Civilians must not pay the price for Ukraine crisis, Gulf nations tell UN

Civilians must not pay the price for Ukraine crisis, Gulf nations tell UN
General view of a meeting of the UN General Assembly on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, at the UN headquarters in New York on Feb. 23, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 February 2022

Civilians must not pay the price for Ukraine crisis, Gulf nations tell UN

Civilians must not pay the price for Ukraine crisis, Gulf nations tell UN
  • Speaking on behalf of the GCC, Saudi envoy Abdulaziz Alateek called for the crisis to be resolved through peace talks and diplomacy
  • Ukraine’s foreign minister warned other UN members ‘will face the same consequences as our government and our people’ if Russia is not stopped

NEW YORK: During a meeting at the UN on Wednesday, Gulf nations expressed great concern about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and urged all participants to work to resolve the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy.

Speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdulaziz Alateek, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, expressed the council’s support for international efforts to encourage calm and a deescalation of tensions, and urged those involved in the conflict to begin political discussions in an effort to find a solution.

He appealed for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2202, which was unanimously adopted in 2015 and calls for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the simultaneous withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides to create a security zone.

His remarks came during a plenary session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the latest developments in the long-simmering crisis along the eastern borders of Ukraine.

Western leaders on Wednesday sought to deter Moscow from launching a full-scale invasion of the country by imposing punishing sanctions on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and threatening even harsher penalties should the Kremlin launch a military offensive. 

The punitive actions were declared in response to the latest developments surrounding the deployment by Russia of 150,000 troops along three sides of its border with Ukraine.

While a full-scale invasion has not yet been launched, Russian forces on Tuesday rolled into the rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the independence of those separatist areas.

“Civilians do not have to pay the price for military escalation,” Alateek told the representatives of more 70 countries at the meeting. He said the GCC is “in favor of international law and the UN charter, particularly the principle of peaceful settlement of dispute, the non-use of force or the threat of use of force, as well as the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said that Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states constitutes “the ultimate blow to years of the peace process.”

He warned other member states that if Putin is not stopped, others will follow in his footsteps and “your government and people will face the same consequences as our government and our people.”

He added: “It is clear that Putin will not stop by himself. A war in Ukraine will be the end of the world order as we know it, a grim scenario that will throw us back in the darkness” of previous centuries.

Kuleba described the current situation as “the largest security crisis in Europe” since the Second World War, and said that any failure by the international community to respond properly will only add to the suffering, which “I regret to say it, it will not be limited to Ukraine.”

He added that “Russia must withdraw its forces from the territories of Ukraine,” and said that a swift response by the UN, commensurate with the gravity of the situation, would help to restore the credibility of the organization.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, accused the Ukrainian government of conducting a “policy of deprivation of basic human rights against its own people.”

He said: “Kiev continues to bomb its own citizens and shirk from direct dialogue in the Donbas (region).

“Ukraine has been at war with its own citizens who do not agree with the current policy of the authorities. Western backers did nothing to ask Ukraine to heed its own people, which demonstrates double standards.”

He added that “amid this ‘genocide,’ Russia cannot remain indifferent.”

Nebenzia warned that “this conflict is by no means over. Shelling of residential areas in both republics (of Donetsk and Luhansk) has not ceased. We warn you, since the ceasefire will be monitored by Russian forces, no one intends to go softly-softly with any violators. We encourage you to rein Kiev in.”

The Russian envoy also criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who, he said, “has followed the sad example of the West.” He also dismissed the UN chief’s offer of his “good offices” for a return to dialogue.

“We don’t understand what ‘good offices’ the secretary-general is talking about that can be provided,” he added.

Guterres had called for a ceasefire and the immediate restoration of the rule of law, describing the crisis as a “moment of peril I truly hoped would not come.”

Responding to Russia’s insistence that it is conducting a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, Guterres said that he is concerned about “the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.”

He added: “When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers. They are not peacekeepers at all.”

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK’s minister of state for the Commonwealth and United Nations, said his country has imposed “the largest sanctions package against Russia in the UK history.”

He added that the “Kremlin must understand the strength of the world’s condemnation of Putin’s choice of war” and “we must say to Russia very clearly: ‘Pull back; choose peace not war.’ And to the people of Ukraine: ‘We, the United Nations, stand with you.’”

Tobias Lindner, minister of state at the German Foreign Office, said: “we need to close ranks and strongly reject Russia’s actions. Otherwise, what happens to Ukraine today will happen to other (UN) members tomorrow.”

US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned: “If Russia continues down this path, it could (create) a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today, with as many as 5 million more people displaced by Russia’s war of choice, and putting pressure on Ukraine’s neighbors.

