed for $470 million for its refugee response to the Sudan crisis over six months, an amount that Grandi said was just 1% funded, adding that a donor pledging conference was “very much needed” and that an international community preoccupied by Ukraine was not paying enough attention.

“You can clearly sense a disparity which is very dangerous. This crisis has the potential to destabilize an entire region and beyond as much as Ukraine does in Europe,” he warned.

Grandi said the UNHCR was trying to establish a presence in the northern Sudanese town of Wadi Halfa, where many Sudanese men aged 16-50 have become stuck applying for visas to enter Egypt, but that he was not sure when this would be possible. Women, children and the elderly do not need visas.

He said aid needed to be delivered into a buffer zone between the Egyptian and Sudanese border posts where those fleeing have also faced long waits.


Tehran Seeks to Upgrade Syria’s Air Defenses

International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
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Tehran Seeks to Upgrade Syria’s Air Defenses

International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)

Iran wants to boost the Syrian military by upgrading the country's air-defense with medium and long-range systems to confront threats, an Iranian official in the Defense Ministry said Monday according to the Fars news agency.

 

Deputy Defense Minister for International Affairs Brigadier General Hamzeh Ghalandari told the news agency that although Syria possesses air-defense capabilities, the country is witnessing a wide range of threats.

 

“We have declared openly and publicly that we, along with our Syrian brothers, seek to strengthen the Syrian air defense in various ways,” Ghalandari said.

 

He affirmed that Iran will support Syria with equipment and tactical upgrades.

 

“In light of the air threats against Syria, efforts are underway to strengthen its air defense capabilities by using medium and long ranges systems,” he noted, adding that the type of systems will be announced in due course.

 

On Monday, Syrian news outlets said Syrian army air defenses confronted an Israeli missile.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said government air defense sites near Damascus where fighters from the Iran-backed Hezbollah group are present were targeted.

 

Meanwhile, the official Syrian news agency, SANA, said Syrian air defenses have shot down incoming Israeli missiles.

 

It quoted a military source as saying that the attack took place at about 23:45 pm local time on Sunday.

 

The source added that the missile strike targeted some areas in the vicinity of Damascus.

 

“Our air defenses intercepted the [Israeli] aggression’s missiles and shot down some of them,” the source said, adding that the attack only led to material damages.

 

SOHR reported that one site north of the capital lying around 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lebanese border was also a target. Five Hezbollah fighters were reportedly wounded.

 

Another site between the airport and the Sayyida Zeinab area southeast of the capital where Iran-backed forces are present was also targeted, the Britain-based war-monitor, which has a vast network of sources on the ground in Syria.

 

Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against regime positions as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, allies of Damascus and arch-foes of Israel.

 

Israel rarely comments on the strikes on a case-by-case basis, but says it seeks to prevent Iran establishing a foothold on its doorstep.

 

 


Iraqi National Security Adviser Visits Iran to Discuss Border Issues

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
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Iraqi National Security Adviser Visits Iran to Discuss Border Issues

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)

Iraqi National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji arrived in Iran on Monday at the head of a high-ranking security delegation to discuss tightening security measures on the border between the two countries.

 

The visit comes at the directives of Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, said Araji's press office.

 

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with Araji, calling for the quick activation of a recent security agreement between their countries, reported Iranian media.

 

Ahmadian said the agreement underscores the role of the Iraqi government in ending the presence of "dissident" elements on the border, a reference to Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.

 

The meeting was Ahmadian's first official appearance after his appointment to his post. He succeeded Ali Shamkhani, whose last foreign visit was to Baghdad in March where he signed the border agreement.

 

Araji's visit comes two days after extensive meetings with security and political leaders in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil in the Kurdistan region, during which he met head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Bafel Talabani.

 

Araji’s talks in Kurdistan and Tehran likely focused on the activities of the Iranian Kurdish parties that have used Kurdish regions to launch attacks against Iran.

