News Round Up (6 March 2010)

EFG-Hermes Expands Into Syria, Starts Syrian Private Equity Fund
By Mahmoud Kassem

March 3 (Bloomberg) — EFG-Hermes Holding SAE, the biggest publicly traded Arab investment bank, will open an office in Damascus with a local partner and start a Syrian private equity fund at the same time. EFG-Hermes has a 70 percent stake in EFG-Hermes Syria, while Syrian businessman Firas Tlass has a 30 percent stake, the Cairo-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.

EFG-Hermes gains most in 7 months
3 March 2010, Daily News Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt’s EFG-Hermes jumped 7 percent, its sharpest gain in more than seven months, after it said it was opening an office in Syria, boosting the stock further after market talk of a hefty dividend payment.

4 March, EFG-Hermes said Thursday its full-year 2009 net profit tumbled 41% due to a steep drop in fee and commission income. The bank said 2009 net profit fell to to 551.8 million Egyptian pounds ($100.6 million) from 933.5 million pounds a the year earlier. Revenues fell to 1.47 billion pounds …

Realestate in Hama is higher priced that similar property in Switzerland     العقارات في حماة أغلى من مثيلها في سويسرا.

Turkey Thumbs its Nose at US Sanctions on Iran as Senate Approves Genocide Bill
Iran and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish joint industrial estate on the border of the two countries, the state IRIB TV reported on Tuesday.

Establishment of the joint industrial estate on Iran-Turkey border would strengthen security of the region as well as welfare of those who are residing in the two countries’ border region, Ahmadi said…..

For his part, Turkey’s Yildirim expressed hope that the two countries’ economic ties would be expanded. ….Speaking at the opening of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) meeting, Turkish State Minister Cevdet Yilmaz was quoted as saying that Turkey aimed at opening a “golden age” in Turkish-Iranian relations with projects such as carrying Turkmen and Iranian energy resources to Europe over Turkey.

Iraq election: In Syria, disillusioned refugees trudge to the polls
By Sarah Birke Contributor / March 5, 2010

Candidates in the Iraq election have focused attention on Syria, which has the largest number of Iraqi expatriates. Sunni candidates in particular are seeking out extra support, given Iraq’s Shiite-dominated politics.

The Leveretts in the RFI/ via FLC

“…. The “Tripartite Alliance Stands Firm”, opens by noting the rather alarmist commentary in the West about the recent “resistance” summit in Damascus, involving President Assad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. (HAMAS’s Khalid Mishal also met with Ahmadinejad while the Iranian President was in Damascus.) Sami also notes a tone of perplexity in Western commentary on these meetings, which came on the heels of a visit to Damascus by U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Washington’s announcement that it would be posting a U.S. ambassador to Syria for the first time in five years.

Sami insightfully explains Bashar al-Assad’s approach to foreign affairs as an adroit exercise in what, from a European historical perspective, could well be described as “classical diplomacy”, based on a nuanced reading of the regional and global balance of power and a flexible approach to individual bilateral relationships. He also relates the “resistance” summit to the question of a possible war in the region later this year, a question that we took up a few days ago.

“Syria wants to keep all doors to Damascus open, much like it did in the 1990s, when Syria enjoyed excellent relations with the US, France, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and both HAMAS and Hezbollah. Many in the West claim this is no longer possible, echoing words spoken by George W. Bush after 9/11, when he said: ‘Either you are with us or with the terrorists.’ Syria thinks otherwise, however, arguing that Syrian-Iranian relations are in the best interest of the international community, and should be seen as a blessing in disguise for the United States.

“King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia shares this view, believing that Syria can indeed walk the tightrope between the so-called moderate and radical camps in the Middle East, helping influence and moderate the behavior of HAMAS, Hezbollah, and Iran. Syria has repeatedly used its influence with these players in meetings like the ones that just took place in Damascus (which perhaps were not as high profile) to get HAMAS to accept the Arab Peace Initiative, for example, or to get Hezbollah more involved in the political process in Lebanon….

