Arab Coalition Fighters Target Coup Military Camps in Yemen


Aden – The Yemeni National Army announced on Sunday the death of a Houthi commander in the Taiz province south of Sana’a.

The 35th Armored Battalion tweeted that “Houthi commander Major Hamid al-Mudai was shot dead by the 35 Armored Battalion in the Salu district southeast of Taiz.”

Arab coalition fighters targeted military reinforcements belonging to the Houthi militia on their way to the coastal front, while 18 Houthi and Saleh militants were killed and eight wounded in a raid by the Arab coalition fighters in al-Hamili front, west Taiz Governorate, according to a military source.

Two members of the militia were killed and others were injured in an attack by the National Army on coupist sites south of Taiz.

Meanwhile, a field commander in the ranks of Houthi-Saleh militia was killed on Saturday in an ambush carried out by the Popular Resistance fighters in al-Soma’ah district of al-Bayda province.

The Resistance confirmed that militia supervisor, Abu Abed, was killed in the attack in al-Hazimieh.

Abu Abed was appointed by militia rebels instead of Abu Serag, the previous supervisor, who was killed too in the same district.

In addition, the Yemeni army announced Sunday that it has achieved significant progress in its battles against Houthi and Saleh militias in Khabb and al-Sha’af district north of the Yemeni province of al-Jawf.

Following the ongoing clashes since last Friday, Commander of the Sixth Military Region Colonel Mohammed Saleh Rasia said that the army forces of the First Brigade border guards were able to clear the camp of Ghreemil and areas of Ajashr and Ramle north of the directorate.

Lebanon’s Association of Banks President: Political Settlement in Syria Promotes Economic Prosperity

Beirut- Association of Banks in Lebanon President Joseph Torbey said the group’s delegation, which visited Washington recently, heard positive remarks acknowledging ABL’s full commitment to the banking sector’s strict regulations.

Torbey confirmed that the delegation met a score of praise for the body’s spent efforts to safeguard the finance and banking sector of the Middle Eastern country, and to counter money laundering, terror funding and tax evasion.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Torbey reveals that Lebanon is “wisely handling imposed US sanctions” against the country’s ‘Hezbollah’ group.

“I repeatedly said that they (US sanctions) do not target Lebanon’s banking sector.”

He stressed that confidence in the Lebanese banking sector stems mainly from its full compliance with all international standards on combating money laundering and terrorism financing, and enjoys a strict legal, legislative and regulatory framework.

“Lebanese banks are known to play a leading role in employing good governance and risk management standards, and their adherence to various international standards such as Basel I, II, and III– supporting their flexibility and endorsing investor confidence and that of local and foreign depositors. The commitment of Lebanese banks to implement the FATCA (The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act ) also contributes to this confidence,” said Torbey.

Addressing all discouraging rumors on the national currency facing fears of dropping, Torbey said that the central bank’s foreign currency reserves stood at around $43 billion and that Lebanon ranked third in the region in terms of the size of the gold reserves.

“Media outlets have recently echoed opinions saying that the monetary situation in Lebanon is on the brink of abyss—these views were based on studies and figures that the central bank did not take long to refute,” said Torbey.

“Documents and reports belonging to international financial institutions that indicate the opposite of the skeptics were presented, going against negative views,” he added.

“Banque du Liban recently undertook financial engineering (late August) to provide services to banks dealing in Lebanese currency at an interest rate of 2 percent,” said Torbey.

Recently enforced facilities were employed under the conditions designed to strengthen Lebanon’s foreign currency assets and national treasury bonds, further stabilizing national economy.

“These funds are used to purchase Lebanese treasury bonds in primary or secondary markets, and provided that these banks employ equivalent amounts in US dollars with the central bank in the form of deposits with maturities of over five years,” said Torbey.

“The public opinion in Lebanon, as well as that of investors, is formed with awareness and a long-established experience that goes against seasonal negativity,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Leading economic analysts agree that the factors, which contribute to maintaining the stability and stability of the Lebanese lira’s exchange rate, are stronger than ever.”

“These factors include political stability and security of the country, the existence of a national unity government that seeks to adopt reforms, activate roles played by institutions and, most importantly, the large size of the central bank’s foreign currency reserves.”

