Iraq: Mixed Reactions by Nasiriyah Tribes over Activist's Kidnapping, ICTS Deployment

Iraqi Special Forces soldiers walk on a street in Mosul | REUTERS
Iraqi Special Forces soldiers walk on a street in Mosul | REUTERS
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Iraq: Mixed Reactions by Nasiriyah Tribes over Activist's Kidnapping, ICTS Deployment

Iraqi Special Forces soldiers walk on a street in Mosul | REUTERS
Iraqi Special Forces soldiers walk on a street in Mosul | REUTERS

Mystery still shrouds the case of Sajjad al-Iraqi, an activist who was kidnapped last Saturday by a group of gunmen in the southern Dhi Qar province, Iraq. His predicament has transformed into a security and social crisis that shook the Levantine nation.

In Nasiriyah, where al-Iraqi was kidnapped, tribal chiefs were conflicted over Baghdad dispatching anti-terrorism forces to look for the abducted activist and to arrest the perpetrators. Some welcomed the initiative, while others rejected it.

Despite security taskforces having identifying the abductors, locating their residences and issuing arrest warrants for two of them, no tangible progress was made on the case.

Security and anti-terrorism forces led raids and inspections in Nasiriyah, but with no avail. This has majorly embarrassed the Iraqi government which assigned its top security body, the Iraqi counter-terrorism service (ICTS), to the task.

Over the last two days, outspoken criticism was leveled against the government’s decision to deploy ICTS units to search for al-Iraqi. Many warned that the body’s combative reputation may get hurt if it fails in locating al-Iraqi.

On Tuesday, Nasiriyah-based Al-Asakira tribe demanded the government and ICTS present a formal apology for raiding the house of their chief, Kathem al-Shabram.

Al-Asakira also called for freezing raids and helicopter operations conducted over their tribal territory in search of al-Iraqi and kidnappers.

Even though Al-Asakira’s demands were met with vocal sarcasm, many anti-government armed factions and groups warned against the possibility of internal conflict breaking out and escalating into a full-fledged civil war.

Political sources in Baghdad, however, confirmed that the ICTS had returned its operations to Nasiriyah center and has withdrawn from tribal territory at the outer skirts of the city.

ICTS Chief Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, on Wednesday, confirmed that the security taskforce is working on locating al-Iraqi.

“The primary goal being worked on by the ICTS is the search for Sajjad al-Iraqi,” Saadi told Nasiriyah Radio.

“ICTS units and local police departments are all working to implement the law,” he added, confirming that it is unacceptable to undermine their work.



Algeria Elected to UN Security Council, Among 5 New Members

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. (AFP)
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. (AFP)
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Algeria Elected to UN Security Council, Among 5 New Members

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. (AFP)
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. (AFP)

The United Nations General Assembly elected Algeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and South Korea to the UN Security Council on Tuesday for two-year terms starting January 2024.

The five countries elected will replace Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates.

The election of Algeria as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council is a diplomatic success that shows Algeria is “back on the international stage”, said a statement from President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

The development reflects the international community's respect and esteem for the president, it added.

The North African nation will start its term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council on January 1, 2024 after the vote of 193 member states of the UN.

The election is also a renewed opportunity for Algeria to reaffirm its principles and values, and to exchange its vision on issues related to international peace and security, the presidency statement said.

It added that Algeria is determined to focus its efforts to boost international peace and security and strengthen key partnerships. It is keen on promoting the principles and values of non-alignment, continuing efforts to combat terrorism, and enhancing the participation of women and youth in these international efforts.

“Algeria will also be keen to make the voice of Arab and African countries heard and to defend common strategic interests in various issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Security Council,” it said.

On this occasion, Algerian authorities expressed their “sincere thanks and deep gratitude to the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for their adoption and generous sponsorship of Algeria’s candidacy.”


