Region

Turkey and the Levant

Stories under this heading cover Turkey as well as the Levant – a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia, consisting of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

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UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has suspended its operations in Rafah. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the organisation that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, conveyed this information on Saturday evening (1 June) via X. 

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UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has suspended its operations in Rafah. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the organisation that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, conveyed this information on Saturday evening (1 June) via X. 
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A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A ground breaking meeting between the President of Turkiye, Recip Tayip Erdogan, and Greek Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on Monday (13 May) is being hailed as the dawn of a new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mitsotakis was in Ankara as the guest of the Turkish leader. There are no unsolvable problems between Athens and Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, as he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis praised the state of relations between the two neighbors while pledging to further enhance bilateral ties. "We had a constructive and positive meeting and discussed problems in Türkiye-Greece relations; We will solve problems through dialogue," Erdoğan said at a joint news conference with Mitsotakis. Erdoğan said that Ankara and Athens are committed to resolving issues via "cordial dialogue, good neighborly ties, and international law" as outlined in last year's Athens Declaration on Friendly Relations and Good-Neighborliness. Improvement of bilateral relations with Türkiye is yielding concrete and positive results, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said "I can only begin by thanking you for the warm hospitality today in Ankara, it was a fourth meeting in the last 10 months, which I believe proves that the two neighbors can now establish this approach of mutual understanding, no longer as some exception, but as a productive normality that is not negated by the known differences in our positions," Mitsotakis said. He said bilateral relations have been progressing, as agreed by the parties, on three levels: political dialogue, positive agenda and confidence-building measures. "I believe that it is a positive development in a difficult time for international peace, but also for the broader stability in our region," the Greek leader said.
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UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

The war on Gaza has depleted much of the physical and human capital in the enclave and severely affected the rest of the occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to a newly published UN report. It warns that in addition to the thousands of lives already lost, and the many people injured or maimed for life, the risk of “future lost generations is real.” The report by the UN Development Program, titled “War in Gaza: Expected Socioeconomic Impacts on the State of Palestine,” highlights the widespread damage caused by the conflict, including: the destruction of about 80,000 homes, resulting in significant, and possibly long-lasting, displacement and homelessness among the population; the depletion and pollution of natural resources; and the destruction of infrastructure such as water and sanitation systems, educational institutions and health care facilities. It said human development in Gaza has been set back to the extent it could take 20 years to return to prewar levels, and recovery seems unlikely in the absence of a functioning economy, adequate institutional capacities, and the ability to trade. “With 37 million tons of debris, compared to 2.4 million tons of debris in the 2014 war, and 72 percent of all housing in Gaza destroyed, and 90 percent of commercial and all other buildings destroyed, this is unprecedented.” The report analyzes the devastating effects the ongoing war in Gaza has had on the Palestinian people, their economy and human development in the territory, and predicts the possible consequences based on scenarios that assume a further one to three months of conflict. Based on official figures, by April 12 this year, at least 33,207 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza, an estimated 7,000 were missing, and 80,683 had been injured. About 70 percent of the dead were women and children. Many of the injured are likely to suffer long-term consequences, including disabilities. These figures reveal that at least 5 percent of the population of Gaza has been killed, maimed or injured. In addition, about 500 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the war. “No other armed conflict in the 21st century has caused such a devastating impact on a population in such a short time frame,” the report notes. It states the number of people in Gaza living in poverty has risen to 1.67 million in the six months since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October last year.
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US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

The US has observed Iran moving military equipment, including drones and cruise missiles, around the country, signalling that it may be preparing to attack Israeli targets from within its own territory, two intelligence officials told CNN reporters. However, it is not clear whether Iran is preparing to strike from its soil as part of an initial attack, or whether it is posturing to try to deter Israel or the US from a possible counterstrike on its territory.  One of the intelligence officials said the US had observed Iran preparing as many as 100 cruise missiles.
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The carbon footprint created in the first 60 days of the war in Gaza alone surpassed the annual emissions of 20 small countries, according to a recent study

The carbon footprint created in the first 60 days of the war in Gaza alone surpassed the annual emissions of 20 small countries, according to a recent study

