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Arabic press review: Morocco-Israel deal frozen until Biden's Western Sahara stance clear

Meanwhile, Egypt arrests five more journalists, a Saudi columnists ponders the new US administration, and the ICRC to distribute the vaccine
Joe Biden and King Mohammed VI have met before - but will that help the kingdom win him over with Western Sahara? (AFP)

Morocco delays implementation of Israel deal

Morocco is waiting to see Joe Biden’s position on the question of its sovereignty over Western Sahara before proceeding with the normalisation agreement with Israel, the Arabic Post reports.

According to anonymous sources, Morocco wants to see the US consulate in the desert city of Dakhla opened before it begins direct flights between Tel Aviv and Casablanca and other elements of the deal.

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The sources pointed out that the joint declaration between Morocco, the US and Israel stipulated that each party would fully implement its obligations before the end of January 2021.

However, Israel has not opened liaison offices in Morocco, no direct flights between the two parties were resumed, and the United States’ consulate has not been inaugurated.

The deal was brokered by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in return for US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara. Sahrawi political representatives have demanded a referendum on independence based on UN resolutions.

Biden has not made his view on the matter clear.

Saudi journalist: Goodbye Trump, hello Biden!

As Donald Trump’s Gulf Arab allies wonder how the new administration will treat them, prominent Saudi journalist Abdulrahman al-Rashed has openly asked questions many others are thinking.

Writing in Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat under the headline “Goodbye Trump, hello Biden!”, Rashed noted many of the new administration's faces were known from Barack Obama’s time in office - though he said that does not mean that the new president will follow the same policies.

'Returning to the point that Obama established is almost impossible'

- Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, Saudi journalist

Obama’s relations with Saudi Arabia and its allies were notoriously frosty.

"Obama failed during his mandate in marketing his policy, specifically due to forcing the Arab Gulf states and Israel to maintain relations with Iran,” Rashed wrote.

“Then Trump came and besieged Iran's arms, and destroyed its financial and economic capabilities. Therefore, returning to the point that Obama established is almost impossible."

Egyptian authorities arrest five journalists

Egypt’s interior ministry announced on Thursday that five Egyptian journalists working for the German ARD TV channel had been arrested in Cairo over accusations they were spreading rumours against the government, London-based daily Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reports.

Pro-government media quoted security sources as saying that the security services in Egypt accused the German TV channel of receiving "Qatari and Turkish funding to launch a smear campaign against Egypt".

The interior ministry said in an official statement that "the security services were able to strike the Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist elements and their allies abroad following the seizure of a network of digital media cells in downtown Cairo, run by five persons and headed by a Turkish citizen."

The ministry added that the group was preparing "negative reports containing fake and fabricated information about political, economic, security and human rights conditions in Egypt”.

The ministry continued: "The cells were set up by the Muslim Brotherhood with the support of Turkey to produce misleading negative reports on the situation in Egypt and send it to the headquarters of the Anadolu Agency in Turkey in order to discredit the image of the country at home and abroad.”

The charges are typical for those levelled against journalists in Egypt. Since taking power in a 2013 military coup, President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi’s government has put an estimated 60,000 political prisoners behind bars, including journalists, activists and human rights lawyers.

Red Cross 'prepared to distribute coronavirus vaccine’

The spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Middle East said the organisation is ready to assume its role in "the process of providing the coronavirus vaccine to vulnerable and marginalised groups near fighting front lines, camps and detention centres".

Sarah al-Zawqary stressed in an exclusive interview with news site Arabi21 the necessity to ensure that people affected by conflict and violence receive the vaccine equitably and fairly.

'People living in conflict and war zones should enjoy the same rights and access to the vaccine as others'

- Sarah al-Zawqary, ICRC

"People living in conflict and war zones should enjoy the same rights and access to the vaccine as others.

"We are therefore ready to provide our services as a neutral mediator to ensure that they receive the vaccine, especially in light of the enormous humanitarian needs,” she said.

Zawqary stressed that "at a time when many details worldwide, such as movement, trade and travel have been suspended to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, the war has not stopped in many conflict zones.

"Fighting and clashes are still taking place in Syria, Yemen, Libya and other places, hospitals are still receiving the wounded, and people are being displaced, which increases their exposure to the virus.”