He also pointed out that a political settlement in Syria will “play a fundamental role in restoring confidence not only to Syria, but also to countries suffering from the consequences of the Syrian war, such as Lebanon.”

“There is no doubt that the return of stability to neighboring Syria would have a positive effect on Lebanon, whether it be by the reopening of land border crossings for Lebanese exports to regional Arab countries, or through the availability of new investment opportunities,” commented Torbey.

Added to that, the banking official said a political solution in Syria will likely yield in an improved business environment and opportunities for launching new projects.

The solution “may help improve the situation of Lebanese institutions operating in Syria, including banks,” he said.

Commenting on the situation of Syrian refugees, Tarabay said a settlement will speed up the process of returning Syrians to their homes, easing the pressure on Lebanese infrastructure and public finances.

Last March, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Lebanon was close to “breaking point” due to the strains of hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and he feared unrest could spiral from tensions between them and Lebanese communities.

A political Syrian settlement would result in an increase in the flow of capital and remittances of expats to hosting countries, improve tourism, and encourage domestic and foreign investors, thereby accelerating economic growth.

False Alarm Delays London-Bound Plane at Paris Airport


A false security alarm delayed on Sunday a British Airways plane at Paris’ international airport.

Police and firefighters checked the plane on the tarmac of the Charles de Gaulle airport after reports of a security threat, which turned out to be a false alarm.

A spokesman for France’s national gendarme service said police and firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a “security alert.”

Passengers were evacuated from Flight BA303 at Charles de Gaulle airport before it was due to fly to London for what officials said was a security reason.

The spokesman said each passenger and each bag was checked and the plane was thoroughly examined but no threats were found.

He would not elaborate on the nature of the original alert. The spokesman was not authorized to be publicly named according to gendarme policy.

“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority. Additional security checks are being carried out as a precaution,” British Airways said in a statement when asked about the flight.

One passenger on the plane said it was surrounded by dozens of armed officers and firefighters.

James Anderson, a 20-year-old entrepreneur on the flight from Paris to London’s Heathrow Airport, told The Associated Press that the pilot initially told passengers there were technical issues.

After about an hour, he said passengers were told the aircraft had to move to another part of the airport and that’s when security officers surrounded the plane.

“The pilot then said there had been a direct security threat involving our flight,” Anderson told the AP.

Abbas Ibrahim … The Eyes and Ears of the Lebanese State


Beirut – In the few years that followed his appointment as general director of the Lebanese General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim managed to prove himself to be a major sponsor of successful internal and foreign mediations, especially in regards to the fierce war his agency is waging against terrorist groups. He has, at the same time, managed to persuade these groups to accept deals, taking advantage of their ambitions and fears.

Ibrahim’s name rose to prominence in successful swap deals with terror groups where he played the role of “achieving the greatest possible gain, while paying the lowest possible price.” These prices were usually paid to the “pockets” of others, not the Lebanese state, which has never paid a dime in these deals that have involved its citizens and its territory.

Ibrahim’s special ties with the contradictory sides have made him an acceptable negotiator and an in-demand mediator in several internal and foreign affairs.

Based on his position as head of the General Security, Ibrahim plays the role of the “eyes and ears of the state.” He is the president’s aide on security files and is also tasked with working on several sensitive affairs, whether through special appointment or through the nature of his work. The reality on the ground however sees him playing a central role in combating terrorist groups through the General Security, which is working at a remarkably effective rate, in cooperation with the other security agencies. He is also in charge of the Palestinian and Syrian files in Lebanon, as well as the administrative role his institution plays in managing foreigners in Lebanon, whether they are artists, expatriates or terror groups.

Some believe that since his appointment to his post in July 2011, Ibrahim succeeded in avoiding being politically affiliated to a certain party. He stayed close to the side that named him – AMAL and “Hezbollah” that appoint all Shi’ite public employees to their posts – while convincing their rivals of his centrist mediator role. This therefor enabled him to maintain his position at a distance from the rival parties in Lebanon, giving himself ample room to maneuver to fulfill his security-political role.

