Egypt Inaugurates Mediterranean Union Investment Forum of Renewable Energy

Egypt

Cairo – Mediterranean union investment forum of renewable energy began in Egypt on Wednesday aiming to launch several opportunities in the field of renewable energy in the Euro-Mediterranean region, enhance cooperation on energy and climate actions, and create a more active involvement of the private sector in the regional-European-Mediterranean collaboration.

Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker el-Markabi, Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr inaugurated on Wednesday the forum at the presence of Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy Jorge Seguro Sanches, Secretary General of the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) Fathallah Sijilmassi, official representatives, international financial institutions and private sector investors.

Minister Nasr said that the Electricity Ministry reforms in the energy field, including feed-in tariffs, contribute in attracting the investors to invest in the renewable energy, as well as in attracting a number of development partners such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

She added that a renewable energy strategy has been followed through diversifying energy sources and allocating subsidies for the field.

“Renewable energy projects include providing job opportunities and contributing to achieving the sustainable development goals,” according to Nasr.

Nasr stressed that there are huge regional cooperation opportunities, human and natural resources and huge markets that qualify the region to integrate more with the European partner.

On the other hand, the Minister of Electricity said that the energy strategy will link between Egypt, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Minister Markabi highlighted the importance of the role played by the private sector and the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

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.”

Ruins of King Rameses II Temple Discovered in Giza, Egypt

Ramesses

Cairo – The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that an Egyptian-Czech archaeological mission discovered the remains of the King Rameses II Temple during an excavation at the Abusir archaeological site in Giza.

Dr. Miroslav Barta, the head of the Czech mission, explained that it discovered the name of King Ramses inscribed on some artifacts, as well as inscriptions referring to the gods Ra and Amun.

He stressed that the discovery of the Ramses II Temple provides a unique insight on the king’s activities in the Memphis area.

It also highlights the worship of the sun god Ra who was venerated in Abusir since the Fifth Dynasty and until the age of the New Kingdom.

Ramses is considered among the greatest kings of Egypt, and his reign ran from 1279 to 1213BC.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the Egyptian-Czech mission had found in its first excavation season in 2012 archaeological evidence indicating that a full temple exists in the area.

Egyptian Army Announces Death of 24 Terrorists in Sinai

An Egyptian military vehicle in northern Sinai. Reuters

Cairo- Egyptian armed forces said Sunday that at least 24 terrorists and six soldiers were killed as they foiled terror attacks aimed at targeting checkpoints in al-Qawades district, North Sinai.

Armed Forces Spokesman Colonel Tamer al-Rifai said in a statement that one terrorist was also injured during the clashes.

During the operation, 24 militants were killed and another one was injured when law enforcement forces thwarted a failed terrorist attempt

The armed forces also destroyed two vehicles, which were used by terrorists, and the forces are currently combing the area of the incident and chasing the attackers.

North Sinai has witnessed many terrorist attacks since the January 2011 revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt is fighting an insurgency by militants affiliated with ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013 when the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi after mass protests.

Since then, hundreds of Egyptian security personnel have been killed in attacks across Sinai, especially in the peninsula’s volatile northeastern quadrant, which shares borders with both Israel and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The militants have also extended their campaign to other parts of Egypt, most recently attacking churches in Cairo and other cities with the loss of dozens of lives.

Head of Egypt Stock Exchange Expects to Attract New Investors in Coming Period

Farid

Washington – Head of the Egyptian Stock Exchange Mohammed Farid said that preliminary measures have already been taken to establish a futures contracts market in the country after international financial institutions have shown their desire to sign contracts on certain Egyptian products.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, Farid explained that “most emerging markets have contracts markets, as demonstrated by the request from some international financial institutions to sign contracts on Egyptian products.”

He added that the Egyptian stock exchange will attract new investors during the coming period in light of the new proposals that will be received by the primary market soon, but the volume and value of liquidity will witness a leap.

He pointed out that before starting to prepare for the contracts markets, they are “activating the sale of borrowed securities, which is important in contributing to the pricing of contracts markets in general and increasing trading rates.”

Efforts are being made to reduce the suspension time from 30 to 15 minutes in cases of temporary suspension of securities, in order to increase the liquidity rates so that the market can build contracts market with good transactions in the future, he revealed.

