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22:06, 26 June 2017 Monday
Update: 10:09, 07 August 2012 Tuesday

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Rafah border closing halts umrah plans of Palestinians
Rafah border closing halts umrah plans of Palestinians
(AA)

Mahir Abu Soubha, who is in charge at the border gate on Gaza strip side, told Anadolu Agency that around 850 Palestinians had been expected to cross the border for umrah pray.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Closing of Rafah Crossing is leaving Palestinians, who want to travel to Mecca for umrah pray, in difficult situations.

Egypt's Rafah crossing is closed indefinitely after an attack on the Egyptian-Israeli border post at the weekend and 16 soldiers had been killed during the attack.

Mahir Abu Soubha, who is in charge at the border gate on Gaza strip side, told Anadolu Agency that around 850 Palestinians had been expected to cross the border for umrah pray.

"Because of delays at the border gate, Palestinians' visas for umrah are getting expired. Closing of the border gate by Egypt due to security reasons is not a surprise for Palestinians. We are expecting that the border gate will be re-open in a couple of days time," said Soubha.

The umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. It is sometimes called the 'minor pilgrimage' or 'lesser pilgrimage', the Hajj being the 'major' pilgrimage and which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

 



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.