Despite all this, Ibrahim has had his fair share of criticism from both rival parties, whether in his counter-terrorism duty that saw him work closely with the Syrian regime and “Hezbollah” or in his adherence to official institutions and accompanying the interior minister on visits and conferences.

As usual, Ibrahim treated each side with remarkable balance. On the one hand, he repeatedly hailed the role of the “resistance”, which shuts down his critics from the pro-”Hezbollah” camp, and on the other he also praised the official security institutions, which prevents the armed group’s rivals from going too far in criticizing him.

Those close to Ibrahim acknowledge the difficulty of the centrist role he is playing. Editor-in-chief of the “General Security” magazine Mounir Akiki said that Ibrahim has more than once “called on the Lebanese to steer clear of political disputes … stressing that all sides operate under the constitution and Taef Accord.” Lebanon unfortunately, lies in an arena of regional contradictions that affects everyone, but they are all ultimately bound to return to national principles, he noted.

At the General Security, Ibrahim sought to develop the agency and eliminate corruption, which he said usually comes from the head of an institution. If the leader lacks the necessary abilities to manage the institution, then it is doomed to fail.

Upon his appointment to his position, said Akiki, Ibrahim devised a set of programs and goals under the umbrella of the law and jurisdiction. This saw cooperation between the army, Internal Security Forces and State Security agency. Each one of them has its jurisdiction and duties under law. If all three work together properly, then a safe state can be established.

Syrian crisis

Ibrahim has also played a prominent role in mediations linked to the Syrian crisis. In 2012, a pro-Syrian opposition Lebanese group was ambushed by the regime and most of its members were killed. Ibrahim, after being tasked by the political authority, managed to contact the regime and return the corpses to their loved ones. A prisoner who had been captured by the regime was also released.

He played an even more important role after the abduction in Syria of a bus of Lebanese Shi’ites who were traveling from Iran to Lebanon. Here, Ibrahim used his ties with Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan to work on releasing them. The mediation saw Ibrahim contact Turkey, Qatar and the Syrian regime to ensure their release.

Akiki attributed Ibrahim’s success in these deals to his belief in the importance of credibility, his official position and his personal relations. These factors allowed him to enter negotiations and continue with them. Ibrahim has not once made concessions at the expense of the Lebanese state, stressed Akiki.

“His smart negotiation skills, patience and knowledge of how the other side thinks, as well as the trust, credibility and direct ties that he enjoys, have built his success,” added Akiki.

He noted however that direct negotiations were never held with “terrorists”.

“I do not believe that he would accept to negotiate with them directly. There was a mediator tasked with relaying their conditions or demands to us and also relaying our own to them,” he explained.

Future ambition

Some say that Ibrahim is seeking to enter the political field in the future and that he is laying the foundation for it now. In his current role, he appears to be walking in the footsteps of Speaker Nabih Berri, who enjoys excellent ties with several main parties in Lebanon, as opposed to “Hezbollah”, which has a limited number of allies and several rivals.

On this speculation, Akiki said: “We need to wait five years (the end of Ibrahim’s term in office) to see if it will come true.”

Ibrahim says that he will be in the place where he will be able “to serve the most, which is what he is doing in his current post,” explained Akiki.


Abbas Ibrahim was born on March 2, 1959. He hails from the town of Kawthariyet al-Sayyad in southern Lebanon. He is married to Ghada Zeineddine and they have three children: Mohammed, Ali and Bilal.

He first enrolled in military school when he was 19 and he graduated three years later with the rank of lieutenant. Throughout the 1980s, he took part in several training courses in the military, culminating in an infantry course in the United States in 1989. This was followed by a computer course in 1996 to stay up to date with the electronic age. He also received advanced security training in the United Kingdom in 1998.

In 1989, Ibrahim was the personal bodyguard of Arab League envoy to Lebanon Lakhdar Brahimi. He was then appointed bodyguard to late President Elias al-Hrawi and remained in that post until 1992 when he was tasked with protecting then newly appointed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In 1994, he was appointed head of the counter-terrorism and espionage department at the intelligence directorate.

Between 2005 and 2008, Ibrahim was head of the intelligence bureau in the South, putting him on the frontlines of the unrest in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh and all of its complications. He has successfully dealt with this thorny issue, building special ties with the Palestinian leadership there, which he has since used to his advantage in his current post as head of General Security.

