France to cancel $5 billion Sudan debt: Macron

France to cancel $5 billion Sudan debt: Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat at the summit to support Soudan on Monday in Paris. (AP)
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Updated 18 May 2021

France to cancel $5 billion Sudan debt: Macron

France to cancel $5 billion Sudan debt: Macron
  • ‘France are in favour of an outright cancellation of our debt to Sudan’, Macron told an international summit on Monday

PARIS: IMF member countries have agreed to clear Sudan’s arrears to the institution, France’s president said on Monday, removing a final hurdle to the African nation getting wider relief on external debt of at least $50 billion.
Hosting a conference for Sudan in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron also kick-started the broader debt relief effort, saying his country was in favor of fully canceling the $5 billion it is owed by Khartoum.
Sudan is emerging from decades of economic sanctions and isolation under ousted former President Omar Al-Badri.
It had built up huge arrears on its debt, but has made rapid progress toward having much of it forgiven under the IMF and World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) scheme, which would reopen access to badly needed cheap international financing.
A transitional military-civilian power-sharing government is trying to pull the country out of a deep economic crisis with inflation at over 300 percent and shortages of basic goods fueled by a lack of foreign currency reserves.
In order to reach the “decision point” that would unlock the HIPC process in June, Sudan recently cleared its arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank with bridge loans from Western states.
The remaining step was to clear Sudan’s arrears to the IMF, which France confirmed it would facilitate through a $1.5 billion bridge loan, and for that loan to be covered by member state pledges.
Those pledges were made during the Paris conference, paving the way for HIPC to proceed and boosting the prospects of broader economic reform in Sudan, Macron said.
Key recent reforms under an IMF monitoring program, a requirement for HIPC, include lifting fuel subsidies and sharply devaluing the currency.
“The reduction of Sudan’s debt that we are going to soon initiate is a first result of these reforms, and this trajectory ... should be consolidated, both economically and politically,” Macron said.
With arrears to multilateral lenders settled, Sudan can move forward to settling its estimated $38 billion debt to bilateral creditors. Of the country’s bilateral debt, about half is with Paris Club members. An additional $6 billion of its external debt is commercial debt, an unusually high proportion.
Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a tweet that Italy and Germany had committed to clearing their shares of Sudan’s debt, which total $1.8 billion, according to IMF estimates. Norway’s ambassador to Sudan said on Twitter her country would cancel its debt, listed at $100 million.
The HIPC process operates by consensus, whereby debt is restructured along similar terms for all creditors.
Kuwait, Sudan’s largest creditor by far at $9.8 billion, said in a statement it would support debt “resolution” discussions.
Saudi Arabia, another major creditor, has also said it will press strongly for a broad agreement on debt.
China has reduced and forgiven some debt and will push for the international community to do the same, said Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman.
The first part of the Paris conference was dedicated to promoting investment, with officials touting reforms in the banking sector and showcasing projects worth billions of dollars in energy, mining, infrastructure and agriculture.


Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted
Updated 21 min 49 sec ago

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military claims it has thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons along the Jordanian border.


At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
Updated 52 min 8 sec ago

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
  • Turkish President is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden
  • Erdogan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country

BRUSSELS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a revival of dialogue with fellow NATO member Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve “stability and prosperity” in the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit, Erdogan also lamented what he said was a lack of support by Turkey’s NATO allies in its fight against terrorism.
It was a veiled reference to Turkey’s disappointment with US military support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
Erdogan, who is vying to mend Turkey’s battered relations with its Western partners, is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
The Turkish strongman has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country, which has been troubled by a currency crisis and an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turkey is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism in all relevant international platforms, especially NATO,” Erdogan said, adding that some 4,000 Daesh group fighters were “neutralized” in Turkish cross border operations.
“Turkey is the only NATO ally which has fought face-to-face and gave its young sons as martyrs for this cause,” Erdogan said. “Unfortunately, we did not receive the support and solidarity we expected from our allies and partners in our fight against all forms of terrorism.”
Last summer, a long-standing dispute between Turkey and Greece over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.
Diplomats from the two countries have held two rounds of talks in recent months for the first time in five years, while the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey also held reciprocal visits.
“I believe that reviving the channels of dialogue between (Turkey) and our neighbor and ally, Greece, and the resolution of bilateral issues will ... serve the stability and prosperity of our region,” Erdogan said, in a video address to a think tank event on the sidelines of the summit.
Erdogan’s talks with Biden are expected to focus on US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, as well as a dispute over Ankara’s acquisition of a Russian air defense system, which led to Turkey being removed from the F-35 fighter program and sanctions on defense industry officials.
Washington says the S-400 missiles, which Turkey purchased in 2019, pose a threat to NATO’s integrated air defense and has demanded that Ankara abandons the $2.5 billion system.
In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide.” Turkey denies that the deportations and massacres that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.
In Brussels, Erdogan met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
After his meeting with Erdogan, Macron tweeted that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey.
It was their first meeting since a dispute between the two countries reached its peak in October, after Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health.
Both men discussed Libya and Syria issues, the Elysee said. Macron has accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.
During the discussion with Johnson, the two leaders agreed to “work toward the resumption of travel between the UK and Turkey,” according to a Downing Street statement. Turkey has been pushing for a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions to allow British tourists to come to Turkey this summer.


Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
Updated 14 June 2021

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
  • Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had received assurances from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that he wanted foreign mercenaries to leave Libyan territory as soon as possible.
“We agreed to work on this withdrawal (of foreign mercenaries). It doesn’t just depend on the two of us. But I can tell you President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference at the end of a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year as tensions between the two NATO allies worsened especially over the conflict in Libya.
Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya. It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.


UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
Updated 14 June 2021

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
  • Penny Appeal’s goal is to ‘break the cycle of poverty at every stage,’ founder tells Arab News
  • CEO: ‘Once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response’

LONDON: A British Muslim charity has ramped up its humanitarian work in Palestine, crediting the generosity of communities of all faiths in supporting their emergency humanitarian response to last month’s fighting in Gaza.

Penny Appeal has worked in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank for close to 10 years, and maintains a range of humanitarian projects alongside partner organizations on the ground. 

Following May’s flare-up in violence — which claimed over 250 Palestinian lives, including 66 children — Penny Appeal said: “Once again the slow and painful process of rebuilding has begun.”

By providing cash support, distributed food packs, provisions for babies and women’s hygiene products, Penny Appeal has directly assisted over 77,000 people since last month’s fighting.

Its founder Adeem Younis told Arab News that the charity’s goal is to “break the cycle of poverty at every stage.”

From early-life interventions for mothers and children all the way to the end of life, Penny Appeal runs initiatives that aim to cut poverty and improve quality of life.

However, Younis said the latest round of Israeli attacks on Gaza meant that he and his team have had to focus on providing immediate humanitarian relief and support to victims and their families.

“Sadly, there has been an increase in the number of orphans we’re having to support,” he added, lamenting the cyclical nature of conflict in Gaza.

“We want to provide sustainable solutions that we can empower the community with, but our solutions are sometimes not effective because every year, every two years, it all gets destroyed again, or there’s an emergency situation that takes you back to square one,” he said.

In a statement issued to Arab News, the charity’s CEO Harris Iqbal said: “Sadly, once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response. We have been focusing in particular on medical treatment and supplies, working with a network of hospitals and medical organisations, as well as distributing food packs for families displaced by the bombing.”

But while Gazans continue to confront a familiar cycle of progress followed by setback, Younis said he and his team noticed that the external reaction was markedly different this time around.

“We’ve already raised over £500,000 ($705,850) for the most recent emergency. Donations have come from not just Muslims but from all faiths, from all backgrounds. Even today we still have people calling on a daily basis,” he added.

“What we’ve seen is that the compassion and support from the wider community, not just Muslims, has been very, very different.”

He said not only do those donations assist with emergency response on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, but they also make Palestinians — who are largely cut off from the outside world — realize that they have the support of countless people worldwide.

“The recipients tell us all the time that they’re very grateful for the support they receive. They can’t believe the support they receive. They can’t believe that people are thinking about them as well. It means a lot for them to receive the aid, to have that help,” Younis added.

“That gives them a sense that the world is listening … When they receive outside aid, they don’t just feel the aid but they feel the support — it keeps their spirits high.”


Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'
Updated 14 June 2021

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

BRUSSELS: NATO leaders on Monday agreed to step up their collective defence "against all threats, from all directions," according to their final statement.
NATO said it would adapt to climate-reated security challenges, called on Russia to drop its designation of two allies - the United States and the Czech Republic - as "unfriendly countries" and committed funds to the Kabul airport.
It said it would respond to Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and called on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities.
In a first for the Western military alliance, it said China was posing "systemic challenges" for the 30-nation pact.