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News - Egypt News

Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-28 09:31:17
The continuing expansion of Egypt’s Suez Canal risks causing serious harm to marine lifeforms and economic activity in the Mediterranean Sea, scientists warn. Egypt is building a second “lane” to the Suez canal, as well as widening the existing channel, in an “ominous” scheme scientists fear could allow greater numbers of non-indigenous species to enter the Mediterranean and endanger the native ecosystem. “The enlargement of the canal will increase the number of invasions from the Red Sea resulting in a diverse range of harmful effects on the ecosystem structure and functioning of the whole Mediterranean sea, with implications to services it provides for humans,” Bella Galil, a marine biologist at Israel’s National Institute of Oceanography, told the Guardian. Writing in the Biological Invasions academic journal, Galil and 17 colleagues accept that the expansion will go ahead despite their concerns, and acknowledge that the revenues from an enlarged canal are likely to bring Egypt a much needed economic boost. But they ask Egypt to first conduct an impact assessment to determine the project’s likely environmental footprint, and any preventive measures to mitigate the dangers ultrasound, and increased salinity in certain parts of the canal. There are about 700 non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean, according to the scientists, about 350 of which have entered from the Suez Canal since its construction in the late 19th century. Some of these species “are noxious, poisonous, or venomous and pose clear threats to human health”, while others have destroyed the habitats of local creatures. Among the most destructive recent entrants from the Suez is the silver-cheeked pufferfish, a non-native fish containing toxic chemicals that has caused several people to be treated in hospital in the eastern Mediterranean in the past 10 years. Two kinds of herbivorous rabbit-fish – the dusty spine-foot and its cousin the marbled spine-foot – have destroyed vast swaths of underwater seaweed forests in the eastern Mediterranean, after migrating through the Suez in recent decades. Perhaps the most dangerous newcomer is the nomad jellyfish, or Rhopilema nomadica. Once only found in tropical waters, the nomad jellyfish invaded the Mediterranean via the Suez in the 1970s. Now its vast swarms, which can measure tens of miles in width, frequently make commercial fishing impossible and have sometimes closed tourist beaches lining the Mediterranean for days at a time. “This isn’t just about the effect on other species,” said Stefano Piraino, a jellyfish expert at the University of Salento, and one of the 18 signatories. “We’re talking about a threat to human life and human activity, including tourism, agriculture, and fisheries.” Some of the jellyfish have temporarily disabled power stations lining the eastern Mediterranean, after the swarms became stuck in the stations’ seawater-powered cooling systems. Nearby fishermen have found their catches ruined for similar reasons. “Jellyfish can be 90% of the catch – and the remaining fish are very damaged, so the value of the fish is greatly reduced,” said Piraino. This year, researchers at the university of East Anglia estimated that jellyfish from the Suez would cost fishermen in the northern Adriatic sea – which is only a small part of the Mediterranean – €8.2m (£6.5m) in financial losses. The 18 scientists have called on signatories to the Convention of Biological Diversity, a UN-organised pledge to conserve the world’s ecosystems, to press Egypt to conduct an impact assessment into the environmental effects of the canal expansion. Responding to the call, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the convention on biological diversity, acknowledged the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of the Suez expansion, and asked Egypt to implement an environmental assessment. “We trust that, as party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Egypt will adhere to its obligations,” Dias told the Guardian. Construction of the bypass, dubbed the “new Suez canal” by the Egyptian government, began in August. It will allow two-way traffic for 45 miles of the canal’s 120-mile length, creating room for more ships, and potentially more revenue for cash-strapped Egypt. The project has been warmly received by many Egyptians, who contributed 80% of the 64bn Egyptian pounds (£5.6bn) raised to build the new canal, after the government promised them a 12% annual yield on their investment. Criticism of the project is seen as unpatriotic, with some local newspapers calling it “the project of the century” and comparing it to Egypt’s surprise attack on Israel in 1973 – one of the proudest moments in modern Egyptian history. But it has come under fire from thousands of locals whose homes have been destroyed by the construction work. Senior representatives for the Suez Canal Authority did not respond to two written requests for comment or answer their phones. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-28 08:58:37
With the world's attention focused on perennial Middle East hotspots like Iraq and Syria, foreign policy experts warn that Egypt bears watching, especially as the Trump administration is struggling to craft a coherent policy to stabilise the region. Recently, a series of violent incidents targeting Egypt's minorities has underscored what regional observers say is a fragile social fabric that could easily tear as civil strife and terrorism rear their head. As the most populous country in the Middle East, Egypt is also a longtime U.S. ally — and a strategically important nation in the region that receives more than $1 billion a year in military financing. In April and May, bombings by the Islamic State (ISIS) targeting Coptic Christians drove home the plight of one of the oldest religious groups in the Mideast. The minority group comprises about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people, a number that has steadily dwindled in recent years in the face of systemic violence. The plight of Coptics has