The Middle East English Language Press. What They Are Saying.

A review of news of interest to Jewish and non-Jewish communities world-wide.

Russia says Assad could go in Syria settlement.

Jordan Times: “Russia said on Tuesday it was prepared to see Syrian President Bashar Assad leave power in a negotiated solution to 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said a day after meeting mediator Kofi Annan in Geneva that Russia would back any peaceful settlement to the crisis as long as it did not involve the use of outside force. “We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process,’ Gatilov told the ITAR-TASS news agency in Switzerland. “This issue has to be settled by the Syrians themselves.’ The comments represent one of Russia’s most explicit declarations of a position first signalled by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a day after a February 7 meeting in Damascus with Assad. Lavrov at the time refused to explicitly back Assad and said the leadership structure of Moscow’s Soviet-era ally ‘should be the result of agreement between the Syrians themselves.’ Russia has been facing mounting pressure to back Assad’s departure as a first step in a settlement that would see his inner circle assume command on an interim basis.”

Facing a collapse in its vote, [Egypt’s] Muslim Brotherhood is desperate to reassure the public.

Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt: “The surprise in the first round of the presidential elections was not that Mohamed Mursi would come in first and head to the run-offs against Ahmed Shafik but how narrow the margin was between them. Of 23,265,000 legitimate ballots 5,765,000 were cast for Mursi and 5,505,000 for Shafik, a difference of just 150,000 votes. That was not the only surprise for the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite its organisational capabilities, the group’s candidate won only 25 per cent of the vote, down from the 45 per cent the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secured in the parliamentary elections. The decline in its popularity places the Muslim Brotherhood in an unprecedented dilemma. . . There is also a fear that should the Muslim Brother seize control over both the legislature and the executive Mursi, as president, would only be a facade. The real ruler of Egypt would be the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide. Yet despite Mursi’s promises anxieties over the prospect of Muslim Brotherhood rule remain. Liberals, in particular, fear the Brotherhood will turn Egypt into a theocracy ruled by the Supreme Guide and that Mursi’s pledges to be a president for all Egyptians will turn into a sick joke. . . The business community, too, is anxious. They see the Muslim Brotherhood throwing an Islamic cloak over all business and financial transactions, abolishing banks which, under Islamic Sharia, are regarded as usurious. People in the tourist sector are also alarmed. They fear that if the Muslim Brothers outlaw alcohol and forbid beachwear they will drive the final nail into the coffin of the Egyptian tourist industry. People in the press and media are biting their nails at the prospect of Muslim Brotherhood rule. The Shura Council is already studying changes to the organisation of the press that could see Muslim Brothers take charge of the state owned media. Some political analysts fear how the Muslim Brotherhood, with its connections with Hamas, will handle the Palestinian cause, possibly abrogating the Camp David peace treaty and inviting Israeli intervention in Sinai. Fears and anxieties abound. The Muslim Brothers are trying hard to dispel them before the runoffs. It is far from clear that they will succeed.”

Khamenei warns Israel of ‘thunderous’ blow.

Kuwait Times: “Any attack by Israel on Iran will blow back on the Jewish state ‘like thunder,’ Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said yesterday. Khamenei also said that the international community’s suspicion that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons is based on a ‘lie’ and he insisted that sanctions imposed on his country were ineffective and only strengthened its resolve. His speech, broadcast on state television to mark the 1989 death of his predecessor and founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, contained no sign Iran was prepared to make any concessions on its disputed nuclear program. Instead, it was infused with defiance and Khamenei’s customary contempt for Iran’s arch-foes Israel and the United States. If the Israelis ‘make any misstep or wrong action, it will fall on their heads like thunder,’ Khamenei said. The Jewish state, he added, was feeling ‘vulnerable’ and ‘terrified’ after losing deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as an ally. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Stockholm the threats against Israel were ‘nothing new’, insisting she would judge Tehran by its actions at upcoming nuclear talks in Russia.”

Palestinian Abbas urges Israel to accept 2-state deal.

