Saudi Arabia to allocate $1.5 billion for Iraq reconstruction, trade

Iraq says it will need more than $88 billion to rebuild the country, after more than three years of devastating conflict with Daesh. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2018

Saudi Arabia to allocate $1.5 billion for Iraq reconstruction, trade

KUWAIT CITY: Saudi Arabia allocated $1.5 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq as foreign donors pledged billions of dollars at a conference in Kuwait on Wednesday. 
The pledge from Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir included a $1 billion loan through the Saudi Fund for Development and $500 million in export credit. 
Kuwait said it would provide $1 billion in loans from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and $1 billion in direct investments. 
Turkey said it would give Iraq $5 billion in credit lines and Qatar announced $1 billion in loans and investments. 
The United Arab Emirates pledged $500 million for rebuilding, Germany said it would provide $350 million in assistance and Britain pledged up to $1 billion annually in export credit over 10 years.
Iraq said it needs $88 billion to rebuild areas of the country decimated by the Daesh occupation and the battle to defeat the extremists.
“Our meeting today is a continuation to our pursuits to counter and combat terrorism and counter the dangers and challengers it brings,” the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, said. 
“The stability and security of Iraq means the stability and security of Kuwait and the whole region.”
The donations on the third day of the conference still fell far short of the overall figure required by Iraq to rebuild.
Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion needs to go toward rebuilding homes. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
“We look at the future of Iraq with confidence…we are determined to succeed to create the inclusiveness (of the Iraqi people) despite the challenges that we face today and will face in the future,” Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Iraqi people were finally united for a common purpose, which is the defeat of Daesh and the rise of a new Iraq.
“Despite years of conflict, there is still a common identity that binds together the people of Iraq,” she said.
“We have to ensure that the dark days of Iraq are gone for good. Investing in infrastructure is essential, so is investing in human capital.”
Mogherini said the European Union aid would go towards humanitarian development and stabilization.
Millions of Iraqis have returned to their homes to rebuild their lives, but 2.5 million remained displaced, according to the UN.
UN Secretary General, António Guterres, on Wednesday launched a program focussed on revitalizing areas of Iraq most at risk of violence and supporting an inclusive political process.
“Iraqis are building a new Iraq,” Guterres said. “An Iraq that is ready for wide-ranging reforms, including to its public finance and security sectors. The UN system will do its part and stand with you every step of the way.”
Other pledges came from Japan, which said it would contribute $100 million this year through UN agencies and international organisations. Daesh seized large areas of north and west Iraq in 2014. Baghdad finally announced the extremist’s defeat in December.
Cities like Mosul and Ramadi suffered the worst destruction during the group’s violent occupation. Extensive damage was also done to the country’s infrastructure, including the oil and gas sectors.

(With AP and Reuters)

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 43 min 58 sec ago

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”