Governor of Sudan’s Central Bank: ‘We are Preparing for Post-US Sanctions Phase’

bank

Riyadh- Governor of the Central Bank of Sudan Dr. Hazem Abdul Qader unveiled a new strategy to deal with the latest developments and consequences of the lifting of the US sanctions imposed on his country and to accommodate these changes.

Abdul Qader said that his talks with the Saudi side on Friday resulted in a pledge to address the problem of the inability to transfer Saudi Riyal to his country.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Riyadh, Abdul Qader said, “following the announcement of the lifting of US sanctions on Sudan on 13 January, we have sat down to agree on a new strategy to accommodate these developments.”

“There is a strategy to prepare the internal environment to secure and review all laws and assets as a system according to a specific timetable through visiting foreign central banks and Sudanese commercial banks visiting their correspondents abroad.”

Abdul Qader added that as the Central Bank was working on this strategy when the US extended on July 17 the freeze of lifting sanctions on Sudan till October.

“We are currently working on the remaining strategic plans on lifting the sanctions that will end by October, and there is cooperation and also understanding between us and different US institutions.”

A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank has recently visited Sudan to provide technical assistance to maximize monetary and financial policies for the post-US sanctions phase.

“September will witness a visit by an IMF mission to Sudan to assess some of the ongoing efforts and provide technical assistance in various areas. This assistance that is provided to the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance is not related to the lifting of US sanctions as it comes in the framework of the current proposed programs,” the Sudanese Governor stressed.

Regarding the instability in the exchange rate, the devaluation of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar and the resulting concern among investors, Abdul Qader said: “The dollar has increased as a natural result of the supply and demand of foreign currency in Sudan.”

He admitted that some people have kept their money in anticipation of the stability of the market, and the result was the lack of supply at a time when the demand was large, which doubled prices without the process of selling and buying of the currency.

On the other hand, he said that there are companies in the private sector that are currently buying gold to export it and use the hard currency it generates in the private sector. This is why, in his opinion, the price of gold has increased since there is a significant correlation between the price of gold and the currency.

Abdul Qader denied any intervention from a government body or entry to the market through the Central Bank of Sudan as a government entity, but he added that there are telecommunication companies, aviation, steel factories and large companies that have entered the currency market to buy their future needs fearing a mad rise in the price of the dollar.

Within the meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee between the Kingdom and Sudan, “I discussed with the Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) the bilateral banking relations, and we discussed means of developing these relations to contribute to the transfer of remittances, investments and commercial transactions,” Abdul Qader explained in regards to the discussions he had held earlier in Riyadh.

Haftar: Paris Meeting is Sarraj’s Last Chance

Paris– The Commander of the Libyan Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, cautiously welcomed the meeting he held on Tuesday in Paris with head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj under the auspices of French President Emmanuel Macron and in the presence of the new UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Haftar said the joint communiqué, which was issued following the meeting in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, represented “a set of principles; and we want to deal seriously with the roots of the crisis.”

“There are things that we wished to receive and did not get; but there is no need to go into details,” he added.

Haftar stressed that the meeting held in Paris was Sarraj’s “last chance”, noting: “We will see the extent of his ability to implement the commitments.”

The Libyan army commander seemed to be cautious about the possibility of putting all the items of La Celle-Saint-Clouq communiqué into effect. He noted, however, that a meeting would be held every three months with Macron to follow up on the implementation of the commitments contained in the joint statement.

During Tuesday’s encounter, the two Libyan leaders signed a 10-point declaration, in which they pledged to commit to ceasefire, hold elections and integrate all militias within a unified national army under political control.

Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the statement did not only reflect his views, but also the views of other Libyan parties. He noted in this regard that not all the agreed points were achievable, highlighting however that there was now much seriousness and commitment in dealing with the ongoing crisis.

