Putin calls for emergency Iran summit to decrease tensions, Macron agrees in principle

President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to convene an emergency Iran summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf. (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Putin calls for emergency Iran summit to decrease tensions, Macron agrees in principle

  • Last week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would submit a UN Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to convene an emergency Iran summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.

China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran should take part in the video summit, the Kremlin chief said.

"It's an urgent issue," Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

"Discussions at the UN Security Council over the Iranian issue are becoming increasingly tense," Putin said, adding that Moscow's ally Iran was a target of "groundless accusations".

"The goal is to put together a blueprint that would allow to avoid confrontation, an escalation in tensions at the UN Security Council."

He added that the leaders should also agree on ways to ensure security and trust in the Gulf region.

Tensions over Iran have escalated since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran's nuclear programme and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

Last week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would submit a UN Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran despite opposition from Russia and China.

The 15-member Security Council will announce later on Friday the result of a vote on the US-drafted resolution to extend the weapons ban. Diplomats say it is bound to fail and put the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers further at risk.

If the United States is unsuccessful it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback

French President Emmanuel Macron is open to taking part in Putin's virtual meeting over the Iran arms embargo, the Elysée palace said on Friday.

"We confirm our availability in principle," the Elysée palace said in a statement. "We have already taken initiatives in the same spirit in the past," it said.

The 13-year-old UN arms embargo is due to expire in October under the 2015 accord that prevents Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.

Diplomats warn that if the US triggers a sanctions snapback the process would be tough and messy. They say several countries would argue that Washington legally could not activate a return of sanctions and therefore simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.

(With Reuters and AFP)


US bans palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant over labor abuse claims

Updated 4 min 42 sec ago

US bans palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant over labor abuse claims

  • American customs agency probe into Malaysian government-linked firm FGV revealed indicators of forced and child labor, physical and sexual violence
  • The allegations of abuse related especially to migrant laborers who make up the company’s main plantation workforce

KUALA LUMPUR:  The US has banned palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant FGV Holdings after a probe revealed forced labor practices at its facilities.

Human rights groups said the abuse of agricultural workers had been rife across the whole sector for years.

The American ban came into effect after a year-long investigation by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) into FGV, which revealed indicators of forced and child labor, as well as physical and sexual violence, said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP’s Office of Trade.

FGV is a Malaysian government-linked company and one of the world’s largest palm oil producers.

In a statement, the company said it was “disappointed” with the decision by the US which had come at a time when it had been taking “concrete steps over the past several years in demonstrating its commitment to respect human rights and to uphold labor standards.”

The company said the issues raised by the US agency had “been the subject of public discourse since 2015 and FGV has taken several steps to correct the situation.”

It added: “FGV became a participating company of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and is currently implementing a long-term and comprehensive action plan under its affiliation to the FLA that comprises a number of initiatives to further strengthen various aspects of our labor practices such as our recruitment process, human rights training programs, working and living conditions, as well as grievance mechanisms.”

The allegations of abuse related especially to migrant laborers who make up the company’s main plantation workforce. According to FGV data from August, it had 11,286 Indonesian and 4,683 Indian workers.

Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources M. Saravanan said on Thursday that he was unclear about the details of the ban and had only found out about plans to impose it several days ago from the US ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir. However, he had not expected the ban to be implemented “so soon.”

“As mentioned by the ambassador, these issues are mainly in Sabah and Sarawak (two states on Borneo island), especially in the plantation sector. Action will be taken,” said Saravanan, adding that the ban was “not a good sign” for the country which was heavily reliant on exports.

He said that the Ministry of Human Resources would work closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs which had much of the jurisdiction over foreign labor.

The timing of the ban is particularly unfortunate for Malaysia’s economy, which has been affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Palm oil exports from Malaysia — which constitute over a third of the world’s exports of the commodity — are one of the country’s key revenue sources.

“FGV would need to step up efforts to increase exports to other countries while addressing the US government’s concerns on the forced labor issues,” Prof. Yeah Kim Leng, economic studies director at Malaysia’s Sunway University, told Arab News.

He said that other palm oil companies would also need to take heed of the causes leading to the ban and address those concerns if they wished to avoid the US’ big stick.

Malaysian rights activists pointed out that they had been highlighting the issue of forced labor in palm oil supply chains for years.

In a statement, Glorene Das, director of Malaysian migrant rights group Tenaganita, said: “We demand all palm oil producers, including FGV Holdings, to take proactive steps to ensure human and labor rights of workers in plantations are respected and upheld at all time.

“Malaysia, as one of the main producers of palm oil in the world, must be an example of fair labor practices rather than be known and cited for exploitative practices.”