Ebene Magazine – Pope Francis passionately advocates peace as historic Iraq visit begins

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Ebene Magazine - Pope Francis passionately advocates peace as historic Iraq visit begins

ROME / BAGDAD: Pope Francis called for an end to extremism, violence and corruption on Friday as his historic visit to Iraq began.
He began the first papal trip to the country with a meeting with government officials in Baghdad before traveling in 2010 to a church where Christians were being massacred by militants.
He was greeted at Baghdad International Airport by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and treated to traditional dancing.
He then met President Barham Salih at the Presidential Palace, where he delivered a strong speech highlighting the problems that continued to affect the country.

Pope Francis speaks at the beginning of the first papal visit to Iraq on March 5, 2021 in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Najat) in Baghdad. (AFP)

« May the gun clash be silenced, » he said. “Enough of violence, extremism, political groups, intolerance. Iraq has suffered the catastrophic consequences of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts, often based on a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups.  »
Referring to the outside influences often blamed for destabilizing Iraq, the Pope said the international community must provide assistance « without imposing ideologies » and urged Iraqi officials to « the scourge of corruption, des Combat abuse of power and disregard for the law « .

Pope Francis speaks at the beginning of the first papal visit to Iraq on March 5, 2021 in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Najat) in Baghdad. (AFP)

His visit comes as Iraq tries to find its way to stability after years of sectarian conflict, Daesh occupation, chronic corruption and widespread anger against government officials who have failed to provide basic services. The Christian population in Iraq has also shrunk. Many are fleeing overseas to build a new life.

But the Pope, despite its many problems, welcomed Iraq as the “cradle of civilization” and believed that all crises he faced could be overcome by building a society based on brotherhood, solidarity and unity.
He said that Iraq, with its different religions, cultures and races, could show that diversity should lead to harmony within society rather than conflict.

He drew attention to the Yazidi sect, many of whom were murdered by Daesh in 2014, and called them « innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion and whose identity and survival were in jeopardy ».
He said space should be made for all who wanted to rebuild Iraq so that all political, social and religious groups could participate.
The Catholic Church in Iraq, he added, wanted to work constructively with other religions to serve the cause of peace.

He traveled around town in an armored black BMWi750 rather than the Popemobil usually used for visits abroad. The motorcade consisted of dozens of police officers on motorcycles.
The security situation in Iraq was the greatest threat to the conduct of the visit as well as to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. However, he was not deterred by concerns about Daesh berths and recent rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militants on US bases.

In the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, he paid tribute to the 58 people who were killed in an extremist attack in 2010, one of the deadliest Christians.
« We are gathered in this Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, sanctified by the blood of our brothers and sisters, who have paid the highest price here for their loyalty to the Lord and His Church, » he said.
On Saturday in Najaf, the Pope will meet the best Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, and visit the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham in Ur.

Visit the special « In Focus » section of Arab News on the Pope’s visit to Iraq to cover the historic trip. Click here.

ISTANBUL: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akara blamed bad weather for a military helicopter crash, killing 10 soldiers and a commander in chief in the troubled southeast of the country.
Lieutenant General Osman Erbas, who headed the 8th Army Corps in East Elazig Province, was one of the dead in Thursday’s accident.
The crash was the deadliest since the deaths of 13 soldiers in the southeastern province of Sirnak near Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq in 2017.
« Based on initial information and testimony from witnesses, we determined that the accident was caused by sudden changes in adverse weather conditions, » the state news agency Anadolu quoted the defense minister as saying.
Akara and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took high-ranking military teams to the crash site in southeast Bitlis province on Thursday.
Defense officials said a formal investigation into the incident has been opened.
The EU and the US immediately expressed their condolences to the NATO ally.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his support in a telephone conversation with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

A Turkish diplomatic source said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed support in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The accident occurred in a region where Turkish forces have been conducting military operations against banned Kurdish militias since 1984 as part of a campaign that killed tens of thousands.
Turkey also provides an important base as well as defensive measures in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Relations with EU member states such as France and Greece, however, have been shaken by a number of regional disputes.