“The Damascus Summit…is a reminder of how helpful Syria can be [to the United States and others] in dealing with these non-state players. Nevertheless, it sends another strong message: Think twice before waging another war on Lebanon, because neither Syria nor Iran will allow it. Rather than escalate the conflict, the tripartite meeting in Damascus actually force Israel to recalculate, thereby minimizing the chances of war next summer.”

Along the lines of Sami’s analysis, in our meeting with President Assad in Damascus two weeks ago,the Syrian leader underscored that his ties to Iran and to resistance groups like HAMAS and Hizballah should be seen by the United States as an asset—as something that could help open doors that would otherwise remain shut. It was at a press conference in Damascus in 2006, after all, that Khalid Mishal began talking publicly about the 1967 lines as a potential basis for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict; during 2009, Mishal spoke openly about the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Indeed, in our first meeting with Mishal last summer, he pointed out that HAMAS has offered Israel “a two-state solution on the 1967 lines”, and noted that “no Arab state has gone farther than that”.)

President Assad presents himself as someone focused on solving problems. He is clearly thinking in comprehensive terms about the Middle East’s core conflicts—as we discussed in our post yesterday, he believes a comprehensive settlement of the unresolved tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict is necessary, and that such a settlement will necessarily involve groups like HAMAS and Hizballah. He also says that the challenge of U.S.-Iranian relations is, in some ways, a relatively simple problem, but could become the region’s “worst” problem if it is not solved. In our view, President Assad is likely to be an important player in “the race for Iran”, and in Middle Eastern diplomacy more generally, for many years to come.

Peace not wanted
04/03/2010 – Haaretz
By Gideon Levy

Israel does not want peace with Syria. Let’s take off all the masks we’ve been hiding behind and tell the truth for a change. Let’s admit that there’s no formula that suits us, except the ludicrous “peace for peace.” Let’s admit it to ourselves, at least, that we do not want to leave the Golan Heights, no matter what. Forget about all the palaver, all the mediations, all the efforts.

Let’s face it, we don’t want peace, we want to run wild, to paraphrase an Israeli pop song from the ’70s. Don’t bother us with new Syrian proposals, like the one published in Haaretz this week that calls for a phased withdrawal and peace in stages; don’t pester us with talk about peace as a way to break up the dangerous link between Syria and Iran; don’t tell us peace with Syria is the key to forging peace with Lebanon and weakening Hezbollah. Turkey isn’t an “honest” broker, the Syrians are part of the axis of evil, all is quiet on the Golan – you know how much we love the place, its mineral waters, its wines – so who needs all the commotion of demonstrations and evacuating settlements, just for peace?

It’s not only the current extreme right-wing government that doesn’t want this whole headache, and it wasn’t only all of its predecessors – some of which were on the very brink of withdrawing from the Golan and only at the last moment, the very last moment, changed their minds. It’s all the Israelis – the minority that is really against it and the majority that doesn’t give a damn. They’d rather pretend not to hear the encouraging sounds coming out of Damascus in recent months and not even try to put them to the test.

Everyone would rather wave the menacing picture of Bashar Assad alongside Hassan Nasrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his partners in the axis of evil, with the hummus and the bulgur…….

ut we are not the only ones who don’t want peace. The United States has turned out to be a true friend that extricates us from every briar patch. It doesn’t want peace enough either, praise the Lord. It’s a fact: Washington is applying no pressure. Here’s another marvelous pretext for doing nothing – America isn’t pressing us and the redeemer will come to Zion, in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Yet we are the ones who have to stay in the dangerous and menacing Middle East, not the Americans; we should be more interested than anyone in preventing another war in the north, in creating a new relationship with Syria and then with Lebanon, and in weakening Iranian influence; in trying to integrate, at last. An Israeli interest, no? And what do we do to advance it? Half of nothing.