Commander of the Palestinian national security forces in Lebanon Sobhi Abou Arab told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ibrahim “was the first Lebanese official to enter the refugee camps and meet with all sides, including popular, organized and Islamic factions. He was the first to initiate contact out of his keenness on security and stability.” Abou Arab hailed Ibrahim’s calm approach, as well as his negotiation skills and diplomatic abilities.

Two years after his appointment as General Security chief in 2011, Ibrahim declared that he had remained at an equal distance from all sides and that he had sought to serve all citizens away from sectarian disputes. This was proven true, garnering him the trust of all sides, who have put their faith in him with the county’s most difficult and complicated files.

General Security Chief: Lebanon Prepares Itself for Possible Lone Wolf Attacks

Beirut- General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim said on Sunday that Lebanon continued to face terror threats despite the victory achieved at the eastern border with Syria.

He predicted the next phase to witness “a new kind of confrontation” against terrorism, which he said the Lebanese security forces would be watching closely.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Abbas said that terrorism in its geographical meaning has already been moved away from Lebanon after the latest ISIS and al-Nusra Front defeats.

However, he said that such an achievement does not mean the two groups were no longer a threat to the country.

“One of the most advanced kinds of terrorist operations is currently embodied by the lone wolves that use vehicles to kill people in streets around the world,” the General Security chief said.

He also warned from the threat of suicide bombers and those who infiltrate the society.
Ibrahim was the government’s chief negotiator in trying to win the return of Lebanon’s captured soldiers who were abducted by the terrorists in 2014 after later revealing that the remains of the majority of them have been recovered.

Commenting on the timing of the latest clashes that erupted at the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the southern city of Sidon, and which came amid a battle launched by the Lebanese army in Jurud Asral, Abbas said there was no coincidence.

“When the Lebanese army launched its battle, terrorists tried to limit the pressure on their comrades. However, some wise Palestinian forces at the camp were alerted by the situation and complied with the messages we sent them about the rejection to turn the camp, now or later, to a hotbed of threat that would hurt the Palestinians and the Lebanese,” the General Security chief said.

Syrian Regime Confiscates Lebanese Prime Minister’s Properties

Beirut, London- Syrian opposition sources uncovered to Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the authorities in Damascus issued a decision to confiscate all the properties of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Syria and transfer them to the ownership of the state, after Hariri accused the neighboring country of financing and arming terrorists.

The Syrian regime had issued a decision at the start of 2013 to confiscate the properties of Hariri. Last Aug. 22, the Syrian Justice Ministry issued a decree to follow-up on the implementation of the previous decision at the Finance Ministry’s Directorate of Funds Confiscated and Seized Properties.

The decree for the confiscation of movable and immovable property came as part of a series of decisions issued by the Syrian authorities against anti-Assad politicians, intellectuals and opposition activists.

Asharq Al-Awsat received a copy of the Syrian decree. However, the newspaper could not confirm its accuracy from an independent source.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that demands proposed by the US and Israel for UNIFIL’s mission to be expanded as part of UNSC Resolution 1701, “could have threatened the presence of the peacekeeping force in Lebanon and the stability witnessed at the southern Lebanese border since the end of the 2006 war with Israel.”

On Wednesday, the mandate for UNIFIL was extended for another year, after much wrangling with the US over the peacekeeping force tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel, AFP reported.

Diplomatic sources that attended the UN Security Council meetings in New York, said that Lebanon rejected the US and Israeli proposals, calling for the mandate to be renewed without changes.

The sources said Lebanon saw that those changes could affect the nature of UNIFIL’s mission in the south, which stipulates that the peacekeeping force operates only by the intermediary of the Lebanese Army with no right to be in direct contact with the Lebanese citizens.

Israeli and the US suggestions aimed to increase UNIFIL’s oversight activities in southern Lebanon by allowing the peacekeeping force to look for weapons and search the belongings and houses of Lebanese in the south.

In Lebanon, Salt Producers Fear Craft is Drying up


At 93, Elias al-Najjar has spent half a century harvesting salt by hand from ponds on Lebanon’s Mediterranean shore, but he and his colleagues fear their way of life is dying.

