Ammon News, World

ISIS kills 15 Iraqi security guards near the Jordanian border

[2/24/2017 4:36:35 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Iraqi officials stated that 15 security guards were killed when ISIS militants attacked a border post near Trebil on the Jordanian border Friday. A border guard officer said ISIS launched the attack with explosives-laden vehicles and suicide bombers. Iraqi security forces had earlier refuted reports that claimed the ISIS had used drones to thrust three bombs on the crossing. The deadly attack came days after Jordanian Prime Minister, Hani al-Malki, called for the reopening of the strategic crossing to facilitate the movement of goods and customs procedure between the two countries. ISIS still controls three towns and vast areas of the Iraqi desert close to Iraq-Jordan border, even though Iraqi military have successfully recovered most of the al-Anbar territories. *Al Arabiya

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UN-sponsored Syria talks resume in Geneva after 10 months

[2/23/2017 12:13:43 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Syrian peace talks under the auspices of the United Nations resumed in Geneva on Thursday, 10 months after falling apart over escalating bloodshed in the war-torn country. The talks come as Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces seized the center of the ISIS-held town of al-Bab, breaking a weeks-long deadlock between the two sides at the periphery of the town, according to Turkey’s state news agency. Pro-government forces are just 3 kilometers (2 miles) south of al-Bab, though clashes with the opposition forces in the area have so far been limited. The Geneva talks are the latest bid to end Syria’s catastrophic six-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced some 11 million more. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura convened separate meetings with representatives of the government and opposition delegations Thursday morning. He said he hoped to convene a “sort of welcoming ceremony” and bilateral talks later in the day. De Mistura also met with a group of Syrian women who came to push for the discussion of the fate of detainees and abducted people in the Syrian conflict. They held a symbolic moment of silence together. “There are thousands and thousands of mothers, wives, daughters who are hoping that at least this aspect will be one of the benefits of any negotiation,” De Mistura told reporters. A day earlier, he played down expectations for the talks, saying he did not expect any breakthroughs, but all parties are aware that the dynamics in Syria have changed since talks were last in Geneva in April. Abdulahad Astepho, a member of the opposition delegation, said rebels would feature in a “greater role” in this round of talks, reflecting the changing dynamics inside Syria, where factions are drifting away from the exiled opposition leadership and closer to ultraconservative groups like Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Sham Front. The Geneva talks come after cease-fire discussions in Astana, Kazakhstan, that were coordinated largely by Turkey, the opposition’s closest state backer in the civil war, and Russia, whose air power has supported Assad’s forces. In those meetings, the rebels sat face-to-face with a government delegation — a first — and the exiled political opposition was present only on the sidelines. They have not yet sat face-to-face under UN auspices. *AP

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Syria opposition seeks ‘direct negotiations’ with regime

[2/22/2017 3:08:12 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Syria’s main opposition group said Wednesday that it wanted face-to-face discussions with government representatives, a day before the start of a new round of peace talks in Geneva. “We ask for direct negotiations... It would save time and be proof of seriousness instead of negotiating in (separate) rooms,” Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) umbrella group, told AFP. During three previous rounds of talks in Geneva last year, the two sides never sat down at the same table, instead leaving UN mediator Staffan de Mistura to shuttle between them. *AFP

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Le Pen refuses to wear headscarf to meet Lebanon’s Grand Mufti

[2/21/2017 3:16:33 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for France's far-right National Front party, cancelled a meeting on Tuesday with Lebanon's Grand Mufti after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter. "You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up," Le Pen told reporters. The press office for the Grand Mufti said that Le Pen's aides had been informed beforehand of their requirement for her to wear head covering for the meeting. Le Pen has been visiting Lebanon as she seeks to bolster her presidential credentials. Opinion polls say Le Pen is likely to get the highest score in the first round of voting in April, but then lose to a mainstream candidate in the decisive second round vote in May. *Reuters

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Trump’s ‘one-state solution’ comment draws mixed reactions

[2/21/2017 3:18:35 PM]