No Change Expected in Türkiye’s Approach to Syria as New Govt Takes Office

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his new government pose for a photo in front of the Ataturk Monument in Ankara on Tuesday. (Turkish Presidency - Reuters)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his new government pose for a photo in front of the Ataturk Monument in Ankara on Tuesday. (Turkish Presidency - Reuters)
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No Change Expected in Türkiye’s Approach to Syria as New Govt Takes Office

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his new government pose for a photo in front of the Ataturk Monument in Ankara on Tuesday. (Turkish Presidency - Reuters)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his new government pose for a photo in front of the Ataturk Monument in Ankara on Tuesday. (Turkish Presidency - Reuters)

As soon as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the formation of his new government, which held its first meeting on Tuesday, questions were raised over Türkiye’s approach to the Syria.  

In fact, the new government lineup includes three ministers who have extensive experience in handling the Syrian file, and knowledge of the minutes and details of the Russian-sponsored talks aimed at normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus.  

The new foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, is the former intelligence chief, who initiated the first contacts with Syria and laid the basis for launching the talks through his meetings with head of the Syrian National Security Bureau Ali Mamlouk.  

Moreover, Turkish intelligence, under the leadership of Fidan, carried out sophisticated operations targeting leaders of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the killing of the supposed leader of ISIS, Abu al-Hussein al-Qurashi in Jandris, northern Syria.  

Turkish intelligence has established an effective presence in northern Syria under his leadership. 

Ibrahim Kalin, former official spokesman for the presidency, was named as Fidan’s replacement as head of intelligence. 

Kalin is also strongly involved in the Syrian file, as he was a security advisor to Erdogan, and used to handle contacts with Russian and American representatives, as well as European officials and various circles engaged in Syria.  

New minister of Defense Yasar Guler is a former army chief of staff. He participated and supervised the four Turkish military operations in northern Syria from 2016 to 2020. He was commander of the ground forces during the Euphrates Shield in 2016 and the Olive Branch in 2018, then chief of staff as of 2018. He also supervised the Peace Spring operation in northeastern Syria, and the Spring Shield in Idlib in 2020.  

In a statement after being appointed to his new post, Fidan stressed that he will continue to maintain an independent national vision for Türkiye. The new defense minister also confirmed that Turkish forces will maintain their tasks in preserving the country’s security and combating terrorism.  

Both statements point that there would be no change in Türkiye’s current policy towards Syria, politically or on the ground. The normalization talks will continue, while a military withdrawal from northern Syria will not be imminent.  

A meeting of the Quartet Mechanism to develop a roadmap for normalization between Türkiye and Syria is scheduled to be held later this month. It will include the deputy foreign and defense ministers, and officials from the intelligence services of the two countries, along with Russia and Iran, within the framework of the Astana track. 


Mauritanian President Urges ‘Joint Arab Action’ Against Terrorism

The Mauritanian President in front of the permanent delegates to the Arab League. (Mauritanian Presidency) 
The Mauritanian President in front of the permanent delegates to the Arab League. (Mauritanian Presidency) 
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Mauritanian President Urges ‘Joint Arab Action’ Against Terrorism

The Mauritanian President in front of the permanent delegates to the Arab League. (Mauritanian Presidency) 
The Mauritanian President in front of the permanent delegates to the Arab League. (Mauritanian Presidency) 

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani said Monday before the Arab League in Cairo that the development of the joint Arab action is essential to restore security and stability in the Arab region and defeat terrorism and extremism.

Ghazouani was on a visit to Egypt where he held discussions with his Egyptian counterpart President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"If we want to restore security and stability in the Arab arena, defeat terrorism and extremism, and lay the foundations for sustainable and comprehensive development, then the Arab League and the development of joint Arab work are essential," the President stressed.

The first step on this path is to end the conflicts in the Arab world, said Ghazouani, adding that his country backs all international and Arab efforts aiming at resolving the current conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Sudan, and Libya, in a way that guarantees these countries’ territories integrity and unity and their people’s right in stability, security, and development.

He noted that the security, environmental, and economic crises affect the Arab countries’ social and economic fabric.

The Mauritanian President showcased his country’s strategy in fighting terrorism and the joint action among the Sahel countries in combating extremism and uprooting poverty.

