Shtayyeh Calls on EU to Recognize Palestinian State

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held a meeting Wednesday with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels (WAFA)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held a meeting Wednesday with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels (WAFA)
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Shtayyeh Calls on EU to Recognize Palestinian State

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held a meeting Wednesday with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels (WAFA)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held a meeting Wednesday with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels (WAFA)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Wednesday urged European Union countries to salvage the two-state solution, increase their support for the Palestinians and to recognize the State of Palestine.

During a meeting in the Belgian capital, Brussels, with Arab ambassadors to the EU, Shtayyeh discussed the difficult economic and financial situation in the Palestinian territories, due to the Israeli measures imposed on the Palestinian people and the lack of foreign funding, in addition to the illegal Israeli deductions from the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to offset stipends paid to militants and their families.

Shtayyeh said President Mahmoud Abbas insists to hold elections across the Palestinian Territories, stressing that the voting is considered a Palestinian issue, which the Authority is keen to hold.

“This is not only an American or European demand,” Shtayyeh said, calling on the international community, particularly the US and Europe to put real pressure on Tel Aviv to allow the elections to be held in Jerusalem, including allowing Jerusalemites to cast their votes, and run as electoral candidates.

Also on Wednesday, Shtayyeh held a meeting with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

The PM renewed his call on the EU to hold European settlers who live in settlements accountable, in accordance with the principles of the EU, which considers settlements illegal and contrary to international law.



West Bank Villagers Vigilant but Vulnerable after Settler Attacks

A Palestinian man inspects the damage following clashes with settlers the previous night in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah, 13 April 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
A Palestinian man inspects the damage following clashes with settlers the previous night in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah, 13 April 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
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West Bank Villagers Vigilant but Vulnerable after Settler Attacks

A Palestinian man inspects the damage following clashes with settlers the previous night in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah, 13 April 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
A Palestinian man inspects the damage following clashes with settlers the previous night in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah, 13 April 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH

Sitting around a fire in the hills of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Ibrahim Abu Alyah and some friends stood watch over his herd in the aftermath of a settler attack on their village.
"We are here so that we can put away the sheep and tell people to protect their homes in case settlers come," Abu Alyah told AFP.
After 14-year-old Israeli herder Benjamin Achimeir went missing on April 12 in the nearby illegal settler outpost of Malachi Hashalom, dozens of Jewish settlers raided his village of Al-Mughayyir, north of Ramallah.
Armed with rifles and Molotov cocktails, they set houses ablaze, killed sheep, wounded 23 people and displaced 86, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, AFP said.
One Palestinian was also killed in the violence.
Abu Alyah, a shepherd, lost "20 or 30 sheep" and the cash he made from selling milk products when his house was set alight.
Al-Mughayyir's mayor, Amin Abu Alyah, said the settlers, who were part of the search party for Achimeir, burnt "everything they found in front of them" including houses, a bulldozer and vehicles.
Several citizens tried to organize protection committees to defend themselves from raids, but were prevented from doing so, he said.
"We currently have more than 70 prisoners inside Israeli prisons on charges of joining protection committees or trying to form an organized body," he said.
Duma, struck twice
In the nearby village of Duma, five kilometers (three miles) north of Al-Mughayyir, old fears came true when hundreds of settlers came down through the surrounding fields on Saturday.
That day, Achimeir's body was found bearing marks of a stabbing attack. People watched powerless as settlers rampaged through the village.
"Hundreds of settlers entered the village followed by more than 300 Israeli soldiers who stormed the village and declared it a closed military zone," Suleiman Dawabsha, head of Duma's village council, told AFP.
Mahmud Salawdeh, a 30-year-old iron worker whose house was torched in the attack, felt vulnerable when he realized the soldiers were not stopping the attack.
"We feel helpless because we are unable to protect ourselves, and the settlers are protected by the army," he said.
"I lost all my money and my future," he added from the ground floor of his charred house on the outskirts of Duma, near the fields the attackers came through.
At his feet, burnt furniture and shattered glass covered the floor, while walls black with soot served as a reminder of the firebombs thrown at the building.
His workshop in the adjacent room was torched, charred remnants of old tools lay around, while a large wooden box where he had been raising 70 chicks was now empty.
The incident opened old wounds for Duma residents, who still remember the tragedy that struck the Dawabsha family.
In 2015, the family's home was set ablaze by a settler extremist, killing the couple and their toddler, and leaving only one surviving member, four-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha.
'We will never leave'
Duma residents, like many West Bank villagers, say they are protected neither by Palestinian security, which is only allowed to operate in 40 percent of the territory, nor by Israel, which controls the rest.
Israeli soldiers do not always restrain settlers from attacking Palestinians, OCHA said.
In January, "in nearly half of all recorded incidents (of settler violence) after 7 October, Israeli forces were either accompanying or reported to be supporting the attackers," it said.
OCHA recorded 774 instances of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians since war broke in Gaza on October 7, and said 37 communities had been affected by violence between April 9 and 15, "triple the number" of the preceding week.
Nine Israelis, including five in Israeli forces, were killed in the West Bank over the same timeframe, OCHA said.
At least 462 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the West Bank during that period, according to Palestinian official figures.
The West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967, has seen a surge in violence since early last year, which has intensified since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza erupted.
Despite the hardships, "we will never leave", the herder Abu Alyah told AFP.
But the 29-year-old already had to move from his former herding grounds on the other side of Al-Mughayyir, closer to the settlement outpost, in September.
The weekend's attacks marked a peak in violence due to the sheer number of people who took part in them, but also reflects a wider trend in the West Bank, NGOs said.
"It is clear that the escalation of violence in the West Bank has occurred in tandem with the crisis in Gaza," charity ActionAid said in a statement.
On Wednesday evening, settlers were planting Israeli flags along the road that runs between Al-Mughayyir and Malachi Hashalom.


