President Erdoğan Addressed the UN General Assembly
Last Tuesday, President Erdoğan delivered his speech during the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly at the organization’s headquarters in New York. During his speech, President touched upon many issues ranging from the Cyprus issue to the coup that took place in Niger.
More importantly, Erdoğan stated that the UN Security Council is no longer the guarantor of world peace. Based on this, the President remarked that the UN has become a battleground where the five countries’ (permanent members of the UN Security Council) political strategies clash. Additionally, the president once again reiterated his famous slogan ‘the world is bigger than five’, underscoring the urgent need to reform the UN institutions. Erdoğan also met with many leaders during his visit to the US. Of note, President Erdoğan for the first time had an in-person meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Up until the last meeting that took place on Tuesday both leaders have only spoken over the phone for bilateral relations.
The Arab Ministerial Committee on Syria Froze Meetings with the Assad Regime
The Arab Ministerial Committee on Syria has decided to halt its meetings with the Syrian regime because of the lack of progress from the regime side on the agreed roadmap to normalize relations with Syria. The end of the Captagon (a type of drug) flow has been a persistent demand from different Arab countries for a normalization process with the Assad regime. However, the Syrian regime up until now, has not complied with this long-voiced demand and did not stop the flow of drugs to the neighboring Arab countries, leading to a freeze in the committee’s meetings. Apart from the drug trade issue, the Syrian regime has not made any meaningful domestic political decision to mend ties with the Arab countries.
Bashar al-Assad’s China Visit
Last Thursday, the Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad visited China to have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Assad arrived in China with a high-ranking economic and political delegation accompanying him. This visit marks the Syrian regime leader’s first meeting to Beijing since 2004. During the visit Chinese-Syrian summit is expected to take place. China, like Russia and Iran, has consistently sided with the Syrian regime over the course of the Syrian crisis despite the regime’s brutal crackdown on the opposition. Moreover, Beijing has repeatedly used its veto power on the Syria-related resolutions at the UN Security Council in favor of the Assad regime ever since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011 in Syria.
Iran Releases US Prisoners and Receives Billions in Frozen Assets
Iran and the United States have completed a long-awaited prisoner exchange, heralded by Iran as a diplomatic triumph. After negotiations facilitated by Qatar and Oman, the countries swapped five American and five Iranian detainees at a Doha airport. Of the American detainees, three were named: Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morah Tahbaz, all facing espionage-related charges. Iran consistently branded them as spies, countering U.S. claims of wrongful detention. Meanwhile, most Iranian prisoners in the U.S. faced charges related to sanctions violations, with Tehran characterizing them as unjustly detained businessmen, scapegoated after the nuclear deal’s abandonment. At the UN General Assembly this week, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi hinted that the exchange, framed as a “humanitarian” matter, could have happened sooner with different U.S. actions.
In addition to this exchange, Iran gained access to $6 billion of its frozen funds in South Korea, a result of unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed after the 2018 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. According to anonymous Iranian and Arab diplomatic sources, however, $11 billion held in Iraq and additional funds in various countries have also been released and are now controlled by Iran’s Central Bank. Additionally, the deal stipulates other commitments, such as Iran capping uranium enrichment and reducing production pace, and the U.S. easing sanctions on Iranian oil and closing “open files” regarding several Iranian nuclear, military, and civilian sites.
Houthi Visit to Saudi Arabia
In a recent development, a delegation representing the Houthi group has been engaged in talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as part of the ongoing Yemeni crisis negotiation process. These negotiations, facilitated by the Omani mediator, aim to achieve a political resolution to the long-standing conflict that has afflicted Yemen since 2015. The Houthi negotiators left Riyadh on Tuesday after a five-day round of talks with Saudi officials on a potential agreement paving the way to a ceasefire deal. The talks have been described as having “positive results” by Saudi Arabia
The visit comes about 5 months after a Saudi delegation visited Sanaa and met with Houthi leaders in mid-April. Although that visit ended with positive statements from both parties on the condition that the discussions and agreement be completed, it was frozen during the past months in light of the continuation of the truce, at least completely, between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis. These talks focus on fully reopening Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, paying government employee wages, and rebuilding efforts, in addition to setting a timetable for the exit of foreign forces from Yemen.
Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi, head of the Southern Council in Yemen, stressed that no peace agreement could be imposed on the south, and rejected the withdrawal of the Arab coalition forces. He added that peace mediators must accept dividing the country into two parts.
A Joint Defense Agreement Between America and Saudi Arabia
The American newspaper “The New York Times” said in a report published on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, that American and Saudi officials are discussing the terms of a joint defense treaty that would resemble the strong military agreements that the United States concluded with its close allies Japan and South Korea. Biden is taking a high risk to get Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, according to US officials.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, considers the joint defense agreement with the United States to be the most important element of his talks with the Biden administration over Israel, current and former American officials say. Saudi officials also say a strong defense agreement would help deter potential attacks by Iran or its armed partners. Even as the two regional rivals restore diplomatic ties, Prince Mohammed is also asking the Biden administration to help his country develop a civilian nuclear program, which some US officials fear is a cover for a nuclear weapons program to confront Iran.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has expressed a willingness to normalize ties with Israel. He recently stated, “Every day we get closer” to achieving this goal.
Rabat Confirms That Macron’s Visit to Morocco “Is Not on the Agenda”
The climate of Moroccan-French relations has been damaged due to Paris’s announcement of an unscheduled and disorganized visit by President Emmanuel Macron to Morocco. The Moroccan news agency reported Saturday, citing a government source, that the visit of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to the kingdom is not on the agenda and is not scheduled.
The source expressed surprise at the announcement by the French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, about Macron’s visit to Morocco at the invitation of King Mohammed VI. He also stated that Colonna’s initiative is unilateral, and the minister has granted herself the freedom to issue an unconsulted statement regarding an important bilateral event.
Derna Citizens Demand Reform in Post-Flood Reconstruction Process
With a week having passed since catastrophic flooding engulfed much of eastern Libya, the political dimension of the response has come to the fore. Residents of the eastern city Derna claim that despite aid from Libyan and international sources, they are not receiving enough support, raising suspicions of aid diversion by the Libyan National Army (LNA). It seems the LNA has responded to criticism by cracking down on dissent and journalism, curtailing communications and access to key areas.
On September 18, protests erupted in the city, demanding the resignation of House of Representatives Speaker Aqeela Saleh and the removal of the Derna Municipal Council on corruption claims. Prime Minister Osama Hammad dismissed the council later that day. Some protesters looted and set fire to the house of the suspended Derna Mayor, Abdul Moneim al-Ghaithi. A group of Derna citizens issued a statement urging the Attorney General to promptly investigate the disaster, hold those responsible accountable, establish a UNSMIL Office in the city, and start city reconstruction under UN and EU supervision. They also called for a transparent audit of reconstruction funds and an investigation into previous budgets. The statement emphasized the need for a new Municipal Council to lead reconstruction and demanded respect for the city’s wishes.