UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker

The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on FSO Safer by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday. (File/AFP)
The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on FSO Safer by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 May 2022

UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker

UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker
  • FSO Safer left to decay amid Yemen’s civil war with 1.14 million barrels of oil left on board
  • Houthis, coalition agree to UN plan to transfer oil to safe ship in order to avert environmental disaster 

LONDON: The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on a stranded supertanker off the coast of Yemen by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday.

The decaying ship, the 376-meter-long FSO Safer, is thought to have around 1.14 million barrels stored aboard in total, and has been left to rust for six years amid the Yemeni civil war, after it was converted into a floating storage facility.

UN-backed engineers have been prevented from inspecting the 45-year-old ship by the Iran-backed Houthis, who currently control the capital, Sanaa, and who claim ownership of the ship and its cargo, using both as bargaining chips with the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, which backs the internationally recognized government. 

Fears abound that, should the ship begin to leak, or be hit with munitions as a result of the war, it could cause an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Red Sea, with the damage ruining diverse marine ecosystems and affecting the livelihoods of as many as 200,000 local fishermen.

The coasts of Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia could also be affected, and a spill would lead to significant disruption — and even the closure — of the Yemeni ports of Hodeidah and As Salif, which would massively hinder the country’s commercial activity and ability to receive  humanitarian aid.

A new scheme devised by UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly will see the UN attempt to raise $80 million from donors at a conference on Wednesday in a bid to avert such a disaster, which could cost upwards of $20 billion to clean up.

The UN claims the plan has the backing of both the rebels and the coalition, after the Houthis signed a memorandum of understanding on removing the oil from the Safer on March 5, to be transferred to a secure vessel, and later a new tanker, ensuring the cargo can still be held and sold by the militia. 

The FSO Safer will be towed and scrapped, with the Houthis incurring no liability for the ship.

The MoU was signed amid a general ceasefire in Yemen, the first for six years, after President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi stood down after 10 years in office, handing power over to the Presidential Leadership Council, led by Rashad Al-Alimi.

The timing of the ceasefire is critical for the future of the FSO Safer. Gressly said the supertanker was “rapidly decaying,” adding: “It is at imminent risk of spilling a massive amount of oil due to leakages or an explosion.”

Environmental activist group Greenpeace told the Observer newspaper the oil needed to be removed before October, “when the wind and the currents will be too dangerous and hinder any rescue operation.”

Doug Weir, research and policy director at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, told the Observer: “While some may question the $80 million price tag of the UN-mediated plan to address the threat posed by the FSO Safer, the costs of inaction — which start at $20 billion for managing the consequences of a catastrophic spill — are far, far greater. 

“The world has watched this situation grow more dangerous with every passing month, and it’s vital that donors provide the money that is needed to allow this urgent plan to proceed this summer.”


Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
Updated 16 sec ago

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
BRUSSELS: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday that Iran’s crackdown on protests is “unjustifiable” and “unacceptable,” as Tehran vowed no leniency against the unrest gripping the country.
In a statement on behalf of the EU, Borrell said: “For the European Union and its member states, the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protesters is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
Updated 25 September 2022

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
  • The Quad countries called on the Houthis to open the main roads around Taiz
  • Reaffirmed support for Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed importance of cohesion in the council

LONDON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US have condemned the Houthis’ large scale military reinforcement and all attacks that threaten to derail the truce in Yemen.

The countries, known as the Quad, recently met to discuss the situation in Yemen and also condemned recent Houthi attacks on Taiz and a Houthi military parade that was put on in Hodeidah at the beginning of this month which violated the Hodeidah Agreement.

The Quad welcomed the tangible benefits of the truce in Yemen for the country’s people since it began on April. 2 and the continued implementation of agreed confidence building measures by its government.

The countries welcomed the flow of fuel into Hodeidah Port despite a Houthi order that delayed the established process for clearing ships, and the resumption of flights in and out of Sanaa airport.

They called for the implementation of outstanding measures including the opening by the Houthis of the main roads around Taiz and an agreement on a joint mechanism for the payment of civil servant salaries.

The Quad said it fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg to extend and expand the truce which is due for renewal on Oct. 2, and that all terms of the truce must be fully implemented.

The governments of the four countries also agreed that a permanent ceasefire and a durable political settlement must be the ultimate objectives of the Yemeni political process, under UN auspices, and that such a settlement must be based on the agreed references and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

They reaffirmed their support to Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed the importance of cohesion in the council, and welcomed the council’s commitment to improving basic services and economic stability in the war-torn country.


Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
Updated 25 September 2022

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
  • Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran
  • At least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began

DUBAI: Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday it summoned Britain’s ambassador to protest what it described as a hostile atmosphere created by London-based Farsi language media outlets. The move comes amid violent unrest in Iran triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported the ministry also summoned Norway’s ambassador to Iran and strongly protested recent remarks by the president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani.
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police launched unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.
Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran. State TV has suggested that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities put the toll at least 11, with more than 1,200 demonstrators arrested.
The Foreign Ministry’s website said it summoned Simon Shercliff, the UK’s ambassador to Iran, on Saturday and protested the hosting of critical Farsi-language media outlets. The ministry alleges the news outlets have provoked disturbances and the spread of riots in Iran at the top of their programs.
Iran said it considers the news agencies’ reporting to be interference in Iran’s internal affairs and acts against its sovereignty.
The crisis in Iran began as a public outpouring of anger over the the death of Amini, who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.
Amini’s death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations.


Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
  • Derian: ‘We hope for government within days’

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian warned on Saturday that Lebanon has become a failed state.

“We are rapidly moving toward no state at all, and the Arabs and the world will soon start ignoring Lebanon’s existence because of political mismanagement at all levels,” he said.

“We need to elect a new president and the MPs are responsible for electing him or creating a presidential vacuum.”

Derian had invited Sunni MPs for a meeting at Dar Al-Fatwa to discuss possible candidates.

All but three of 27 Sunni MPs from different political currents attended the meeting, including one MP affiliated with Hezbollah, in addition to reformist and independent MPs.

Two reformist MPs, Ibrahim Mneimneh and Halima Al-Qaaqour, and independent MP Osama Saad did not attend.

A source in Dar Al-Fatwa said that the meeting was aimed at uniting the Sunni bloc in parliament to allow it to have a meaningful say in the presidential elections.

The bloc also aims stop any attempts to tamper with the Taif Agreement and undermine its provisions regarding Lebanon’s constitution, the source said.

The meeting focused on efforts to preserve national unity, and respect constitutional deadlines on the election of a new president and the formation of a government capable of implementing financial, monetary and legislative reforms, including an economic recovery plan.

During the meeting, Derian said that the survival of nations and states depends on the effectiveness of their constitutional institutions.

The president is the protector of the constitution, and the Christian president in Lebanon is a symbol of coexistence on which the Lebanese system is based, he said.

Arabs “recognize and appreciate the Lebanese experience” because the Lebanese president is the only Christian president in the Arab world, Derian added.

He urged MPs to encourage respect for the president’s position, and help him assume his role at home and abroad.

Derian also said the new president must preserve the principles of the Taif Agreement, the constitution, coexistence, and Lebanon’s national, Arab and international legitimacy.

If these matters are neglected, Lebanon will be unable to maintain order, stability and its national entity, he added.

Derian highlighted the need to put an end to made-up sectarian, divisive clashes over powers and return to the constitutional principle of separating powers but maintaining cooperation between them.

He called for the election of a president characterized by the personal and political qualities of a public businessman who would be ethically responsible for the mission with which he is tasked.

The new president must have wisdom, national responsibility and integrity, as well as the ability to be inclusive of all Lebanese, and to use his powers to help the country out of this crisis and prevent it from reaching total collapse, he said.

Derian reiterated: “Either we elect a president with these qualities, or we see the regime and the state fall before our eyes.”

He also appealed for respect for the prime minister and help for the PM-designate with his mission.

“This is a joint responsibility that rests with everyone. We are looking forward to forming a government as soon as possible, perhaps in the next few days,” said Derain, adding that Lebanon needed a government with full powers  — and not a caretaker government —   in these harsh and difficult circumstances.

Derian said Lebanon can survive only if consensus is reached. There is no salvation without unity, away from tension, sectarian strife and incitement, he added.

Lebanon needed a president “who is not part of the problem or the cause of it.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, those present stressed the principles advocated by Dar Al-Fatwa, especially in terms of committing to the Taif Agreement, Lebanon’s Arab identity and national unity.

They also condemned the abuses that had harmed and were still harming the foundations of national reconciliation and coexistence.

The Sunni MPs stressed the need to end Lebanon’s suffering under mismanagement and rampant corruption.

“Saving Lebanon requires recognizing the mistakes that were made, holding the perpetrators accountable, whoever they are, and sincerely cooperating with the different Lebanese and Arab parties and the international community to restore Lebanon’s identity and stature,” they said.

The Sunni MPs said that they will work with fellow MPs to elect a new president on the specified constitutional date.

They said that the new president “needs to abide by the constitution and be loyal to the people of Lebanon and their interests.”

The statement added that Lebanon’s enemy was and still is the Israeli army, which continued to occupy parts of the Lebanese territories.

It called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions that stipulate the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the recognition of Jerusalem as an occupied city.


Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
  • Each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s banks will reopen on Monday, the banking association said, after five days of closure following a wave of holdups in the country by depositors seeking access to their frozen savings.
The association said in a statement on Sunday that the decision to reopen “was taken after consideration of the current difficult security conditions and the need to maintain the safety of customers and employees alike, in the absence of adequate protection by the state.”
It added each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions, and the health care sector among others.
A top Lebanese banker on Friday criticized politicians for failing to enact a capital control law, saying this was the way to avoid bank raids by savers demanding funds from frozen accounts and to stop banks’ “discretionary practices.”
The holdups reflect savers’ desperation three years after Lebanon’s financial system collapsed due to decades of state corruption and waste, and unsustainable financial policies.
The government has agreed neither a financial recovery plan nor enacted reforms deemed vital to get Lebanon out of the crisis. While the government says it is committed to reforms, the International Monetary Fund says progress remains very slow.