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Pope calls for end to wars in Middle East in Gulf trip

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Riyadh: Pope Francis called for an end to wars in the Middle East during the first visit by the head of the Catholic church to the birthplace of Islam — the Arabian Peninsula.

Francis, who has made outreach to Muslim communities a cornerstone of his papacy, is on a historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He is scheduled to hold an open-air mass on Tuesday for 135,000 of the Muslim country’s million Catholic residents, set to be the largest ever public gathering in the Gulf state.

 

The pope held talks in Abu Dhabi with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb — imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning — before delivering an address at an interfaith meeting.

In his address, the pontiff pushed the need for justice, equality of citizens’ rights and an end to all wars, including in Yemen.

The United Arab Emirates and neighbouring Saudi Arabia are key allies of the Yemeni government, which is locked in a war against Iran-backed rebels that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The pope said all religious leaders had a “duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war”.

“I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya,” he said at the interfaith meeting attended by Sheikh Ahmed and UAE leaders.

Yemen is the scene of what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Huthi rebels.

More than 10 million Yemenis now risk imminent starvation.

The UAE, which prides itself on its religious diversity in the Gulf, is also a member of the US-led coalition battling the militant Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.

Sheikh Ahmed, who stressed in a speech that religion must never be used to justify violence, and the pope signed on Monday a document that Al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism.


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Don’t leave children of foreign fighters in legal limbo, UN urges states

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LONDON: Children of foreign fighters must have the right to belong to a country, lawyers and the United Nations said , after Britain stripped the citizenship of a teenage mother who travelled to Syria at 15 to join IS.

The fate of Shamima Begum, who was found in a refugee camp in Syria last week, has illustrated the ethical, legal and security conundrum that governments face when dealing with the families of militants who swore to destroy the West.

With IS depleted and Kurdish-led militia poised to seize the group’s last holdout in eastern Syria, Western capitals are trying to work out what to do with battle-hardened foreign jihadist fighters and their wives and children.

 

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said all children have “the right to a name, an identity and a nationality” according to international laws and governments had a responsibility to adopt safeguards that prevent a child from being born stateless.

“But where this occurs, those children need legal-aid and support to ensure no child is denied their right to citizenship,” Unicef said in an email.

There is no reliable estimate for the number of stateless people globally although the UN estimates it could be 12 million and wants to end statelessness by 2024 as it can leave people with no access to basic rights like education and health.

Amal de Chickera, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, said Britain should have taken Begum and her child and put her under investigation as it had an obligation to look after the baby and children in similar cases. “It’s deeply concerning to see this happening to a baby that’s just a few days old,” he said in a phone interview.

“One must question the effectiveness of this measure: does citizenship-stripping really strengthen or protect national security? Or can it potentially lead to further radicalisation?”—Thomson Reuters Foundation

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UN envoy says risk of Israeli-Palestinian war looms large

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United Nations: The UN Mideast envoy says the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians “is fading by the day as the specter of violence and radicalism grows” and “the risk of war continues to loom large”.

Nikolay Mladenov also told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that a negotiated two-state solution is drifting further away.

In his words: “What is needed, first and foremost, is the necessary leadership and political will for change. Until that will can be found, Palestinians and Israelis will continue to slide into increasingly hazardous territory.”

 

Mladenov stressed that leaders must believe peace is possible through negotiations.

He also said leaders and the international community must be committed to support Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace deal based on U.N. resolutions and bilateral agreements.

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Saudi to free 850 Indian prisoners from its jails

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Mumbai: Saudi Arabia will release 850 Indians from its prisons after a request from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to New Delhi, India’s Foreign Ministry has said.

Saudi jails hold the greatest number of Indians incarcerated in any country abroad. As of January 2019, 2,224 Indians were in prison in the kingdom for crimes including murder, kidnapping, bribery, and offences related to drugs and alcohol, according to Indian Foreign Ministry figures.

The approximately 2.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia form the largest expatriate community in the kingdom, with many working in low-paid jobs in sectors such as construction, domestic services and retailing that Saudis spurn.

 

“At the request of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners lodged in Saudi jails,” India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a tweet.

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