Haftar expressed confidence in the new international envoy, describing him as a “virtuous and respectable man with a very rich experience”. He strongly criticized the former envoy, Martin Kobler, whom he said was “completely biased, and therefore lost credibility.”

“We were reluctant to deal with him for a while,” he noted.

On whether he believed that Sarraj would abide by his commitments, the army commander said: “That was Sarraj’s last chance; we will see the extent of his ability to implement the commitments.”

Asked about the process to unify the country’s militias under a unified army, Haftar said: “In the eastern region there are no militias; the situation must be resolved in the southern region. In the West, all the military support us.”

Stressing his rejection to any form of foreign interference, the Libyan official said that time was needed to arrange the country’s security situation.

“We want a real state, not a failed state; a country recognized by the international community, whose people can live like the rest of the world,” he stated.

On whether he intends to run for the upcoming presidential elections, Haftar said: “If the people want that, then I will”.

The army commander underlined the importance of adopting a decentralized political system to establish a strong state.

“It shouldn’t be the federal state that some Libyans are talking about … We reaffirm our strong rejection to the partition of the country,” he said, adding: “What we want is an extensive decentralization.”

Haftar noted that the Skhirat agreement, which was signed in Morocco in 2015, has “complicated the problem instead of solving it.”

“We will have a big role in introducing the amendments we want to the agreement, so that it suits the interests of the people,” he stated.

Heritage Foundation Deputy Director: Iran’s Middle East Dream is an Illusion

Carafano

London – Deputy director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation James Carafano declared that Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the Middle East will be met with regional and international opposition.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I believe that the Iranians will soon discover that they have stretched themselves thin in the region and they will be confronted with a wall of opposition.”

The priorities of the current US administration lie first in ensuring Europe’s security, then the stability and security of the Middle East and finally, preventing a third world war due to North Korea, he explained.

Washington is concerned with “removing the black flags fluttering over Mosul and Raqqa and what to do with Iran,” he added in his first interview with the Arab press.

On US ties with the Arab Gulf, Carafano said: “We are not trying to take control of the region. We, as partners, want a region that is more secure.”

After eight years of Barack Obama’s rule, people in the Middle East have grown skeptical of whether Washington can play an effective role in stemming Iran’s influence in the region.

Carafano remarked: “I am surprised that people criticize President Donald Trump at a time when his Middle East policy is much more traditional than his predecessor’s. His policy focuses on eliminating the threat of international terrorism and stopping Iran’s attempts at destabilizing the region.”

Washington seeks to halt Tehran’s meddling in partnership with other countries and in addressing illegal financial activities and doubling efforts to combat arms smuggling.

The US administration will assess the financial benefits that Iran will reap from the nuclear deal in order to prevent the transfer of funds to “Hezbollah” in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. It will also work with other countries, such as Jordan, and revive the Egyptian-Israeli relationship so that the region could “regain its confidence,” continued Carafano.

The confrontation with Iran will not be limited to curbing the weapons smuggling, but Washington will focus on political and economic development and support of the various players in the region. This is where the crisis with Qatar is significant, he said.

“At the end of the day, the US is not trying to isolate Qatar … but there should be greater unity over the security of the Gulf states,” he stressed.

“Ties between the US and Qatar are a reflection of our ties with Pakistan, with which we have a very important strategic relationship. There are sides inside Pakistan and in its military institution who are not only working against US interests, but against Pakistani ones as well. We call this ‘tough love,’” he added.

“The US will not stop having ties with Pakistan, but we will be clear over what we have differences over and we are pressuring them to do things that are not only good for us, but good for them as well. This ultimately helps everyone,” he continued.

“This is an exact copy of the type of relationship that binds us to Qatar. We will be clear and straight over the differences between us and them. I believe that being straight allows us to be confrontational. We will pressure the Qataris to implement not just what is in the interest of the US, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but what will in the end benefit Doha,” he noted.

“This requires constant contact. There will be days when we smile to each other and others when we will be tense, but we will keep on monitoring the situation and hold people accountable for what they said they will do,” Carafano stated.