Israel Targets Air Defense System in Syria, State News Agency Says 

A picture taken early on 21 January, 2019 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. (AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken early on 21 January, 2019 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Israel Targets Air Defense System in Syria, State News Agency Says 

A picture taken early on 21 January, 2019 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. (AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken early on 21 January, 2019 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. (AFP/Getty Images)

Israel carried out a missile strike targeting an air defense unit in its south and causing material damage, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted a military statement as saying Friday.

The warplanes were seen around the time loud noises and drones were reported near a major Iranian air base and nuclear site early Friday. That area of Syria is directly west of Isfahan, some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, and east of Israel. Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday and some flights were diverted or grounded after reports of explosions near a major airbase and nuclear site where drones were spotted.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken didn’t comment about the latest Middle East developments as he arrived for the final session Friday morning of a Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting in Capri, Italy.

Israel has vowed to respond to Iran’s unprecedented weekend attack, leaving the region bracing for further escalation after months of fighting in Gaza. Allies have urged Israel to hold back on any response to the attack that could spiral.

The United States and Britain announced Thursday that they were imposing a new round of sanctions on Iran. The moves came as European Union leaders meeting in Brussels vowed to ramp up sanctions on Iran to target its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon.

Regional tensions have increased since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad — two armed groups backed by Iran — carried out a cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed more than 33,900 people, according to local health officials.


Attack Blamed on ISIS Militants Kills 22 Pro-Government Fighters in Central Syria 

Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells have been blamed for deadly attacks against both Syrian government forces and against members of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Getty Images/AFP)
Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells have been blamed for deadly attacks against both Syrian government forces and against members of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Attack Blamed on ISIS Militants Kills 22 Pro-Government Fighters in Central Syria 

Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells have been blamed for deadly attacks against both Syrian government forces and against members of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Getty Images/AFP)
Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells have been blamed for deadly attacks against both Syrian government forces and against members of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Getty Images/AFP)

An attack on pro-government fighters by suspected members of the ISIS group in central Syria killed 22 pro-government fighters, an opposition war monitor and pro-government media reported Friday.

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying members of the Quds Brigade, a government and Russian-backed faction of mostly Palestinian fighters in Syria, near the town of Sukhna late Thursday night. Sukhna was once an ISIS stronghold.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war monitor, and the pro-government radio station Sham FM said ISIS was behind the attack.

Both the Observatory and Sham FM said 22 fighters were killed. Sham FM said they were all Quds Brigade gunmen, while the Observatory said the majority belonged to the group.

The Quds Brigade fought on the side of Syrian government forces during the country’s 13-year conflict, which has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

The Quds Brigade is different from the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which uses the same name.

Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells have been blamed for deadly attacks against both Syrian government forces and against members of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.