 

On March 19, Iraqi PM Sudani sponsored the joint security agreement between Baghdad and Tehran

 

The agreement calls for coordination in "protecting the common borders" and "consolidating cooperation in several security fields."

 

A source close to the PUK said the security arrangements aim to protect the Iranian borders from the movements of the opposition parties and prevent Iraqi regions, especially Kurdish ones, from coming under Iranian retaliatory bombardment.

 

The source, who preferred not to be named, noted that even though the border stretches 1,200 kilometers, the focus is really on a few kms between Iran and the Sulaymaniyah and Erbil provinces.

 

He remarked that the governments in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and the federal government in Baghdad have been unable to rein in the Iranian opposition groups, some of which have been deployed in the rugged joint border for nearly three decades.

 

All parties want to avoid angering Tehran, he stated.

 

Tehran has for years been calling on the Kurdish authorities to control the borders and expel Kurdish militants and party headquarters, especially in the town of Koysanjak, located 60 kilometers east of Erbil, and in the Zirkuiz region.

 

The source said over six Kurdish opposition parties have headquarters in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The majority of them usually mobilize their supporters in Iran to hold protests and other activities in opposition to the authorities, most notably in regions that are predominantly Kurdish.


Berri to Asharq Al-Awsat: No New Developments Related to Election of Lebanese President

01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
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Berri to Asharq Al-Awsat: No New Developments Related to Election of Lebanese President

01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)

Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is unlikely to call the legislature to convene to elect a new president given the lack of “real competition” that would yield a result from a vote.

Lebanon has held eleven sessions to elect a president. The country’s top post has been vacant since late October and political rivals have since then been squabbling over a candidate.

A western diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat that regional and international powers “don’t mind” the election of former minister Suleiman Franjieh, but their patience has an “expiration date”.

Lebanese officials have been informed by the powers that the Arab and international community “doesn't mind” the election of any figure, including Franjieh, but that the election should be done within a deadline.

There is a pressing need to elect a president given the dire state of affairs in Lebanon, they went on to say. They also cited the instability on the international scene, which makes Lebanon the least of concerns for global powers if Lebanese officials don’t seize the initiative and reach an agreement over a president.

Such an agreement is a priority, but so is the need for Lebanon to launch real reforms that would restore the international community’s trust in the country.

The new president must be able to kick off the reform process, said the source.

The patience the international community has shown may end if the local powers continue to stumble in electing a president, it warned.

An agreement over a candidate appears unlikely given the “sectarian vetoes” over the two current nominees: Franjieh and former minister Jihad Azour. If the dispute persists, then Lebanese officials are better off coming up with a third candidate that is accepted by all parties.

Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had received no information about any “expiration date”, stressing that he will not call for a parliament session to elect a president knowing that it would end in failure like the eleven others.

The speaker had previously underlined the need to elect a president before June 15, before the term of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh ends in July. Failure to elect a president by then will lead to monetary instability in Lebanon, he warned.

Berri added that he wants the election of a president as soon as possible, but at the same time, he refuses to call for an electoral session that would end in failure.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which backs Franjieh’s nomination, has continued its attack on the opposition and its possible agreement on Azour as a presidential candidate.

Hezbollah deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem said a “national Christian president is a better option for Lebanon than a president coming from a sectarian background.”

“Abandon petty interests and let’s elect a free president who would save the country and would not be hostage to those who elected him,” he tweeted.

Head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel criticized Qassem’s statement, saying: “Does this mean we have to either agree to your challenging candidate or always succumb to your dictates?”

“Don’t you have any other options besides destructive ones? Your confusion is both laughable and lamentable,” he tweeted.


Arab League Calls for Strengthening Stability of Global Food Market

A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
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Arab League Calls for Strengthening Stability of Global Food Market

A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)

The Arab League (AL) on Monday called for strengthening the stability of the global food market and reducing the food gap at the global level, affirming its support for all efforts in this regard, an AL statement said.

 

The statement came following a meeting between AL Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative Abdullah Dashti.

 

The spokesman for the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Jamal Rushdi, said that during the meeting, Aboul Gheit expressed his support for the Initiative that provides the needed grains to most consuming countries, including Arab countries.

