Charities: History will ‘judge’ UK over Yemen aid cuts

Charities: History will ‘judge’ UK over Yemen aid cuts
British MPs have criticized the plan to cut aid to Yemen, which has suffered from a decade-long conflict leaving more than 20 million people reliant on foreign aid. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 06 March 2021

Charities: History will ‘judge’ UK over Yemen aid cuts

Charities: History will ‘judge’ UK over Yemen aid cuts
  • More than 100 organizations write to PM Johnson over ‘devastating’ decision

LONDON: Over 100 charities have written to the UK government criticizing its decision to cut aid to Yemen.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the charities say the decision to reduce vital funds to the war-torn country is a “misjudgement” that will “destroy the UK’s global reputation as a country that steps up to help those most in need.”

Earlier this week, it emerged that the government proposed to reduce the UK’s aid budget to Yemen, currently in the grip of famine and war, to £87 million ($120.4 million) this year, down from £164 million in 2019-2020.

The British government is thought to believe that the public will support the move as part of cost-cutting measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the letter — signed by Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children and Care International, among others — suggested that such a view would change rapidly once the true scale of the damage done by reducing aid became apparent. 

“History will not judge this nation kindly if the government chooses to step away from the people in Yemen,” it added.

Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam GB, told the BBC: “Aid cuts are a false economy that will remove a vital lifeline from millions of people in Yemen and beyond, who can’t feed their families, have lost their homes, and whose lives are threatened by conflict and COVID-19.”

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, told The Times: “We are looking at the near collapse of UK help for children trapped in the world’s worst war zones, just as a second wave of the pandemic bears down on many of them.” The UK’s decision, he said, will have “devastating real-life consequences.”

British MPs have criticized the plan to cut aid to Yemen, which has suffered from a decade-long conflict leaving more than 20 million people reliant on foreign aid.

Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell described the decision as “unconscionable,” with Labour MP Lisa Nandy saying the UK is “abandoning our moral obligations.”

A government spokesman said: “The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid.”

He added: “We remain a world-leading aid donor and we will spend more than £10 billion this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health.”


Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 12 min 52 sec ago

Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (REUTERS file photo)
  • The March 2020 agreement followed weeks of fighting that brought Turkey and Russia close to conflict and displaced nearly a million people

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia later this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin about the violence in northwestern Syria, where Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides, two Turkish officials said on Friday.
Turkey supports fighters who sought to topple President Bashar Assad, while Russia has helped shore up Assad after a decade of conflict.
Both sides have complained about violations of a truce they agreed 18 months ago in the northwestern Idlib region, the last rebel bastion left in Syria, where Ankara says two Turkish troops were killed in an attack on Saturday.
“The main agenda point is Syria, namely Idlib,” a senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the planned talks in Russian resort of Sochi. “The conditions set out in the Idlib agreement have not been fully implemented.”
The March 2020 agreement followed weeks of fighting that brought Turkey and Russia close to conflict and displaced nearly a million people.
“There should not be any new instability in Syria,” another Turkish official said.
Erdogan’s planned two-day visit will follow his trip to the UN General Assembly in New York next week, the officials said, without specifying exact dates.
Despite backing opposing sides in both the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, Turkey and Russia have forged close cooperation in the defense, energy and tourism sectors.


Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy
Updated 17 September 2021

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy

Israeli grandfather says he saved, not kidnapped, grandson in Italy
  • Eitan Biran's parents, younger brother and 11 other people all died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May
  • Italian media said Shmuel Peleg had driven with his grandson across the nearby border to Switzerland and flown on a private jet to Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM: The grandfather of a six-year-old boy who is the only survivor of an Italian cable car disaster said he was looking out for his grandson’s wellbeing by bringing him to Israel.
He did so against the will of the boy’s family in Italy.
Eitan Biran’s parents, younger brother and 11 other people all died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May. He is now at the center of a custody battle.
The boy moved in with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, in northern Italy after the accident. A week ago his maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, picked him up for a planned family trip but they never returned, according to the aunt.
Italian media said Peleg had driven with his grandson across the nearby border to Switzerland and flown on a private jet to Tel Aviv.
“What is good for the boy outweighs my personal interests,” Peleg said when told during an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 that Italian authorities are calling his action kidnapping.
“So I decided that I am saving the boy and bringing him to Israel,” Peleg said during the TV interview that aired on Friday. “I took a car, a KIA. I drove with Eitan. The passports were checked at the embassy in Switzerland. Approved. And we took off in a completely legal manner to Israel.”
The boy’s family in Italy has filed a petition in a Tel Aviv family court for his return. Their Israeli lawyer said the court had set a hearing for Sept. 29. It is required to make a ruling within six weeks.
A legal source has said prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Pavia had opened a kidnapping investigation. The prosecutors’ office declined to comment.
Israeli police have said they had received a complaint that a minor had been kidnapped and flown to Israel, and had questioned an unidentified 58-year-old man on suspicion of involvement.
Asked why he did not wait for an Italian court to make a decision, Peleg said “I must say that I lost faith in the Italian judicial system.”
Peleg’s family, through a public relations firm, said earlier in a statement that the Italian consul in Israel came to Peleg’s house to meet with Eitan.
“The message from the consul was that the foreign ministries are working to try to find a compromise between the families,” according to the statement.
Magistrates are still investigating why the cable car, on a line connecting Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the nearby Mottarone mountain, plunged to the ground.