amplified the stakes for Egypt — home to the Suez Canal, a major hub of maritime activity and more than 7 percent of the world's seafaring trade — and regional security. The country is seen fighting a war against extremism on multiple fronts, and analysts broadly agree the U.S. is key to helping to prevent Egypt from slipping into calamity. Mirette Mabrouk, deputy director at the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, told CNBC recently that a destabilised Egypt would be "disastrous for the entire region. The consequences would be horrific for the important military institutions, financial institutions and the Suez Canal." Beset by Islamic State radicals and its own battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt "has seen extremist violence increase," said Allison McManus, research director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, to CNBC recently. Along with her colleague Amr Kotb, McManus writes a quarterly synopsis of Egypt's security issues. "The average monthly rate of terror attacks nationwide more than doubled from 2013 to 2016, with increased sectarian attacks and targeting of civilians," McManus added. In a region where security is deteriorating because of conflicts in neighboring countries, Egypt's own tenuous control over extremism matters for U.S. policy, experts warn. A destabilised Egypt could become a magnet for jihadi groups, creating new policy headaches for American objectives in the region. "The U.S. relies on a stable Egypt for a wide range of priorities, as Egypt is a fulcrum for regional stability given its strategic location and size," Kotb told CNBC, who warned of a regional domino effect should the country be overrun by Islamic fundamentalists. "As far as many U.S. policymakers are concerned, continued U.S. engagement in Egypt today is a byproduct of the belief that if Egypt falls, so will the rest of the region," he added. 'Fight these destabilising elements' As part of a crackdown on extremism in the country, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has come under intense scrutiny from human rights advocates. A few experts argue that the encroachment of ISIS in the country and the region calls for a tough response. "With ISIS branches operating in Sinai, I think it's about time for the U.S. to extend its support to [Egyptian] President Sisi's efforts to fight these destabilising elements," said Sasha Toperich, senior fellow and director of the Mediterranean Basin Initiative at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Transatlantic Relations. The interests of Egypt and the U.S. commingle in various ways, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Egypt has positioned itself as an honest broker in negotiations in the long-running conflict, and is a linchpin in efforts to choke off the smuggling of weapons to the terrorist group Hamas, Toperich added. Analysts also say that strong military ties between the U.S. and Egypt are key to projecting American power in the region and boosting Egyptian security. The country plays host to Operation Bright Star — the largest U.S. military exercise in the world that takes place every two years. The last scheduled operation was in 2009, four years before former President Barack Obama canceled the event in protest over Egypt cracking down on demonstrators. The one set for 2011 was postponed by the revolution. Bright Star is expected to resume under President Donald Trump. Yet a number of Egypt watchers believe the path to peace runs through Egypt, and the U.S. should do more to strengthen the country in the face of global terror, including the provision of more military assistance. "The reality is that much more must happen ... in order to combat sectarianism in the country, and it is important that United States officials continue to insist on this fact publicly and in private," said the Tahrir Institute's Kotb. "A re-examination of America's relationship with Egypt, particularly with regard to funding, is long overdue ... the country is dealing with a real insurgency in North Sinai, one which the security assistance package has failed to properly equip the Egyptians to combat," he added. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-28 07:22:24
Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has given government ministers a date of 1 July to start implementing a range of economic and social-security measures to lessen the economic burden on the average citizen, state-run news agency MENA reported on Monday. The new policies are designed to lessen the impact of consumer inflation, which has seen a sharp increase in the monthly grocery bill of the average Egyptian. The measures include monthly food subsidies being more than doubled for those using subsidy cards, rising from 21 pounds to 50 pounds per person, an increase of 140 percent. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-22 07:05:04
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reiterated in a speech on Wednesday his position that reforming religious discourse is a key element in defeating terrorism. The president said during an Al-Azhar ceremony celebrating Ramadan's Laylat Al-Qadr that four things need to be achieved defeat terrorism; renewing religious discourse, dealing with all terrorist groups equally, rebuilding regional states and their apparatuses, and cutting off funding to terrorist groups. El-Sisi added that standing up to countries that support terrorism is essential to defeating the phenomenon. The president also spoke of efforts undertaken by Egypt to defeat terrorism including pushing for peaceful resolutions to regional conflicts, which create an environment that breeds terrorism. Sisi condemned countries in the region that support and fund terrorism and give terrorist groups access to media outlets. "I say to such countries; enough, and let us agree to unite and cooperate for the interests of our nations," he added. Sisi's statements come amid a severing by Egypt and several Gulf countries of diplomatic ties with Qatar over what they say is the country’s support of terrorist groups, which Doha denies. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-21 12:23:25
