Muscat, Oman – Foreign officials have arrived in Oman’s capital, Muscat, to offer condolences to Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, the successor to the late Sultan Qaboos who died on Friday after nearly 50 years at the throne.
Haitham acceded to power on Saturday after being named by Qaboos in a letter that was opened in the presence of members of the royal family and security services.
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Three days of national mourning were declared upon Qaboos’s death at 79, and condolences are currently being accepted at the Al Alam Palace, a ceremonial location in Muscat used to welcome dignitaries.
Among the first to pay their respects on Sunday were Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, on behalf of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Oman has maintained close relations with both nations despite other Gulf countries seeking to push back against the influence of Tehran and Doha in the region.
On Saturday, Zarif tweeted in Arabic that Qaboos’s death was “a loss for the region”.
Under Qaboos, Oman became a centre for back-door negations between Iran and the United States as well as between representatives of Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, who have been locked in a devastating conflict since 2015.
Sultan Haitham has been welcoming officials from across regional and global divides in a show of the success of his predecessor’s forcing policy, defined as being “an enemy to no one and a friend to all”.
These well-wishers included Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Tunisian President Kais Saied and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Haitham also welcomed an envoy of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba, who is the king of Tooro, one of the five traditional kingdoms of Uganda.
Omani state media was not covering the condolences live on Sunday and issued the same few lines on each meeting: Officials had offered their sincere condolences and sympathy on the death of Qaboos, calling on God to have mercy on his soul. They also wished “patience and solace” to the new sultan, the royal family and the Omani people.
Queen Elizabeth: Qaboos was ‘a good friend’
Sultan Haitham also welcomed the United Kingdom’s Prince Charles and the country’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, as well as the chief of staff of the British army, General Nicolas Carter.
Oman state media earlier in the day said the sultan had received a cable of condolences from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who said in a statement on Saturday that Sultan Qaboos was a “good friend” and that she was “deeply saddened” by his death.
Queen Elizabeth had visited Oman in 2010 and said it remained a “cherished memory”.
Oman has long enjoyed close ties with the UK, dating back to Qaboos’s accession to power in 1970 in a bloodless coup against his father that was heavily backed by the UK.
“His devotion to Oman, to its development and to the care of his people was an inspiration,” Queen Elizabeth said.
“He will be remembered for his wise leadership and his commitment to peace and understanding between nations and between faiths.”
Trump: Qaboos ‘friend to all’
While no US envoy had arrived in Muscat to pay condolences as of Sunday afternoon, US President Donald Trump said in a statement that Sultan Qaboos had undertaken “unprecedented efforts to engage in dialogue and achieve peace in the region.
He also said Qaboos had been a “friend to all” and a “true partner and friend to the United States, working with nine different American presidents.”
Oman has long been a partner of the US, including in military cooperation through an agreement that has allowed the US to use Omani bases.
“Sultan Qaboos will truly be missed. Let us take comfort in knowing that his powerful legacy will live on,” the statement said.
West African leaders on high-stakes mission to end Mali standoff |NationalTribune.com
West African leaders have arrived in Bamako on a high-stakes mission aimed at defusing Mali’s weeks-long political crisis that has raised concerns of further instability in a country grappling with multiple crises, including an escalating conflict. The visit on Thursday by the presidents of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal comes days after a…
West African leaders have arrived in Bamako on a high-stakes mission aimed at defusing Mali’s weeks-long political crisis that has raised concerns of further instability in a country grappling with multiple crises, including an escalating conflict.
The visit on Thursday by the presidents of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal comes days after a mediation mission by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS failed to break the deadlock.
The foreign leaders are expected to meet Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and key figures of the opposition coalition behind the protests, known as the June 5 Movement.
“It will be difficult to rebuff presidents who come to help bring back peace and stability to your country,” said researcher Demba Moussa Dembele, president of the Dakar-based African Forum on Alternatives.
“The government and the opposition would likely avoid being blamed if the mission were to fail,” Dembele said.
Mobilised by influential Muslim leader Ibrahim Dicko, tens of thousands of opposition protesters have in recent weeks poured onto the streets of Bamako to demand Keita’s resignation.
Although dissatisfaction over the country’s economic woes, corruption and worsening security situation has been simmering for a while, the spark for the current crisis was a decision by the Constitutional Court in April to overturn the results of parliamentary polls for 31 seats, in a move that saw candidates with Keita’s party get re-elected.
The protests turned violent earlier this month when three days of clashes between security forces and protesters left 11 people dead. Several opposition leaders were also briefly detained.
An ECOWAS mission last week, led by Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian president, proposed setting up a government of national unity that would include members of the opposition and civil society groups. It also suggested, among others, the appointment of new judges to the Constitutional Court, which had already been “de facto” dissolved by Keita in a bid to calm unrest.
But the proposals were rejected by the June 5 Movement, with protest leaders insisting that Keita must go and calling for accountability for the killings in the June 10-12 protests.
“The gap is currently wide between the demands of the parties – especially the June 5 Movement and what the government is ready to concede,” said Ousmane Diallo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.
Dembele said forcing Keita to step down could be seen as “unconstitutional”, warning it could result in Mali’s international isolation.
In recent weeks, a number of Western diplomats and groups have also been meeting opposition leaders and government officials in an attempt to find a solution.
While a level of calmness has now been restored – the June 5 Movement on Tuesday pledged not to call protests for 10 days, until the forthcoming Eid religious festival – “the situation remains tense and could spill over beyond Bamako, to Kati, Gao and Timbuktu”, Diallo said.
“Beyond the possibility of Mali sliding further into crisis if a middle ground between the parties is not found, the credibility of the ECOWAS mediation itself is also at stake.”