US Vetoes Widely Supported Resolution Backing Full UN Membership for Palestine 

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood voted against members of the Security Council allowing Palestinian UN membership during a Security Council at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood voted against members of the Security Council allowing Palestinian UN membership during a Security Council at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. (Reuters)
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US Vetoes Widely Supported Resolution Backing Full UN Membership for Palestine 

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood voted against members of the Security Council allowing Palestinian UN membership during a Security Council at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood voted against members of the Security Council allowing Palestinian UN membership during a Security Council at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. (Reuters)

The United States vetoed a widely backed UN resolution Thursday that would have paved the way for full United Nations membership for Palestine, a goal the Palestinians have long sought and Israel has worked to prevent.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 12 in favor, the United States opposed and two abstentions, from the United Kingdom and Switzerland. US allies France, Japan and South Korea supported the resolution.

The strong support the Palestinians received reflects not only the growing number of countries recognizing their statehood, but almost certainly the global support for Palestinians facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month.

The resolution would have recommended that the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, approve Palestine becoming the 194th member of the United Nations. Some 140 countries have already recognized Palestine, so its admission would have been approved, likely by a much higher number of countries.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council that the veto "does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties."

The United States has "been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York — even with the best intentions — will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people," deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.

His voice breaking at times, Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the council after the vote: "The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will and it will not defeat our determination."

"We will not stop in our effort," he said. "The state of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near."

This is the second Palestinian attempt for full membership and comes as the war in Gaza has put the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict at center stage.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas first delivered the Palestinian Authority’s application for UN membership in 2011. It failed because the Palestinians didn’t get the required minimum support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members.

They went to the General Assembly and succeeded by more than a two-thirds majority in having their status raised from a UN observer to a non-member observer state in 2012. That opened the door for the Palestinian territories to join UN and other international organizations, including the International Criminal Court.

Algerian UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama, the Arab representative on the council who introduced the resolution, called Palestine’s admission "a critical step toward rectifying a longstanding injustice" and said that "peace will come from Palestine’s inclusion, not from its exclusion."

In explaining the US veto, Wood said there are "unresolved questions" on whether Palestine meets the criteria to be considered a state. He pointed to Hamas still exerting power and influence in the Gaza Strip, which is a key part of the state envisioned by the Palestinians.

Wood stressed that the US commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and Palestine live side-by-side in peace, is the only path for security for both sides and for Israel to establish relations with all its Arab neighbors.

"The United States is committed to intensifying its engagement with the Palestinians and the rest of the region, not only to address the current crisis in Gaza, but to advance a political settlement that will create a path to Palestinian statehood and membership in the United Nations," he said.

Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, reiterated the commitment to a two-state solution but asserted that Israel believes Palestine "is a permanent strategic threat."

"Israel will do its best to block the sovereignty of a Palestinian state and to make sure that the Palestinian people are exiled away from their homeland or remain under its occupation forever," he said.

He demanded of the council and diplomats crowded in the chamber: "What will the international community do? What will you do?"

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been stalled for years, and Israel’s right-wing government is dominated by hard-liners who oppose Palestinian statehood.

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the resolution "disconnected to the reality on the ground" and warned that it "will cause only destruction for years to come and harm any chance for future dialogue."

Six months after the Oct. 7 attack by the Hamas armed group, which controls Gaza, and the killing of 1,200 people in "the most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust," he accused the Security Council of seeking "to reward the perpetrators of these atrocities with statehood."

Israel’s military offensive in response has killed over 32,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and destroyed much of the territory, which speaker after speaker denounced Thursday.

After the vote, Erdan thanked the United States and particularly President Joe Biden "for standing up for truth and morality in the face of hypocrisy and politics."

He called the Palestinian Authority — which controls the West Bank and the US wants to see take over Gaza where Hamas still has sway — "a terror supporting entity."

The Israeli UN ambassador referred to the requirements for UN membership – accepting the obligations in the UN Charter and being a "peace-loving" state.

Despite the Palestinian failure to meet the criteria for UN membership, Erdan said most council members supported it.

"It’s very sad because your vote will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism every more and make peace almost impossible," he said.


WHO to Asharq Al-Awsat: Sudanese Hospitals on the Verge of Collapse

Patients receiving treatment at Gedaref Hospital in eastern Sudan (AFP)
Patients receiving treatment at Gedaref Hospital in eastern Sudan (AFP)
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WHO to Asharq Al-Awsat: Sudanese Hospitals on the Verge of Collapse