Traditional coastal salt production was once popular in Lebanon, but the fully artisanal practice now survives in just a single seaside town, Anfeh, around 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Beirut, said an Agence France Presse report on Friday.

Producers like Najjar say the sector has suffered a series of blows, from an exodus of pond owners during Lebanon’s civil war, to the lifting of import tariffs.

“I used to produce 300 tonnes myself in the 1950s,” the elderly man says.

“Now I make 30 tons maximum.”

Anfeh’s salt producers accuse the government of refusing them permits to repair their equipment in order to turf them off prime coastal real estate and make way for developers.

“If they can’t destroy the ponds, they want to make them unworkable so it’s easier for fat cats to buy them to build resorts,” says Hafez Jreij, 67.

“The land the ponds are on is going to be handed over to developers who want to build beach resorts.”

The municipality confirmed to AFP that the central government is not giving any more permits.

But municipal spokeswoman Christiane Nicolas said the local council has no desire to destroy the sector.

“The government stopped collecting taxes on traditional salt production because it considered it an infringement on public property,” she told AFP.

But she added: “There’s no evidence the authorities want to hand over the coast to developers.”

Salt extraction is a time-consuming process subject to the vagaries of weather, meaning it can only be practiced around four months a year.

First, sea water is drawn into meter-deep concrete ponds via pumps powered by small windmills.

The water sits in the ponds of up to 20 square meters (more than 200 square feet) for at least 20 days, evaporating to leave a salty liquid residue.

That salty water is then swept into shallower concrete pans, and left to concentrate further for another 10 days.

Each day, producers sweep the sea water across the pan to ensure it dries evenly.

As the liquid disappears, blindingly white salt crystals emerge in lines, twinkling in the sunlight.

Jreij says Lebanon’s traditional salt industry produced 50,000 tons a year during the sector’s heyday between 1955 and 1975.

“Lebanon did not need to import salt, and the state imposed a 200-percent tax on salt imports,” he says, according to AFP.

But from 1975, when Lebanon’s 15-year civil war erupted, the industry began suffering a series of setbacks.

Many pond owners were among the Lebanese who fled in waves over the years of the grinding conflict.

With their departure, production started to fall below demand, prompting the government in the 1990s to lift the import tax on foreign salt.

The decision made it hard for local producers to compete and, with the sector in free-fall, the government announced it considered many of the salt pans to be illegal construction on public coastline.

As a result, it stopped taxing income from salt production in 1994.

And without tax receipts, municipalities started rejecting permit applications from producers to maintain their equipment, producers say.

Those refusals prevent repairs on worn-down infrastructure, thereby killing the industry, they complain.

Jreij estimates half of all the salt pans in Anfeh are now unusable as a result of the 1994 decision.

Jreij also said that local authorities tried to shut him down in 2015 and 2016 by claiming the sea water feeding the ponds was contaminated.

“We did laboratory tests on the water at extraction points and they all conformed to safety specifications,” Jreij says.

Najjar, who said he had had a similar problem, showed to AFP the analysis results, carried out in Lebanon.

For now, producers in Anfeh are scraping by, selling salt to individual and industrial buyers at a rate of between $2-4 per kilogram, much less than the price of imported salt.

Fisherman Daniel Fares, 37, says he is a loyal customer of Jreij because the entire production process is transparent.

“The sea is clean, and you know where the salt is coming from,” he tells AFP.

“I prefer it over imported salt because it has no additives, which makes it suitable for pickling sardines too,” says Fares, who also sells some of Jreij’s salt to his own customers for home use.

Jreij sees the fight to preserve the salt ponds as part of a greater battle to protect Lebanon’s coastline, much of which has been gobbled up by developers.

“Salt ponds don’t produce waste, they don’t block the way to the sea, and they don’t block the beautiful view of the Mediterranean,” he says.

“Resorts do all of that.”

3 Killed in Kenya over Presidential Elections Result


Opposition protests that erupted after the election victory of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta have turned violent in the African country, with three people killed on Saturday.

The latest deaths mean nine people have been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday.

