UAE Implements Ministerial Adjustments in Preparation for Next Stage


Dubai – The UAE has reshuffled ministries by introducing four new ministerial posts, merging some functions and sectors into a single ministry and implementing structural adjustments.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced on Thursday the new government after consultation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

New ministerial posts were established to cope with latest scientific and technological developments, in addition to some structural changes, which fall within the framework of government’s plan to meet the requirements of the next stage.

Three new ministries were created, including the Minister of Artificial Intelligence, the Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and the Minister of State for Food Security.

Other ministries have seen structural changes, including the Ministry of State for Happiness, to which the Quality of Life file has been added, the Ministry of State for Higher Education, which now comprises the Advanced Skills, and the Ministry of Energy, which now includes the Industry sector.

Sheikh Mohammed appointed Oman bin Sultan Al Olama, 27, as the first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The appointment comes just two days after the announcement of the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative in the UAE Centennial 2071 objectives.

As for the new post of Minister of State for Food Security, it has been given to Maryam Al Muhairi.

“Food security is a future national issue, its foundation will be research and scientific projects … we have great confidence in our youth,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

As for advanced sciences, Sara Al Amiri, 30, was appointed to lead her new ministry into research, development and manufacture of “scientific competencies”, according to Sheikh Mohammed.

The Ministry of State for Higher Education has been expanded to include Advanced Skills “to ensure lifelong learning among the country’s young people.”

Sinwar: Our Goal is to Wipe Israel not Recognize it

Ramallah- Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar has stated that the time to discuss the recognition of Israel as a state had elapsed, saying the movement is instead debating “when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar was responding to the US stance that rejects any Palestinian reconciliation without Hamas recognizing the state of Israel as a main condition in any future Palestinian government. This was disapproved by both Hamas and Fatah.

“Gone are the days of Hamas (discussing) the recognition of Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel,” Sinwar said.

“Disarming us is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons,” he added.

Sinwar stated that the US-Israeli stance will make the future stage more difficult but Hamas won’t back off from the reconciliation.

His comments followed the statement of US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, who said: “The United States reiterates the importance of adhering to the principles of the Quartet for the Middle East: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations.”

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” he added.

“Hamas must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and cease terrorism as per the Quartet’s terms, dismantle its military wing, release the Israeli soldiers who have been held in Gaza and cut its ties with Iran,” announced the Israeli security cabinet.

Hamas considered Greenblatt’s statement a blatant interference in Palestinian affairs, while Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary Majed al-Fatyani expressed rejection to the US stance.

Fatah sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the movement will not ask Hamas to recognize Israel because it hasn’t done so either.

Houthis, Saleh Exchange Accusations, Threats to End Alliance


Aden — Tension reemerged Thursday between the two partners of the coup in Yemen after Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters exchanged accusations of obstructing a political agreement that united both sides.

Saleh, who heads the General People’s Congress (GPC), sent a letter to the so-called Ansar Allah, the political office of Houthis, accusing the rebels of launching campaigns against his leadership and party members.

In the letter sent by Aref Al-Zouka, Saleh said that some of his ministers in the unofficial rebel government, including the Minister of Education and the Minister of Awqaf and Guidance, had been “humiliated” by the Houthis, who “lack the will to maintain partnership.”

The former president enclosed to his letter a list of 44 members of the Houthi militia and its journalists who were attacking Saleh and the leaders of his party, threatening to quit the alliance.

The party considered those insults as “clear indications and conclusive evidence that you have no desire to carry on partnership. We would like to inform you that we do not want a sham partnership,” Al-Zouka said in his letter.

For his part, leader of the Houthi so-called Supreme Political Council, Saleh al-Samad responded to the letter by accusing figures close to Saleh of trying to “break internal unity” between the two allies.

Al-Samad added: “What partnership do you speak of when you are the ones obstructing the role of the political council and the government?”

