Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails

Update Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gives special address at WEFF 2022. (File/AFP))
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Updated 24 May 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails

Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails
  • Virtual speech to business leaders and government officials delivered to World Economic Forum annual summit participants
  • Ukraine president accused Russia of blocking critical food supplies, such as wheat and sunflower oil, from leaving its ports

LONDON: In a powerful speech during the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the lesson to be learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the global community must act preventively, rather than reactively, if it is to deter future acts of international aggression.

Speaking via video link from Kyiv almost three months after the Russian invasion began, Zelensky said that the world was at a turning point, “a moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world.”

If brute force were to prevail, he said, there would be “no need for further meetings in Davos,” because “brute force is not interested in our thoughts. Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those it seeks to subdue.

“It does not discuss, but kills at once, and Russia is doing that in Ukraine, even as we speak.”

Moscow says its “special military operation” in Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, is aimed at protecting Russia’s security and that of Russian-speaking people in the eastern Donbas region.

In Monday’s speech, bookended by standing ovations from Davos summit participants, Zelensky said that Russia had become “a state of war criminals,” whose acts, if allowed to go unpunished by the international community, were in danger of inspiring other potential aggressor states in future.

He spoke movingly of the chaos and destruction suffered by Ukraine: “Instead of successful, peaceful cities, there are only black ruins. Instead of normal trade, a sea full of mines and blocked ports. Instead of tourism, closed skies and thousands of Russian bombs and cruise missiles.”

This, he warned, “is what the world would look like if this turning moment does not have a proper response from humanity.”

Ukraine, he said, was grateful for the support that had been offered by so many of the world’s countries, and the “hundreds of millions of citizens in democratic countries who are putting pressure on governments and companies to make sure they limit or restrain their relations with the aggressor state of Russia.”

But, he said, “we need to change the approach, not to respond but to act preventively … Russia started its war against Ukraine back in 2014. We are grateful for this support. But if it had happened immediately — that unity, that pressure on governments and companies — would Russia have started this full-scale war, have brought all this upon Ukraine and upon the world? I’m sure that the answer is no.”

He added that the Russian war on Ukraine showed that “support to a country under attack is more valuable the sooner it is provided. Weapons, funding, political support and sanctions against Russia — if we would have received 100 percent of our needs at once, back in February, the result would have been tens of thousands of lives saved.”

On May 17, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, Mykhaylo Podolyak, said that talks with Russia were on hold. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, has accused Ukrainian authorities of not wanting to continue talks to end hostilities.

Russian news agencies say the last meeting happened on April 22.

On Monday, Zelensky renewed his call for sanctions of Russia to be stepped up to “maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor who wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor will clearly know the immediate consequences for their actions.”

There should “be a Russian oil embargo, all the Russian banks should be blocked, no exceptions, there should be an abandonment of the Russian IT sector, there shouldn’t be any trade with Russia,” he told the WEF event.

“This should be a precedent for sanctions pressure that will work convincingly in the decades to come.”

In a direct appeal to the many international business leaders present at Davos, he added: “It necessary for the complete withdrawal of all businesses from the Russian market so that your brands are not associated with war crimes. This matters … when global markets are becoming destabilized.”

Every company that left the Russian market, he said, could “continue operating in Ukraine and have access not only to our market of 40 million consumers, but also to the common market of Europe.

“Our representatives here in Davos can inform all of you on the details of the prospects that Ukraine opens for your businesses.”

Zelensky made clear that, even as the war continues, his government is focusing on the future and the rebuilding of Ukraine, and he invited the high-powered delegates in Davos “to take part in this rebuilding.”

He said: “The amount of work is enormous. We have more than half a trillion dollars in losses, tens of thousands of facilities were destroyed. We need to rebuild entire cities and industries.”

To achieve this, he said, Ukraine was offering “a special historically significant model of rebuilding, in which partner countries, partner cities or partner companies will have the opportunity to take patronage over a particular region, a city, or community or even an industry.”

Countries including the UK and Denmark, as well as the EU, “have already chosen a specific area for patronage and rebuilding,” and he urged other states to follow suit. If they did, “the post-war rebuilding of Ukraine — the largest project of its kind in Europe since the end of the Second World War — could be fast, could be efficient, and of high quality.”

Ukraine has established a fund called United 24, designed to collect donations for defense and demining, medical aid and rebuilding, “and we call upon everyone to join this platform,” Zelensky said.

“For each and every donor we will have a specific proposal of how to help and where to allocate funds.”

But Ukraine would not be the sole beneficiary of United 24, he added.