The second day of the demonstrations saw running battles with police in isolated parts of Nairobi slums after anger against Tuesday’s election that losing candidate Raila Odinga claims was massively rigged.

Interior Minister Fred Matiangi blamed the unrest on “criminal elements” looting and robbing businesses and assured Kenyans that “there is no need for alarm”, urging them to return to their daily lives.

The uncertainty gripping the nation provided a grim reminder of a disputed 2007 election which led to two months of ethno-political violence that left 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced.

Kenyatta was declared the victor in the presidential election Friday night with 54.27 percent to Odinga’s 44.74, with protests erupting in the opposition leader’s strongholds in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu almost immediately.

Foreign observers praised a peaceful, credible voting process — which saw turnout of 78 percent — but the mood quickly turned sour when Odinga rejected the results after only a few hours of counting earlier this week.

The main opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), has claimed both that the outcome was manipulated by a massive hacking attack, and that it is in possession of results being concealed on IEBC servers that show Odinga to be the rightful winner.

Local government official Wilson Njega confirmed one person had been shot dead outside Kisumu in protests, while an AFP reporter saw three patients with gunshot wounds in the city’s hospital. Five other people were wounded in gunfire.

At the hospital Truphena Achieng said his brother had been shot and injured “and yet he was just standing outside our house where people were demonstrating … we don’t know why police were shooting.”

In the southwestern town of Siaya, a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said a man had been shot dead in a demonstration, but “we have not managed to collect the body… because of resistance from protesters.”

In Mathare, Wycliff Mokaya told The Associated Press his 9-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet while on their third-floor balcony.

“I was watching her play with her friends when she suddenly fell down,” Mokaya said. “She was my only hope.”

Matiangi denied there had been any casualties, and said police had clamped down on “erratic incidents of lawlessness,” adding the government would stop at nothing to protect citizens.

“The police have not used live bullets on any peaceful protesters,” he said.

Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged police to show restraint.

“With growing reports of demonstrations and heavy gunfire in some areas, it is important for security forces to work to deescalate – not escalate – the violence,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW.

“The police should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful.”

Odinga, 72, is a veteran opposition politician seen as having taken his last shot at the presidency, which he has sought four times. He believes elections in 2007, 2013 and now 2017 were snatched away from him.

Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines, and the winner-takes-all nature of elections has long stoked communal tensions.

Odinga’s ethnic Luo supporters — and their allies from other groups — believe they have been denied political power by elites from the Kikuyus, the same ethnic group as Kenyatta, the country’s biggest community.

“President Kenyatta, unlike his first term, must include everyone in his government,” wrote the Daily Nation in an editorial, warning that limiting power to his tribal allies was “exacerbating exclusion and creating resentment and disillusionment.”

In his acceptance speech Kenyatta urged Odinga and his supporters, to “work together… so that we can build this nation together”.

Kuwait Renews Efforts to Resolve Crisis with Qatar


Jeddah, Kuwait, Cairo – As part of efforts to bolster the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis with Qatar, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah sent personal envoys to Saudi Arabia and Egypt to convey messages to the two countries’ leaders.

Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz received on Monday a written letter addressed to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz from the Kuwaiti Emir.

Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al Sabah and State Minister Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Mubarak Al Sabah delivered the message during a meeting with Prince Mohammed at Al-Salam palace in Jeddah.

The meeting was attended by Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Khalid Al-Isa, Minister of State, member of the cabinet and Chief of the Royal Court, and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s news agency KUNA reported on Monday that Sheikh Sabah dispatched two ministers to Saudi Arabia and Egypt to deliver letters to the two leaders, without elaborating on their content.

Jubeir has separately met with the two Kuwaiti envoys, with whom he discussed “brotherly relations and cooperation between their countries.”

In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Kuwaiti ministers in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said the Kuwaiti foreign minister delivered a written letter from Sheikh Sabah to Sisi on Kuwait’s efforts to deal with the Qatari crisis.

Sheikh Sabah affirmed Egypt’s pivotal role in promoting the joint Arab action “as a major pillar of security and stability in the Arab world,” the spokesman said.

Youssef added that Sisi valued the Kuwaiti emir’s efforts to promote Arab solidarity and consensus.