So what is there left to do? At least admit the truth: We do not want peace with Syria. That’s all there is to it.

Syria suggests Israel might have planted suspect uranium
Posted on : 2010-03-04 | Author : dpa
News Category : Middle East

Vienna – Syria suggested Thursday that nuclear material might have been planted on its territory by Israel – offering a new explanation for uranium traces found by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to participants at an IAEA meeting. Syria had claimed that a site bombed by Israel in 2007 was not a secret nuclear reactor and that the uranium traces found by IAEA inspectors stemmed from Israeli ammunition.

Addressing the IAEA Board of Governors, Syrian Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh spoke of “Israeli airplanes that have overflown that site and dropped things, and material,” according to one of the participants recounting the remarks to the German Press Agency dpa.

“It’s a slightly desperate charge, isn’t it?” US Ambassador Glyn Davies told reporters after the meeting.

The IAEA has analysed samples taken at the bombed al-Kibar site in the Syrian desert, also known as Dair Alzour.

It judged in its latest report in February that “there is a low probability that the source of these particles was the use of missiles” and that the presence of the material pointed to possible nuclear activities.

Syria is currently not granting the IAEA access to locations, officials and documents that may shed more light on possible clandestine nuclear activities.

Syria’s ‘Festering’ IAEA File May Deter Investors, U.S. Says
By Jonathan Tirone, 2010-03-04

March 4 (Bloomberg) — Syria’s failure to cooperate with United Nations atomic inspectors seeking answers about a suspected nuclear reactor bombed by Israel in 2007 should cause companies to re-consider investment decisions, the U.S. said. “Companies who have to worry about their bottom line have to look at how Syria stands in the international community,” U.S. International Atomic Energy Agency ambassador Glyn Davies said in an interview in Vienna today. “Companies will look at Syria’s festering failure to comply.”

Idaf writes: “Check these titles in Israeli media:”

  • Ha’aretz: Trucks carrying Israeli Golan apples into Syria
  • Ynetnews: Syrian markets to enjoy Israeli apples

It is funny that the titles insist that the apples are “Israeli”?! They were grown by Syrians who do not have Israeli nationality, living on Syrian land that no country in the world (other than Israel) recognizes as anything but Syrian! Are the authors suggesting that the apples speak Hebrew or something? Or is it a policy to hammer to Israeli public the “Israeliness” of the Golan and everything in it!?

The old narrow gauge steam train that runs from Damascus to Ain El Fijeh
March 3, 2010 Frederick Deknatel

Obama Committed to Israel’s Miltiary superiority Provides Advance Fighter Jets with Sensitive New Technology
By Nathan Guttman

Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal that the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.

Amid the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren praised the Obama administration’s response to complaints about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as “warm and immediate.”

Many Arab-Americans check ‘white’ on the U.S. Census. Why community leaders want to change that.
By Roqaya Ashmawey | Newsweek, Mar 1, 2010

Ten years ago, when Sarah Kazem’s dad filled out the U.S. Census form for the household, he racially identified his family of Egyptian descent as “white” when he answered the question on race. But this time around, Kazem, a 22-year-old Michigan resident, is going to make sure her dad marks “Some Other Race” and write in “Arab” instead.

From South Africa to Israel: personal stories of apartheid
Jesse Rosenfeld

I grew up in an anti-apartheid household in Toronto. My parents met while my father was touring southern Africa as part of a Canadian anti-apartheid organisation, building links with postcolonial African socialist states and the South African liberation movement. On long car journeys, our family would mix Nelson Mandela’s autobiography with Just William children’s story tapes, and my parents would occasionally hire a babysitter so they could attend organising meetings for the international boycott campaign against South Africa.

As much as I was taught about apartheid, the violence of segregation, and the brutality of a state designed only to serve a settler population, I didn’t experience it first-hand until I moved to Ramallah in 2007.