“I would like to be clear that we are not trying to take over the region as in the end we are not the guarantors of the region’s security, but we are partners to countries that want a more stable region, through providing job opportunities to the people so that they may have a future.”

“We are not doing this because we are good people, but because a peaceful Middle East means a better United States,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Asked if the US will turn to another Gulf country to set up another military base in addition to the one in Al Udaid in Qatar, Carafano responded that expanding bases is difficult and cannot be implemented on short notice.

Addressing the US withdrawal from Iraq, which was like offering Baghdad to Iran on a silver platter, he acknowledged that Washington was to blame for this development. The US policy towards Syria led to a geopolitical disaster that saw Iran aim to govern the predominantly Sunni population. Carafano also acknowledged that Washington committed errors in this regard.

“We have contributed to the instability in the region. We are not rectifying issues because the situation is bad, but because we have an interest to reach peace in the region. How will we do that? I said that we will be good partners to a number of regional countries because we have a common goal.”

Furthermore, he stated that Iran is a living a “great illusion” after the Mosul victory against ISIS because it believes that the road has been cleared for them to expand further in the Middle East.

Asked if the US will allow it to expand its power, Carafano replied: “No, I believe that this is a disaster, which means we are replacing one problem with another. I assert that the US will remain, and strongly, in Iraq.”

“We want a stable Iraq, but it is unrealistic to believe that we will purge all Iraqi regions from Iranian influence. We cannot however stand aside and allow it to become an Iranian affiliate. This will result in a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. They did not get rid of Saddam Hussein to be ruled by someone in Iran,” he noted.

“Allowing Iran to have an open road from Iraq to Syria that reaches the front doors of Jordan and Israel will be a major destabilizing force in the region. I assert that this will not happen and we will not allow it to happen. I will not be surprised if military presence is once again restored in Iraq and even at the request of the Iraqis themselves,” Carafano added.

“The Iranians have expanded too much and they back Shi’ite militias, the Syrian regime and the Houthis, Hamas and ‘Hezbollah.’ As soon as the funds that have flowed from the nuclear deal dry up however, it will not be able to do any of that. They have not made economic reforms and the majority of the money was wasted in corruption. I believe that the Iranians will soon discover that they have stretched themselves thin and they will be faced with a wall of opposition,” he continued.

The Iranians believe that they are still building a bridge towards the Arab Middle East. The aide of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Akbar Wilayati, said that the highway of resistance will start from Tehran, pass through Mosul to Beirut and then reach the Mediterranean.

“This will be like Poland advancing on Moscow. The Iranians are exposed and this is a major error that they are committing. This approach is not sustainable. This highway may work in theory, but it will not be transformed into reality because the Americans will not stand idly by. Neither will Turkey, Israel and the Arab Sunnis of course,” he stressed.

Asked if the Trump administration is addressing this issue, Carafano said that the officials there are aware of it.

On whether southern Syria will turn into a US-Iranian confrontation zone due to the Popular Mobilization Forces’ efforts to cut the border between Syria and Iraq to only allow an Iranian presence there, he said that Israel will stand against a conflict.

“I don’t think the Iranians want this confrontation either. If the world looked the other way, Tehran will be able to do whatever it wants, but in the current situation, the Iranians cannot fight and they do not want to start a third world war. No one wants it …. They are pressuring vital interests of US allies in the region, specifically Jordan and Israel, so no one will allow them to achieve their strategy,” Carafano stated.

Asked if it was feasible to establish an “Arab NATO”, he said that official should not waste time in establishing such a security alliance, explaining: “It may be achieved one day, but after all of these threats and dangers have been eliminated.”

He did reveal however that the US has been aiming, “and for a long time now,” to set up regional missile defense infrastructure for the Gulf Cooperation Council to confront Iran.

