Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Austrian FM to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt: Saudi Arabia Is a Key Strategic Partner

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
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Austrian FM to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt: Saudi Arabia Is a Key Strategic Partner

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg underscored joint efforts between Riyadh and Vienna to ease tensions in the Middle East and highlighted the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“The region can’t handle more escalation. In my meetings with Arab partners, like Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, whom I’ve met twice in recent weeks, our aim has been clear: to stop this cycle of violence,” said Schallenberg.

Speaking to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, the top diplomat voiced serious concern about the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is getting worse by the day.

“The suffering there demands action. We must do all we can to help and protect Palestinian civilians,” affirmed Schallenberg, adding that while Israel has the “right to defend itself against Hamas, it must avoid harming innocent people.”

“Israel must do more, and its army must clearly distinguish between military and civilian targets,” stressed the minister.

“Calls to expel Palestinians from Gaza are not the answer. What's urgently needed is a humanitarian ceasefire to deliver essential aid—food, water, and medical supplies,” he explained.

“The Israeli government needs to come up with a credible plan to protect civilians in southern Gaza. I'll push for this during my visit to the region,” said Schallenberg.

He faulted Israel’s double standard when it comes to Palestinians and emphasized that Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law.

“I see no justification for applying double standards to the suffering of civilians. There is no hierarchy of humanitarian suffering, and we must not forget that over 130 hostages remain held in Gaza for nearly five months, including an Austrian father of two,” said Schallenberg.

He also held the Palestinian group Hamas responsible for recent escalations.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization, aiming for destruction, fear, suffering, and misery in both Israel and Gaza itself. Their trade is death, including their trade with innocent Palestinians, men, women, and children,” said Schallenberg.

As for condemning violence by Israeli settlers, the minister said: “Settlements in the West Bank are in violation of international law. The violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable.”

“In fact, I strongly support imposing sanctions on extremist Israeli settlers, and I've made this clear from the outset,” he added.

Regarding Austria’s pause in funding for UNRWA, Schallenberg insisted on a thorough investigation into the allegations against the agency.

“Allegations about UNRWA staff involvement in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 are deeply troubling,” he stated.

“We’re urging full transparency from UNRWA and the UN. As Austrians, we have a special tie to the UN, hosting one of its headquarters in Vienna. However, we need an independent investigation into these allegations.”

While Austria temporarily stopped funding the relief agency, it hasn’t withdrawn funds entirely and has provided additional humanitarian aid to Gaza and the region since October, he clarified.

“Austria continues to support civilians in Gaza through other international relief organizations such as the World Food Program and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,” reassured Schallenberg.

“To alleviate humanitarian suffering, Austria has provided an additional 13 million euros in humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and the region since Oct. 7,” he affirmed.

Turning to bilateral ties, Schallenberg underscored Saudi Arabia’s importance as a partner for Austria, citing economic opportunities, especially in renewable energy.

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner for Austria, and I value our strong relations, especially in politics and economics,” said Schallenberg.

“Economically, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 offers intriguing opportunities for Austrian institutions and companies, particularly in renewable energy.”

“Austria brings years of experience and boasts several reputable companies in this field, strengthening the ties between our nations.”

“In 2023, Austria welcomed nearly 200,000 Saudi tourists, while the Austrian Embassy in Riyadh actively promotes bilateral cultural exchange through various projects with Saudi and European partners in the Kingdom.”

Schallenberg also welcomed the resumption of archaeological missions from Vienna University in Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk region.

When asked about recent meetings between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union (EU), Schallenberg noted: “These regular ministerial meetings aim to strengthen, coordinate, and expand strategic cooperation between the European Union and the Gulf countries.”

“Our partnership covers various areas of mutual interest such as trade, energy, and green transition. Last year’s meeting in Muscat, immediately after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, was particularly noteworthy, given the exceptional circumstances.”

“However, both the Gulf states and Europe demonstrated a commitment to reviving the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

“We all want a stable and prosperous Middle East, which also includes the continuation of normalization between Arab countries and Israel, of course,” noted the minister.

Schallenberg also criticized the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, warning of their impact on global trade. He emphasized the need for all stakeholders to engage in dialogue, including Saudi Arabia, to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Regarding Donald Trump’s comments on NATO aid to EU countries, Schallenberg stressed the importance of strong partnerships for the US to address Russian aggression.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Siddiq al-Mahdi: Sudanese Public Unites on Need to End War

Secretary-General of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), Siddiq al-Mahdi (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
Secretary-General of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), Siddiq al-Mahdi (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
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Siddiq al-Mahdi: Sudanese Public Unites on Need to End War

Secretary-General of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), Siddiq al-Mahdi (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
Secretary-General of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), Siddiq al-Mahdi (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

Siddiq al-Mahdi, Secretary-General of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), stressed the urgent need for humanitarian aid to Sudanese citizens suffering from the ongoing conflict.

In an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt in Addis Ababa, al-Mahdi criticized the National Congress Party for manipulating its alliance with the military to advance its political goals.

Al-Mahdi said he would only engage in the political process if the party ends its connection with the military and security forces.

He highlighted a growing recognition of the need to end the war, noting a shift away from military solutions as a positive sign of Sudanese public opinion converging on the need for peace.

The Taqaddum official said this change has reduced support for the war and increased regional and international calls for its end.

Al-Mahdi warned that the war has caused a severe humanitarian crisis and poses threats to the region, neighboring countries, the Horn of Africa, and Red Sea security.

“The need to stop the war is now urgent, and we must act on this,” he said.

He praised international efforts, including the Paris and Cairo conferences and the UN's attempts to bring the warring sides together in Geneva for aid and protection.

Al-Mahdi also revealed that his coalition had proposed a plan to the military and Rapid Support Forces, focusing on humanitarian aid, political arrangements to end the war, and a transition to civilian democracy.

He stressed that the humanitarian situation cannot wait for the war to end.

“Providing aid and protecting citizens are urgent priorities. We need to act now to deliver aid, even before the war ends,” he said.

He noted that the best approach involves coordinating initiatives from various platforms, including Jeddah, IGAD, and its key member states Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, the African Union, and the United Nations.

Al-Mahdi emphasized that all these entities are working on humanitarian and peace efforts.

He stated that any alignment among mediators, conflict parties, and civil components is viewed by Taqaddum as a comprehensive process for achieving peace.