Going to Jerusalem through the Qalandia terminal checkpoint and watching the soldiers harass and degrade Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs – while most of my Ramallah friends were barred from travelling there altogether – was the first I saw of state-run segregation. Walking through the Balata refugee camp on the edge of Nablus was the first township-style ghetto I set foot in. Seeing the Palestinian Authority beat anti-Bush demonstrators in the street during the former president’s visit in 2008 was my first real taste of the bitterness of Inkatha-style divide-and-rule.

In Ramallah I was regularly woken in the middle of the night to the sounds of my neighbours’ gates being blown off, followed by the screams of children as their father or brother was violently taken by the Israeli army. However, it was not until I met Ibrahim Bornat that I really understood the price Israel imposes on Palestinians who demand freedom and equality.

A vocal activist in the West Bank town of Bi’lin, struggling against Israel’s use of the wall to annex village farmland to the nearby Jewish settlement, Ibrahim was arrested on February 2 during a night raid on the village. After appearing regularly in the front lines of the weekly protests against Israel’s barrier, he now sits in Israel’s notorious Ofer military prison alongside other leaders of the town’s Non-Violent Popular Committee, facing a slew of charges in a military court.
“Why are we marking white when we’re Arab?” she asks. But that is how the Census counts Arabs. After 20th-century Syrian immigrants won citizenship as “whites,” Uncle Sam applied the label to all Arabs …

Syrian leadership joins Libya in refusing to meet Abbas
Posted: 03-03-2010

The Syrian government has put off a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was scheduled to visit Damascus on Saturday. His visit did not get the green light by the Syrian leadership, according to Arabic press reports.

Syrian officials conveyed to the Palestinian side that the senior Syrian officials’ agenda was busy and that Damascus would prefer to postpone the visit. The Palestinian National Authority has considered this message as a political signal reflecting a Syrian decision not to support President Abbas’ policies, which call to resume indirect peace talks with Israel. The London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper quoted Syrian sources as saying that Damascus is not entirely satisfied with the overall policies of Abbas, who “ignore” Syria’s interests. In recent days it was reported that leaders in Libya and Tunisia have both ignored Abbas’ requests for a meeting. It was reported that Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi refused to accept Abbas, who visited Libya Sunday, after the latter refused to sign a paper to reconcile with Hamas in the Arab Summit scheduled to 27 March in Sirte

My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.  Not out yet. Here’s the Amazon page:
Reviewed by Robin Yassin-Kassab (Qunfuz) on the EI web site

From afar,” writes Ramzy Baroud, “Gaza’s reality, like that of all of Palestine, is often presented without cohesion, without proper context; accounts of real life in Gaza are marred with tired assumptions and misrepresentations that deprive the depicted humans of their names, identities and very dignity.”

Palestinian-American author, journalist and editor of the Palestine Chronicle, Ramzy Baroud’s latest book My Father was a Freedom Fighter is an antidote to the US, European and Israeli media’s decontextualization and dehumanization of Palestinians. It’s also an instant classic, one of the very best books to have examined the
Palestinian tragedy……….

لا اختراق ملموساً بعد زيارة بيرنز لدمشق
الحوار في البيت الأبيض… والشروط متبادلة

جو معكرون

واشنطن :
مع استمرار الطابع الرمزي لتقدم العلاقات السورية الأميركية، دخل السفير السوري لدى واشنطن عماد مصطفى البيت الأبيض، للمرة الثالثة في عهد الرئيس باراك اوباما، في تطور لا يعكس بالضرورة دبلوماسية المجاملات بين البلدين التي لم تُحدث حتى الآن أي اختراق ملموس على الأرض.
وبعد اجتماعه مع مساعد وزيرة الخارجية لشؤون الشرق الأدنى جيفري فيلتمان في وزارة الخارجية الجمعة الماضي، توجه مصطفى إلى البيت الأبيض، حيث التقى مدير الشرق الأوسط في مجلس الأمن القومي دان شابيرو في سياق متابعة الطرفين لنتائج زيارة مساعد وزيرة الخارجية للشؤون السياسية وليام بيرنز إلى دمشق في 17 شباط الماضي، والتي حصلت بالتزامن مع إعلان البيت الأبيض تعيين روبرت فورد سفيرا لدى سوريا بعد انقطاع دبلوماسي دام خمس سنوات.