ISTANBUL: The pro-Kurdish Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP) announced on Friday that it would continue to advertise under a different banner if a court bans its current organization for alleged links to militants.
Officials told Reuters this week that Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has opened an investigation into the HDP, the third largest party in parliament, which could ultimately lead to a ban.
“We at HDP naturally have B and C plans. If the HDP shuts down, we will of course have our own preparations. We come from such a tradition in which parties have always been closed, ”said HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan at a meeting with foreign media.
“We have fought until now by creating other parties after one party was closed. That will be the case in the future, ”she said without giving any further details.
The HDP has denied allegations that it is associated with militants belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey, the US and the EU have labeled a terrorist organization.
The Turkish authorities have arrested thousands of HDP party officials in recent years and ousted dozens of their elected mayors and lawmakers in one crackdown.
Pressure on the HDP increased last month after Ankara said the PKK executed 13 prisoners, including Turkish military and police personnel, during an army operation to rescue them in Iraq’s Gara region.
The steps against the HDP came when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK party came to power since 2002, announced on Tuesday an « action plan » to promote human rights.

ANKARA: With Turkey pointing to a possible deal with Egypt for exclusive sea zones in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean, the focus has shifted to the impact of such an agreement on energy transit routes and the political concessions Turkey may be required to make.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the country wanted to sign an agreement across sea borders.

However, this willingness is currently limited to declarations by the Turkish side, without the Egyptians noticeably reacting.

The tactical step taken by Turkey shows its willingness to reduce the escalation policy in the region in order to bypass any criticism from Brussels and the government of US President Joe Biden.

Possible sanctions against the controversial exploratory activities of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean would be discussed at the European summit from March 25 to 26, in order not to make them aggressive before this meeting.

Experts consider such an agreement to be a long way off, at least in the short term, as Egypt signed an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement with Greece since last year. This pact angered Turkey because it had long had disagreements with Greece over the extent of their mutual continental shelves.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had another strong signal on Wednesday evening after Cavusoglu’s statement on regional issues of common concern, with a particular focus on energy and eastern Mediterranean issues, that Greece would do it’s best not to allow a Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement.

Turkey said the agreement between Greece and Egypt did not include a disputed zone south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, which Turkey claims under its own EEZ.

Relations with Egypt were strained after Turkey-backed Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted by El-Sisi in 2013.

Last year Egypt, Cyprus and Greece published a joint statement accusing Turkey of « provocations » in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt has been involved in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum since 2019 without including Turkey.

« Turkey has tried to induce Egypt to sign an EEZ agreement by claiming it will receive a larger share than a bilateral agreement between Athens and Cairo, » said Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel said Arab News. « Similarly, it has made the claim that the EEZ agreement between Israel and Cyprus gives Israel less than it would get if it had signed an agreement with Turkey. »

While an easing of tensions between Turkey and Egypt was plausible, Lindenstrauss did not expect a serious rapprochement anytime soon, so that an EEZ agreement between the sides would probably not come about.

At the end of February, Egypt and Israel agreed to connect an Israeli offshore natural gas field via an underwater pipeline to liquefied natural gas plants in northern Egypt in order to meet the increased demand for natural gas in Europe.

The pipeline begins at Israel’s Leviathan gas field and then goes overland to Egypt before passing through the Greek-Egyptian EEZ to Crete.

This route bypasses Cyprus. In other words, the gas is unlikely to be exported through disputed areas that could raise Turkish objections.

Emre Caliskan, a research fellow at the UK Foreign Affairs Center, said Turkey’s recent efforts to improve its relations with Israel and Egypt were motivated by the need to break the alliance between Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt.

« These countries have come to an agreement against Turkey’s increasing influence and the search for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, » he told Arab News. “From a strategic point of view of Turkish politics, the interests of Greece and Cyprus contradict Turkey’s ambitions in the region. Therefore Turkey will try to distance Greece and Cyprus from Egypt and Israel. “

These moves require a change in Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood ideology that inspires Hamas to bring Egypt to its side and end the bilateral dispute. Turkey is home to several members and supporters of the organization as the group’s activities in Egypt have been banned.

Last month, the Israel Defense Ministry announced it would seize $ 121,000 worth of goods sent to individuals in the West Bank by Hamas members based in Turkey through two Turkish companies.

“We have recently heard allegations that Turkey has reassessed its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is too early to judge a policy change in this regard. Any major reconciliation with Israel and Egypt requires Turkey to distance its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, ”said Caliskan.

For Caliskan, Turkey’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood were based on ideology and a strategic partnership.

« Distancing Turkey’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood would, for example, affect Turkey’s influence in Libya. Turkey will likely split its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and reduce its support to its presence in Egypt and Palestine, but will continue to support it in North Africa, especially in Libya and Tunisia. “

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun hailed the Pope’s arrival in Iraq on Friday, hoping that it would be a « push to build real peace » that the people of the region needed.