Commenting on the President’s call to reinforce joint Arab action, Abdel Samad Mubarak, President of the Atlas Center for Development and Strategic Research and Professor at Nouakchott Modern University, said that these calls are essential at a time when there is a deterioration in the joint Arab action.

Mubarak told Asharq Al-Awsat that the President’s speech before the AL came from the Mauritanian tripartite approach to tackle the security and developmental issues.

He added that his speech indicates that he has decided to use his power and Mauritania’s diplomatic and political status for the sake of a joint Arab framework.


Egypt to Transfer Its Health Expertise to Africa

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at Africa Health ExCon (Egyptian Presidency)
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at Africa Health ExCon (Egyptian Presidency)
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Egypt to Transfer Its Health Expertise to Africa

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at Africa Health ExCon (Egyptian Presidency)
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at Africa Health ExCon (Egyptian Presidency)

Egypt affirmed its keenness to transfer its health expertise to African countries. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Egypt would be declared within the coming few days or weeks free from Hepatitis C following the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking at the second edition of Africa Health ExCon in Cairo under the theme "Your Gate to Innovation and Trade," Sisi highlighted the importance of Egyptian initiatives in preserving the health of citizens.

He indicated that Egypt has tried to address the large population growth of 105 million people and the lack of hospitals by launching health initiatives.

Africa Health ExCon, the largest annual Medical Exhibition and conference in Africa, was established as the continental hub of health innovation and trade in Africa and the Middle East.

It is Africa and Egypt's gateway towards innovation and trade, as an annual meeting between global and African medical companies.

Sisi stressed that health initiatives try to solve complex challenges to improve people's lives from a health perspective.

The President noted that the "Ending waiting lists" initiative was presented four years ago, with about 12,000 cases, but the number now increased to 1.9 million patients, appreciating the civil society organizations and bodies for their donations.

Addressing the conference, Head of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement, Medical Supply and Technology Management (AUPP) Bahaaeddine Zeidan said the second Africa Health ExCon conference is a gathering for all medical experts to exchange expertise, clinching deals, and getting briefed on the latest developments.

During the opening session, the conference included a documentary depicting the challenges facing the African continent in the healthcare sector due to imbalances in supply chains and high costs.

Director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Jean Kaseya voiced confidence in his authority's potential in the medical field and Egypt's prominent role in bolstering ties with Africa.

Addressing the conference, Kaseya said the coronavirus pandemic claimed lives, and African nations effectively confronted the virus.

He noted that African conferences are essential to developing the medical and technological sector, especially in vaccine production.

Health Minister Khaled Abdul-Ghafar asserted that Egyptian authorities established advanced hospitals and health centers in all governorates to achieve social justice.

Abdul-Ghafar noted that 965 health projects cost about EGP91 billion, explaining that the new medical facilities cost the state about EGP37 billion to establish 53 new hospitals in various governorates.

The minister explained that they were short- and long-term paths followed within Egypt's health sector development, including the 14 presidential initiatives valued at EGP32 billion, which served 92 million citizens.


Egypt's Sisi Begins African Tour Targeting Political, Economic Cooperation

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in Luanda, Angola. (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in Luanda, Angola. (Egyptian Presidency)
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Egypt's Sisi Begins African Tour Targeting Political, Economic Cooperation

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in Luanda, Angola. (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in Luanda, Angola. (Egyptian Presidency)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kicked off on Tuesday an African tour that includes Angola, Zambia, and Mozambique.  

Sisi will participate in the 22nd summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), during which the rotating chairmanship will be handed over from Egypt to Zambia.  

Presidential spokesman Ahmed Fahmy said Sisi's tour comes within Egypt's keenness to intensify communication and coordination with African nations.  

Fahmy indicated that the visits aim to boost Egyptian relations with the countries in various fields, especially by strengthening cooperation at economic, trade, and investment levels. The tour addresses the advanced priority accorded to African issues in Egyptian foreign policy.  

Observers told Asharq Al-Awsat that the tour is geopolitically important to Cairo and opens a new horizon for Egyptian diplomacy in southern Africa.  

They added that it focuses on boosting bilateral cooperation, dealing with the continent's concerns, and discussing regional developments.  