رئيس الوزراء السوري لا يفوت الرد..
الشيخ صالح كامل يدعو الرئيس الأسد للقيام بحركة تصحيحية جديدة..ويقول : قانون الاستثمار مُعرقل…والسياح لا يستقبلون جيداً في سورية

دمشق – سيرياستيبس- هيام علي

دعا الشيخ صالح كامل رئيس مجلس الغرف السعودية….رئيس مجموعة دلة البركة الرئيس بشار الأسد إلى القيام بحركة تصحيحية وذلك خلال كلمة ألقاها في افتتاح المؤتمر الثالث لرجال الأعمال والمستثمرين العرب والتي قدمها كرسالة موجهة منه إلى الرئيس الأسد طالباً من رئيس مجلس الوزراء إيصال مضمونها إلى السيد رئيس الجمهورية.

ومع اتقانه تضمين رسالته للكثير من الحب لسورية ولرئيسها وبدا في ذلك صادقاً فإن الشيخ كامل وجه رسائل انتقاد مباشرة إلى آليات العمل في سورية ورأى أن البيروقراطية والروتين أمرين لابد من القضاء عليهما سريعاً إذا ما أرادت أن تأخذ المكانة التي تليق بها وتعبر عن إمكانياتها الاستثمارية الكبيرة.

فقال “مع بدء التفاؤل بالتبلور فإن هناك حاجة لحركة تصحيحية تنهض بالاقتصاد السوري وتدق عنق البيروقراطية والروتين وتقضي على تعقيداته باتجاه إطلاق الاقتصاد السوري نحو ما يستحق أن يكون عليه”.

وقال “أنه لابد من تعميم رؤى الرئيس الأسد في كافة وجهات العمل بدأً من القيادة إلى الحكومة والمؤسسات وصولاً إلى القاعدة بما تحتويه من منفذين ومراقبين ومواطنين”.

ورأي الشيخ كامل “أن مشروع الرئيس الأسد الإصلاحي يجب أن ينتقل إلى القاعدة ويرسخ فيه…لأنه لا يمكن السير بالعربة إذا كان هناك عجلة لا تدور وقاعدة الاقتصاد يجب أن لاتقوم على استسهال السهل واستصعاب الصعب”.

مشيراً “إلى المزايا التي تتمتع بها سورية على كافة المستويات والتي يمكن أن تجعلها مركزاً رئيساً لاستقطاب الاستثمارات والأعمال”

Comments (3)

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

More about the Hejaz Railway.
Scroll down to documentation of railway stations in Syria.

March 6th, 2010, 5:57 pm


norman said:

I need your opinions on this matter ,

(( Many Arab-Americans check ‘white’ on the U.S. Census. Why community leaders want to change that.))

I do not think that Arab American should go that road , being an Arab is not a race or even a genetic belonging , they are the people who speak Arabic and have the same culture , we should be as we are white American of Arabic descent and we are like the German American , Italian American ,Indian American from India we are all white , they are German and Italian white and we are White Arabs , we do not need to have special attention or help as minority and i do not want anybody to discriminate against us because we are Arabs , we need to be treated as equal not as minority with special privileges, what makes us strong and and heard is not how many of us here in the US , what makes us strong is how much we contribute to political campaigns individually or through our PACKS, that is what makes Jewish American who are only 3% of the population have influence , so yes ,

We are Arabs and white with equal rights ,and we should participate in the political process ,

What do you all think ?.

March 8th, 2010, 12:42 am


Hassan said:

It doesn’t matter. It is meaningless.

March 8th, 2010, 12:48 am


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