Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal

Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal
The agreement to bring Emirati crude oil by tanker to a pipeline in the Red Sea port of Eilat was signed after Israel normalized ties with the Gulf Arab nation late last year. (AFP)
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Updated 15 February 2021

Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal

Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal
  • Activists held a protest in a parking lot overlooking Eilat’s oil jetty against what they see as a disaster waiting to happen
  • Eilat’s coral beach reserve extends some 1.2 kilometers (almost a mile) off the city’s coast, protecting reefs home to rich marine life

EILAT: Israeli environmentalists are warning that a UAE-Israeli oil pipeline deal threatens unique Red Sea coral reefs and could lead to “the next ecological disaster.”
The agreement to bring Emirati crude oil by tanker to a pipeline in the Red Sea port of Eilat was signed after Israel normalized ties with the Gulf Arab nation late last year and should come into force within months.
With experts warning of possible leaks and spills at the aging Eilat port, and the Israeli environmental protection ministry demanding “urgent” talks on the deal, activists mobilized last week.
They held a protest in a parking lot overlooking Eilat’s oil jetty against what they see as a disaster waiting to happen, chanting that profits will be made “at the expense of corals.”
“The coral reefs are 200 meters (yards) from where the oil will be unloaded,” said Shmulik Taggar, an Eilat resident and founding member of the Society for Conservation of the Red Sea Environment.
“They say the tankers are modern and there won’t be any problem,” he said, warning however that “there’s no way there won’t be a malfunction.”
He predicted that with the projected arrival of two to three tankers a week, traffic will be “back-to-back.”
This, he said, would also impact the aesthetic of a city promoting ecological tourism.
“You can’t sell green tourism when you have oil tankers by the dock,” he said.
The Jewish state and the UAE established ties last year as part of the US-brokered “Abraham Accords.”
One of the deals that followed was a Memorandum of Understanding between Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and a new entity called MED-RED Land Bridge Ltd. — a joint venture between Abu Dhabi’s National Holding company and several Israeli firms.
In October, EAPC announced a “binding MoU” with MED-RED to bring crude from UAE to Eilat and then transport it by pipeline to Israel’s Mediterranean city of Ashkelon for onward export to Europe.
Taggar argued that deals benefitting the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the environment are “not in the spirit of our times.”
“It might have been appropriate in the 1960s and 1970s, before we were a developed state,” he said.
Activists argue the deal evaded tough regulatory scrutiny because of EAPC’s status as a state-owned firm working in the sensitive energy sector.
While coral populations around the world are under threat from bleaching caused by climate change, the reefs in Eilat have remained stable due to their unique heat resistance.
Eilat’s coral beach reserve extends some 1.2 kilometers (almost a mile) off the city’s coast, protecting reefs that are home to a rich variety of marine life.
But their proximity to the EAPC port puts them at grave risk, Nadav Shashar, professor of marine biology at Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University, told AFP.
The infrastructure is not set up to prevent accidents and only designed “to treat pollution once it’s already in the water,” said Shashar, who is also head of marine biology and biotechnology at Eilat’s Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science.
Shashar, one of 230 experts who petitioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the deal, argued that with the increase of shipments, “the result will be a constant leak of oil pollution.”
After the agreement was struck in October, EAPC said it could increase oil flow through Eilat by “tens of millions of tons per year.”
Contacted by AFP, the company declined to discuss the deal’s specifics but stressed that its equipment was “state of the art” and up to international standards.
The environmental protection ministry said it had fulfilled its oversight role but also called for an “urgent discussion of all relevant governmental bodies” to review the deal.
The talks, a statement said, “would examine all angles — including the environmental ones — of increasing the volume of crude oil being transported.”
Shashar said the goal was not to close down EAPC but to “limit the extent of its use to something that can be handled.”
Some activists have voiced more militant views, including Michael Raphael of the international Extinction Rebellion movement.
Raphael, who came to the recent rally armed with a bullhorn, said he was aiming to set up an Extinction Rebellion chapter in Eilat to resist the UAE deal.
“If the problem isn’t solved, we’ll have to get in the way of things,” he said. “We don’t just demonstrate ... we disrupt the work of those who pollute.”


Qatar opposes Heathrow airport’s plan to raise $3.8bn

Qatar opposes Heathrow airport’s plan to raise $3.8bn
Updated 6 min 7 sec ago

Qatar opposes Heathrow airport’s plan to raise $3.8bn

Qatar opposes Heathrow airport’s plan to raise $3.8bn
  • The plan is “unreasonable, not in the consumer interest and should be rejected,” said Qatar Airways

RIYADH: London’s Heathrow airport faces opposition from some board members to its plan to raise £2.8 billion ($3.8 billion) from airlines and customers by increasing airport prices, the Telegraph reported.
The plan is “unreasonable, not in the consumer interest and should be rejected,” said Qatar Airways, whose owner, the Qatar Investment Authority, is also Heathrow’s second-biggest shareholder.
The airline’s top executive, Akbar Al-Baker, is a representative of the Gulf state on Heathrow’s board of directors.
Heathrow’s demands to change a complex regulatory framework so it could recoup losses caused by the pandemic, have been rejected by the Civil Aviation Authority, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for Heathrow said the regulatory adjustment is needed to lower prices for consumers.
Heathrow has been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, since it relies on long-haul markets that have been suspended.
Passenger volumes have fallen to the lowest level since 1966 due to the ban on non-essential travel and quarantine rules.
Qatar Airways owns a 25 percent stake in IAG, whose British Airways is the largest operator at Heathrow.


