US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK release joint statement urging ‘diplomatic solutions’ on Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Mohamed ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in Abu Dhabi on June 24, 2019. US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly called for “diplomatic solutions” to ease soaring tensions with Iran. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2019
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US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK release joint statement urging ‘diplomatic solutions’ on Iran

  • Statement released by the US on Monday as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabian and Emirati leaders
  • ‘We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions’

LONDON: The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly called for “diplomatic solutions” to ease soaring tensions with Iran.
“We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions,” said the statement released by the US on Monday as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabian and Emirati leaders.
The four countries renewed concern about an attack by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia and recent sabotage of ships which Washington blamed on Iran.
“These attacks threaten the international waterways that we all rely on for shipping. Ships and their crews must be allowed to pass through international waters safely,” the four countries said of the Gulf incidents.
“We further note with concern the recent escalation in Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia using Iranian made and facilitated missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. In particular, we condemn the Houthi attack on Abha civilian airport on 12 June, which injured 26 civilians.
“We express full support for Saudi Arabia and call for an immediate end to such attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said it is very concerned about the impact that tensions in the Middle East may have on global energy security and will act if there is any physical disruption to supplies, its executive director said on Monday.
Oil prices rose on Monday, extending large gains last week that were prompted by tensions between the United States and Iran, although concerns about the possibility of weakening demand kept a lid on gains.
Strong growth in the price of US shale oil has also contained stronger increases, the IEA’s Fatih Birol added on Monday.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely and are very worried. In case of physical disruption, we are ready to act in an appropriate way,” Birol told a news conference at the IEA’s annual energy efficiency conference in Dublin.
Last week, benchmark Brent crude climbed 5 percent and US crude surged 10 percent after Iran shot down the US drone.
Iran denies any role in the tanker attacks.
Birol said earlier this month that the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which stoked concern of reduced flows of crude on one of the world’s key shipping routes, threatened global energy security.
However on Monday he cited the strength of US shale oil prices for supporting the market, similar to the buffer it provided through US sanctions imposed on oil exporters Iran and Venezuela.
“This would definitely have bad implications for the global economy but despite those attacks, we have not seen a major impact on the prices and the main reason is United States shale oil prices are growing so strongly that there is a lot of oil in the markets now,” he said.
“It provides a ceiling on the price hikes which is very good news for consumers around the world.”


Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, the Olypmpia swimmer, escaped conflict in her homeland. A year later she famously competed at the Rio Olympics. (Photo/UNHCR)
Updated 22 July 2019
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Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

  • The 21-year-old girl almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago

GWANGJU/SOUTH KOREA: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago, heaved a deep sigh after failing to set a personal best at the world swimming championships on Sunday.

Representing FINA’s independent athletes team, the 21-year-old looked up at the giant scoreboard and winced at her time of 1 minute 8.79 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly heats in South Korea.
“I’m not very happy actually,” Mardini told AFP.
“I had some problems with my shoulder but I’m back in training. I still have the 100m freestyle and I’m looking forward to that.”
Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall, but she has come a long way since risking her life crossing from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos in the summer of 2015.
Refugee swimmer Mardini knows what she is talking about when it comes to family separation for asylum seekers.
In 2015, she and her sister Sarah had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.
They then embarked on an overland trip from Greece to Germany, evading local authorities in countries with immigration policies that barred them from legal entry. Along the way the sisters slept in train stations or wherever they could find shelter.
Mardini empathizes with families currently separated along the US southern border.
“This is the most terrible thing anyone can have — to live without a mom or to live without a family,” she said on Sunday at the world swimming championships where she’s competing as an independent athlete.
“I arrived in Greece in only jeans and a T-shirt,” said Mardini, who also swims in the 100m freestyle later this week. “Even my shoes were gone.”
“In the beginning I refused to be in a refugee team because I was afraid people would think I got the chance because of my story,” said Mardini, who now lives with her family in Berlin.
“I wanted to earn it. But then I realized I had a big opportunity to represent those people — so I took the chance and I never regretted it,” she added.
Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She famously competed at the Rio Olympics a year later under the refugee flag.

FASTFACT

• In 2015, she and her sister had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.

• Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Rio was amazing. It was really exciting to see the reaction of people to the team. Now I’m representing millions of displaced people around the world and it really makes me proud.”
It is a far cry from life back in Syria, where rocket strikes would often shake the pool she trained at in Damascus.
“There were bomb attacks sometimes that would crack the windows around the pool,” said Mardini, who has addressed the UN General Assembly and whose story is set to be told in a Hollywood movie.
“I know people who lost their moms on the way or in the water — that got drowned — and I feel this is terrible,” she said.
Mardini said that from the time she left Syria she lived without her mother for six months. Eventually, they were reunited in Germany, where they now live in Berlin. “I felt so alone,” she said. “So lonely.”
The experience has prompted her to stand up for fellow asylum seekers in similar situations.
“Someone has to do something about it,” Mardini said. “The least we can do is talk about it, not just ignore it like everything else happening in the world.”
Mardini finished 47th out of 52 swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly heats on Sunday. Her other event in Gwangju is the 100 freestyle on Thursday.
She is attempting to again qualify for the Olympics as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team.
“My goal now is just to swim a new personal best,” she said. “And my next goal will be Tokyo 2020.”
Fellow Syrian Ayman Kelzieh was also forced to flee the country before competing at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Returning to Korea five years later, the 26-year-old now owns a fistful of national swim records, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.
“When the war started I had just moved to Damascus and I couldn’t get back home to Aleppo,” said Kelzieh, who now lives on the Thai island of Phuket.
“But even in Damascus bombs sometimes even went off at the swimming pool we trained at,” he added after taking a poolside selfie with his idol, South African star Chad le Clos.
“There were even attacks at the hotel I stayed in — I was lucky.”