 

The AL Chief hoped the Initiative would receive support from all parties to ensure its continuation.

 

Meanwhile, the UN coordinator explained the Initiative’s mechanisms of action and its implementation in coordination with the two warring parties, Russia and Ukraine.

 

“Since its announcement in July 2022, the Initiative provided more than 50 million tons of commodities and grains to the global market. Arab countries benefited from a third of this quantity,” Dashti said.

 

Rushdi thanked the UN coordinator for his efforts and his team to implement the Initiative, despite the difficult security and political circumstances.

 

He then stressed the importance of the Initiative’s continuation to enhance the stability of the global food market, which is witnessing alarming rises in the prices of basic materials.

 


Erbil Accuses Iraq Parliament of Violating Political Agreement

In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
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Erbil Accuses Iraq Parliament of Violating Political Agreement

In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)

Kurdish forces accused the Iraqi parliament of violating the political agreement reached between Baghdad and Erbil over the federal budget.

Parliament had introduced amendments over oil in the draft budget, delaying a parliamentary vote more than two months after legislators received the budget plan.

Oil has been a source of recurrent tension between Kurdistan's autonomous regional government and federal authorities in Baghdad. Kurdish leaders see the budget amendments as contradictory to an agreement concluded in April over oil exports.

Iraqi Kurdistan's Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said Saturday the changes amounted to "treason" and an affront to Iraqi Kurdish rights, while Nechirvan Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdistan president, said he was "deeply concerned" about the changes.

The federal government in mid-March sent the draft three-year budget to parliament, where changes were introduced to the original text.

The Kurdish regional government had for years earned billions of dollars in revenues exporting 475,000 barrels of oil daily to Türkiye without the Iraqi federal government's approval.

But in March the region was forced to halt its lucrative sales following international arbitration ruling in favor of Baghdad's exclusive rights over exports.

The April deal cleared the way for resuming exports, and stipulated that Baghdad's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) would manage the oil sales.

Revenues from the sales would be paid into a bank account overseen by Baghdad, and the Kurdish autonomous region would also receive a share of the federal budget, it said.

But Iraqi deputies changed the original budget text.

It now says the Kurdish region must first deliver 400,000 barrels of oil daily to the federal authorities, along with non-oil revenues, before it can receive its federal budget allocation, according to Kurdish Iraqi economist Govand Sherwani Sherwani.

The original draft, he said, had guaranteed that Kurdistan "would receive its share of the budget without condition, as a constitutional right".

Furthermore, the changes stipulate that Kurdish oil revenues would be deposited "in an account belonging to the Iraqi Finance Ministry, at the Iraqi Central Bank", instead of an international bank account as previously agreed, Sherwani said.

In a country where political agreements are concluded after endless negotiations between political parties, the objection of the Kurds is delaying a parliamentary vote on the budget.

Iraq's oil dependent economy has traditionally been plagued by budget delays, which the government's three-year proposal aimed to avoid.


Sudan Factions Agree to Extend Ceasefire Deal Amid Clashes 

Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
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Sudan Factions Agree to Extend Ceasefire Deal Amid Clashes 

Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)

Sudan's warring military factions agreed on Monday to a five-day extension of a ceasefire agreement, after renewed heavy clashes and air strikes in the capital threw fresh doubts on the effectiveness of a truce designed to ease a humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia and the United States, which brokered a week-long ceasefire deal and have been monitoring it remotely, announced shortly before it was due to expire on Monday evening the parties had agreed to extend it.

Although the ceasefire had been imperfectly observed, it had allowed the delivery of aid to an estimated two million people, the two countries said in a joint statement.

"The extension will provide time for further humanitarian assistance, restoration of essential services, and discussion of a potential longer-term extension," the statement said.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) said starting on Saturday it had been able to make its first food distributions in Khartoum since the beginning of the conflict.

Sources with knowledge of the new deal said discussions on amendments to make the truce more effective were continuing.