Egypt has intensified its diplomatic activity in Africa in the last ten years.  

According to an official report by the Egyptian State Information Service, African countries accounted for more than 30 percent of all presidential visits in recent years.  

During the past year, Sisi participated in several summits concerned with Africa, including the US-Africa Leaders' Summit in Washington and the 6th session of the AU-EU Summit between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) in Brussels.  

Ambassador Ali al-Hefny described Sisi's current tour as "extremely important," explaining that it targets several countries in southern Africa that were given less priority in Egyptian foreign policy than other regions.  

The former official stressed the importance of presidential visits to African countries, pointing out that they represent Egypt's keenness to communicate with them at the highest levels. 

Zambia and Angola boast promising opportunities to work with Egypt at the official level and with the business community, he went on to say.  

In 2019, Egypt chaired the AU, launching several cooperation initiatives, including the "Silencing the Guns" initiative to reduce armed conflicts in Africa.  

It also launched the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development to act as an African platform to discuss various threats and challenges facing the continent.  

Egypt participates in a group of major continental projects, especially in transportation linking the continent's northern and southern ends through the river navigation corridor between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea.  

Expert in African affairs Rami Zuhdi said Sisi's visit has promising economic potential, especially in mining and oil production.  

Zuhdi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the tour has "geopolitical" importance, which "opens new horizons for Egyptian diplomacy."  

He indicated that revitalizing Egypt's role in COMESA is essential for boosting its presence in the continent.  

Egypt is seeking to consolidate its African presence by adopting a set of cooperation, trade, and cultural exchange programs. 

Last month, it hosted the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group with the participation of central bank governors, finance ministers, and officials representing the 81 member countries.  

Egypt is the third largest economy in Africa in terms of GDP after Nigeria and South Africa.  

Cairo and Ethiopia account for about 63 percent of the total foreign direct investment within the COMESA group in the petroleum, services, and manufacturing sectors. 


Aoun in Damascus for First Time in 14 Years

This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
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Aoun in Damascus for First Time in 14 Years

This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)

Lebanese former President Michel Aoun paid a visit to the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, his first in 14 years.

He was received by President Bashar al-Assad, who stressed that “Lebanon’s strength lies in its political and economic stability.”

The Lebanese people are capable of achieving this stability through dialogue and consensus, he remarked.

Aoun’s visit is significant in wake of the months-long presidential vacuum in Lebanon.

Head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, who is also Aoun’s son-in-law, recently endorsed the opposition in naming former minister Jihad Azour as presidential candidate.

The bid pits the opposition and the FPM, which was founded by Aoun, against the Shiite duo of Hezbollah and Amal. The duo is backing the nomination of Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, who enjoys close ties with Assad.

Assad expressed to Aoun his faith in the Lebanese people’s ability to overcome all problems and challenges and consolidate the role of their national and constitutional institutions.

Most importantly, they must adhere to principles and avoid banking on changes, he suggested.

Moreover, Assad said Lebanon and Syria must not approach their challenges separately, hailing the recent rapprochement between Arab countries and noting that the Jeddah Summit will leave a positive impact on both nations.

The Arab League summit last month witnessed the reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the organization.

For his part, Aoun said the Lebanese people are “clinging on to their national unity in spite of everything”.

“Syria managed to overcome a difficult and dangerous phase due to the awareness of its people and faith in their country, army and leadership,” he added.

“Syria’s prosperity will reflect positively on Lebanon and the Lebanese people,” he said.


Clashes Between Sudan’s Warring Factions Intensify 

Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
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Clashes Between Sudan’s Warring Factions Intensify 

Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)

Sudan's warring military factions clashed by air and on the ground in the country's capital on Tuesday, as increased violence and spreading lawlessness added to the misery of residents already struggling with limited food and medicine.

Fighting between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, now in its eighth week, has killed hundreds of civilians, and driven 400,000 across borders and more than 1.2 million out of the capital and other cities.

Saudi Arabia and the United States had brokered talks that had led to imperfectly-observed ceasefires with the aim of providing humanitarian assistance. But talks collapsed last week and while delegations remain in Jeddah no direct talks have been announced.