Turning to Syria and asked what Washington’s long-term stance on the country is, Carafano replied: “Honestly, the US does not care and is not focusing on Syria. It is not asking about its future beyond providing stability in Iraq and then the stability of Jordan and protecting Israel and finally defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda. It is true that we do not like regime head Bashar Assad and would like to see him go, but we will not waste our time in finding a way to change the regime in Damascus.”

“If I were to guess, Syria is headed towards ‘Balkanization’ similar to what happened in Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. Division in Libya will not however improve the situation. Iraq as a united state will also remain better. I greatly admire Kurdistan and think it will be more secure as part of a united Iraq, not as an independent country.”

“I think the Libyans prefer a united Libya and the Iraqis prefer a united Iraq. I do not however believe that anyone will feel safe in a united Syria, which is why it will be ‘Balkanized’,” Carafano stated.

On the role the US can play in curbing the ambitions of the Syrian regime and force it to respect ceasefire agreements, he said that it is necessary for Washington to keep its forces on the ground and “interact with the region.”

“This will limit Iran’s influence in destabilizing the region and help find a solution for refugees to return to their homes. It will also provide space for Egypt and Jordan to work in Syria and Iraq and ease the threat of international terrorism.”

“I believe that the US contribution in destroying terrorism confirms that the terrorists can be defeated. The humiliating defeat of ISIS has been achieved and it did not take place under the American flag, but by locals. The people fought for their country because they do not want the likes of ISIS. It has been rejected by the people because terrorism is not the way of the future,” Carafano said.

Yemen’s Information Minister Slams Houthi Delusion over ‘Legitimacy’ Differences

London- Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani downplayed rumors on differences among members of the country’s legitimate government, saying they were part of the Houthi insurgents’ war propaganda.

“This is all part of the media war led by the insurgents,” Iryani told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in an interview. “The president has carefully chosen his team in leading the country to safe shores. That’s why the insurgents’ media is spreading fictitious and delusional news.”

“The Yemeni people are aware of the militias’ attempts to brainwash them” ever since the coup in 2014, he said, accusing the Houthis of resorting to rumors.

“But the legitimate media is resisting their attempts,” the minister stressed.

Iryani said the Yemeni government was formed in difficult circumstances. Despite that, it was able to make many achievements in liberated areas mainly as a result of the major support provided by the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia.

Asked why the UN-sponsored negotiations on the Yemeni crisis have been frozen, the minister said: “The Yemeni government extends its hand to peace and to avoid bloodshed … But the insurgent delegation has been intransigent regarding the initiatives made by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the efforts exerted by the countries sponsoring the political transition in Yemen.”

On Cheikh Ahmed’s latest proposal, Iryani said the Yemeni government backs any effort for peace and any attempt to end the coup and the war.

“The Houthis are seeking to control power and resources through the force of arms to implement a clear regional policy,” he told his interviewer.

“We have always stressed that the solution to a peace agreement is the insurgents’ recognition of the legitimacy represented by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi,” the minister said.

Aden serves as a temporary base for the Hadi government as the capital Sana’a has been held by Iranian-backed Houthis since September 2014.

Japanese FM: We Welcome De-escalation Efforts in Syria

Japanese FM

Tokyo – Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said his country welcomed US-Russian efforts to ease tensions in Syria, noting that a political process was crucial to rebuild the war-torn country.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in Tokyo, Kishida praised the liberation of Mosul and the imminent liberation of Raqqa from ISIS terrorist group, while stressing that humanitarian crises would continue even after the freeing of the two cities, for several reasons, including the exodus of a large population from those areas.

“The fight against terrorism and violent extremism is expected to continue not only in the Middle East, but also in the international community as a whole,” he stated.

On the relations with Saudi Arabia, the Japanese foreign minister described the Kingdom as a key for stability in the Middle East, stressing that Tokyo and Riyadh were seeking to forge a strategic partnership to achieve Vision 2030.