AMMONNEWS - US President Donald Trump’s recent statements about the one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have unleashed a stream of reactions and predictions about the potential consequences for the region, and particularly Jordan. While some observers viewed Trump’s statement as an end to the “cosmetic” negotiations, some argued that Washington should have a solution in place to avoid “irreparably damaging” ties with Arab states. Despite the different views of columnists interviewed by The Jordan Times, they all agreed that the end of talks focusing on the two-state solution will have a direct impact on Jordan and its rights that were guaranteed in the 1994 peace deal with Israel. Abdullah Sawalha, director of the Centre for Israeli Studies in Amman, said he was “pessimistic” about the future of a two-state solution, arguing that Trump’s statement was just a description of a reality that no one wants to admit. In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Wednesday, Trump urged Netanyahu to curb settlement activity but avoided any explicit endorsement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “There will not be a Palestinian state in the way that we want,” because Israel does not want that, Sawalha told The Jordan Times. Still, for Sawalha, Palestinians will be represented in any other scenario to end the conflict, but not through a “two-state solution”. “It might be a nonfederal or autonomous system, where Palestinians are present,” but never a two-state solution, the analyst added. In a recent article, columnist Maher Abu Teir agreed with Sawalha, saying that the two-state solution was an “illusion”. “The two-state solution was an illusion promised to Arabs and Palestinians for three reasons,” the Ad Dustour daily columnist said. He said the reasons included luring Palestinians into recognition of Israel as a state, bringing Palestinian factions into Palestine to better control them, as well as using “peace process” negotiations to buy time for Israel in order to expand its colonisation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Although Trump was ambigous in his opinion about the two-state solution, Samih Maaytah, a political analyst and former government spokesperson, seemed optimistic that there would be a change in US policy towards the Palestinian cause and other issues of concern to the Middle East. Maaytah said Trump’s statements reflected his lack of experience in the region. “His statements were not political and a bit ambiguous,” Maaytah told The Jordan Times, but added that “in the end, the Americans will not take the Israeli side and end up losing Arabs”. However, what Trump has said so far would “harm the interests of both Palestine and Jordan”, Maaytah added. Meanwhile, Musa Shteiwi, Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, said Israel has been hindering all attempts to reach a two-state solution. He said, however, that this is the only solution that serves the interests of both Jordan and Palestine, and without it, any other proposal will not be realistic, as there are many issues connected to it, including the rights of refugees. Still, Shteiwi argued that the US administration will not leave the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without a solution, but he questioned their proposals and what they would actually look like. Last week, Mohammad Momani, the government’s spokesperson, said the establishment of a Palestinian state not only meets Palestinian national aspirations, but is also of the highest national interest to Jordan. “Justice should be granted to Palestinians by giving them their legitimate national rights, which primarily focus on establishing a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. “Without ensuring justice for the Palestinian people, the Palestinian issue will remain unresolved,” stressed Momani, who is also minister of state for media affairs. *Jordan Times

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Trump names HR McMaster as national security adviser

[2/20/2017 3:56:34 PM]

AMMONNEWS - US President Donald Trump has named Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster as his national security adviser, taking over the post left vacant after Michael Flynn's resignation. "He is the man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience," Trump told reporters on Monday, sitting next to McMaster, 54, who was dressed in uniform. "He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we are very honoured to have him," Trump said from West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump also named Keith Kellogg, a retired army general who has been serving as the acting national security adviser, as chief of staff to the National Security Council. The US president said John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations, would serve the administration in another capacity. Trump, McMaster and Kellogg ignored questions from reporters after the announcement, including over whether the new national security adviser would be allowed to hire his own staff. The appointment came a week after Flynn was asked to quit after reports emerged that the retired lieutenant general misled Vice President Mike Pence about having spoken to Russia's ambassador about US sanctions before Trump's inauguration. Trump interviewed four finalists to replace Flynn on Sunday, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. Robert Harward, a retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL, reportedly turned down Trump's offer of the job last week over concerns he would not be able to bring in his own team to staff the National Security Council. Other reports said he was put off by apparent chaos in the White House. A serving soldier The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the US Senate. The role has varied from administration to administration, but the adviser attends National Security Council meetings along with the heads of the state department, the department of defence and key security agencies. Having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, McMaster is a highly regarded military tactician known as "HR". In 2014, he was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people, partly because of his willingness to buck the system. Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Washington, DC, said that since McMaster was a serving soldier, he could not turn the president down even if he wanted to. McMaster is "certainly seen as one of the thinkers of the US military", Bays said. McMaster's fame grew after his 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty" criticised the country's military and political leadership for poor leadership during the Vietnam War. "The main theme of that book was that during the time of Vietnam the generals didn’t say enough; they didn’t speak up enough to the president," Bays said. "A very interesting theme as this is the man who is now going to be guiding and advising the president on national security matters." McMaster heads the Army Capabilities and Integration Center and is deputy commanding general of the Futures Centre at US Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis. *Agencies

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Syrian opposition: Saudi Arabia not involved in choosing Geneva delegates

[2/19/2017 4:17:37 PM]

AMMONNEWS -The spokesperson of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee has confirmed that Saudi Arabia was not involved in deciding the delegates of the Syrian opposition who will be heading to Geneva in the coming week for peace talks. “Saudi Arabia has not been involved in any form in deciding who gets to go to Geneva and no one from the Saudis has attended our meetings to form the delegation,” Riad Nassan Agha told Nassan Agha has warned the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura from naming another opposition delegation made up of different factions as such as act will “mean the failure of the negotiations even before the have begun”. De Mistura had warned earlier this month that he would pick the Syrian opposition delegates to the talks in Geneva on February 23 if they are unable to come to a consensus on who would represent them.

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