Whilst attention is at the moment rightly focused on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza resulting from the Israeli assault on the territory ongoing since October, the heavy price for the environment is now also becoming obvious. Wars cause lasting damage to the environment in the form of emissions, pollutants, and the destruction of habitats. The war in Gaza has been no exception. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, the Gaza Strip has come under intense Israeli bombardment, pulverizing buildings, demolishing sanitation services, lacing the earth with explosive remnants, and leaving the air thick with smoke and powdered concrete. Experts say the conflict has contributed to increased air and water pollution and the degradation of ecosystems, according to a report carried by the leading Gulf English language newspaper, Arab News. According to a study conducted by Queen Mary University of London, Lancaster University, and the Climate and Community Project, the carbon footprint created in the first 60 days of the war in Gaza alone surpassed the annual emissions of 20 small countries. Published by the Social Science Research Network on Jan. 9, the paper, titled “A multitemporal snapshot of greenhouse gas emissions from the Israel-Gaza conflict,” found the impact of the war was comparable to burning at least 150,000 tonnes of coal. Much of this was generated by Israeli fighter jets during bombing raids and by armored vehicles used in the ground invasion. Other contributors were the US military, flying supplies to Israel. Less than 1 percent of the emissions were caused by Hamas rockets.  Responding to the study’s findings, Rana Hajirasouli, founder and CEO of The Surpluss, a Dubai-based global climate tech platform, told Arab News, that “this does not include indirect emissions such as energy-intensive production of military equipment, infrastructure construction, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.” 
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Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

The situation in Palestine continues to cast a shadow over the Ramadan festivities in the Arabian Peninsula and across the Arab and Moslem worlds. On Monday (26 March), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) finally adopted resolution 2728, demanding an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on 10 March, leading to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. The resolution, which was put forward by the Council’s elected members, also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain. Resolution 2728 emphasises the need to expand humanitarian assistance and reinforce the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It also reiterates the Council’s demand to lift “all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale”. Arab and Muslim governments have generally welcomed the adoption of UNSC resolution 2728. But amongst a wary public in the GCC and beyond, there is widespread frustration and cynicism, and many consider it as being too little, too late. Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, speaking in New York yesterday, reflected this mood, saying it had taken “six months, over 100,000 Palestinians killed and maimed, 2 million displaced, and famine for this Council to finally demand an immediate ceasefire.” Palestinians have been killed “in their homes, in the streets, in hospitals and ambulances, in shelters, and even in tents,” he added. “This must come to an end now. There can be no justification for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” Acceptance of any justification for such crimes would be a renunciation of humanity and destroy the rule of international law beyond repair, Mansour said.
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Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Muslims round the world today marked the first day of fasting at the start of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan in a sombre mood, as communities reflected on the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. In Gaza the population is on the verge of starvation, and in other Palestinian territories the shadow of war is not far away either, with tensions high in East Jerusalem. Thousands of Israeli police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Israel's relentless campaign in Gaza has caused increasing alarm across the world as the growing risk of famine threatens to add to a death toll that has already passed 31,000. In the ruins of Gaza itself, where half the 2.3 million population is squeezed into the southern city of Rafah, many living under plastic tents and facing a severe shortage of food, the mood was correspondingly sombre. "We made no preparations to welcome Ramadan because we have been fasting for five months now," said Maha, a mother of five, who would normally have filled her home with decorations and stocked her refrigerator with supplies for the evening Iftar celebrations when people break their fast. "There is no food, we only have some canned food and rice, most of the food items are being sold for imaginary high prices," she said via chat app from Rafah, where she is sheltering with her family.
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Opinion: Clarity, Consistent Rhetoric, and Multitrack Diplomacy Still Lacking in Armenia-Azerbaijan Normalisation Talks

Opinion: Clarity, Consistent Rhetoric, and Multitrack Diplomacy Still Lacking in Armenia-Azerbaijan Normalisation Talks

It was touch and go for a while. Even a day before this year’s prestigious Munich Security Conference it was unclear whether both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev would attend. In the past, Armenian leaders have more often shunned the event and even despite December’s much-lauded bilateral COP-29 joint statement made bilaterally by Baku and Yerevan, the war of words between the sides unfortunately continues.