DUBAI: The 27th International Council of Museums general conference will be held in Dubai in 2025, the Emirates News Agency reported.
The city will be the first in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region to host the global forum.
The ICOM flag, a symbolic baton entrusted to the organizing committee of the next ICOM general conference, was formally passed on to Dubai during the 2022 edition of the forum held in Prague.
A UAE delegation led by Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and member of the Dubai Council, attended the conference.
“Dubai has officially begun its journey of hosting the upcoming ICOM General Conference in 2025. It is an incredibly historic moment for Dubai, as our city has become the first city in the MENASA region to host ICOM,” Sheikha Latifa said.
“Winning the bid to host ICOM would not have been possible without the support of our wise leadership and the work by all cultural entities and our partners in Dubai and the UAE over the years to develop and enrich our cultural offerings as an emirate and as a nation.”
Sheikha Latifa said: “Dubai has made remarkable cultural achievements in a relatively short period, and we will continue to work towards positioning our city at the forefront of global cultural hubs. We look forward to hosting this impactful cultural gathering of leading international museum professionals.
“The global platform will serve as an opportunity to discuss the future of museums and explore best practices and approaches for protecting and promoting tangible and intangible cultural heritage.”
Dubai will host the 27th edition of the conference under the theme “The Future of Museums in Rapidly Changing Communities.”
The ICOM flag was handed over to Rashad Bukhash, representing ICOM UAE, and then to Hala Badri, director-general of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.
On receiving the flag, Badri said: “Standing here representing Dubai is a distinct honor and a privilege, and I want to thank the International Council of Museums and its members for entrusting Dubai to carry the torch of the upcoming ICOM general conference in 2025.”
“The UAE attaches great importance to museums as vital centers for knowledge exchange and cultural dialogue, and we believe culture should be accessible to everyone everywhere. Museums are important cultural networks that connect community members with their history and heritage, enabling them to understand current issues and cultural trends,” Badri added.
“In Dubai, we have invested in the cultural and museum sectors over the past few decades, leading to the formation of iconic cultural institutions, such as the Etihad Museum, a historical tribute to the union of the Emirates, the Museum of the Future, where people of all ages come to see, touch, and shape our shared future, and the Al-Shindagha Museum, Dubai’s largest heritage museum, set within the traditional urban fabric of the old city, which is rooted in Emirati culture.”
Badri said: “We are also witnessing the emergence of a new generation of cultural enthusiasts in our region, which contributes to preserving our heritage and further developing our creative economy.”
Maryam Mudhaffar Ahli, project manager in the museums department at the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, summarized Dubai’s plans to host ICOM in 2025.
“By hosting the ICOM General Conference in 2025, we will not just be creating an event that addresses issues of change, recovery, inclusivity, transparency, and sustainability for the museum sector, but we will also embody them on a broader scale,” she said.
Ahli added: “The UAE has around 55 government museums and about 115 private museums, including cultural icons, such as the Etihad Museum, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Qasr Al-Hosn, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the upcoming Guggenheim Museum.
“Bringing the ICOM general conference to Dubai also represents its first introduction to the MENASA region since the establishment of ICOM in 1946, presenting a unique opportunity for museum professionals and experts to finally meet in this region.”
NEW YORK: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in New York on Thursday, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The two officials had their meeting on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, according to WAM.
The officials discussed bilateral relations between the UAE and Ukraine and ways to further develop joint cooperation across various sectors, especially food security and trade exchange.
Al-Nahyan and Kuleba also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukrainian crisis, with the UAE official highlighting his country’s readiness to support all efforts to restore stability and peace through a sustainable diplomatic solution, WAM reported.
The meeting was attended by Reem bint Ibrahim Al-Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment; and Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister for Political Affairs and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations.
The UAE envoy also met earlier with other counterparts including Gabrielius Landsbergis of Lithuania; Jan Lipavský of the Czech Republic; Zbigniew Rau of Poland; Anniken Huitfeldt of Norway; Urmas Reinsalu of Estonia and Jerome Xavier Walcott of Barbados.
RIYADH: The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the US, and France have expressed their continuing support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, and highlighted the importance of holding elections.
The polls would comply with the constitution that calls for Lebanon’s parliament to elect a new president, the officials said in a joint statement.
During their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier this week, the diplomats said it is critical to elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people and work with regional and international actors to overcome the current crisis.
They called for the formation of a government capable of implementing the structural and economic reforms urgently needed to address Lebanon’s political and economic crises, specifically those needed to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The three officials said their countries remained willing to work jointly with Lebanon to support the implementation of these fundamental reforms, which are critical to the nation’s future development.
“We acknowledge the critical role the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces — as the legitimate defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty and internal stability — continue to play in protecting the Lebanese people in a time of unprecedented crisis,” they said.
The representatives affirmed the need for the Lebanese government to implement UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1701, 1680, 2650 and other relevant international resolutions, including those issued by the Arab League, and commit to the Taif Agreement.