The Daily Star, Lebanon: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Israel on Tuesday to accept a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, warning that the opportunity ‘may not stay on the table for a long time’ given the political upheavals caused by the Arab Spring. Abbas set out the Palestinian case for statehood and full U.N. membership at a World Economic Forum conference in Istanbul, stressing that membership of the United Nations should not prejudice negotiations with Israel. ‘I would like to address our Israeli neighbours and say we are seekers of peace and freedom and our people made a major sacrifice when they accepted establishing their state on less than a quarter of the area of historical Palestine,’ Abbas said. ‘So do not turn your backs on this opportunity … this opportunity may not stay on the table for a long time because the region is witnessing rapid developments,’ he said. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the conference the Palestinian issue remained the ‘the most important problem threatening peace and stability in the region,’ and said there was mounting anger with Israel over its policies.”

Israel deploys nuclear missiles on German submarines.

Gulf News, Qatar: “Israel is arming submarines supplied and largely financed by Germany with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, influential German news weekly Der Spiegel reports in its issue to be published on Monday. The magazine said in a cover story likely to touch off a debate in Germany that Berlin had until now denied any knowledge that German submarines were being used as part of an Israeli atomic arsenal. Israel is the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power. However, former high-ranking officials of the German defence ministry told the magazine that the government always assumed that Israel was putting nuclear warheads on the Dolphin-class vessels. The article, based on a months-long probe, cited files from the foreign ministry in Berlin indicating that the West German state was aware of the practice as early as 1961. Germany has already supplied Israel with three of the submarines in question, footing most of the bill, and another three are to be delivered by 2017 under a recently signed contract. Meanwhile, Israel is weighing whether to order three more, according to the report.”

Fatah withdraws from Gaza rally over flag dispute.

Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian Territories: “Fatah supporters on Tuesday withdrew from a rally in Gaza because protesters were flying factional flags instead of the Palestinian flag, a party official said. The rally was held to mark the Naksa, the 45th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.’Fatah’s withdrawal along with some PLO factions from today’s march is the result of not committing to holding the Palestinian flag which is the only flag that should be lifted in such a demonstration as agreed earlier,’ said Fayez Abu Eita, Fatah’s spokesman in Gaza, in a statement.”

Israel’s Decision to Impose Its Laws on Syrian Golan Null and Void.

Syrian Arab News Agency: “In a letter sent to the UN Secretary General, the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry affirmed that Israel’s decision to impose its laws, authority and administration is null and void and devoid of any legitimacy as per the UN Security Council resolution no. 497 of 1981.The letter, which details Syria’s stance regarding the UN General Assembly decision no. 66-19 on the Syrian Golan, said that the aforementioned decision stipulates that Israel cease changing the constructional characteristics, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and to specifically stop constructing settlements. The letter also voiced Syria’s stern condemnation of the Israeli government’s decision in June 2011 to build an isolating wall east of the occupied town in Majdal Shams and its decision to increase settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan, saying that these practices show Israel’s true intentions which reject peace. The Foreign Ministry denounced all the Israeli practices which violate the UN General Assembly decisions that stress that the Arab populace of Golan are sovereign over their natural resources, calling on UN member countries to reject the import of natural products seized from the occupied lands or the ones manufactured in it.” 

Iran not to relinquish its nuclear rights.

IRNA, Iran: “Rapporteur of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazem Jalali said on Tuesday Iran will never relinquish its own nuclear rights. He told reporters on the sidelines of an open session of Majlis that Iran has explained its stance in its package of proposals in Baghdad, so its stance is clear in the next round of nuclear talks in Moscow. Jalali said Iran does not trust the West so it believes that the best way to settle the differences is purposeful talks. Saying the International Atomic Energy Agency misled the nuclear talks by sending Iran’s nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council, he said the first step towards confidence building is returning the case back to IAEA. The lawmaker said the West is continuing with nuclear talks on the one hand and imposing new sanctions on Iran on the other but this policy of stick and carrot policy cannot work to force Iran to give up its rights.”

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