Morning briefing: 11 Oct 2012

Turkey detains Syrian passenger plane plus other stories


Turkey scrambled fighters and briefly detained a Syrian passenger plane on Wednesday, suspecting it of carrying military equipment from Moscow, while Turkey's military chief warned of a more forceful response if shelling continued to spill over the border.

Military jets escorted the Damascus-bound Airbus A-320, carrying around 30 passengers, into the airport in Ankara hours after Turkey's chief of staff said his troops would respond with greater force if bombardments from Syria kept hitting Turkish territory, Turkish state-run television said.

"We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians. It is unacceptable that such a transfer is made using our airspace," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

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Jordan's King Abdullah appointed reformist politician Abdullah Ensour as Prime Minister on Wednesday to prepare for the country's first post-Arab Spring parliamentary election, due by early next year, a palace statement said.

The monarch had dissolved Jordan's tribally dominated parliament last week, half-way through its four-year term, paving the way for the election that should be held within four months under constitutional reforms enacted last year.

US- and French-educated Ensour, who replaces Fayez al-Tarawneh, another veteran politician, has a long career as a lawmaker and has held senior government posts in successive administrations.

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Straddling one of the world's great sea routes, the Suez Canal corridor is set to become a bridge connecting Africa with Asia if a grand plan by Egypt's new government comes to fruition.

President Mohamed Morsi's administration is reviving and expanding a series of projects initiated in the late 1990s under former President Hosni Mubarak to turn the banks of the Suez Canal into a world trading and industrial centre, hoping it will earn billions of dollars and address a growing unemployment crisis.

The plan aims to transform the corridor along the 100-mile length of the canal from an area of mostly flat, empty desert into a major world economic zone.

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Sudan and South Sudan have pledged to work together to rebuild their shattered economies and not to return to war in a joint plea for foreign investment, weeks after signing a critical trade and border agreement.

In their first high-profile appearance together since signing the deals, ministers from the two countries told an investment conference in Vienna they would work to make peace.

"I assure you … we are committed, both countries, not to go back to war. We are committed to talk and talk and talk," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said.

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Morocco has delayed its maiden dollar bond sale to end-November pending market stability, the budget minister said in published remarks on Wednesday, but banks have already been mandated for an issue that may exceed the initial $1 billion mark.

The delay's announcement, carried by L'Economiste newspaper, comes amid speculation King Mohammed would soon make a rare official tour of the Gulf Arab region from where Rabat hopes to raise a substantial share of the issue.

Initially estimated at $700 million-$1 billion, the cash-strapped country now says it may go for more.

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Iraq awarded CH2M Hill a $170 million consultancy contract for a plan to inject water into southern oil fields to help further boost crude production, according to South Oil Co. Director General Dhia Jaafar.

Iraq’s crude production will rise to as much as 6 million barrels a day in 2015 and 10 million barrels a day by 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in a news conference in Baghdad today. That’s a more optimistic outlook than the International Energy Agency which said yesterday that Iraq may produce as much as 6.1 million barrels a day by 2020 and 8.3 million barrels a day by 2035.

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And finally…

Smokers of the hubble-bubble water pipe have until Saturday to indulge their fondness for sweet flavoured tobacco in Jeddah's cafes as the Saudi city prepares to enforce a public ban on the habit.

A law against smoking the pipes, known in Arabic as shisha, in public places has been in place for years in some other Saudi cities, but it is only now being implemented in Jeddah, which is known as more socially liberal than the capital Riyadh.

"It's a big problem for our cafe. More than 80 percent of our customers come to smoke shisha. Now they complain as soon as they walk through the door when we say we won't have shisha," said Ghassan Mohammed Mansour, the manager of Jeddah's upscale Caffe Aroma in a phone interview.

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