Hours before it was signed, residents reported battles in all three of the adjoining cities that make up Sudan's greater capital around the confluence of the Nile - Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. The intensity of the fighting was greater than over the past three days, they said.

Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been locked in a power struggle that erupted into conflict on April 15, killing hundreds and driving nearly 1.4 million people from their homes.

Air strikes, which the army has been using to target RSF forces embedded in neighborhoods across the capital, could be heard in Omdurman on Monday afternoon, residents said.

"Since yesterday evening there has been bombardment with all types of weapons between the army and the Rapid Support," Hassan Othman, a 55-year-old resident of Omdurman, told Reuters by phone. "We're in a state of great fear. Where's the truce?"

On past days, the truce deal had brought some respite from heavy fighting, though sporadic clashes and air strikes have continued.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have previously said both sides had committed various violations of the truce, as well as impeding humanitarian access and restoration of essential services.

Orphanage deaths

Sudan's health ministry has said more than 700 people have died as a result of the fighting, though the true figure is likely much higher because of the difficulty health and aid workers have had in accessing conflict zones.

The government has separately recorded up to 510 deaths in El Geneina, one of the main cities in Darfur, a western region already scarred by conflict and displacement.

In Khartoum, factories, offices, homes and banks have been looted or destroyed. Power, water and telecommunications are often cut, there are acute shortages of medicines and medical equipment, and food supplies have been running low.

At Sudan's largest orphanage, Reuters reported how dozens of babies have died since the start of the conflict, which one Khartoum State official attributed mainly to staff shortages and recurrent power outages caused by the fighting.

The United Nations and aid groups say that despite the truce, they have struggled to get bureaucratic approvals and security guarantees to transport aid and staff to Khartoum and other places of need.

The WFP said it had begun three days of distributions in the capital on Saturday and had reached more than 12,000 people in Omdurman in areas controlled by the army as well as the RSF. It said it plans to reach at least 500,000 people in Khartoum.

The WFP expects up to 2.5 million people in Sudan to slip into hunger in the coming months, raising the number of people affected by acute food security to more than 19 million, or 40% of the population.

The head of the UN refugee agency told Reuters that a projection that one million people could flee Sudan by October may prove a conservative estimate.

More than 350,000 people have already fled into neighboring countries, with most heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.


Palestinian PM to Visit Egypt, Promote Cooperation and Trade

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. (Wafa news agency)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. (Wafa news agency)
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Palestinian PM to Visit Egypt, Promote Cooperation and Trade

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. (Wafa news agency)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. (Wafa news agency)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh will arrive in Egypt on Monday at the head of a high-level ministerial delegation, mainly for talks on increasing trade.

Shtayyeh will meet with Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. Palestinian ministers accompanying him will meet with their Egyptian counterparts and will sign joint cooperation agreements.

The visit is part of the Palestinian government efforts to encourage the Economic Disengagement Plan (EDP) from Israel, a strategy that never saw light due to Israeli obstacles.

The EDP aims to separate the Palestinian economy from Israel’s by opening to Arab markets. The strategy is based on calls by the Palestinian National and Central Councils to amend the Paris Protocol.

Signed in 1994, the Paris Protocol is an annex to the Gaza–Jericho Agreement, stipulates that Israel will collect and pay tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority on goods entering the Palestinian markets. In addition, it sets customs duties and a quota for goods that can be imported.

In February, Shtayyeh met with his Libyan counterpart Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah in the Libyan capital where he signed economic agreements and understandings.

Prior to his trip to Libya, the Palestinian PM had visited Iraq and Jordan also to push for economic agreements and discuss the possibility of relying on Iraqi and Jordanian oil instead of Israeli fuel.

Shtayyeh had met with Madbouly at the Climate Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh last November. He had called for raising trade between the Palestinians and Egypt and benefiting from Egyptian expertise in modernizing industries, training, and developing new industrial ideas.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that trade exchange and joint cooperation will be at the core of the Palestinian delegation’s talks in Cairo. Meetings will also discuss bilateral relations, the political situation, Palestinian reconciliation and issues of common interest.


