The World Applauds King Salman’s Order Allowing Women to Drive

Washington, London, Berlin – Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive was widely supported around the world, as international leaders have officially welcomed the King’s order.

US President Donald Trump commended the royal order to apply the traffic system and its executive regulations – including issuance of driving licenses – for both males and females alike, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we will continue to support the Kingdom in its efforts to strengthen the Saudi society and economy through reforms like this and the implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Trump said, according to the statement.

The US Department of State has also welcomed the Saudi royal order.

In the daily press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert stressed that this decision was a great step and a very positive sign.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for his part, tweeted that ending the restrictions represented an “important step in the right direction.”

In London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May described the Saudi decision as an “important step towards gender equality.”

“The empowerment of women around the world is not only an issue I care deeply about, it is also key to nations’ economic development,” she said.

From Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman welcomed Saudi Arabia’s order to grant women the right to drive as “a big step for Saudi society.”

Spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Merkel has repeatedly brought up the situation of women during visits to Saudi Arabia. “It is a particularly important issue to her,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a political researcher at Georges Washington University told Asharq Al-Awsat that King Salman’s move to allow Saudi women to drive was a “courageous decision and will open up social and economic prospects for women in Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Leadership Congratulates Chancellor Merkel, Singaporean President

Mohammed bin Salman, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz

Jeddah- King Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel following her re-election and to Singaporean President Halimah Yacub for winning the presidential elections.

For his part, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, has also sent a cable of congratulations to the Singaporean President for winning the elections and to Chancellor Merkel.

On the other hand, King Salman issued a royal order promoting and appointing 39 judges at the Ministry of Justice at various ranks.

Minister of Justice Walid bin Mohammed al-Samaani has expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the King for his continued support for the judiciary.

Merkel, Schulz Conclude Electoral Campaign, Polling Stations Open Today

Merkel

Berlin- German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her supporters to keep up the momentum in the final hours before Sunday’s national election, urging a last push to try to sway undecided voters.

Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office and her conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Party and Bavarian-only Christian Social union has a healthy lead in the polls.

Merkel told supporters in Berlin that they needed to keep up their efforts to sway undecided voters, saying “many make their decision in the final hours.”

She also campaigned in the northern city of Greifswald and planned a stop as well on the island of Ruegen in the Baltic, where the Islamophobic Alternative for Germany topped her party’s score in state elections last year.

Her main challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, was in western Germany at a rally in the city of Aachen.

Although Merkel’s party enjoys a double-digit lead over the second place SPD, an alarm is growing among mainstream parties as the latest polls show support for the hard-right AfD rising in the final campaigning stretch to between 11 and 13 percent.

That means that around 60 lawmakers of the openly anti-immigration party could sit in the German parliament for the first time since World War II, a prospect prompting established parties to urge voters to shun the upstarts.

At Merkel’s final major stump speech on Friday evening at the southern city of Munich, dissenters blew whistles and vuvuzelas and chanted “get lost”, seeking to drown her out.

But the 63-year-old refused to be derailed from her stability-and-prosperity stump speech, telling the crowd that “the future of Germany will definitely not be built up through whistles and hollers.”

Merkel, whose rallies across Germany had been plagued by organized AfD supporters, also called people to go out and “vote for the parties that are 100 percent loyal to our constitution”.

In an appeal for voters to close ranks and keep the AfD out, Schulz told a rally in central Berlin that “this Alternative for Germany is no alternative. They are a shame for our nation.”

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also a Social Democrat, said the party is led by “people who incite hate, who spread Nazi propaganda”.

“For the first time since the end of the Second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German parliament,” said Gabriel.

While Merkel has been pushing her stability and prosperity agenda and Schulz seeking to sway voters with his pledges for greater social equality, the AfD has diverted attention.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung columnist Heribert Prantl praised the chancellor for not only pressing on with her rallies despite protests from AfD supporters but also giving a clear rebuttal to the populists.

But the columnist regretted that it only came late in the campaign when it became “clear how the political climate in Germany will change with the AfD in the Bundestag.”

For his part, One of two AfD leading candidates, Alexander Gauland, had called for Germans to stop atoning for the war past.