Egypt's top constitutional court has ruled to suspend all verdicts on an islands transfer deal with Saudi Arabia until it makes a decision on the constitutionality of the agreement, state media said Wednesday. The ruling came a week after Egypt's parliament backed plans to hand over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia under an accord that has attracted widespread public criticism. Parliamentary leaders and government lawyers say the House of Representatives is the only entity allowed to rule on matters of sovereignty, but it has been opposed by one court. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi must still ratify the agreement. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-21 12:28:48
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called Wednesday morning Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohamed bin Salman to congratulate him on his fresh appointment as the Gulf country's new crown prince, a statement by the President's office read. According to the statement, Sisi wished Mohamed bin Salman luck, and for Saudi Arabia to witness more progress and prosperity under the leadership of King Salman bin AbdulAziz. On Wednesday, a Saudi royal decree was issued to relieve Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from his post and replace him with Mohamed bin Salman. Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, now becomes deputy prime minister and retains his defence and other portfolios. Al Arabiya news network reported that the promotion of the prince was approved by the kingdom's Allegiance Council, and that the king had called for a public pledging of loyalty to the new crown prince Wednesday evening in Mecca. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-21 07:38:48
Egypt is more than doubling monthly food subsidies to 50 Egyptian pounds per person from 21 pounds now, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Tuesday. Egypt has been hit by soaring inflation since it floated its pound currency in November, leading it to halve in value, and has said it plans to shield its poorest citizens from the effects of austerity measures aimed at reforming its economy. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-21 06:57:48
Egypt's Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb met on Monday with Egypt’s Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II, as the latter offered felicitations to the sheikh and to all Muslims on Eid al-Fitr, which starts next week. Tayyeb thanked Tawadros for the felicitations and said the visit embodies the good ties between Al-Azhar and the church; describing the visit as an expression of love and unity among Muslims and Copts. Meanwhile, Tawadros said that both Muslims and Copts are living on the same land and that ties between Al-Azhar and the church are a unique example of coexistence among the people. Tayyeb also received a number of Evangelical figures in Egypt who came to offer felicitations. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-20 10:56:06
Egypt's parliament has voted to increase the minimum income tax threshold to 7,200 Egyptian pounds ($400) a year from 6,500 pounds and gave tax breaks to the first three brackets. Self-employed people or those working in trade or industry making 7,200 pounds a year or less would not be taxed on income. Public and private sector employees making up to 14,200 pounds would be exempt, up from 13,500 previously. Those in the income tax bracket making between 7,200 - 30,000 pounds a year and who would normally pay a 10 percent income tax will get an 80 percent tax break, meaning they pay 20 percent of taxes they would normally pay. The 30-45,000 pound bracket, which is taxed at 15 percent, will get a 40 percent tax break. The 45-200,000 pound a year bracket, taxed at 20 percent, will get a 5 percent tax break. Egyptians making more than 200,000 pounds a year who get taxed at 22.5 percent will pay their full income tax. The measures must be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a formality, before they take effect. Around 15 million families will benefit from the measures, which the government hopes will alleviate some of the effects of recent austerity. Egypt's economy has been struggling since a 2011 uprising drove foreign investors and tourists away, but the government hopes a $12 billion International Monetary Fund lending program signed last year will put it on the road to recovery. The central bank floated the pound currency last November, as part of economic reforms agreed with the IMF which also included fuel subsidy cuts. The pound's value has halved since then and inflation is at record highs. The government approved a social security package worth 43 billion pounds for the 2017-18 fiscal year beginning in July, including a 15 percent rise for pensioners and a 14-20 percent rise in salaries, Finance Minister Amr el-Garhy said last month. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-06-20 10:36:18
The leaders of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have agreed Monday on the need to join forces in fight against terror funding as the tensions in the Gulf region remain high. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi confirmed Monday the need for a joint fight against terror funding amid the diplomatic rift with Qatar over respective allegations, Sisi’s office said in a statement. "The sides confirmed the importance of the necessity to join efforts of all Arab states and the international community in the fight against terrorism at all levels, particularly [with regard to] halting terror groups’ funding and providing them with political and information support," the statement said in the follow-up to the talks between Sisi and Al Nahyan, who arrived in Cairo earlier in the day. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Doha and set blockade, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and interfering in their internal affairs. Later, the Maldives, Mauritius, and Mauritania also announced the severance of diplomatic relations. Jordan and Djibouti reduced the level of their diplomatic missions in Qatar. Senegal, Niger and Chad announced the withdrawal of ambassadors. More»