Amal Clooney named Sudan adviser to ICC prosecutor

In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
Updated 9 sec ago

Amal Clooney named Sudan adviser to ICC prosecutor

In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 file photo, attorney Amal Clooney listens during a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. (AP)
  • The UN says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court’s new prosecutor on Friday named prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney as a special adviser on Sudan’s Darfur conflict.
Clooney has previously been involved in a number of cases at the Hague-based ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.
Her post focusing on Darfur is one of several new special portfolios created by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, a Briton who took office in July.
“I am delighted to welcome such an outstanding group of experts and I am grateful for their willingness to serve as my special advisers,” Khan said in a statement.
Clooney’s husband, the Hollywood actor George Clooney, is a longtime campaigner for human rights in the Darfur region.
The UN says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict.
Fighting broke out when black African rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against deposed dictator Omar Bashir’s Arab-dominated regime.
London-based Amal Clooney represented Darfur victims in a case at the ICC against Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Janjaweed militia — a notorious armed group created by the government.
She has also been involved in a string of human rights cases involving countries including Iraq, Myanmar and the Philippines, and criminal cases covering Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia.
Last year she garnered headlines after resigning her post as a British envoy for media freedom, in protest at the government’s “lamentable” decision to breach its EU divorce treaty.


Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord
Updated 17 September 2021

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord

Israeli FM to visit Bahrain in first after diplomatic accord
  • Yair Lapid announced the visit in a conference call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials from Bahrain, UAE and Morocco
  • “This Abraham Accords club is open to new members," Lapid said

JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign minister said Friday that he will visit Bahrain later this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf country following a diplomatic agreement reached last year.
Yair Lapid announced the visit in a conference call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, which signed US-brokered agreements to normalize relations with Israel last year.
The officials hailed the so-called Abraham Accords, which have led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a raft of agreements to boost economic ties. They expressed hope that the new relationships would be deepened and that other nations would follow suit.
“This Abraham Accords club is open to new members,” Lapid said, before announcing that he plans to visit Bahrain by the end of the month. He visited the UAE in June and Morocco in August.
The Biden administration has welcomed the accords brokered by former President Donald Trump’s administration, and has pledged to build on them.
The Palestinians viewed the agreements as a betrayal of their national cause because they further eroded a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should be conditioned on progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Blinken, who hosted the video conference, said “we all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians and to make progress toward the longstanding goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita called the accords a “historic event that is worth commemorating,” but said that relaunching the peace process with the Palestinians is “fundamental.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani said more should be done to showcase the benefits of cooperation.
“We need to demonstrate what genuine regional peace, interdependence and prosperity can mean in practice for the day-to-day lives of all the peoples of the Middle East,” he said.


Blinken says US to help foster Israel's ties with Arab states

Blinken says US to help foster Israel's ties with Arab states
Updated 17 September 2021

Blinken says US to help foster Israel's ties with Arab states

Blinken says US to help foster Israel's ties with Arab states
  • Blinken said Washington would work to deepen Israel's long-standing relationship with Egypt and Jordan
  • He said the US will encourage other countries to normalise ties with Israel

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Friday to encourage more Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel as he hosted a virtual meeting with Israeli and Arab counterparts to mark the first anniversary of a set of landmark diplomatic agreements.
The event — held with Blinken’s counterparts from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco — was the Biden administration’s highest-profile embrace of the Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for Republican former President Donald Trump.
Democratic President Joe Biden has backed the deals since taking office in January, and senior aides have said they want more Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity. But the administration until now had been cool to the idea of commemorating the anniversary of the accords.
On Friday, however, Blinken hailed their diplomatic and economic benefits, saying: “This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”
He said the Biden administration would help foster Israel’s growing ties with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco — as well as Sudan, which also reached a breakthrough with Israel last year – and would work to deepen Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan, which have long-standing peace deals.
And Blinken said Washington would encourage more countries to follow their lead. “We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid agreed, saying: “This Abraham Accords club is open to new members as well.”
The leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain signed the accords at the White House last September. Israel and Sudan announced in the following month that they would normalize relations, and Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel in December, after Biden defeated Trump in the US election.
Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Some critics said Trump had promoted Arab rapprochement with Israel while ignoring Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
But Blinken, who has sought to repair ties with the Palestinians badly damaged under Trump, said: “We all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians, and to make progress toward the long-standing goal of advancing negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”