Merkel, Schulz in Final Appeal to German Voters ahead of Sunday Polls

Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main challenger Martin Schulz embarked on Saturday on the final round of their electoral campaign ahead of Sunday’s elections.

Both are united in their appeal to Germans to shun anti-migrant populists.

Merkel, of the Christian Democratic Union, is visiting districts in the town of Greifswald and the island of Ruegen where the Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) topped her party’s score in state elections last year.

Social Democrat chief Schulz meanwhile will take his rally to Aachen, a western city next to his hometown of Wuerselen.

Although Merkel’s party enjoys a double-digit lead over the second place SPD, alarm is growing among mainstream parties as the latest polls show support for the hard-right AfD rising in the final campaigning stretch to between 11 and 13 percent.

That means that around 60 lawmakers of the openly anti-immigration party could sit in the German parliament for the first time since World War II, a prospect prompting established parties to urge voters to shun the upstarts.

At Merkel’s final major stump speech on Friday evening at the southern city of Munich, dissenters blew whistles and vuvuzelas and chanted “get lost”, seeking to drown her out.

But the 63-year-old refused to be derailed from her stability-and-prosperity stump speech, telling the crowd that “the future of Germany will definitely not be built up through whistles and hollers.”

Merkel, whose rallies across Germany had been plagued by organized AfD supporters, also called people to go out and “vote for the parties that are 100 percent loyal to our constitution”.

In an appeal for voters to close ranks and keep the AfD out, Schulz told a rally in central Berlin that “this Alternative for Germany is no alternative. They are a shame for our nation.”

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also a Social Democrat, said the party is led by “people who incite hate, who spread Nazi propaganda”.

“For the first time since the end of the Second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German parliament,” said Gabriel.

Two months of campaigning have been largely low-key, with few hot-button issues dividing the main contenders.

While Merkel has been pushing her stability and prosperity agenda and Schulz seeking to sway voters with his pledges for greater social equality, the AfD has diverted attention.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung columnist Heribert Prantl praised the chancellor for not only pressing on with her rallies despite protests from AfD supporters, but also giving a clear rebuttal to the populists.

But the columnist regretted that it only came late in the campaign when it became “clear how the political climate in Germany will change with the AfD in the Bundestag.”

“Not only nationalist politicians, but racists and bigots too will enter parliament,” he wrote, adding that “the seriousness of the situation was only recognized too late.”

Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, said the AfD “will challenge key themes” in parliament, warning that taboos since 1945 that could be breached include how Germany views its World War II past and the question of what makes a German.

One of two AfD leading candidates, Alexander Gauland, had called for Germans to stop atoning for the war past.

He had also sparked outrage when he said integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz should be “disposed of in Anatolia”, suggesting that she will never be German because of her Turkish origin.

Merkel, already chancellor for 12 years, has run a low-key campaign emphasizing the country’s sinking unemployment, strong economic growth, balanced budget and overall stability in a volatile world.

Pre-election polls give her conservative Union bloc a lead of 13 to 17 points over Schulz. The two are traditional rivals but have governed together in a “grand coalition” of the biggest parties for the past four years.

Schulz returned to German politics in January after years as the European Parliament’s president. He has struggled to gain traction with a campaign that centered on righting perceived economic injustices for Germany’s have-nots. It’s also been difficult for him to carve out clear differences with the conservatives.

Merkel offered Germans “a combination of the experience of recent years, in which we have achieved plenty, and curiosity for the new” during the pair’s only head-to-head debate of the campaign.

Merkel is pledging to get from Germany’s current 5.7 percent unemployment rate — down from 11 percent when she took office in 2005 — to “full employment” by 2025. She pledges limited tax cuts and to keep Germany’s borrowing at zero.

And she offers a steady hand internationally, with long experience of European Union negotiating marathons, tough talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and now of engaging cautiously with President Donald Trump.

Germany on Guard Against Russian Hack

Hacking worries have hovered over Germany's election campaign

As the clock ticks down to elections Sunday, Germany’s cyber defense nervously hopes it’ll be third time lucky after Russia was accused of meddling in the US and French votes and cyber attacking the website of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But even if Berlin avoids a last-minute bombshell of leaks or online sabotage, it sees Moscow’s hand in fanning fears of Muslim migrants that are driving the rise of the hard-right.