“Because Ukraine is one of the world’s largest wheat suppliers, especially for the developing world, Russia’s actions could cause a spike in food prices and lead to even more desperate hunger in places like Libya, Yemen and Lebanon.”

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report
Updated 05 December 2022

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report
  • The growth was severely impacted by widespread supply chain issues
  • Companies in the US continue to dominate global arms production

STOCKHOLM: Sales of arms and military services grew in 2021, researchers said Monday, but were limited by worldwide supply issues related to the pandemic, with the war in Ukraine increasing demand while worsening supply difficulties.
The top 100 arms companies sold weapons and related services totalling $592 billion in 2021, 1.9-percent more than the year before, said the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
However the growth was severely impacted by widespread supply chain issues.
“The lasting impact of the pandemic is really starting to show in arms companies,” Nan Tian, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told AFP.
Disruptions from both labor shortages and difficulties in sourcing raw materials were “slowing down the companies’ ability to produce weapons systems and deliver them on time.
“So what we see really is a potentially slower increase to what many would have expected in arms sales in 2021,” Tian said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also expected to worsen supply chain issues, in part “because Russia is a major supplier of raw materials used in arms production,” said the report’s authors.
But the war has at the same time increased demand.
“Definitely demand will increase in the coming years,” Tian said.
By how much was at the same time harder to gauge, Tian said pointing to two factors that would impact demand.
Firstly, countries that have sent weapons to Ukraine to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars will be looking to replenish stockpiles.
Secondly, the worsening security environment means “countries are looking to procure more weapons.”
With the supply crunch expected to worsen, it could hamper these efforts, the authors noted.
Companies in the US continue to dominate global arms production, accounting for over half, $299 billion, of global sales and 40 of the top companies.
At the same time, the region was the only one to see a drop in sales: 0.9 percent down on the 2020 figures.
Among the top five companies — Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics — only Raytheon recorded an increase in sales.
Meanwhile, sales from the eight largest Chinese arms companies rose 6.3 percent to $109 billion in 2021.
European companies took 27 of the spots on the top 100, with combined sales of $123 billion, up 4.2 percent compared to 2020.
The report also noted a trend of private equity firms buying up arms companies, something the authors said had become increasingly apparent over the last three or four years.
This trend threatens to make the arms industry more opaque and therefore harder to track, Tian said, “because private equity firms will buy these companies and then essentially not produce any more financial records.”

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report
Updated 05 December 2022

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report
  • Xlinks venture will provide Britain with renewable energy via cable through Sahara
  • Morocco is established market leader in wind, solar, hydroelectric power industry

LONDON: Political turmoil in London has delayed an ambitious joint UK-Morocco plan to provide Britain with energy via a cable through the Sahara desert by “at least a year,” The Observer reported on Sunday.
The £18 billion ($22 billion) Xlinks venture, expected to be operational in 2027, would supply the UK with 8 percent of its energy needs from huge wind and solar farms in the desert through a 3,800 km cable, powering as many as 7 million homes by 2030.
Morocco is an established market leader in the wind, solar and hydroelectric power industry, and is second only to Egypt for solar intensity, a measure of generation power.
But the link-up has been delayed until at least late 2023, The Observer reported. Sir Dave Lewis, executive chair of the project, said recent political turmoil in Britain — which has seen three prime ministers come to power in less than six months — has slowed down its progress.
“We spent a long time with the then-business secretary (Kwasi Kwarteng) who said: ‘We like it a lot but it needs to go through Treasury.’ There was a review with Treasury, Cabinet Office and the business department, which was very positive,” Lewis told The Observer.
“Then we came back to them to start the detail and the political world exploded and, as a result, everything stopped. And everybody has changed, so it’s sort of like you’re starting again,” he added.
“Time is important for the UK to meet its net zero ambitions, to secure energy supplies and to reduce bills. We have lost a year.”
The cable transporting the power would run along the Moroccan coastline, then along Portugal, northern Spain and western France before looping around the Scilly Isles Scilly and finishing in the English county of Devon, where Xlinks has already approved 1.8 gigawatt connections.

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
Updated 04 December 2022

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
  • Kingdom set to help Philippines develop halal tourism 
  • Manila sees ‘great potential’ in attracting more Saudi tourists 

MANILA: The Philippine government said on Sunday it is going to work closely with Saudi Arabia in developing the tourism industry in both countries. 

More than 9,400 Saudi tourists have visited the Southeast Asian country since it reopened to fully vaccinated international travelers in February. Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia was the top Middle Eastern source of arrivals, according to data from the Philippine Department of Tourism. 