“The steps we are currently preparing for are to first have the legislative framework. We already have amendments to the level of the capital market law, which is supposed to be discussed in the parliament. It proposes the regulating legislative framework for the different markets and bourses.”

“Then, we have start to work on the different requirements, whether technological at the level of trading, or in regards to the settlement of these contracts or others associated with financial risk management and settlement of these securities,” Farid added.

Farid, who took office last August, is considering raising the 250-share capital increase and demanding that these increases be recorded.

7 Killed in Militant Attack in Egypt’s North Sinai

Sinai

Seven people were killed on Monday when militants robbed a bank and engaged in a shootout with security forces in northern Sinai in Egypt, security sources said.

Four policemen were killed in the attack when five SUVs, each carrying four gunmen, fired at security forces nearby the unused Saint George Church before robbing a branch of National Bank of Egypt, in al-Arish, the capital of North Sinai.

Three civilians were also killed in the assault, officials said.

“They looted the entire bank and left explosive devices inside,” a senior security official said.

“The militants fired shots randomly in the street as if they were celebrating with some of them raising their black flags (of ISIS) and they roamed the streets for about 20 minutes then disappeared,” said Alaa Lotfy, a shop owner in the area who witnessed the clashes.

Fifteen people were injured in the attack, officials added.

A bank employee appeared to have been kidnapped in Monday’s attack, they revealed.

Security forces cordoned off the city center and evacuated residents living in the bank building.

Pictures posted on social media by locals from al-Arish showed school girls fleeing a school located in the vicinity of the bank and the church.

Services at the church were suspended months ago, following a wave of attacks on Christians in Sinai.

At least 24 militants and six soldiers were killed on Sunday in attacks on military outposts in North Sinai. The attacks were claimed by the ISIS affiliate in Sinai.

On Thursday, six other policemen were also killed in an attack by the terrorists in al-Arish.

Hamas Runs a Regional PR Campaign

Fatah’s Azam al-Ahmad (right) and Saleh al-Aruri of Hamas kiss after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on Thursday.

Ramallah- Gaza ruling party Hamas is steadily on the track of restoring its ties with former allies while maintaining current friends. The move by no means is risk-free, as conflict pits parties Hamas views as valuable against each other.

It is no secret that the Islamist movement, which lost allies and won others, is planning broader and better relations with Egypt. It looks forward to opening up as much as possible to Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But it also strives to do the same with Qatar and Turkey, and to restore ties with Iran and Hezbollah, and perhaps the Syrian regime at a later date.

Officially, Hamas says it wants to maintain advanced relations with all Arabs in the region, as well as other countries, so long that it serves the best interest of the Palestinian cause.

Many Hamas officials, including Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal, confirmed that this goes beyond playing along politics axes.

Hamas-affiliated writer and political analyst Ibrahim Madhoun said the movement will partially succeed in its endeavors.

“There are countries and people who understand the positions of the movement and there are other countries that are conservative, but this will not push Hamas to take a hostile stance or to back down,” said Madhoun.

“The movement will try to knock on these doors, and open areas with everyone in one way or another, especially central countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Egypt, as they stand to be the real supporter of the Palestinian cause,” he added.

According to Madhoun, “Hamas’ response to Egyptian efforts was not at the expense of Turkey or Qatar or of any other party, and neither will contact with Tehran be at the expense of Riyadh or the Gulf.”

“I believe that talking to Russia does not mean antagonizing the United States, although the latter takes a negative attitude. There are efforts by Hamas to infiltrate the American wall itself.”

Contacts made by the head of Hamas’ political bureau in the last two days, made it clear that Hamas actually tried to communicate with all sides openly as if it were sending out a message in every direction in this regard.

Amr Moussa Appointed Representative at African Union Panel of the Wise

Moussa

Cairo – The African Union Commission (AUC) appointed on Saturday former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa as the first Egyptian to become a member of the African Union Panel of the Wise.

He has been appointed as a successor to Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, said Moussa in a statement.

The Panel of the Wise includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gabon former Minister for Social Affairs Honorine Nzet Biteghe, in addition to the former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba and former Vice President of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe.