“Saudi Arabia is a key for the Middle East stability and prosperity. It is also one of the pillars of Japan’s economic security policy,” Kishida said.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Saudi Arabia in 1955, the two countries have enjoyed good relations in all fields, including strong relationship between the Japanese imperial family and the Saudi royal family,” he added.

He continued that his country regards Saudi Arabia as an important partner in the field of economic security, as well as in commerce, culture, politics and security.

He noted that during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tokyo last September, discussions focused on the means to boost cooperation in order to achieve Saudi Vision 2030.

Kishida listed several cooperation fields between the two countries, including commerce, investment, tourism, education, infrastructure, technology and cultural exchange.

He added that 41 Saudi and Japanese ministries and institutions were working on the “Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030”, which aims at promoting non-oil industries and creating new job opportunities, among other objectives.

Asked about the crisis with North Korea and the US efforts in this regard, the Japanese foreign minister said: “It is essential that we maintain the US deterrent power at a time when the security situation is escalating in the region. We, in Japan, highly appreciate the positions of the [US President Donald] Trump Administration, which show in words and deeds that all options are on the table.”

He continued: “It should be noted that the US government has indicated its intention to tighten the pressure on North Korea by diplomatic and economic means, and to demand effective responses from China. The positions of Japan and the United States are consistent in this regard.”

Back to the Syrian file, Kishida underlined the need for the concerned parties to commit to the agreement over the ceasefire and the de-escalation zones, in order to improve the humanitarian situation and boost the political process, in cooperation with the international community.

He also said his country welcomed joint efforts deployed by the US and Russia for this purpose.

Asked about Japan’s assistance to Syria, the official said: “Since 2012, Japan has provided around $1.9 billion in aid to Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries.”

“This year, Japan also decided to provide humanitarian assistance worth up to $260 million through international and non-governmental organizations to the above-mentioned countries,” he added.

He noted that his country dedicated $77 million to the Syrian refugees in order rehabilitate the electricity sector, help build the capacity of human resources of young Syrians and empower women.

Kishida underlined the need to find a political solution to the crisis as the only means to rebuild the country.

“Japan will continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support the political processes in cooperation with the international community,” he stated.

While he welcomed the liberation of Mosul, the foreign minister warned that the humanitarian crisis would continue due to the departure of a great number of residents from the liberated areas.

“We are determined to provide humanitarian assistance and support the stability of the abovementioned countries in all respects in order to spread the spirit of tolerance and cooperation in the Middle East that will generate peace and stability,” he said.

De Mistura Says Truce in the South is Temporary, Understands Syrians’ Concerns over Partition

Syria

London – UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that the agreed truce in southwest Syria was a “positive step in the right direction”, noting the presence of common interests between the US and Russia, including fighting ISIS and easing the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the envoy hoped an agreement would be reached between the US and Russia over the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. He said the de-escalation zones were a temporary solution and stressed that partition would not be part of Syria’s future.

De Mistura said, during the phone interview, that the ongoing round of indirect talks in Geneva would achieve “some cumulative progress in understanding some of the preparatory work that needs to be done”.

Asked about the agreed truce in the South between the US and Russia, the UN envoy said: “Ceasefire is always good news for the Syrian people; after six years of war, I can sadly tell you that unfortunately around 400,000 people have been perhaps killed. The first thing the Syrian people ask for is a ceasefire.”

He added that the agreement, which was achieved by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in southwest Syria, “is a positive step in the right direction.”

“It came following a series of meetings in Amman and Astana,” he noted.

As for the mechanism to monitor the good implementation of the truce, De Mistura said that talks were ongoing in Amman on how to achieve an effective monitoring mechanism.

“We have learned that ceasefire does not last because of the goodwill of the parties, but is sustained by a good monitoring mechanism that prevents problems from becoming irreversible,” he stated.

“Another point is that we must keep in mind that this truce is temporary. This is why it has been called a temporary de-escalation zone, and that the principle of Syrian unity should not be affected or threatened by this step,” the envoy added.