Forecasters say Chancellor Angela Merkel is almost certain to win.

But she will also face, for the first time in German post-war history, a right-wing populist and anti-immigration party will have its own group on the opposition benches.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) — which calls Merkel a “traitor” for her 2015 welcome to refugees — has been promoted especially in internet echo chambers by far-right trolls and ultra-nationalists.

While mainstream media have treated the AfD with distaste, the most positive coverage has appeared in Kremlin-funded media such as RT and Sputnik, which have also heavily focused on migrant crime.

The London School of Economics (LSE) found that “official Russian media and unofficial pro-Russian trolls offer constant and repetitive support for the AfD and its anti-immigrant message,” wrote journalist Anne Applebaum, a participant in the monitoring project.

The AfD, meanwhile, has been actively courting the 2.5 million-strong Russian-German community with neighborhood stands, flyer campaigns, and a Russian-language YouTube channel.

Especially elderly and poor Russian-Germans have been receptive to xenophobic and anti-Muslim messages amid the 2015 mass migrant influx, said Berlin community leader Alexander Reiser.

“The fear was stoked by Russian TV, which presented it as a catastrophe, of Europe being flooded by migrants,” he said, pointing also to Russians’ “traumatic memories” of the Soviet collapse and Russia’s wars against Islamic fundamentalists.

– Sowing doubt, discord –

The risk of Moscow attempting to use Russian-Germans as pawns moved into the spotlight with the 2016 case of “Our Lisa”.

Russian media spread the story — quickly debunked by German police — of three Muslim men who raped a 13-year-old Russian-German girl, and of a subsequent cover-up by police and politicians.

It sparked Russian-German street protests that escalated into a top-level diplomatic dispute between Berlin and Moscow.

Many Russian-Germans believed the conspiracy tale because they “projected their Russia experience onto the case,” said Reiser, who estimated that 15-20 percent remain “stuck in a totalitarian way of thinking and will never fully understand democracy”.

A top-level government official told AFP the Lisa case was Berlin’s “wake-up call” on Russian propaganda.

Other fake news stories followed, including one claiming German NATO soldiers in Lithuania raped a young girl.

Berlin’s biggest fear, however, has focused on a massive 2015 malware attack that crippled the Bundestag parliamentary network for days.

It netted 17 gigabytes of data which, officials feared, could be used to blackmail MPs or discredit them, possibly on new “BTLeaks” websites.

German security chiefs said “smoking gun” proof was impossible but blamed the hacker group known as Fancy Bear or APT28, which has been linked to Russia’s GRU military intelligence and accused of attacks on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

IT security experts sprang into action by drilling MPs and sensitizing the public about the risk of online mischief, meme wars and other disinformation designed to sow doubt and discord and delegitimize the democratic process.

Security agencies BND and BfV warned of Russian influence operations, the IT security agency BSI started war-gaming attacks, and the military launched a Cyber Command while musing about the option of “hack-back” counterstrikes.

Merkel Calls for Resolving Qatar Crisis Away from Media

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, left, address the media during a joint news conference as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

Dammam, Paris, Berlin- German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Friday for negotiations to end the Qatari crisis away from public and media attention.

Her comments were made during a visit for Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Berlin where he announced Doha’s readiness for dialogue with the Arab states to reach a solution that pleases all parties.

Berlin is Sheikh Tamim’s second stop in his regional and European tour, which started by visiting Turkey on Thursday, Germany and France on Friday after which he will head to New York to attend the UN meetings, in his first foreign trip since the eruption of the crisis in June.

Merkel, addressing reporters during a press conference alongside Sheikh Tamim said she hoped dialogue could lead to “fair compromises.”

“It’s cause for great concern that after 100 days a solution to this conflict is still not in sight,” she said.

“And we spoke about the need for all the parties to sit at one table again as soon as possible.”

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar in June over its close relations with Iran and its alleged support for extremists.

Germany has been supporting diplomatic efforts to try and defuse the crisis, with Merkel inviting all sides to sit at the table.