Moussa underlined the vital role the Panel played following the June 30, 2013 revolution in Egypt through the visits its members paid to to Cairo, Addis Ababa, and various African capitals. He stressed the importance of Egypt’s presence among African circles and its defense of the continent’s interests.

The Panel of the Wise deals with conflict prevention, management and resolution among African countries. It provides consultations to the Peace and Security Council on relevant issues. The Panel of the Wise serves a three-year term and is composed of five members representing the North, East, West, South and Center of Africa.

It was established in December 2007, and since then it had been concerned with issues of justice, national reconciliation, preserving the rights of women and children in armed conflicts, democracy and governance.

The first Panel of the Wise was comprised of late Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim, former President of Sao Tome Miguel Trovoada and others.

Long Thorny Road to Building a United Libyan Army

Libya

Tripoli – In 2014, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar reunited the Libyan military forces after they became fragmented in wake of their country’s NATO-backed armed uprising against leader Moammar al-Gadhadfi.

Under Gadhafi’s regime, the army included a little more than 140,000 officers and soldiers, said former officer Ahmed Gadhaf al-Damm. The number now lies at only 35,000, who are under Haftar’s command. So where has the rest of the military, with its weapons and equipment, gone?

Despite the difficulties the Libyan army has been enduring since Gadhafi’s death in 2011, Haftar has succeeded in first, expelling extremist groups from the eastern and southern regions, and second, introducing reforms to the military structure left over from the former regime.

This has led to the emergence of what Libyan military spokesman Ahmed al-Masmari calls the “security brigades.” These brigades, with their rocket-propelled grenades and Russian heavy tanks, have earned their negative reputation from their suppression of the armed uprising.

They did not have a united leadership, but Gadhaf al-Damm does not paint such a dark picture. The military man, who began his career under Gadhafi, explained that these fighters used to be subject to the armed forces and they used to defend the nation in 2011.

At any rate, the road to reaching a united army seems long.

Libyan military officials, like their counterparts all over the world, do not like to discuss divisions in the army and differences over its objective. This stance is shared by officers, who still back the former regime, and others, who took part in the uprising and now back Haftar.

Given this bleak reality, one despairingly has to ask: What is one to do if his questions do not receive definitive answers from the various military units spread throughout the country?

For example, how can we explain the position of General Mustafa al-Sharkasi, the former military commander of the Benghazi region, who has found himself at odds with Haftar. He is now the leader of the “Defense Brigades” that is accused of terrorism and collaborating with Qatar.

After a long discussion with Sharkasi, one realizes that some issues can be resolved through a mixture of dialogue, good intentions and some force.

In this regard, a military intelligence official demanded that “ties between high-ranking officers with any sectarian or local militias must be immediately severed.”

For instance, what is the stance of Ali Kanna, who used to be one of the strongmen of the deposed regime? Immediately in the aftermath of Gadhafi’s murder, he was eager to introduce reform to the military institution. Now, however, his role has been diminished to merely a defender of his Tuareg tribe. The Tuareg, a tribe of non-Arab roots, are mainly present in the southern province of Fezzan.

One of Kanna’s aides, who has Tuareg roots, said: “We are Libyans. Our role is to preserve Libya’s unity and this can only be achieved through the unity of the military institution. The problem is that communication between the commanders in the country has weakened from what it was in the past. At least this is what we are noticing in the South.”

There are other military commanders and their soldiers, who used to be the backbone of the army under the old regime. Nearly seven years after Gadhafi’s death, they have found themselves surrounded by political chaos given the absence of a central authority. They now operate as isolated islands in their regions or they are waiting in regional countries like so many thousands of others.

What about military commands that have joined the militias and which do not adhere to Haftar? Could this lead to Libya’s division?

Gadhaf al-Damm replied: “No, the majority of the military officials are now in their cities and villages. They are trying to join the army regardless of who is leading it, because the truth is, no one is really leading in Libya. Everything is made up of illusory structures.”

Despite the difficulties, the military forces that Haftar managed to bring together in challenging conditions have managed to impose themselves. They have shelled extremist groups in various regions in the east and south and they now have their sights set on the west.