The fighting has inflicting heavy damage on the capital where the remaining residents are at the mercy of battles, air strikes and looting.

Artillery and air strikes continued overnight, with residents in southern and eastern Khartoum and northern Bahri reporting hearing sounds of artillery and gun clashes on Tuesday morning.

Overnight, the two forces clashed in the streets of the city of Omdurman, around the army's key Engineers Corps base. The army, which tends to prefer air strikes to ground fighting was able to maintain its positions around the base but could not push back the RSF, which controls most of the rest of the city.

"Our neighborhood has become a war zone. There are fierce clashes and strikes all around us because our house is next to the Engineers' Corps," said 45-year-old Jawahir Mohamed.

"We are scared of dying but we are also scared of leaving our house and being burgled," she added.

Looters, some of whom Khartoum residents and neighborhood committees say belong to the RSF, have pillaged neighborhoods across the capital, stealing cars, breaking open safes, and occupying homes.

Aid groups have struggled to provide extensive assistance to Khartoum residents, who face electricity and water shortages, as well as dwindling supplies in shops and pharmacies.

Neighborhood-based resistance committees have organized such assistance, but have struggled as fighting has intensified.

"We could not distribute medicines because of the air and artillery bombardment," said one activist who asked not to be named.

Fighting has expanded beyond Khartoum to the Darfur region to the West. Also hit by fighting is the city of El Obeid, a key route between Khartoum and Darfur.


Syrian Newspaper: Quadripartite Meeting to be Held at Deputy FMs Level

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-left) speaks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the quadripartite meeting, May 10. (EPA) 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-left) speaks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the quadripartite meeting, May 10. (EPA) 
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Syrian Newspaper: Quadripartite Meeting to be Held at Deputy FMs Level

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-left) speaks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the quadripartite meeting, May 10. (EPA) 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-left) speaks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the quadripartite meeting, May 10. (EPA) 

The quadripartite meeting would be held this month at the level of deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Russia, Iran, and Türkiye, according to media sources in Damascus.

Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper quoted informed sources in Moscow as saying that the quadripartite meeting on Syria will be held on the sidelines of the Astana Peace Talks scheduled on June 20-21.

Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Ayman Susan would represent Syria’s delegation in the meeting.

A meeting between the foreign ministers of Türkiye, Russia, Iran, and Syria was held on May 10 in Moscow, as part of “building dialogue” between Türkiye and the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The FMs agreed on preparing a roadmap to develop Turkish-Syrian ties.

While Syria considered it early to speak about appointing a Syrian committee to follow up on the roadmap, the Turkish side expressed optimism regarding normalizing ties with Syria.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad revealed in previous statements that during the recent meeting, there were “thorough discussions and sometimes intense” in which the Syrian delegation demanded omitting all that is related to normalization.

The Syrian FM stressed that normalizing ties can only come in tandem with the Turkish forces’ withdrawal from Syria.

Mekdad added that Syria is willing to engage in constructive and open dialogue to reach its desired goals, as long as it’s based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of the state, and non-interference in its internal affairs.

Damascus hinges any rapprochement with Türkiye on the withdrawal of the Turkish forces from Syrian soil, ceasing support to the armed opposition groups, and abstaining from interfering in Syrian affairs.

But for now, Ankara refuses to withdraw from Syria for several national security-related reasons.


US First Lady Praises Morocco King for Empowering Women, Youth

The US First Lady, Jill Biden, speaking at the Ennakhil Association (US Embassy)
The US First Lady, Jill Biden, speaking at the Ennakhil Association (US Embassy)
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US First Lady Praises Morocco King for Empowering Women, Youth

The US First Lady, Jill Biden, speaking at the Ennakhil Association (US Embassy)
The US First Lady, Jill Biden, speaking at the Ennakhil Association (US Embassy)

The US First Lady, Jill Biden, praised the Moroccan King Mohammed VI for empowering women and youth, adding that under his leadership, Morocco is encouraging reforms to empower women and youth, reflecting shared priorities between their countries.