The Houthi official said: “We, too, are not honored to remain in a sham responsibility incapable of fixing the simplest reforms.”

Yemeni political figures said the GPC letter expressed that relations with the Houthis reached a “very embarrassing level.”

Yassine al-Tamimi, a Yemeni political analyst, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the letter was not related to the violations committed by the 44 Houthi officials listed in Saleh’s letter, but rather involves the failure of the two allies in managing the coup, which was never established based on good intentions.

“Houthi officials have directed several blows to the GPC camp with an aim to silence the party’s activists and journalists criticizing their policies,” al-Tamimi said.

Putin Outlines his Vision for Syria Solution

Moscow, Raqqa- Russian President Vladimir Putin uncovered on Thursday his vision regarding a political solution in Syria, proposing a congress bringing together representatives of all ethnic groups in Syria following the establishment of de-escalation zones.

Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club held in Sochi Thursday, Putin said: “There is an initiative to set up a congress of the Syrian peoples, involving all the ethnic and religious groups, as well as the government and opposition.”

“If this is done with the support of the guarantor countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it would mark the next step on the way to finding a political solution and drawing up a new constitution, but it is too early to talk about that,” the president added.

Putin also expressed concern that the setup of de-escalation zones may lead to Syria’s division, hoping that cooperation between all forces in the country would prevent it.

The Russian president said he was also concerned of the complicated dialogue between the Syrian regime and opposition.

“There are grounds to expect, and I’d be cautious, that we will soon finish off the terrorists in Syria, but this is not the reason yet to be glad and think that they have been eliminated once and for all,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retained on Thursday full control over the city of Raqqa.

The Women’s Protection Units, which is affiliated to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), organized on Thursday a military parade in Raqqa’s Al-Naim Square, where they raised a portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by Turkey.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is getting prepared to be handed over to a civilian authority.

Separately, the Israeli Army shelled on Thursday Syrian regime positions in Quneitra in the Golan Heights.

Barzani Condemns Court Order ‘Targeting’ his Deputy amid Kurdish Displacement

Riyadh, Baghdad, Washington – The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made on Thursday a telephone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, during which they reviewed bilateral relations between both countries in various fields and ways of enhancing and developing them through the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council.

The King’s phone call is the second to al-Abadi in a week, after he had called the prime minister last Sunday to assert Saudi Arabia’s support for the unity, security and stability of Iraq.

The Saudi-Iraqi talks came as Washington announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would kick off on Friday a tour that involves Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.

A statement released by the State Department said that Tillerson would first travel to Riyadh, where he would take part in the inaugural Coordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The Secretary will also meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute, Iran, and a number of other important regional and bilateral issues.

Concerning the latest developments in Iraq, an Iraqi Court issued on Thursday an arrest warrant for Kurdish Vice President Kosrat Rasul for publicly insulting Iraqi forces.

The court order came following Rasul’s latest comments in which he said the Iraqi forces in Kirkuk were “occupying forces.”

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant and said the court’s decision “is political and it clearly shows what the ruling mentality in Baghdad is like.”

Meanwhile, Kurdish officials confirmed that around 100,000 Kurds were displaced from Kirkuk as they fear revenge after the Iraqi forces controlled the city.

For its part, the UN expressed concern “about reports regarding the destruction and looting of houses, businesses and political offices, and forced displacement of civilians, predominantly Kurds, from disputed areas.”

Chevron Suspends Drilling Activity in Kurdistan

Chevron has temporarily suspended oil and gas drilling activity in Iraqi Kurdistan, the company said on Thursday, in the latest setback to the region following recent unrest.

“Chevron has decided to temporarily suspend its operations,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

In September, Chevron drilled its first exploration well in Iraqi Kurdistan after a two-year break.

“We remain in regular contact with the Kurdistan Regional Government. We look forward to resuming our operations as soon as conditions permit.”