Iraq crackdown on corruption helps to boost forex reserves to $60bn says PM

Iraq crackdown on corruption helps to boost forex reserves to $60bn says PM
Updated 13 min 25 sec ago

Iraq crackdown on corruption helps to boost forex reserves to $60bn says PM

Iraq crackdown on corruption helps to boost forex reserves to $60bn says PM
  • Last month Iraq approved a 2021 budget of 130 trillion Iraqi dinars ($89.65 billion) as the country battles against the impact of low crude oil prices

RIYADH: Iraq’s foreign exchange reserves have risen to more than $60 billion helped by government reforms to stamp out corruption, said Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
He made the remarks during a ceremony to mark the start of construction on a new fuel sector project in Basra, Iraqi News Agency reported.
The increase came as a result of the reform measures taken by the government after much betting on its failure and lack of continuity,” he said. “We have succeeded in stopping waste and great corruption in the notorious Central Bank auction and are continuing with our measures and we will not stop.”
Last month Iraq approved a 2021 budget of 130 trillion Iraqi dinars ($89.65 billion) as the country battles against the impact of low crude oil prices.
The budget deficit was estimated at 28.7 trillion Iraqi dinars.
Iraq relies on oil to fund 97 percent of its state budget.


Abu Dhabi food giant Agthia plans more acquisitions, savings by 2025

Abu Dhabi food giant Agthia plans more acquisitions, savings by 2025
Updated 56 min 44 sec ago

Abu Dhabi food giant Agthia plans more acquisitions, savings by 2025

Abu Dhabi food giant Agthia plans more acquisitions, savings by 2025
  • Agthia, which owns the popular Al Ain water brand, revealed its updated growth plan in a stock exchange filing

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-based food group Agthia is seeking to add high value acquisitions while also targeting savings of 200 million dirhams ($54.4 million) by 2025, the company said on Monday.
Agthia, which owns the popular Al Ain water brand, revealed its updated growth plan in a stock exchange filing.
“The Agthia strategy over the next five years will focus on improving the efficiency of our existing businesses, and pursuing new scalable opportunities in our region,” Khalifa Sultan Al-Suwaidi, Agthia Group chairman, said.
Agthia has already acquired three companies in recent months.
It comes as regional food producers benefit from rising demand and improved margins as more people stocked up on groceries during the lockdowns of the last year.
“We will follow a disciplined expansion plan focused on the acquisition, integration and scaling of new businesses and create a more effective way to serve and innovate,” Agthia CEO Alan Smith said.
The company, listed on the Abu Dhabi bourse, intends to strengthen its core business – water, flour and feed categories – as part of the strategy.


Saudi ministers pledge support for entrepreneurs

Saudi ministers pledge support for entrepreneurs
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi ministers pledge support for entrepreneurs

Saudi ministers pledge support for entrepreneurs
  • E-commerce entrepreneurs have shone during the pandemic, Communications Minister Abdullah Al-Swaha said

RIYADH: Entrepreneurs are the true backbone of the economy and the Kingdom wants to help them overcome the obstacles they have been facing during the pandemic, said Commerce Minister Majid Al-Qasabi, Al Arabiya reported.

The General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, The National Competitiveness Center (NCC) also known as Tayseer, and the Saudi Business Center are working together to help support the sector, he added.
E-commerce entrepreneurs have shone during the pandemic, Communications Minister Abdullah Al- Swaha told a virtual meeting attended by more than 260 entrepreneurs.
It discussed ongoing challenges in the sector related to licensing, hosting and technical infrastructure.


Saudi Arabia supports IMF proposal to boost global reserves by $650bn

Saudi Arabia supports IMF proposal to boost global reserves by $650bn
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi Arabia supports IMF proposal to boost global reserves by $650bn

Saudi Arabia supports IMF proposal to boost global reserves by $650bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia supports the International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposal to allocate new special drawing rights worth $650 billion to increase reserves, said Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, during his participation in The Spring Meetings 2021, Al Arabiya reported.
This would support efforts for economic recovery by providing additional liquidity to the global economic system, he said.
Special drawing rights were set up by the IMF in 1969 and are intended to supplement the money reserves of member countries.
The IMF this week raised its forecast for economic growth in the Kingdom to 2.9 percent from 2.6 percent.
The Kingdom will do what it takes to accelerate the recovery and will commit to economic and structural reforms guided by Vision 2030 to achieve sustainable growth, he added.
Al-Jadaan emphasized the economic recovery in the second half of last year, driven by the non-oil sector and a drop in the unemployment rate.
The minister also stressed the importance of focusing efforts and actions on debt risk management to help countries address vulnerabilities, especially in low-income countries.
He urged the IMF to continue its work to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic around the world.