Arab leaders at a summit in Egypt announced the formation of a unified military force to counter growing security threats from Yemen to Libya and as regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran engage in sectarian proxy wars.
Working out the mechanism and logistics of the unified force, an idea floated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, could take months.
Previous similar schemes have failed to produce tangible results in the divided Arab world. The dangers facing the region are stark and complex.
While conflicts intensify in Yemen and Libya, the civil war in Syria is entering its fifth year. Egypt, the most populous Arab state, faces an Islamist militant insurgency.
Saudi Arabia’s navy evacuated dozens of foreign diplomats from the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, state television reported on Saturday.
“The Saudi Royal Navy implemented an operation called Hurricane to evacuate dozens of diplomats, including Saudis, from Aden,” a news ticker on the state news broadcaster Al Ekhbariya TV said.
It added that the diplomats had arrived safely at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia bombed key military installations in Yemen on Thursday after announcing a broad regional coalition to oust Shiite rebels that forced the country’s embattled president to flee. Some of the strikes hit positions in the country’s capital, Sanaa, and flattened a number of homes near the international airport.
The airstrikes, which had the support of nine other countries, drew a strong reaction from Iran which called the operation an “invasion” and a “dangerous step” that will worsen the crisis in the country.
Iran “condemns the airstrikes against Yemen this morning that left some innocent Yemenis wounded and dead and considers this action a dangerous step,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement. She said military action would complicate and worsen the crisis in Yemen.
Yemen’s embattled president fled his Aden home Wednesday for an undisclosed location as Shiite rebels neared his last refuge, five officials told The Associated Press.
Hadi fled just hours after the rebels’ own television station said they seized an air base where U.S. troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. That air base is only 60 kilometers (35 miles) away from Aden, the port city where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had established a temporary capital.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. Witnesses said they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles Wednesday leaving Hadi’s palace, located at the top of a hill in Aden overlooking the Arabian Sea.
In a landmark judgment on the Right to Freedom of Speech on the Internet, the Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that empowers the police to make arrests over contentious social media posts. It ruled the law violate people’s fundamental right to speech and expression.
Shreya Singhal, a law student who had filed the first petition challenging the validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, was jubilant after court verdict. She said it was a day for triumph of free speech.
A Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Rohinton F Nariman held the provision to be “unconstitutional” and said it had to be struck down in its entirety. The Bench said the provision had no proximate relationship with the public order and lacked defined criteria on its exercise.
“Brazil is an extremely contradictory country. On the one hand, we are a pink country, celebrating sexual diversity and showing gay couples easily on our telenovelas,” said Luiz Mott, founder of the Grupo Gay da Bahia, an LGBT rights group. “Then, there is another color, the red blood of victims. Brazil has unfortunately inherited deep institutional and cultural homophobia over hundreds of years … and the country has become characterized by extreme violence and rising numbers of murders.”
On the one hand, we are a pink country, celebrating sexual diversity and showing gay couples easily on our telenovelas. Then, there is another color, the red blood of victims. - Luiz Mott, founder of the Grupo Gay da Bahia, speaking of Brazil
According to his group’s 2014 homicide report, at least 326 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals were killed in attacks related to their sexual orientation last year, up from 159 in 2004. Last year, 163 victims were gay men and 134 were transgender individuals. The most deaths occurred in Sao Paulo state, the country’s most populous. Per capita, the deadliest state was Paraiba, in the northeast, where Lopes grew up.
Wonder how will the European far-right who often bring up Muslim homophobia will have anything to say about this startling development from Brazil?
In an eagerly-anticipated message for the traditional Kurdish New Year, Ocalan called for a congress to end the fighting, but stopped short of setting out a clear road map for disarmament of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels.
In the message read out by a pro-Kurdish lawmaker to hundreds of thousands of supporters in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, Ocalan said that the armed struggle had been “painful” and could no longer be maintained.
“A congress should be organised to bring an end to the 40-year struggle against the Turkish Republic,” Ocalan said in the message read out by Sirri Sureyya Onder of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Ocalan is serving a life sentence on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara following his sensational arrest by Turkish agents in Kenya in 1999.
With 10 days to a nuclear deal deadline, top U.S. and Iranian officials spoke Saturday of substantial headway, and Iran’s president proclaimed that an agreement was within reach. But America’s top diplomat said it was up to Tehran to make the decisions needed to get there.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said “achieving a deal is possible” by a March 31 target date for a preliminary accord that is meant to lead to a final deal by the end of June that would crimp Tehran’s nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions relief.
Flash Points: What are the prospects for an Iran nuclear deal?
Secretary of State John Kerry was more circumspect as he spoke to reporters after six days of negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne. The talks made “substantial progress,” he said, but “important gaps remain.
Meeting for the first time in three years, the foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan agreed Saturday to work together to restore trilateral summit talks among their leaders.
Three-way talks among the countries’ top diplomats had been suspended amid bitter historical and territorial disputes rooted in Japan’s brutal colonization of the Korean Peninsula and invasion of China in the first half of the 20th century.
Anti-Japan sentiments in South Korea and Japan have grown sharply in recent years over what is seen as Tokyo’s push to obscure its bloody past. There has been no trilateral meeting of the countries’ leaders since 2012.
The foreign ministers said in a joint statement after Saturday’s meeting in Seoul that they would make efforts to resume trilateral summit talks “at the earliest convenient time for the three countries.”
Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, reaffirmed the president’s belief in the two-state solution, and strongly condemned Netanyahu’s decision to rally support with incendiary remarks about a high turnout among Israeli Arab voters. Netanyahu used a 28-second video on election day to warn that Israeli Arabs were being bussed to the polls “in droves”.
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalise Arab Israeli citizens,” Earnest said. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
He added: “Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning, it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”