De Mistura told the interviewer that he was well aware of the Syrian people’s fears over partition in the wake of the establishment of de-escalation zones.

“But I want the Syrians to know that the United Nations and the international community are determined that these temporary areas would not be part of Syria’s future,” he stated.

The international envoy noted the presence of common interests between the US and Russia, including defeating ISIS terrorist group and easing tensions in Syria, in order to promote the region’s stability.

He said he hoped both sides would agree on a mechanism to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 through a political process in Geneva.

Asked about the ongoing indirect talks in Geneva, and whether it would end in the unification of the opposition factions, De Mistura said: “We are not seeking to have a unified opposition, because this might take a long time; instead, we want the opposition to have a unified stance over key issues, such as the constitution, the elections, governance and fighting terrorism.”

On whether he was optimistic over the current round of talks, the international envoy said: “I am realistic. Perhaps this specific week of negotiations will make some cumulative progress in understanding some of the preparatory work that needs to be done.”

Only through strenuous efforts and hard work that positive result could be achieved, he added.

Head of Opposition Green Tunisia Party Warns of ‘New Social Revolution’

Tunisia

Tunis – Head of the opposition Green Tunisia Party Abdelkader Zitouni criticized Prime Minister Youssef al-Chahed’s national unity government’s war on corruption, saying that it is politically motivated.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “all signs in Tunisia indicate that a new social revolution may take place because the government work is not meeting the expectations of the people, especially in creating job opportunities and achieving development.”

He said that this was best demonstrated in its reliance on the state of emergency after its “failure in leading the country.”

The new policy has come to destroy the slogans of the 2011 revolutions, he said.

“It has created the same old system with some embellishments to avoid claims that the revolution in Tunisia has failed,” Zitouni stressed.

Furthermore, he said that al-Chahed’s government “stands idly by and allows President Beji Caid Essebsi to effectively control political work.”

Ten months after al-Chahed became prime minister, Zitouni stated: “We can say that the political, social and economic situation in Tunisia is very difficult.”

“Development is at a standstill and over 630,000 people are unemployed. The government is meanwhile going ahead with the recommendations and dictates the International Monetary Fund that may bring about great problems on the country’s stability,” warned the opposition figure.

On the government’s war on corruption, Zitouni said that its efforts are bringing up many questions.

“It is a purely political war, whose main and undeclared goal is to isolate some sides from political life,” he explained.

“The war on corruption has not turned to the major centers of corruption and the prime minister is totally aware of this,” added the opposition party chief.

Under the instruction of Essebsi, the prime minister has instead focused on the minor sources of corruption, said Zitouni.

Furthermore, he criticized the “corrupt funds in political life” in Tunisia, saying that some “unknowns have formed political parties and reached power in record time.”

“This indicates that large funds were paid to block the path of some political powers or facilitate the rise of others,” Zitouni noted.

“We have seen how several of the political figures that have resisted the old dictatorial regime have been isolated,” he remarked.

On this note, he said that he believes that Qatar had paid funds in Tunisia to meddle in its internal affairs. Zitouni also accused it of encouraging Tunisians to travel to the conflict zones of Iraq and Syria.

“We cannot speak of security and social stability in Tunisia as long as some youths embrace extremist ideology and fight the state with arms,” he added.

Al-Jarba to Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS is Legitimate Child of Iran’s Project

London- Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of al-Ghad al-Souri Movement (Tomorrow Movement), said on Sunday that ISIS was the legitimate child of the Iranian project and the “Shi’ite Crescent” in the region.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Jarba said: “Iran is in conflict with its surrounding and the world. Iran is trying to control the Iraqi-Syrian border to facilitate the arrival of its linked-militias to the Arab region with a mission to promote and incite wars.”  

According to the Syrian opposition official, “the birth of ISIS is one of the outcomes of Iran’s surge in Iraq.”