Patients receiving treatment at Gedaref Hospital in eastern Sudan (AFP)
Patients receiving treatment at Gedaref Hospital in eastern Sudan (AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Sudan’s hospitals are on the verge of collapse.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Hanan Hassan Balkhi, revealed that about 70 to 80 percent of hospitals in the war-torn provinces were not operating, either due to prolonged attacks, shortage of medical supplies and equipment, or lack of health workers.”
Moreover, the WHO regional director attributed part of the crisis in hospitals to “lack of security,” in addition to the fact that the health system in Sudan “was already exhausted before the war, and is now on the verge of collapse.”
She urged the international community to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid and work to end the ongoing hostilities in the country, stressing the need to implement the decisions of the recent Paris conference.
On her recent visit to Sudan in mid-march, Balkhi said: “My observations on the ground have confirmed the devastating humanitarian crisis of frightening proportions that the ongoing conflict has made 25 million people need urgent assistance this year, while the war forced the displacement of 8.6 million people, and at least 14,600 people were killed, and 33,000 others injured.”
According to the WHO regional director, the outbreaks of diseases are increasing, including cholera, measles, malaria, poliovirus type 2, dengue fever, and hepatitis E, in light of the disruption of basic public health services...

Food insecurity has reached a record level, as nearly half of the children suffer from acute malnutrition, she emphasized.
Balkhi said that the World Health Organization was deploying all possible efforts “within the available capabilities.”
“We are pursuing all possible means and working with local and international partners to make life-saving health care accessible to millions of the most vulnerable people,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat.
For a whole year, according to Balkhi, the WHO and its partners maintained a large presence on the ground. The organization offered aid to about 2.5 million people, while mobile clinics provided services to 3.3 million individuals, including cholera, measles, and rubella vaccines to millions of people in different states.
Since the beginning of the war in Sudan, “the organization has verified at least 62 attacks on health care, resulting in 38 deaths and 45 injuries,” she said, adding: “We condemn in the strongest terms the continued attacks on health care in Sudan, and the occupation of health facilities. These attacks must stop.”

 

 


Sudanese Army Strikes Darfur, RSF Advances on Kordofan

A member of the army walks amid damaged houses in Omdurman in Khartoum earlier in April. (Reuters)
A member of the army walks amid damaged houses in Omdurman in Khartoum earlier in April. (Reuters)
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Sudanese Army Strikes Darfur, RSF Advances on Kordofan

A member of the army walks amid damaged houses in Omdurman in Khartoum earlier in April. (Reuters)
A member of the army walks amid damaged houses in Omdurman in Khartoum earlier in April. (Reuters)

The Sudanese army carried out on Thursday a series of air raids on Rapid Support Forces (RSF) positions in the Al-Fashir city, the capital of the North Sudan state, and Nyala in South Darfur in the country’s west.

Meanwhile, sources from the RSF said they were advancing “to liberate Kordofan state” in southern Sudan from the military.

Fierce fighting has been reported for days in Darfur and Kordofan. They intensified on Thursday, deepening the suffering of the people and displacing tens of thousands.

A resident of Al-Fashir told the Arab World Press Agency (AWPA) that prices of goods and fuel have spiked amid the displacement of the people from the countryside to the city.

Over 25,000 families from 31 villages have sought refuge in the city. They are being housed in 15 centers, said a support group for the villages of the Al-Fashir countryside.

The refugees are in deep need of essential goods, such as food, medicine and health services, it added.

Meanwhile, cracks appeared in the sole bridge that connects the northern and southern parts of Nyala city, raising fears of its collapse. Locals said the bridge was damaged in shelling between the army and RSF.

The bridge was built 40 years ago and is vital for Nyala as it connects it with other regions in the south and west. It is the main route for the delivery of goods and the provision of various services.

Kordofan

In Kordofan, an RSF source said the force has caused heavy losses to the army in fighting in the state’s northern region.

The RSF also seized the Jebel al-Dair camp in the Sidra military zone.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to the AWPA, the source added that the RSF also captured six combat vehicles.

The RSF is advancing to liberate Kordofan from the army, it stated.

On the other hand, the army posted on its official Facebook page a video of its drones striking an alleged RSF position without specifying the location of the target.

In a statement, the military said its drones “were continuing to strike the Janjaweed” - a reference to the RSF. It destroyed dozens of RSF combat vehicles, leaving “massive losses in the ranks of the mercenary militia.”

It stressed that it was ensuring that infrastructure and public and private properties are not targeted and that the rules of engagement were being respected.

800 casualties

In the central Gezira state, the “Madani resistance committees” said that since the army’s withdrawal four months ago, “the RSF has not spared any area from its worst form of violations, killings, looting, rapes and terrorization.”

They accused the RSF of the killing of over 800 people in the state. Other sources said the number could not be confirmed.

The committees warned that cases of rape and violations against women and children were on the rise, saying this could lead to a social disaster in the future.

