Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Middle-East’s longest-serving monarch, has died at the age of 79 after long illness. His death was announced by the state Oman News Agency via its official Twitter account. The royal court in the country declared three days of mourning.
Sultan Qaboos seized power in a 1970 palace coup and reformed his Arabian sultanate into modernity while carefully balancing diplomatic ties between Tehran and the Washington. The new agency phrased his “balanced policy” of mediating between rival camps in a volatile region, which had earned the world’s respect.
The British-educated sultan reformed a nation that was home to only three schools and archaic laws, banning electricity, radios, eyeglasses and even umbrellas when he took the throne.
Under his reign, Oman became known as a popular tourist destination and a key Mideast interlocutor, helping the U.S. free captives in Iran and Yemen and hosting visits by Israeli officials for talks about Palestinian issue.
The European leaders expressed their condolences to the nation.
Oman’s new ruler Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said promised to maintain the Gulf Arab state’s foreign policy of peaceful coexistence and maintaining friendly ties with all nations.
The Minister of foreign affairs discussed the latest developments in Iraq. The diplomats have been assessing the consequences of the recent escalation of tension and major security incidents in Iraq and its impact on the entire the region. They also considered the impact of these developments on the international coalition engaged in the fight against Da’esh.
Ministers have exchanged views on possible ways to de-escalate tensions both in the short and long term.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, invited to the Council has assessed the discussion with Foreign Ministers as important.
He expressed the opinion of a profound need to continue to support Iraq, fighting international terrorism, and stay united in face of the threat.
NATO Ambassadors met on 6 January 2019 in Brussels headquaters to address current tensions in the Middle East and implications for NATO’s training mission in Iraq.
“…Allies expressed their strong support for the fight against ISIS and for the NATO mission in Iraq. In everything that we do, the safety of our personnel is paramount. As such, we have temporarily suspended our training on the ground,” – Jens Stolenberg said.
“Allies called for restraint and de-escalation. A new conflict would be in no one’s interest. So Iran must refrain from further violence and provocation” he added.
Speaking after the meeting of NATO’s North Atlantic Council, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the safety of NATO’s personnel in Iraq is paramount and that the Alliance had temporarily suspended training activities on the ground. He added that NATO was prepared to continue training and capacity-building when the situation permits, emphasizing that the Alliance remains strongly committed to the fight against international terrorism, namely Daech in Middle East.
More than six million foreign tourists will visit Italy during the Christmas and New year holidays, according to a new survey. The Centro Studi Turistici poll said foreign tourists would mostly vacation in mountain resorts.
Tourists flows will especially rise from Switzerland, the Middle East and Australia and New Zealand, said the poll of 1,613 tourism operators, commissioned by retail group Confesercenti Nazionale.
Meanwhile some 4.4 million Italians are preparing for departure to pass their holidays abroad, the study said.
The Foreign Affairs Council on 27 of February will start with a discussion on current affairs, allowing ministers to review pressing issues on the international agenda.
Republic of Moldova
Foreign ministers will exchange of views on the Republic of Moldova. They will focus among others on the implementation of the deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA), the EU’s engagement with the country and future perspectives ahead of the next parliamentary elections.
They may also discuss the country’s role in the Eastern Partnership and engagement in the field of security. The Council will adopt conclusions on the Republic of Moldova after the debate.
Foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Venezuela which continues to be challenging. The Council will have a discussion on the latest developments and ahead of Presidential elections scheduled for 22 April.
Middle East peace process
The Council will discuss the Middle East peace process. Foreign ministers will continue exploring ways to achieve a two-state solution. They may also follow on up on the extraordinary session of the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting held on 31 January.
The discussion will also prepare the lunch with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States (LAS), Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and foreign ministers members of the LAS ministerial delegation on Jerusalem chaired by Jordan (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian Authority). They will discuss ways to revive the Middle East peace process.
Tehran announced the launch of a new missile production line, according to state media, amid tension between the United States and Iran.
The Sayyad 3 missile can reach an altitude of 27 km (16 miles) and travel up to 120 km (74 miles), Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan said. (Photo; illustration).
The missile is able to target fighter planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and helicopters, according to the minister.
Recently the United States applied new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, and blamed to Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undermine any “positive contributions” coming from a 2015 Iran nuclear accord.
The European Commission will take a decision next month on any legal cases against countries failing to open doors to asylum-seekers (migrants) as agreed in the EU27, taking a step toward potential punishment for Poland and Hungary. (Illustration: terroristic act in Stockholm).
The European Commission once again underlined that member countries could not avoid solidarity with Greece and Italy by taking a fair share of the asylum-seekers from Africa and Middle East.
The EU27 insistence on distributing the migrants across the Europe is perceived as controversial, and fewer than 20 thousand people have been relocated so far under the two-year plan meant to cover 160,000.
While some EU states have been slow and taking asylum-seekers in reluctantly, Poland and Hungary have refused to obey Brussels orders, insisting on observing Dublin regulation, clearly stating that the refugees should stay in a frist safe country.
The debate illegal mass-migration is increasingly vexed amid a series of terroristic attacks committed by migants, and occurence of no-go zones in European cities.