Al-Jarba said that the project of the Shi’ite Crescent is similar to that of ISIS, which faces a dead end.

“This project will only lead to fighting, destruction and deportation,” he said.

Also, al-Jarba said that “Hezbollah” constitutes a threat to its neighboring countries (Syria) similar to both Al-Qaeda and ISIS organizations. “The same rule applies to the rest of the Shi’ite militias,” he added.

The Elite Forces of Syria’s Tomorrow Movement currently fight alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces in the battle to liberate Raqqa from ISIS.

Speaking about his country’s war, the former president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said that the division of Syria was “impossible.”

Al-Jarba said he was confident that decentralization should be implemented in Syria’s future.

Speaking about the Kurds, al-Jarba said they were an integral part of the Syrian social fabric.

“It is essential that we rehabilitate their presence as a second force in the country,” he added. 

The Syrian opposition figure also said that any political solution in Syria would naturally lead to the departure of Bashar Assad.

“However, we cannot put the cart before the horse,” he said.

Al-Jarba said that the Russians know well that the rules of the game would not allow the clock to turn back in Syria.

Ex-US Congressman: We Have Evidence of Qatar’s Involvement with Terrorism

Qatar

Washington – Former US Republican Congressman Mike Rogers stressed that Washington must persuade Qatar to change its behavior and start negotiations to resolve the crisis with its Gulf neighbors.

Rogers, who is the former chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Doha has a “long history” in supporting people or groups linked to terrorism, adding that there are documents to support these claims.

He underlined the need for a diplomatic solution, saying that Washington wants it to be resolved as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the US official said that he dealt with Qatar’s disruptive when he headed the intelligence panel, noting that the crisis was not a recent development.

“It appears that this is an ongoing problem,” Rogers remarked.

“I believe that the US should play a role in ending the dispute. When Qatar faces this kind of Gulf boycott, then it should reconsider the way it behaves. I think the US can play a role in mediating between Qatar and its neighbors and convince it in changing it behavior and helping it repair its ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he stated.

In addition, he revealed that the US will soon include Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on its terrorist list. The final preparations are being completed to this end.

He said that there is damning evidence of the group’s involvement in terrorist acts in Egypt.

“The blacklisting of the Muslim Brotherhood is only a matter of time. We have spoken of the importance of exchanging intelligence information. We must exchange the information in a better way in order to place the group on the terror list,” he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood will be blacklisted soon, Rogers stated.

At this point, however, only some branches of the Brotherhood will be blacklisted, because not all of its arms act in the same way, explained the former Congressman.

Not everyone linked to the organization is a terrorist, he clarified. The group is being used by terrorist groups to impose their influence in the region.

“We should therefore be thorough when making such designations,” he stressed.

Moreover, he revealed that he was “fooled” by the group into believing that it had charitable aims, but it turned out to be performing over activities.

The blacklisting of the Muslim Brotherhood will not end it and it will not mean an end to the terrorists, but it will greatly curb its power in recruiting people and halt its funding, Rogers said.

Rogers served in the army from 1985 to 1989. He worked as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A Republican representing Michigan, he was elected to the Senate in 1994 and to Congress in 2000. He was reelected six times between 2001 and 2015. He chaired the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2011 to 2015.

Cadillac’s Regional Chief: Saudi Arabia is among our Most Important Markets

London- Christian Soemmer, managing director Cadillac Middle East, expressed confidence in the “Saudi Vision 2030” to diversify the local and regional economy. During an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said the visit paid by the company’s president recently to Saudi Arabia to lay the foundation of a Cadillac stand-alone showroom in Jeddah is a clear validation of this trust.

Soemmer says that the vision of Saudi Arabia is an ambitious undertaking that will see a host of new opportunities for the country as a whole and specifically in the automotive industry. He addsthat Escalade contributes up to half the sales of Cadillac in the Saudi market, while the new luxury sedan CT6 has become a popular choice in Saudi Arabia, raising Cadillac’s share of the segment to 11 percent.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

*What are Cadillac’s projections for 2017?