Moreover, they revealed that the RSF had kicked off in recent days a “new wave of violations” by attacking several towns in Al-Hasaheisa in Gezira, looting cars and crops.

Several sources have said the RSF has committed killings against locals in villages in central Sudan. The RSF has denied the claims.

In addition, the committees accused the army of using barrel bombs in Gezira, leaving dozens of casualties and injuries among the civilians and in complete disregard of rules of engagement.

Two people were killed and others wounded in military strikes on Wednesday on central areas of Wad Madani, continued the committees.


Erdogan’s Visit to Baghdad to Mark Changing Point in Relations between Iraq, Türkiye 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters ahead of the local elections in Istanbul, Türkiye, March 29, 2024. (Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters ahead of the local elections in Istanbul, Türkiye, March 29, 2024. (Reuters)
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Erdogan’s Visit to Baghdad to Mark Changing Point in Relations between Iraq, Türkiye 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters ahead of the local elections in Istanbul, Türkiye, March 29, 2024. (Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters ahead of the local elections in Istanbul, Türkiye, March 29, 2024. (Reuters)

Iraq and Türkiye are expected to deepen their relations when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pays a visit to Baghdad on Monday.

Ankara and Baghdad announced that the visit will witness the signing of a strategic framework agreement that covers security, economic and development affairs and the water and energy files.

An Iraqi government source confirmed on Thursday Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler’s announcement that the two neighbors will sign a strategic cooperation agreement on combating the operations of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkish Defense Ministry spokesperson Zeki Akturk told reporters on Thursday that Ankara will speed up Operation Claw-Lock against the PKK in northern Iraq.

On Tuesday, Erdogan said the water file will be one of the most important articles on his agenda in Baghdad.

The Iraqi source said Türkiye has been showing its readiness to cooperate in finding a mechanism to secure Iraq’s water share.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Development Road project, which it unveiled in 2023, will also be an important issue on Erdogan’s agenda.

Turkish Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Abdulkadir Uraloglu said on Friday that an agreement has been reached over months of ministerial and technical discussions to form a joint mechanism that would follow up on the project.

He hoped that the United Arab Emirates and Qatar would become a part of it.

Turkish-Iraqi parliamentary discussions held in Ankara on Wednesday and Thursday concluded that it was in both countries’ best interest to jointly act to combat terrorism and bolster cooperation in economic and development fields, with Erdogan’s visit expected to mark a changing point in their relations.


Iraq: Sudani Heads to Michigan to Meet Arab Americans at a Tense Time for the Middle East

5 April 2024, US, Arlington: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. Photo: Mc1 Alexander Kubitza/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
5 April 2024, US, Arlington: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. Photo: Mc1 Alexander Kubitza/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Iraq: Sudani Heads to Michigan to Meet Arab Americans at a Tense Time for the Middle East

5 April 2024, US, Arlington: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. Photo: Mc1 Alexander Kubitza/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
5 April 2024, US, Arlington: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. Photo: Mc1 Alexander Kubitza/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

The leader of Iraq traveled to Michigan on Thursday following a sit-down with President Joe Biden to meet with the state's large Iraqi community and update them on escalating tensions in the Middle East following Iran’s weekend aerial assault on Israel.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's trip to both Washington and Michigan to discuss US-Iraq relations had been planned well before Saturday's drone and missile launches from Iran-backed groups. The visit has been thrust into the spotlight as tensions in the region escalate following the strike, which included drone and missile launches that overflew Iraqi airspace and others that were launched from Iraq by Iran-backed groups.
Michigan holds one of the largest populations of Iraqis in the nation and many local Democrats have pushed back against US support for Israel's war in Gaza following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The state holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, The Associated Press said.
The Iraqi prime minister was met by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans upon arrival Thursday in addition to multiple leaders within the area's Arab American community, including Deputy Wayne County Executive Assad I. Turfe and Dearborn’s state Rep. Alabas Farhat.
A motorcade of over 40 cars then traveled to a mosque in Dearborn Heights where the prime minister met with Iraqi community members and officials to give an update on his meeting with Biden talking about the economic relations between Iraq and the US.
Local Wayne County leaders emphasized that the meeting had been planned before this weekend's developments, saying that a goal of the trip was to build relationships in a community that holds the largest Iraqi population outside of the Middle East.
There are just over 90,000 residents in Michigan of Iraqi descent, the largest of any state, according to the most recent US Census. In Wayne County, home to the cities of Detroit and Dearborn, 7.8% of residents identified of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry, alone or in any combination, the highest percentage of any US county.
The concentration of those residents in the outskirts of Detroit has led to multiple visits to the area from officials engaged in Middle Eastern relations.
Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to Biden, traveled to metro Detroit in March to meet with Lebanese Americans and discuss efforts to prevent the conflict from expanding along Israel’s northern border, where Hezbollah operates. Multiple White House officials also traveled to Dearborn in February to meet with Arab American leaders to discuss the conflict.
Fears over the war expanding grew over the weekend following the strikes and the developments have raised further questions about the viability of the two-decade American military presence in Iraq. However, a US Patriot battery in Irbil, Iraq, which is designed to protect against missiles, did shoot down at least one Iranian ballistic missile, according to American officials — one of dozens of missiles and drones destroyed by US forces alongside Israeli efforts to defeat the attack.