The Egyptian president reiterated his country’s full support for the Kuwaiti mediation, stressing the need for Qatar to respond to the concerns of Egypt and the three Gulf states.

Neymar to PSG: How Money and Lionel Messi Led to the Sale of the Century

London- At the end of Barcelona’s comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in March, their hero leapt on to the advertising boards at the north end of the Camp Nou, fans surging forward at his feet, still barely able to believe what they had just seen.

At first he swayed a little but they held him steady and so he stood above them, fist raised, taking it in. From below, a match photographer, Santiago Garcés, pointed his camera. Within two days, 70 million people had seen the picture of the night, which had swiftly become the most-viewed picture in Barça’s history. “People say it’s the best anyone’s ever taken of Leo Messi,” Garcés said.

Hang on a minute: Leo Messi? Astonishingly, Barcelona scored three times in seven minutes and 17 seconds. But it was not the Argentinian at the heart of them all, it was Neymar – curling in a superb free-kick, winning and taking a penalty and providing the delivery from which Sergi Roberto scored.

That was his eighth assist, the Champions League’s leader, and all of them had come from open play. He had led throughout, taking responsibility and taking hits: hyperactive, creative and everywhere. “This was the best game I’ve played,” he said. But the enduring image of a historic night was Messi.

With Barça it almost always is and maybe there is something in that? The argument most consistently put forward for Neymar’s decision to leave for PSG is that he believes it is time to stand alone. There is the money – he is set to become the world’s best-paid player, his salary will reportedly double while his father will grow even richer, receiving €36m (£32m) commission to go with almost €100m he has been paid by Barcelona – and it would be naive to dismiss that as a fundamental factor. But status is not always measured by current account; shadow is a word used a lot of late and the one Messi casts is long.

That, at least, is the theory: Neymar wants to step centre-stage and lead; he can now play where he wants and how he wants, not have to adapt to others. If he stayed at Barcelona it would never be about him and nor would the Ballon d’Or. At the Parc des Princes, success would be his own; PSG would be his team, players brought to his specifications and he will be surrounded by his people, friends and countrymen. In this scenario Dani Alves’s signing is re-evaluated, his role recast as the man who convinced him, showed him that they would do it his way. So, it seems, is the way Neymar, and others, have seen his role over the past few years.

On the face of it, the theory is not flawless. With Messi and Luis Suárez, Neymar formed a front three that many considered the best in the world, maybe the best football has seen. He arrived saying that he had come to play with Messi and if his status within the trident was not the same as the Argentinian’s it was enhanced – at least to start with – and they genuinely were a collective. A successful one: they won, which meant that he won. A treble in the first season was followed by a double in the second, even if last season’s Copa del Rey represented a disappointment.

In footballing terms, it did work; last season was not judged the failure of the front three, even when the focus on them rather than the midfield was interpreted as Barcelona losing their religion. Friendship was endlessly presented as the secret to their success. At times it was a little sugar-sweet and the three men repeated the same easily digestible lines as if reading from a script, but that did not make it untrue – although the most significant connection was Suárez-Messi. They genuinely get on: when it emerged Neymar was contemplating leaving, Suárez and Messi tried to talk him round and jealousy, so palpable in other cases elsewhere, rarely surfaced in theirs. The players are genuinely sorry to be losing Neymar, who was popular in the dressing room.

The suggestion that Neymar and all his team-mates had adapt their game to suit (to serve) Messi should not go entirely unchallenged, either. It was the Argentinian who shifted from striker to the right and then dropped deeper and more to the middle, benefitting the other two, who often had a No10 behind them, a trend that seemed to be deepening in pre‑season, Neymar inside closer to Suárez. A simple count of Messi’s passes to Neymar, some ending in goals, some not, helps undermine the suggestion that the Brazilian might be better off without him.

Yet it is true that Neymar’s place to the left was not the free, central role he has with Brazil, something he is reminded of every time international duty rolls round. It is also true that his best spell at Barcelona came when he took responsibility with Messi’s injury. Nor was his status the same, celebrated though his was.