-The year 2016 marked the beginning of Cadillac’s product expansion and promoting the brand. The year witnessed the launch of the first-ever luxury sedan, the CT6 and the all-new midsize luxury crossover, the XT5. The CT6 has had an impressive debut in 2016 with a phenomenal reception across the region, designed with new unprecedented innovations including the world’s first Rear Camera Mirror. In 2017 we are determined to continue to elevate the brand and emphasize our slogan “Dare Greatly.”

*How is Cadillac doing in the Saudi market in terms of volume and ranking compared to other regional markets? And what Cadillac models are best sellers in Saudi Arabia?

– Saudi Arabia plays an important role for Cadillac’s plans to grow in the region. We continue to achieve impressive numbers, with our flagship model the Escalade contributing to 50 percent of our sales in the Kingdom, followed by our midsize crossovers — XT5 and SRX — accounting for over 15 percent. Our latest luxury sedan, the all-new CT6 also proved to be a popular choice for our Saudi customers, helping to raise Cadillac’s share in its segment to over 11 percent.

* Saudi Arabia has announced an ambitious plan for diversification headlined “Vision 2030,” does Cadillac see any challenges or opportunities in its future Saudi operations?

– The vision of Saudi Arabia is an ambitious undertaking that will see a host of new opportunities for the country as a whole and specifically in the automotive segment. As the Kingdom grows and diversifies, we are in a great position to further expand our presence in the market, as we bring our own vision to become a market leader in the luxury car segment. Our focus on the region and our confidence in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision and the opportunities it represents were evident with last year’s visit by Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac and executive vice president of General Motors, for the groundbreaking of the new Cadillac stand-alone showroom to open in Jeddah in the near future.

* What future plans has Cadillac for alternative drive trains (e.g. electric; plug-in hybrid) and autonomous driving technology?

– We are always open to bringing electric or hybrid vehicles to the region. However, this will be dependent on various factors including customer demand, availability of infrastructure and suitable regulations in the market. As a brand we are already making huge strides in electric and hybrid models, we launched our first plug-in hybrid car. The CT6 Plug-In, offers exhilarating performance, exceptional efficiency and an overall range above 650km with acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.

* How far has Cadillac achieved disengagement from other GM operations? How did this decision reflect on its operations in the region?

– I always say that it is vision and focus that are driving Cadillac’s reinvention. In the Middle East, we currently have a dedicated sales and marketing Cadillac team. This creates a more focused business unit that looks after building the brand and translating the global brand vision on a local level. This is also being reflected in all of our dealerships, with all our markets having standalone Cadillac representatives for our sales and service operations.

* The current economic climate in the region is unstable; how do you see this affecting the performance of Cadillac in the region?

– The fluctuation in the oil price was always going to present a challenge for the industry as a whole. However, as a brand, we believe that with every challenge comes opportunities. We believe in the quality of our products and so do our dealer partners in the region, as we can see from the level of investment in all aspects of the business, including people development, technology and infrastructure. We will continue to keep the customer at the core of everything and will anticipate upcoming trends to meet our customers’ evolving aspirations.

* What were the highlights of Cadillac in this year’s expos?

– We showcased the Cadillac Escala concept that previews the design and technical ideas driving the next phase of Cadillac’s design lines. The concept vehicle highlights our vision for all of our future models while keeping all the hallmarks of a Cadillac model and technology, including the next generation display and connectivity.

* What models would be launched in the region during 2017?

– We will see further product enhancements … However our main focus will continue to be on the recently launched CT6, which redefines the luxury sedan segment with advanced technology and design and the XT5, which brings innovative engineering, craftsmanship and driving experience to the crossover segment. We will also look to push our performance V-Series vehicles, a lineup that is bristling with expressive design and exhilarating performance.