On the other hand, the Iraqi oil ministry reacted angrily on Thursday after Russian energy giant Rosneft signed a production sharing deal with the authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region without its approval.

The agreement came hot on the heels of Baghdad’s recapture from Kurdish forces of five oil fields in disputed territory outside the autonomous region in retaliation for an independence vote last month.

“This department and the Iraqi federal government are the only two bodies with whom agreements should be reached for the development and investments in the energy sector,” the ministry said in a statement, without mentioning Rosneft by name.

Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaybi condemned the “irresponsible announcements coming from certain officials in Iraq or abroad, or from foreign companies about their intention to conclude deals with parties in Iraq without the federal government being aware.”

Iraq Orders Arrest of Kurdish VP

Iraqi soldiers ride in military vehicles in Zumar

Iraq’s Supreme Justice Council ordered the arrest of Kurdistan Regional Government Vice President Kosrat Rasul for allegedly saying Iraqi troops were “occupying forces” in Kirkuk.

A Supreme Judicial Council spokesman said the court considered Kosrat Rasul’s remarks as an incitement to violence.

He made them in a statement condemning the withdrawal of Peshmerga fighters from Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

Baghdad launched an operation to retake them on Monday, three weeks after the Kurds held an independence referendum.

On Tuesday night, after the military operation concluded, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said the referendum was “a thing of the past” and offered “dialogue under the constitution”.

KRG Peshmerga forces deployed into Kirkuk in 2014 when Iraqi government forces fell apart in the face of an offensive by ISIS insurgents, preventing the oilfields from falling into jihadist hands.

Rasul issued a statement on Wednesday lashing out on his own Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party amid reports that other leaders had ordered Peshmerga under their control not to resist the Iraqi troops as they advanced into Kirkuk.

There was only one serious clash on the outskirts of the city on Monday, which is reported to have left between three and 11 combatants dead.

Rasul said the territorial losses represented a “new Anfal for Kurdistan” – a reference to the campaign of genocide against Iraqi Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1987 and 1988.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council said a court in Baghdad issued an arrest warrant for Rasul in connection with the statement.

“The court considers these comments as provocation against the armed forces, under Article 226 of the penal code,” the spokesman added.

The offense can carry a jail term of up to seven years or a fine.

Meanwhile, KRG Foreign Minister Fala Mustafa Bakir told broadcaster CNN that his side never meant to engage in war with the Iraqi army. He said there was a need for dialogue between the KRG and Iraq to enable a common understanding. The dispute, he added, was not about oil or the national flag but the future of two nations.

Crude oil flows through the KRG pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan have been disrupted by a gap between incoming and outgoing personnel since Baghdad’s retaking of Kirkuk.

An Iraqi oil ministry official in Baghdad said on Thursday that Iraq would not be able to restore Kirkuk’s oil output to levels before Sunday because of missing equipment at two fields.

The official accused the Kurdish authorities previously in control of Kirkuk of removing equipment at the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields, northwest of the city.