Pope Francis is in Iraq from March 5-8. It is the first time a Pope has visited the country and the trip is one of the most complicated the Vatican had to organize due to security concerns and the pandemic.

The people of Lebanon watched the Pope’s arrival on local television and Lebanese journalists flew to Iraq to cover the event.

President Michel Aoun expressed his hope in a tweet that the visit would be « a push towards building the real peace that Iraqis and all other peoples in the region need ».

He tweeted: « Welcome Pope Francis to the land of the east, the land that has always brought civilizations, religions and cultures together. »

The Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri described the visit as historic in all « spiritual, cultural and human dimensions » and as a message to the entire region on the importance of interreligious dialogue and the « protection of Muslim-Christian coexistence ».

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri described the Pope’s visit as historic in all spiritual, cultural and human dimensions.

The party leader of Marada, Suleiman Frangieh, said the Pope’s visit was a message of peace and dialogue between religions and an institution for Christians on their land on the basis of coexistence and common faith.

The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Bechara Al-Rai was not at the papal reception in Iraq.

Walid Ghayad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, said Al-Rai had apologized from attending.

« The patriarchate has no parishes or parishes in Iraq in addition to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, » the spokesman told Arab News. “As the Pope will travel a lot in Iraq, Patriarch Al-Rai does not want to disrupt the measures taken for the visit. The Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon had invited Pope Francis to visit Lebanon some time ago, and the Pope said he was eager to visit Lebanon, Lebanon deserves a special visit and he will see when he will will visit him. “

Al-Rai described the Pope’s visit to Iraq as « great, historical and the greatest proof of the restoration of the value of Iraq, this historical country that plays its religious, civilizational and social role ».

« The Pope has his way of healing wounds, » he added. “He wants to reassure the Iraqi people that by praying with them and spreading their cause around the world, they are sending messages of peace and unification together, especially through the meeting that will be held in Najaf, about the fraternal bond between people to emphasize. ”

Pope Benedict XVI Visited Lebanon for three days in July 2013, his trip coinciding with developments in the Arab Spring.

AMMAN: Palestinian political figure Nasser Al-Qudwa has said he has crossed the river and will not reverse his plans to be on a list outside his own Fatah movement in the country’s elections.

When Arab News asked if he would continue his « Democratic Assembly » if the imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti did not support him, he said: « There is no turning back. »

Al-Qudwa added: “There is a natural encounter between this movement and that of the imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti, including the fact that he leads this movement.

« Sure, the results could be different if he doesn’t support them, but we’re moving in a direction that is making it difficult to back off.

In his very first press conference, open to journalists, the former Palestinian UN envoy and foreign minister warned of the difficulties facing the Palestinians. He said that there are normal duties during a national liberation movement and a different sentence after a conflict is over.

“We have a mix of both, while national liberation is our priority. We have to deal with everyday problems that are the needs of our employees.

Nasser Al-Qudwa says negotiations should be limited to trade between the occupied Palestinian state and Israel, not whether there should be a Palestinian state.

“You want everything. They don’t even say, « We just want the settlements or the Jordan Valley. » You want everything. « 

Governments and international bodies withdrawing support for Palestinian statehood are also a cause for concern, he added.

“At first they said we support the two-state solution. Now Europe and others are saying we support a negotiated two-state solution. “

Al-Qudwa said negotiations should be limited to trade between the occupied Palestinian state and Israel, and not whether there should be a Palestinian state.

He also immediately rejected the idea of ​​a single state, warning that it was a dangerous idea of ​​ »Greater Israel ».

Al-Qudwa said he had not held any positions in the Palestinian government for 15 years and had no plans to take money from outside Palestinian circles.

« What we can collect from common and wealthy people is enough, especially when nobody steals the money, » he said.

Although al-Qudwa took a different path, he was careful not to build burning bridges with other long-standing Palestinian politicians.

He also refused to address rumors that he was threatened several times during his last meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

While Al-Qudwa relies on the support of Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, he refused any cooperation with the renegade Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who is based in the United Arab Emirates.

« It’s difficult to be with Dahlan because the Palestinian people have rejected the UAE’s position, » he said of the recent normalization pact the UAE signed with Israel.

The Palestinian parliamentary elections are due to take place on May 22nd, two months later the presidential elections and the convening of the National Council of the PLO at the end of the summer.

Ref: https://www.arabnews.com

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