One of the members of the political dialogue committee, which is affiliated with the United Nations delegation in Libya, said that “at least we can now say that the country now has a general that we can talk to.”

“This will help persuade the international community in lifting the 2011 ban against equipping the army with weapons,” he added.

On some Libyan calls for Haftar to run for president, one of his close aides said: “The real purpose of uniting the army is not political.”

“The truth is that Haftar is not seeking a political position. We are not defending politicians, but a country, which is on the verge of being lost,” he stressed.

The idea of uniting the army used to be only a dream, but Haftar’s determination, as some said, has taken it to the regional and international dialogue table. It has reached Egypt, which is leading Libyans in that direction.

The challenge now lies in how to merge the other commanders, with their officers and soldiers, in a single entity and around a single ideology.

Masmari remarked: “The Libyan army ideology is defensive and it seeks to defend Libya and the gains of its people.”

There remain attempts to steer officers away from Haftar, which some observers said would only push the country towards division, said Dr. Mohammed al-Warfali, former commander in the Libyan tribes conference.

Despite this gloomy outlook, opportunities remain and international pressure and Arab and Egyptian efforts are being exerted to save Libya. Only days ago, Haftar met with UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh at his office at the al-Rajma military base, some 40 kms away from the city of Benghazi. Haftar, who enjoys strong and significant ties with the leaderships in Cairo and Abu Dhabi, has also paid visits to Moscow, Paris and Rome.

At the end of September, Libyan military officials in Cairo agreed to form technical committees to study mechanisms to unite the Libyan military institution.

American political analyst Sharif al-Hilweh, who had toured several cities in western Libya, said the existence of several military commands outside of Haftar’s control will really affect the army.

“This is natural and such commands in the South and West could lead to the division of Libya into three countries or regions,” he warned.

He noted however that some of these military commanders enjoy good ties with the US Department of Defense, which means that they could yet play a role in the North African country’s future. Some leaders are also choosing not to get involved in the developments in the country at the moment to avoid being viewed as affiliated with the rival parties, Hilweh revealed.

“Regardless of what happens, I believe that the army will no longer remain divided. I know that communication exists between its commanders, because, ultimately, they are the products of a single institution and this will not change with political shifts,” he continued.

Sharkasi meanwhile, summed up his position by saying: “Our main problem is Haftar. We will not seek vengeance if he leaves the Libyan scene.”

“We want the rise of the state,” he declared, while completely rejecting any form of cooperation with the field marshal.

France’s Azoulay Wins UNESCO Director General’s Post

Azoulay

Paris – UNESCO’s executive board voted Friday to make a former French culture minister the UN cultural agency’s next chief for the four coming years after an unusually heated election.

UNESCO’s executive board voted 30 to 28 in favor of Audrey Azoulay against Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.

The board’s selection of Azoulay over a Qatari candidate came the day after the United States announced that it intends to pull out of UNESCO because of its alleged anti-Israel bias.

Azoulay’s nomination was based on the request of former French President Francois Hollande, yet she received great support from President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

For this purpose, a diplomatic cell was set up to monitor the elections and provide the necessary votes to the former minister of culture, who previously worked as cultural adviser to Hollande at the Elysee Palace.

The Arab candidates dropped out of the race one after the other. The first was the Iraqi candidate, followed by Lebanon’s and finally Egypt’s, who left after losing against Azoulay in an extraordinary runoff on Friday.

Moushira Khattab of Egypt managed to secure 25 votes to Azoulay’s 31. Egypt immediately expressed its support for the French candidate.

Macron congratulated Azoulay on his twitter account, adding that France will continue to fight for education and culture in the world.

Azoulay, who is UNESCO’s 11th director, was born in Paris into a Moroccan-Jewish family.

Her father is Andre Azoulay, a banker and adviser to the Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, also served his father, the late King Hassan II. Her mother is writer Katia Brami.

Confronted with Arab divisions, France presented Azoulay as a consensus figure, who could mend fences within the organization and soothe tensions caused by recent resolutions against Israel.

“Now more than ever UNESCO needs a project… which restores confidence and overcomes political divisions,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement reacting to the US pullout.

According to diplomatic sources in Paris, Morocco supported the French candidate from the beginning and campaigned for her, especially among African countries close to it.