Gaddafi Family to Sue Qatar before ICC

Cairo- The Gaddafi family has announced its intention to sue Qatar before the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague.
The family’s lawyer, Khalid al-Zaidi, has vowed to sue Qatari figures before the ICC for “supporting terrorism and causing the displacement of Libyan citizens.”
In a news conference held on Tuesday evening in Tunis, Zaidi noted that a team of five international lawyers would soon start to work on the case, pointing out that Doha could be sued under Law No. 1970, which Qatar itself was the reason behind, and that no new Security Council resolution was required to file the case.
Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame continued his efforts to converge the views of the two dialogue committees, representing Libya’s Parliament and the High State Council, as he provided them on Wednesday with a new paper on consensual formulas to resume the negotiations over the amendment of the Skhirat Agreement.
Talks on amending the agreement kicked off last Sunday in Tunis, and were suspended following the withdrawal of Parliament’s representatives over a disagreement on the need to tackle controversial issues.
Omar Boushah, member of the dialogue committee on the High State Council briefed Asharq Al-Awsat about the details of the meeting attended by the UN envoy to Libya. He noted that Salame presented to the two dialogue committees, which convened in Tunis on Wednesday, “a set of ideas centered around some points of agreement, and other issues that remain controversial and should be studied within each committee.”
The head of Parliament’s side in the Joint Drafting Committee, Abdul Salam Nasieh, met with British Ambassador to Libya Peter Millett, with whom he discussed the reasons for the suspension of the second round of political talks in Tunis.
The Libyan Parliament said in a statement published on its Facebook page, early on Wednesday, that the chairman of the dialogue committee and members of the joint drafting committee have briefed Millett on the reasons behind suspending the political dialogue, and they asked the other party (the High State Council) to submit its written notes on the controversial issues.
Parliament went on to say that the British diplomat was “convinced by their view and by the strong argument presented to him.”
It is noteworthy that the British ambassador to Libya also met with the dialogue committee of the High State Council and heard their views on the matter.
In earlier remarks this week, Nasieh said the reason behind his delegation’s withdrawal was the insistence of the High State Council’s dialogue committee not to resolve controversial issues and to return to points and understandings that have already been resolved.
The council responded by saying that no amendments were originally requested.

Egypt’s International Conference for Fatwa Warns Against Circulating Misleading Fatwas

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa attends the International Conference for Fatwa in Cairo

Cairo- The International Conference for Fatwa continued its second day of activities early on Wednesday.

Participants used the platform to send out an important message on prohibiting and stopping self-styled and unauthorized Fatwas from being circulated among the public, especially in light of surging Islamophobia.

The three-day conference, held by General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, was attended by delegations from 80 countries to face misleading fatwas and their impacts on societies.

Attending Islamic scholars valued the speech given by MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.

“Issa’s speech has a great impact and is very important in shedding light on the most important issues facing the Islamic world,” Secretary-General of the Islamic European Council Dr. Mohammed Al Bashari told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Issa’s demand to unify fatwas and establish regulations is a request made in the right place and time to eliminate fatwas issued occasionally by extremist organizations,” he added.

Fatwas in the Islamic faith are a nonbinding but authoritative legal opinion or learned interpretation that scholars, such as a qualified jurist or mufti, can give on issues pertaining to the Islamic law.

Grand Imam of Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Muhammad bin Abdul Karim, and the chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE) in the UAE Mohammed Matar al-Kaabi Issa inaugurated the conference on Oct 17.

Addressing the conference, Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam said that the challenges Egypt and the world are facing are due to “misleading fatwas” that threaten security and peace.

“Since the world rises up against terrorism, religious intellectuals too should confront extremist thoughts and spread the teachings of our tolerant religion instead,” Allam added.

He further noted that the conference is considered an “opportunity to achieve this goal, as the conference’s importance is not limited to discussing the issues of terrorism and extremism, but it expands to include misleading fatwas that confuse our society.”

Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- The Palestinian authority and some media institutions denounced the attack of Israeli occupation forces on eight media outlets and warned against this violent step that aims to silence journalists and the press.

The Israeli army raided on Wednesday eight offices of TV channels and production companies in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, arresting some journalists and staff.

Commander of the Judea Brigade Col. Itzik Cohen stated after the end of the operation that the closed outlets helped main Palestinian channels in incitement and encouraging terrorism.

He said the incitement was a source of annoyance but the response was quick. 

“We see incitement as an integral part of encouraging terrorism and that’s why we continue to fight it,” Cohen added.

For its part, the Palestinian Ministry of Information considered the Israeli raids the peak of terrorism and piracy. It rejected the so-called closure decision, which contradicts international law and degrades UN Resolution 2222.

Upon the ministry’s request, all national media institutions united their broadcast for one minute (12:00 noon) as a protest.
Further, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”. PA government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said in a statement that “occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices.”

He added that the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”