Biden said the US is grateful for its "longstanding partnership and friendship with Morocco," praising Princess Lalla Hasna for her gracious reception upon her arrival in Marrakech.

The First Lady indicated that Princess Lalla Hasnaa informed her about the efforts to "educate children and young people on the significance of protecting our climate."

"I was inspired by her passion, and I'm excited to take her story back to the United States to look for more opportunities to learn from each other. Because our world is tied together in immeasurable ways, that common ground is where the foundation of our shared future must be laid,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude to King Mohammed VI for the reception, describing Morocco as "one the US oldest friends."

The First Lady was accompanied by her daughter, Ashley Biden, and sister, Bobby Jacobs, on a tour to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe to promote and improve the living conditions of women and youth worldwide.

It is Biden's second visit to Morocco since November 2014, during which she accompanied then-Vice President Joe Biden during his participation in the fifth session of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was held in Marrakech.

On Sunday, Jill Biden visited Ennakhil Association, a nonprofit organization in Marrakech that supports women who have been victims of gender-based violations.

Upon her arrival at the headquarters, Biden was greeted by Zakia Mrini, the Founder and Secretary General of Ennakhil Association, the US Ambassador Puneet Talwar, his wife Sarosh Sattar, and the US Consul General in Casablanca, Lawrence Randolph.

Biden toured the various facilities and met with the staff and participants of two programs funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The women who participated in vocational training provided by the Association visited the display, which included cosmetic products, embroidery, and sewing products.

Before taking a souvenir photo, they presented the First Lady with a traditional dress.

Ennakhil Association, founded by Mrini in 1997, is a non-governmental organization that defends women's rights and provides vocational training for vulnerable victims. In 1998, the Association established the first listening center for women victims of gender-based violence outside the Rabat and Casablanca regions.

Since then, the Association has provided counseling to more than 19,000 women and more than 2,000 child victims of violence.

Ennakhil Association supported nearly 2,000 gender-based violence cases in the courts in cooperation with other organizations, including the competent authorities, the judiciary, health care providers, and the media.

In September 2016, USAID-Morocco allocated $500,000 to Ennakhil, which helped the Association expand its work as an intermediate support organization, mentoring other civil society organizations and working effectively with the government on behalf of citizens.

Through this program, the Ennakhil Association trained 30 partner civil society organizations.

In July 2020, USAID-Morocco granted the Ennakhil Association more than $320,000 in additional funding to combat "COVID-19" to address the rise in cases of gender-based violence in the Marrakech-Safi region.

With the funding, the Association established a solidarity restaurant and a training center for women victims of gender-based violence. It has also developed an online platform to support these victims and their families.

 


Israeli Soldiers to Join Moroccan War Games for First Time 

Israeli soldiers are deployed near the Gaza border. (Reuters)
Israeli soldiers are deployed near the Gaza border. (Reuters)
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Israeli Soldiers to Join Moroccan War Games for First Time 

Israeli soldiers are deployed near the Gaza border. (Reuters)
Israeli soldiers are deployed near the Gaza border. (Reuters)

Israeli soldiers will for the first time take part in military exercises in Morocco when the biggest war games event in Africa kicks off Tuesday, the Israeli army said.

"This is the first time that the IDF is taking an active part in the 'African Lion' international exercise," said a statement from the Israeli army late Monday.

"A delegation of 12 soldiers and commanders from the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion" -- an elite infantry unit -- has been sent to participate alongside some 8,000 soldiers from 18 countries.

The event -- now in its 19th edition -- is organized by Morocco and the United States.

"During the next two weeks, the soldiers will focus on training in various combat challenges that combine urban warfare and underground warfare, in which they will conclude in a common exercise for all participating armies," read the Israeli statement.

Israel participated in the event last year, however only as international military observers, without soldiers taking part on the ground.

According to the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR), the war games include exercises in operational planning and fighting weapons of mass destruction, tactical land, sea, air and special forces training, as well as airborne operations.

Morocco and Israel have been working to boost cooperation in the military, security, trade and tourism fields since they normalized ties in December 2020.