Emotionally, the desire for more is easy enough to understand, if not always share. Even in a team sport, ambition can mean going it alone and being the very, very best might feel like it is just within reach. There is one flaw: Messi still exists and may be even more of an opponent now.

Besides, eventually that status was supposed to be within reach in Spain, too. Neymar was runner-up in the Ballon d’Or when Messi won it (in truth, it was Suárez who could feel overlooked). It felt like a first step, not an ultimate aim. There was time, Barcelona thought. Neymar is 25, Messi and Suárez are 30. The present is already partly his, the future would be all his. Maybe he was in more of a hurry than they realised.

Last season they renewed his contract until 2021 and although he had talked to PSG he said he was delighted to continue. If that was true then, he seems to have changed his mind. He had at least started to doubt. “We’re close friends and I want him to stay but I know the situation that the finds himself in,” Gerard Piqué, the Barça defender, said.

Neymar’s departure would be a huge blow that €222m will not diminish entirely, not in this market and still less in the hands of this board, mistrusted by many. It can be usefully invested for sure but as Piqué put it, “there’s no one the same as him on the market” – and the image is of a club debilitated.

The political impact is colossal. Neymar’s signing cost the president at the time, Sandro Rosell, forced to resign and now in jail, more than he would ever say and more than he could ever imagine. His exit weakens Rossell’s vice-president and successor, Josep Maria Bartomeu, too.

Neymar has his detractors, of course, but in all probability his departure would also leave the team significantly weakened. Selling him was not the plan. Barcelona will continue and, who knows, they may even emerge stronger. But they know how good he is. Messi certainly does. Neymar’s contract extension, like that of Suárez, was seen as a prerequisite to convince Messi to continue, too. Messi had wanted guarantees of the club’s ambition; keeping the best forward line in their history was central to that. His team-mates secured, at the start of this summer, he signed the deal that runs until he is 34 and Neymar is 29. Many had feared that he would not.

After the PSG victory, Neymar had been asked about Messi’s future. “Don’t worry,” he replied, “I am sure Messi will stay.” He did not say anything about himself. This was not supposed to happen and certainly not like this. His €222m buyout clause was intended as a Not For Sale sign and the world transfer record will now double, but given the way the market was moving it may ultimately be revealed as low. Meant as a deterrent, it encouraged PSG. When the story broke it did not seem possible, but Barça had left the door ajar.

So it went on and on, more damaging with each day. “There’s only one way out: Neymar has to say something,” Andrés Iniesta said. The Brazilian didn’t. All summer he has been the centre of attention, the focus on him this time, but there was silence. With it, the bitterness grew, a growing sense that he was best forgotten, packed off with his father never to return. Some feel betrayed, let down. Others wonder where this started and who is to blame. How did it come to this?

On 19 July, Bartomeu said: “We’re relaxed about Neymar.” Originally, it had seemed implausible but by then they had come to realise that the threat was real. There was little real comfort in the imminent cash injection; instead there were attempts to talk him round. Ernesto Valverde, the new manager, called Neymar “necessary” – a player of a unique talent, whose impact at PSG could, and should, be immensely significant. Whether PSG, and Ligue 1, is the right stage for him is another issue – if it is exposure and status he seeks, will it be satisfied there?

“He could go to any club in the world,” Piqué said. “What does he want? More money or more titles? I could understand that he wants to go to be a leader, but not for a sporting project. With all due respect, he is betting everything on one hand [the Champions League].”

Piqué was playing a hand of his own. A few days before, he had published a picture with Neymar and two words in the silence – “Se queda”, or he is staying.

The story was dead or so everyone momentarily thought. But three days on, with no movement from Neymar, not a word, Piqué confirmed everything except the one thing he had actually said. Neymar was thinking of going; this was real. And that was a concern, no cause for celebration, no opportunity. This was the man who many at Barcelona consider the second‑best player in the world leaving them.

Piqué admitted that saying Neymar was staying was what he hoped, not what he knew. Saying it might help make it so, maybe he could convince the Brazilian to stay. For his own sake, not just theirs. “He doesn’t know what to do,” Piqué said. “We’ll try to help him make the right decision.” Now the decision seems to be made. Whether it is the right one is yet to be seen.

The Guardian Sport