Guterres Warns Mideast on Brink of 'Full-scale Regional Conflict'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)
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Guterres Warns Mideast on Brink of 'Full-scale Regional Conflict'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiraling tensions over the war in Gaza and Iran's attack on Israel could devolve into a "full-scale regional conflict."

"The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation -- in words and deeds," Guterres told a high-level Security Council meeting, with several foreign ministers present, including from Jordan and Iran.

"One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable --- a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved," he said, calling on all parties to exercise "maximum restraint."

Iran unleashed a barrage of missiles and drones on Israel over the weekend, after an attack on its consulate in Damascus widely blamed on Israel.

Israeli officials have not said when or where they would retaliate, but the country's military chief has vowed a response.

Guterres condemned both the consulate attack and the flurry of drones, saying that the latter constituted a "serious escalation."

"It is high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation," he said. "It is high time to stop."

"The international community must work together to prevent any actions that could push the entire Middle East over the edge, with a devastating impact on civilians. Let me be clear: the risks are spiraling on many fronts."

For Guterres, de-escalation of the situation would begin by ending fighting in the Gaza Strip, where at least 33,970 people have been killed in Israeli attacks, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

"I reiterate my calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate release of all hostages held in Gaza," Guterres said.

"In Gaza, six and a half months of Israeli military operations have created a humanitarian hellscape," he lamented, and while he said Israel had made "limited progress" on allowing more aid into the territory, he called for more to be done.

"Our aid operations are barely functional. They cannot operate in an organized, systematic way; they can only seize opportunities to deliver aid whenever and wherever possible," he said.

"Delivering aid at scale requires Israel's full and active facilitation of humanitarian operations."

The UN chief also called on Israel to put a stop to settler violence in the occupied West Bank, after the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy sparked Israeli attacks in dozens of Palestinian villages.

"I call on Israel, as the occupying power, to protect the Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank against attacks, violence and intimidation," he told the Security Council.


Hamas Sources to Asharq Al-Awsat: Talks for Ceasefire in Gaza Almost at Standstill

A photo distributed by Hamas of the release of Israeli hostages on November 24 as part of a ceasefire truce (Reuters)
A photo distributed by Hamas of the release of Israeli hostages on November 24 as part of a ceasefire truce (Reuters)
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Hamas Sources to Asharq Al-Awsat: Talks for Ceasefire in Gaza Almost at Standstill

A photo distributed by Hamas of the release of Israeli hostages on November 24 as part of a ceasefire truce (Reuters)
A photo distributed by Hamas of the release of Israeli hostages on November 24 as part of a ceasefire truce (Reuters)

Sources in the Hamas movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that the talks on a ceasefire in Gaza “have not collapsed,” but were almost suspended, due to the recent developments.

The movement’s statement came as Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said on Wednesday that talks for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of detainees were going through a sensitive phase and were witnessing some obstacles.

Al Thani’s statement confirmed the failure of the last round of negotiations, after Hamas stuck to its positions regarding the need for Israel to stop the war, withdraw its forces, and allow the return of the displaced.

Hamas issued a statement, on Wednesday, on the occasion of the Palestinians’ commemoration of “Prisoner’s Day,” saying: “The goal of liberating our prisoners is at the heart of the ongoing (Al-Aqsa Flood) battle, and will remain our top priority. The movement will spare no effort to achieve a deal for them.”

The Hamas movement adhered to its declared positions to reach a truce agreement in the Gaza Strip, in its latest response to a new proposal put forward by the mediators.

It stipulated that the release of Israeli detainees in the first phase of the deal be conditional on the negotiators providing guarantees that Israel agrees in the second phase to a permanent ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the return of the Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip without hindrance.