NEW YORK CITY: The UN has received enough pledges of funding to begin the first phase of the salvage operation on the decaying Safer oil tanker, David Gressly, the organization’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, announced on Wednesday.
The vessel, which contains more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for more than seven years. It has had little or no maintenance during that time and its condition has deteriorated to a point where there are growing fears of a catastrophic oil spill.
The planned salvage operation to make it safe is split into two phases: The transfer of the oil from the tanker to another vessel, followed by a permanent storage solution until the political situation in Yemen allows for it to be sold or be transported elsewhere.
Speaking during a briefing on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, Gressly said 17 countries contributed to raising the $75 million needed for the first phase of the operation, including $10 million from Saudi Arabia, in addition to contributions from private sector, public foundations and a crowdfunding campaign organized by the UN. A second donation of $7 million by the Netherlands ensured the target was reached.
Donors need to follow through on their pledges by delivering the cash but Gressly told Arab News he is hopeful that the money will be in hand by the end of this month “because it’s already happening.”
He added that he senses a “high degree of will,” that he does not normally see, to tackle this problem because the cost of failure is so high. If the oil spills into the Red Sea the clean-up operation could cost about $30 billion. Such an environmental disaster would not only affect Yemen but also neighboring countries, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. In addition fisheries would be damaged and shipping disrupted.
“While most of the money has not yet come in, most of the agreements have now been signed, which are the prerequisite for the actual funds to be transferred,” Gressly told Arab News.
“So I’m pretty confident that by the end of this month, September, there will be more than enough resources to do the initial round of contracts required to go forward. We have very hard commitments from those who have yet to sign contracts to do so.”
Tim Lenderking, the US Special Envoy for Yemen, said during the briefing that this positive development is the result of a combined effort by many countries, including those in the immediate vicinity of the tanker, the private sector and ordinary citizens who responded to a GoFundMe campaign organized by the UN. It came within “the context of the truce in Yemen,” he added.
“The Yemeni conflict has enjoyed progress; a lot of hard work between the UN, US, the Saudi-led coalition, the Yemeni government, (and) the Houthis agreeing to the truce and largely abiding by it,” said Lenderking.
Reflecting on the benefits of the existing truce for the people of Yemen — civilian casualties have fallen by 60 percent, four times more fuel is now entering Yemeni ports, and more than 21,000 people who had been “pinned in the country” since 2016 have been able to travel internationally from Sanaa airport following the resumption of commercial flights — Lenderking told Arab News that he believes the door is open for a “durable ceasefire” to be agreed in the months ahead.
He described the Houthi cooperation that helped achieve the truce on April 2, then extend it in June and again in August, as “a very positive step.”
The latest extension expires in 10 days and Lenderking said all parties with an interest in peace in Yemen are looking at the way forward with the aim of reaching a permanent political solution.
“We see strong signals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the UAE, from the Sultanate of Oman,” he said. “And again, within the (five permanent members of the UN Security Council) there is a convergence of views that there is no military solution to the Yemen conflict, that there must be a process of reaching a political agreement.
“I can say that the international community is really united around seeing that the truce is expanded, and that those benefits that are accruing to the Yemenis from the truce are developed further.”
Lenderking said the US “would like to see more oil enter the market through Hodeidah port and used to power food mills, hospitals, schools and the transportation network.”
He said even the Iranian authorities, who back the Houthis, welcomed the truce “both in April and again in June.” But he added that “we need Iranian behavior to match these positive reactions to the truce,” as he called on the regime in Tehran to stop arming and training the Houthis.
The Houthis control Yemen’s western Red Sea ports, including Ras Issa, where the Safer is moored. The UN had been negotiating with the rebel group for years to gain permission for experts to examine the tanker. Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding in March, authorizing a four-month emergency operation to eliminate the immediate threat by transferring the oil on the tanker to another vessel.
“We are very keen to see an end to this potential disaster,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told Arab News on Wednesday at an event hosted by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.
“We are supporting all the initiatives by the UN … Yemen cannot afford such a disaster. It would cost Yemen directly more than $21 billion. It would damage not just the Red Sea but the effects would be harmful to the planet.”
In the longer term, the memorandum of understanding calls for replacing the Safer within 18 months with a vessel capable of safely holding a similar quantity of oil.
“We rely on the UN and the international community to make sure this plan will be implemented and to avoid any interruption that will delay the process,” Hannah Omar, from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, told Arab News.
“For us it is really important to end this catastrophe and ensure that the Red Sea is safer after this implementation.”
The Safer’s structure, equipment and operating systems have deteriorated over the years, leaving it at risk of springing a leak, exploding or catching fire. The UN has warned for years that an oil spill from it could be four times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989, which is still considered the world’s worst oil spill in terms of environmental damage.
Experts estimate a major leak could severely damage Red Sea ecosystems upon which about 30 million people depend, including 1.6 million Yemenis, according to the UN.
