Kuwait emir urges Yemen foes to press on with peace talks

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi (C) speaks to the press at the Yemeni embassy in Kuwait City on Tuesday. Yemen's government threatened to quit peace talks with Iran-backed rebels, giving the UN envoy a "last chance" to make them comply with UN resolutions. (AFP / Yasser Al-Zayyat)
Updated 04 August 2016

Kuwait emir urges Yemen foes to press on with peace talks

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s emir on Wednesday urged Yemen’s warring parties to press ahead with peace talks, a day after the government delegation threatened to pull out of the UN-brokered negotiations.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the talks, called on the two sides to continue negotiating to “reach positive results,” the official KUNA news agency reported.
The appeal came after the emir met separately with the two delegations and the UN envoy, in an attempt to salvage the talks that began four weeks ago.
Senior officials from Kuwait have repeatedly mediated and sought to prevent the collapse of the negotiations aimed at ending nearly 14 months of bloodshed.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek Al-Mikhlafi, who heads the government delegation, threatened on Tuesday to quit the talks with Iran-backed rebels, giving the UN envoy a “last chance” to make them comply with UN resolutions.
He said the rebels should acknowledge their respect to UN Security Council Resolution 2216 which demands the insurgents withdraw from areas they occupied since 2014 and surrender arms.
The United Nations estimates that more than 6,400 people have been killed and 2.8 million displaced in Yemen since March last year.


Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

Updated 06 June 2020

Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

  • Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • The UN food agency said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items

BEIRUT: Syria’s pound hit record lows on the black market Saturday trading at over 2,300 to the dollar, less than a third of its official value, traders said, ahead of new US sanctions.
Three traders in Damascus told AFP by phone that the dollar bought more than 2,300 Syrian pounds for the first time, though the official exchange rate remained fixed at around 700 pounds to the greenback.
After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon.
Last month, the central bank warned it would clamp down on currency “manipulators.”
Analysts said concerns over the June 17 implementation of the US Caesar Act, which aims to sanction foreign persons who assist the Syrian government or help in post-war reconstruction, also contributed to the de fact devaluation.
Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, said foreign companies — including from regime ally Russia — were already opting not to take any risks.
With money transactions requiring two to three weeks to implement, “today’s transactions will be paid after June 17,” he said.
Heiko Wimmen, Syria project director at the conflict tracker Crisis Group, said that with the act coming into force, “doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky.”
Both analysts said the fall from grace of top business tycoon Rami Makhlouf despite being a cousin of the president was also affecting confidence.
“The Makhlouf saga is spooking the rich,” Wimmen said.
After the Damascus government froze assets of the head of the country’s largest mobile phone operator and slapped a travel ban on him, the wealthy feel “nobody is safe,” he said.
They are thinking “you better get your assets and perhaps yourself out preparing for further shakedowns,” he said.
Mehchy said the impact of the pound’s decline and ensuing price hikes on Syrians would be “catastrophic.”
Most of Syria’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and food prices have doubled over the past year.
The UN food agency’s Jessica Lawson said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items such as rice, pasta and lentils.
“These price increases risk pushing even more people into hunger, poverty and food insecurity as Syrians’ purchasing power continues to erode,” the World Food Programme spokeswoman said.
“Families may be forced to cut the quality and quantity of food they buy.”