She said that she supported efforts by Kuwait and the US to mediate an end to the dispute.

“Germany is not a part of this conflict, but would like, in line with its values, to help get this conflict resolved in such a way that all can keep their face,” Merkel said.

The German Chancellor noted the Emir’s willingness to do everything in his power to resolve the Gulf crisis and confirmed Berlin’s communication with all parties involved.

“We cannot solve the problem in public, we must use diplomacy to reach fair results to end the conflict away from public and media attention,” Merkel stressed.

For his part, Sheikh Tamim said Qatar maintains its stance on dialogue to resolve the dispute with its neighboring Arab states.

“Qatar supports Kuwaiti mediation and will continue to support it until a solution to the crisis is reached,” the Emir said.

“We are fighting terrorism, but we must focus on the roots and causes of terrorism. We may disagree with some Arab countries on defining the roots of terrorism, but we agree on the need to fight it,” he added.

The comments, repeated on multiple occasions since the dispute in June, came during “excellent and frank” talks with Merkel, in which the two leaders discussed the months-old Arab blockade on Qatar.

Following the meetings with Merkel, the emir went to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. He left the Elysee palace without speaking to the press.

Merkel Pushes EU to Halt Turkish Accession Talks 

Ankara- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would discuss with European leaders the “suspension” of Turkey’s membership talks and push them to agree on a “joint stance” from the country.

She told the German Bundestag lower house of parliament on Friday that should would propose the suspension of the talks during the European Union meeting in October.

“Turkey is moving away from the path of the rule of law at a very fast speed,” Merkel said.

“I will push for a decisive stand … But we need to coordinate and work with our partners,” she added.

Her comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the two NATO allies that have deepened since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July of last year.

Meanwhile, Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik said after meeting EU foreign ministers in Estonia’s capital Tallinn that the EU was making a “child’s game” out of its membership talks.

“This is not a children’s game at all,” he said. “You cannot talk about suspending or halting the accession negotiations and then restarting it in six months, and that Turkey is a great strategic and important country.”

Celik reiterated his call to open more areas of negotiations with the EU.

“This approach of ‘I froze talks, now I restarted them’ is not acceptable for us,” he said.

Turkey Slams German Stance on Ending its Negotiations to Join EU

Turkey

Turkey reacted angrily on Monday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration on Sunday that Ankara must not join the European Union.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman accused German politicians of surrendering to populism after Merkel said she would seek to end talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU.

“Attacking Turkey-Erdogan and ignoring Germany’s and Europe’s fundamental and urgent problems are a reflection of a lack of vision,” Ibrahim Kalin said in a tirade on Twitter.

Kalin said this was a “surrender to populism and marginalization/hostility (which) only fuels discrimination and racism”.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since last year’s failed coup in Turkey and Berlin’s strong condemnation of Erdogan following a subsequent crackdown that has seen more than 50,000 people arrested.

In a televised with challenger Martin Schulz on Sunday ahead of elections on September 24, Merkel said it was “clear that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union”.

Merkel said she would discuss with EU counterparts if “we can end these membership talks”, adding: “I don’t see (Turkey) ever joining and I had never believed that it would happen.”

Schulz had also promised to push for an end to Turkey’s EU negotiations if elected chancellor.

Merkel’s spokesman reiterated her stance on Monday.

“The chancellor’s words speak for themselves,” Steffen Seibert, told a regular government news conference in Berlin.

“At the moment, Turkey is not at all in a position to join the European Union. In fact, the negotiations are dormant at the moment,” he said, adding that EU leaders would pick up the issue when they meet in October.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said on Monday that any talk of ending his country’s negotiations for EU accession amounted to an “attack on Europe’s founding principles”.

“They are building a Berlin wall with bricks of populism,” he tweeted. Turkey will “keep going with its head held high as a European country and a European democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the EU executive said that the actions of the Turkish authorities are making it “impossible” for the country to join the Union.

Quoting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from last week, before Merkel’s election campaign comment, the Commission’s chief spokesman told a regular news briefing: “Turkey is taking giant strides away from Europe and that is making it impossible for Turkey to join the European Union.”