The emergency has been ongoing for five years, yet it was only in the spring of this year that funding pledges began to come through.
The total pledge of $14 million from the Netherlands was a significant contribution toward hitting the target for the first phase.
Marc Gerristen, director for the Middle East and North Africa at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News that delay in reaching the funding target was largely due to the fact that it took time to convince people of the need to contribute.
“It’s very complicated, of course, to raise awareness if the scope of the problem is not yet completely clear,” he said, adding that the first challenge, therefore, was to make sure everyone understood the scale and severity of the situation.
“The UN played a very important role in this,” he said. “So this is something that was a collective effort, led by the UN. But when it came to mobilizing resources, getting others on board to pledge, this started about one or two years ago.
“This is when the UN looked for a lead country and this is where we (the Netherlands) took off the gloves, so to speak, and gladly played that role.”
CAIRO: The Palestinian cause was among the topics discussed when Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, and Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, met on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
Their representatives said the two officials talked about a number of matters related to international crises, along with the latest developments in the Middle East.
A spokesperson for Aboul Gheit said the Arab League chief expressed to Guterres his appreciation of the important role the UN leader has played during the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Guterres reportedly spoke about the current situation in the Middle East and the role of the UN in Somalia, Yemen and Syria.
Aboul Gheit also highlighted the great frustration Palestinians feel as a result of the number of political obstructions to their cause. Both men agreed that the Palestinian issue remains a priority in efforts to achieve stability and prosperity in the region.
They expressed their commitment to working together as part of a coordinated approach to seek political solutions to the crises facing some countries in the region.
In a message posted on Twitter, Aboul Gheit wrote: “We agreed on the danger of ignoring the serious efforts to settle the Palestinian issue and the importance of continuing our joint work for this purpose.
“The international situation is very difficult and thorny, yet Guterres is working tirelessly on various political, environmental, developmental, and other fronts.”
Aboul Gheit also met Ian Borg, Malta’s minister of foreign and European affairs and trade on Wednesday, and congratulated him on his country earning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2023-2024. He said the Arab League is counting on Malta’s support for Arab issues on the council’s agenda during that time, especially those related to the Palestinian cause.
Last week, Aboul Gheit called on Spain to support Palestine’s bid for full membership of the UN, amid preparations for a new diplomatic drive for recognition. Palestine is currently afforded observer status by the UN. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is due to speak at the General Assembly on Sept. 23 and highlight the campaign for full membership.
A spokesperson said Abou Gheit leader had met Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares in Madrid to discuss issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations.
GAZIANTEP, Turkey: When a Syrian prison guard tossed him into a dimly lit room, the inmate Abdo was surprised to find himself standing ankle-deep in what appeared to be salt.
On that day in the winter of 2017, the terrified young man had already been locked up for two years in war-torn Syria’s largest and most notorious prison, Sednaya.
Having been largely deprived of salt all that time in his meager prison rations, he brought a handful of the coarse white crystals to his mouth with relish.
Moments later came the second, grisly, surprise: As a barefoot Abdo was treading gingerly across the room, he stumbled on a corpse, emaciated and half-buried in the salt.
Abdo soon found another two bodies, partially dehydrated by the mineral.
He had been thrown into what Syrian inmates call “salt rooms” — primitive mortuaries designed to preserve bodies in the absence of refrigerated morgues.
The corpses were being treated in a way already known to the embalmers of ancient Egypt, to keep up with the industrial-scale prison killings under President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The salt rooms are described in detail for the first time in an upcoming report by the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison, or ADMSP.
In additional research and interviews with former inmates, AFP found that at least two such salt rooms were created inside Sednaya.
Abdo, a man from Homs now aged 30 and living in eastern Lebanon, asked that his real name not be published for fear of reprisals against him and his family.
Speaking in his small rental flat in an unfinished building, he recounted the day he was thrown into the salt room, which served as his holding cell ahead of a military court hearing.
“My first thought was: May God have no mercy on them!” he said. “They have all this salt but don’t put any in our food!
“Then I stepped on something cold. It was someone’s leg.”
Up to 100,000 people have died in Syrian regime prisons since 2011, a fifth of the war’s entire death toll, according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Abdo, fortunate to have survived, described the salt room on the first floor of the red building as a rectangle of roughly six by eight meters (20 by 26 feet), with a rudimentary toilet in a corner.
“I thought this would be my fate: I would be executed and killed,” he said, recalling how he curled up in a corner, crying and reciting verses from the Qur’an.
The guard eventually returned to escort him to the court, and Abdo lived to tell the tale.
On his way out of the room, he had noticed a pile of body bags near the door.
Like tens of thousands of others, he had been jailed on blanket terrorism charges. He was released in 2020 but says the experience scarred him for life.
“This was the hardest thing I ever experienced,” he said. “My heart died in Sednaya. If someone announced the death of my brother right now, I wouldn’t feel anything.”