Regional leaders are eager to avoid further instability in Mali, a country of some 20 million people that has been plagued by a conflict that began in 2012 and has since spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
According to the United Nations, attacks grew fivefold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in the three countries last year, up from about 770 in 2016. The fighting has also forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and led to the closure of thousands of schools.
In central Mali, a multitude of armed groups have been jockeying for control while exploiting the poverty of marginalised communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups.
The presence of thousands of foreign troops has failed to stem the violence, while allegations of abuses and extrajudicial killings by Malian forces have perpetuated deep-rooted mistrust and enmity in parts of the country with little government presence otherwise.
“The [regional] security concerns are real,” Dembele said.
“If the crisis lingers on, Mali is likely to descend into chaos, which will affect the morale of the military and weaken its fight against the terrorist groups. In that case, there is a risk that neighbouring countries, like Senegal and Guinea, will be affected, which in turn will affect other countries.”
Diallo said the visit by the five presidents, only days after the ECOWAS mediation mission, showed “how important it is for them to have stability in Bamako”.
“For a long time, Mali was perceived the weak link regarding the insurgency in the Sahel; there is an imperative of preventing the political crisis from impacting very negatively regional security initiatives,” he added.
“The goal is to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.”
Business leaders warn Trump not to mess with DACA
Leaders of some of the country’s biggest companies signed a letter Saturday urging President Trump not to make a new attempt at revoking the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, saying it would be a significant disruption to lose those employees during the coronavirus recovery. The companies, which range from Apple and Amazon to Target and General…
Leaders of some of the country’s biggest companies signed a letter Saturday urging President Trump not to make a new attempt at revoking the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, saying it would be a significant disruption to lose those employees during the coronavirus recovery.
The companies, which range from Apple and Amazon to Target and General Motors, said the illegal immigrant “Dreamers” who are able to work due to the DACA program “have been critical members of our workforce, industries and communities for years now.”
“This is no time to disrupt the economic recovery of our companies and communities, nor time to jeopardize the health and safety of these vulnerable individuals,” wrote the leaders, who call themselves the Coalition for the American Dream. “We ask that you leave DACA in place and refrain from taking any additional administrative actions that would negatively impact the DACA program.”
As of March, more than 640,000 Dreamers were protected by the DACA program, which prevents deportation and grants work permits and some taxpayer benefits.
The Trump administration in 2017 announced a phaseout of the program, but that was put on hold by the courts, and last month the Supreme Court ruled the phaseout illegal, saying the administration cut too many corners.
But the court said the administration does have the power to end DACA, as long as it does it properly.
On Friday, Mr. Trump and the White House sent mixed signals about what’s in store.
“I’m going to do a big executive order, I have the power to do it as president,” Mr. Trump told Telemundo.
He continued: “One of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We’re going to have a road to citizenship.”
Mr. Trump in the interview repeatedly confused bills with executive orders.
The White House, moving to try to sort through the president’s remarks, said later that Mr. Trump’s executive order will deal with imposing merit-based conditions on legal immigration.
The White House said Mr. Trump wants to work with Congress on DACA — suggesting it won’t, actually, be part of the executive order.
Mr. Trump in the past had complained about DACA-like programs, calling them executive “amnesty.”
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Erdogan to meet leaders of Russia, France and Germany over Idlib
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will meet next month the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to discuss the situation in northwest Syria, where a military push by Moscow-backed government forces against the last opposition-held enclave has displaced nearly a million people. His comments on Saturday came as the Turkish defence ministry said…
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will meet next month the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to discuss the situation in northwest Syria, where a military push by Moscow-backed government forces against the last opposition-held enclave has displaced nearly a million people.
His comments on Saturday came as the Turkish defence ministry said a soldier was killed in Syria’s Idlib province in a bomb attack by government forces, becoming Turkey’s 16th military death during a month in which talks between Ankara and Moscow have failed to de-escalate a recent spike in the fighting.
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Speaking to reporters in Izmir, Erdogan did not specify where the March 5 meeting would be held. He added, however, that Turkey “determined our road map” for Syria after calls on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I expressed our determination clearly” to them, said Erdogan, who last week threatened an “imminent” operation against Syrian forces in the region.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to the region just south of its border to head off the government forces’ campaign driven by Russian air raids. Already hosting some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, it says it cannot handle another wave and has closed its borders.
Macron and Merkel on Friday expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Idlib and urged an end to the conflict, while the Kremlin said it was discussing the possibility of holding a four-way summit.
The Turkish president told Putin over the phone on Friday that the solution was to return to the Sochi agreement they signed in 2018, which allowed Turkey to establish military posts across Idlib designed to prevent a Syrian government assault.
That deal has been increasingly set aside as Russian-backed Syrian forces advance steadily into the region, the final stronghold of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government during a nine-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.
The United Nations warned on Friday that an escalation in fighting could end in a “bloodbath” and called for an immediate ceasefire. Nearly 900,000 people, more than half of whom are children, have fled their homes since December 1, when the Russian-backed Syrian government forces pressed ahead with their military offensive,
Separately, Turkey’s defence ministry said its forces retaliated to the “despicable” bomb attack that killed the soldier, destroying 21 Syrian government targets. It said the soldier was a tank mechanic who died when transferred to hospital.
The incident came two days after two Turkish soldiers were killed in an air raid in Idlib, which Ankara blamed on Syrian government forces.
Earlier this month, 13 Turkish soldiers were killed in Syrian attacks, prompting Erdogan to say Turkey will attack Syrian forces “anywhere” in Syria if another soldier was hurt.
Syrian troops have reconquered swathes of Idlib and retaken the strategic M5 highway connecting the country’s four largest cities, as well as the entire surroundings of Aleppo city for the first time since 2012.
On Saturday, the highway opened for public use for the first time in nearly eight years, the transport minister said.
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