He stressed, however, that any decision on whether to formally halt the long-stalled membership process would be up to the 28 member states of the bloc, not the Brussels executive.

Experience Gives Merkel Edge in Sole Televised Debate ahead of Germany Polls

Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced off on Sunday with Social Democrat (SPD) rival Martin Schulz in the only televised debate ahead of the country’s September 24 elections.

Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in office, used her experience on the global scene to her advantage, emerging the winner in the debate.

She had to however fend of Schulz’s attack on her refugee policy, ties with Turkey and handling of US President Donald Trump.

Merkel was some 14 points ahead of in opinion polls before the debate. A survey by Infratest Dimap for ARD television showed her overall performance was viewed as more convincing by 55 percent, compared to 35 percent for Schulz.

Three weeks from voting day, the center-left contender went on the offensive from the outset of the 97-minute debate with Merkel, who looked rattled at times but showed enough authority to win.

Schulz, 61, outfoxed Merkel on ties with Turkey and bounced her into beefing up her rhetoric by vowing to stop Ankara’s bid to join the European Union if he was elected chancellor.

After initially cautioning against pulling the plug on accession talks right now, Merkel returned to the issue of Turkey even when the moderators had moved on to a question about Trump’s policy toward North Korea.

“It is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said after Schulz made his pledge to stop Ankara’s accession bid.

“I’ll speak to my (EU) colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” Merkel, 63, added in comments likely to worsen already strained ties with Ankara.

In their exchange on Trump and North Korea, Schulz accused the US president of “bringing the world to the brink of crisis with his tweets” and said Germany should work with its European partners, Canada, Mexico and Trump’s domestic US opponents.

Merkel added that she had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron about North Korea on Sunday and would talk to Trump, as well as leaders from Russia, China, Japan and South Korea in the coming days.

“I don’t think that one can solve this conflict without the American President,” she said. “But I think one must say in the clearest terms that for us, there can only be a peaceful diplomatic solution.”

Her show of experience appeared to work with voters. The ARD poll showed that 49 percent of those surveyed viewed Merkel as being more credible while 29 percent favored Schulz.

Merkel has been chancellor since 2005 and is widely seen as Europe’s most influential politician.

She has weathered storms over mass immigration and financial and political turmoil in the European Union, while the SPD, Germany’s oldest party, has struggled to promote a strong rival.

In the debate, he attacked her for failing to coordinate a better European response to the refugee crisis in 2015, when Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees, many fleeing war in the Middle East, cost her support.

“The inclusion of our European neighbors would have been better,” Schulz said. Merkel shot back: “We had a very dramatic situation then … There are times in the life of a chancellor when she has to decide.”

Schulz, a former European Parliament president with no national government experience in Germany, looked directly into the camera when making his closing remarks and appealed to voters to show the courage to choose change.

But he refused to rule out a coalition with the far-left Linke. Merkel, ruling out a rise in the retirement age to 70 as some in her party have suggested, said she would not join forces with the Linke or the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

German opposition leaders meanwhile complained that Merkel and Schulz left key issues unmentioned in their single televised debate.

Anton Hofreiter, the caucus leader of the opposition Greens — a potential coalition partner for both leaders — said they spent too little time on Germany’s future during the debate.

He said neither leader spoke about climate protection or education, or said much about the impact of technological development. He scored the debate as a draw on ARD television Monday.

Linke leader Katja Kipping said: “Issues that I know from speaking to people really worry them barely came up at all.”

Syrian Migrant Family in Germany Names Daughter after Angela Merkel

Merkel

Meet one of Germany’s newest residents: Angela Merkel Mohammed, reported the Associated Press.

The little girl was born last week to a migrant couple who fled Syria’s bloody war and decided to name her in honor of the 63-year-old German chancellor whose policies allowed them to start a new life in 2015.

The St. Franziskus Hospital in the western city of Muenster told the dpa news agency Monday that the little girl’s first name is Angela, her middle name is Merkel, and last name is their family name of Mohammed.

But she’s not the first new Angela Merkel. Dpa reports another baby was given the chancellor’s name by a family seeking asylum in the city of Duisburg in 2015.