Heavy Clashes in Sudan’s Capital as Truce Set to Expire 

Destroyed vehicles are pictured outside the burnt-down headquarters of Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics, on al-Sittin (sixty) road in the south of Khartoum on May 29, 2023. (AFP)
Destroyed vehicles are pictured outside the burnt-down headquarters of Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics, on al-Sittin (sixty) road in the south of Khartoum on May 29, 2023. (AFP)
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Heavy Clashes in Sudan’s Capital as Truce Set to Expire 

Destroyed vehicles are pictured outside the burnt-down headquarters of Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics, on al-Sittin (sixty) road in the south of Khartoum on May 29, 2023. (AFP)
Destroyed vehicles are pictured outside the burnt-down headquarters of Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics, on al-Sittin (sixty) road in the south of Khartoum on May 29, 2023. (AFP)

Heavy and sustained clashes could be heard on Monday in parts of Sudan's capital, residents said, hours before the expiry of a shaky ceasefire deal that had brought some respite from a six-week-old conflict but little humanitarian access.

Fighting continued from Sunday into Monday in the south and west of Omdurman, one of three adjoining cities that make up Sudan's greater capital. Across the River Nile in southern Khartoum residents also reported clashes late on Sunday.

Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been locked in a power struggle that erupted into conflict on April 15, killing hundreds and driving nearly 1.4 million people from their homes.

Both sides have said they are considering extending a deal for a week-long ceasefire brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States that was designed to allow for the distribution of aid and is due to expire at 9.45 p.m. (19:45 GMT) local time on Monday.

Saudi Arabia and the United States said on Sunday that both the army and the RSF had repeatedly violated the truce and had impeded the delivery of humanitarian access and restoration of essential services.


Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Officer in Clashes 

Israeli activists walk towards the former Jewish settlement of Homesh, in the northern West Bank, April 24, 2007. (Reuters)
Israeli activists walk towards the former Jewish settlement of Homesh, in the northern West Bank, April 24, 2007. (Reuters)
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Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Officer in Clashes 

Israeli activists walk towards the former Jewish settlement of Homesh, in the northern West Bank, April 24, 2007. (Reuters)
Israeli activists walk towards the former Jewish settlement of Homesh, in the northern West Bank, April 24, 2007. (Reuters)

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian security officer during clashes in the occupied West Bank flashpoint city of Jenin on Monday, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said. 

The Israeli military said it was looking into the report. Earlier it said in a statement that its forces came under heavy Palestinian fire while seeking the arrest of security suspects in Jenin and returned fire at the gunmen. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party identified the officer as Ashraf Sheikh Ibrahim, saying he had died "as he confronted the aggression and the occupation's storming of the city of Jenin." 

In another part of the West Bank on Monday, Jewish settlers inaugurated a seminary in an area that has been a focus of US scrutiny, drawing Palestinian condemnation. 

In a video posted on social media, settler leader Yossi Dagan recited a Jewish benediction at the entrance to the Homesh seminary school, a large white prefabricated shack at the top of a West Bank hill. 

"With God's help ... there will be many more new settlements in northern Samaria," he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. 

US-led peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza broke down in 2014 and show little sign of revival, and Israeli-Palestinian violence has escalated over the past year. 

Most countries deem Israel's settlements illegal - a view Israel disputes. Palestinians say they eat away at the land they want for a future state and cite growing violence by settlers. 

Abbas said Homesh must be removed. "Statements of condemnation are no longer enough in the face of the (Israeli) extremist right-wing government," said his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh. 

In a bid to quell international concern, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel has no intention of building any new settlements as his nationalist-religious government has vowed to bolster existing ones. 

Spokespeople for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on whether any of them had authorized the establishment of the new Homesh seminary. 

Last week, Smotrich, who heads the pro-settler Jewish Zionism party and holds some West Bank powers, said Homesh had been officially added to settlement council land in order to work out a new building plan for the seminary school.