“The two countries agreed on formalizing their partnership with Saudi Arabia,” the tourism department said in a statement on Sunday. 

The Kingdom will support the Philippines with Arabic-speaking tour guides, increasing direct flights and developing halal tourism, while the Philippines will “provide hospitality and human capital development to the Kingdom’s tourism frontline.” 

The agreement follows Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s meeting with her Saudi counterpart Haifa Al-Saud in Riyadh last month. 

“Saudi Arabia actually ranks No. 1 for our Middle East source market. We see great potential in ushering in more arrivals into the Philippines,” Frasco said, as quoted in the statement. 

She added that the relationship is mutual, as there are over 800,000 Filipinos living in Saudi Arabia. 

“Our affection for each other is long-standing, and I am very interested in furthering this relationship by formalizing an agreement specifically focused on tourism development,” she said. 

The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches and famous diving spots, is dependent on tourism. In 2019, the sector generated around $44 billion and made up nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

Most tourism destinations in the country were forced to shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, dealing a major blow to the industry. Foreign arrivals slumped by 82 percent, while revenues from tourism plummeted to $17 billion. 

Tourism recovery efforts yielded results once several COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this year. 

By Nov. 14, official data showed nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists had visited the Philippines. 

Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Updated 05 December 2022

Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
  • Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, rescued 7-month-old Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim from France after burn incident

LONDON: An Iraqi man who saved his baby niece by bringing her to the UK illegally has been granted leave to remain following years of legal attempts by the Home Office to deport him, The Guardian reported.

Najat Ibrahim Ismail, who arrived in Britain in 2004, saved his niece, Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim, then only 7 months old, after she had sustained significant burn injuries in a French refugee camp.

Her parents had fled Iraq following the expansion of Daesh and in 2016 had traveled to France.

Ismail, 35, heard the news of his relative’s injuries and traveled to Dunkirk, where he drove his niece back to Britain illegally in a bid to give her access to urgent medical care.

In 2017, he was prosecuted for assisting illegal entry into the UK.

As a result, the UK Home Office pursued his deportation three times, but to no avail.

Now the 35-year-old, who is married to a British woman and has three children, has been granted leave to remain following years of legal campaigning by his solicitor.

His niece — whose family has also been given leave to remain — has since made a full recovery following the 2016 incident and is now in school.

Ismail said: “For the first time I can sleep well. I’m the happiest person in the world and I can’t stop smiling.

“I can’t thank my solicitor enough. She saved my life.”

Though a judge condemned Ismail’s actions in assisting the illegal entry, they said: “I do accept that you were not a person who was trafficking for gain. These were family members you decided to assist.”

Hannah Baynes, Ismail’s solicitor, said: “We are very pleased that Najat will be allowed to remain in the UK after so many years of uncertainty.

“The judge acknowledged that there was a risk of Najat’s mental health deteriorating if he was forced to live separately from his family in Iraq, where he has a well-founded fear of persecution.”


‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
Updated 04 December 2022

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
  • Balkan country is ‘demonstrably safe,’ Robert Jenrick argues

LONDON: The UK should prevent Albanian migrants from seeking asylum in Britain, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has said.

Sky News reported that Jenrick, who assumed the ministerial role on Oct. 25 as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet, said that Albanians should be “excluded from the right to claim asylum.”

He added that Britain should tighten its policy toward the Balkan country because it is a “demonstrably safe” place, describing the numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK as “unsustainable.”

Albanian nationals made up more than one-third of the 33,000 people who crossed the English Channel in boats from January to September this year.

Amid growing pressure on the government to tackle the migrant crisis, Jenrick said that the Albanian factor was now the “number one priority.” 

He told GB News: “Albania is a demonstrably safe country. It is very hard to see how an Albanian should be able to successfully claim asylum here in the UK.

“We have a returns agreement, which was signed a year ago, and 1,000 Albanians have gone back already. We are looking at what we can do there. We are also pursuing the diplomatic channels.

“We can’t have 1 million people entering the country in a single year and net migration of half a million — it’s just not sustainable.

“What I’m concerned about is there are people coming to universities here as a backdoor way of bringing their families into the UK and staying here for a prolonged period.

“A very significant number of people use this as a route to a life in the UK. This is a big driver of net migration.”

PM Sunak and his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama recently discussed efforts to end policies that have led to Britain being unable to efficiently deport failed Albanian asylum seekers.

But the Albanian leader also warned that the UK should avoid blaming Albanians and using migrants as an “excuse” for government failures.