“Under this brand, we propose to establish a global structure that can, within 24 hours, provide sufficient support to any country that has suffered or faced a military attack, a natural disaster or a pandemic.

“We offer a new forum for security guarantees, based on what we have faced. There must be something that sets a precedent for timely assistance to everyone who needs it, to save lives, social stability, all the necessary elements for a normal economy — something like a 911 service to guarantee security on a global scale.”

 


Paris attacker sentenced to whole life in prison

Paris attacker sentenced to whole life in prison
Updated 12 sec ago

Paris attacker sentenced to whole life in prison

Paris attacker sentenced to whole life in prison
PARIS: The sole surviving member of an Daesh terror cell that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015 was handed a whole-life sentence by a French court on Wednesday, the toughest punishment possible.
Salah Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin, was captured alive by police four months after the bloodbath.
The sentence was read out by the head of a five-judge panel overseeing the marathon trial of 20 men accused of involvement in the worst peace-time atrocity in modern French history.
The other 19 suspects, accused of either plotting or offering logistical support, were found guilty, with their sentences ranging from two years to life in prison.
Hundreds of survivors and witnesses have attended proceedings since their start in September and they packed out the benches of the specially constructed courtroom as the verdicts were read out.
A team of 10 Daesh militants laid siege to the French capital, attacking the national sports stadium, bars and the Bataclan concert hall in an assault that traumatized the country.
The trial has been the biggest in modern French history, the culmination of a six-year, multi-country investigation whose findings run to more than a million pages.
Abdeslam had begun his appearances by defiantly declaring himself as an “Daesh fighter,” but finished apologizing to victims and asking for leniency.
His lawyers had argued against the whole-life sentence, which prosecutors had called for.
It offers only a small chance of parole after 30 years and has been pronounced only four times since being created in 1994.
The former pot-smoking party lover discarded his suicide belt on the night of the attack and fled back to his hometown, Brussels, where many of the extremists lived.
He told the court that he had a change of heart and decided not to kill people.
But prosecutors have argued that he shared the murderous intent of the rest of the attack team and that his equipment simply malfunctioned.
“Those who committed these heinous crimes are nothing more than lowlife terrorists and criminals,” prosecutor Nicolas Le Bris said in his closing statement earlier this month.
The November 2015 attacks deeply traumatized France, with the choice of targets — music and sports venues, the capital’s famed bars and cafes — and the manner of the violence seemingly designed to inflict maximum shock.
The huge loss of life marked the start of a gruesome and violent period in Europe, as Daesh claimed responsibility for numerous attacks across the continent.
France, under then president Francois Hollande, who testified at the trial, ramped up its military campaign to defeat the extremists in Syria and Iraq.
In the absence of the rest of the attackers, the men on trial besides Abdeslam are suspected of offering logistical support or plotting other attacks.
Only 14 out of the 20 appeared in person, with the rest missing, presumed dead.
One of them, Mohamed Abrini, has admitted to driving some of the Paris attackers to the capital and explained how he was meant to take part but backed out.
The 37-year-old also started out justifying Daesh violence as part of a fight against Western countries, but ended by apologizing to victims in the trial’s final stages.
The court handed him a life sentence with 22 years as a minimum term.
Also on trial is Swedish citizen Osama Krayem, who has been identified in a notorious Daesh video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.
The overall commander of the Paris attacks, senior Syria-based Daesh figure Oussama Atar, was also tried in absentia but is presumed dead.

Paris court rejects 10 ex-militants’ extradition to Italy

Paris court rejects 10 ex-militants’ extradition to Italy
Updated 29 June 2022

Paris court rejects 10 ex-militants’ extradition to Italy

Paris court rejects 10 ex-militants’ extradition to Italy
  • The Italian nationals had been living in freedom in France for decades after fleeing Italy
  • All 10, only some of whom were linked with the deadly Red Brigades group, spent the last 14 months under French judicial supervision

PARIS: A Paris court on Wednesday ruled against extraditing to Italy 10 former left-wing militants, including some former Red Brigades members, convicted of domestic terrorist crimes in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Italian nationals had been living in freedom in France for decades after fleeing Italy before they could be imprisoned to serve their sentences.
The crimes in connection with which they were convicted include the 1980 killing of a Carabinieri paramilitary general and the kidnapping of a judge in the same year.
All 10, only some of whom were linked with the deadly Red Brigades group, spent the last 14 months under French judicial supervision as judges deliberated on Italy’s extradition request following the activists’ arrests and police questioning a year ago.
The Paris Court of Appeal said in a statement it rejected Italy’s extradition request for each member of the group of 10 men and women, but didn’t explain its reasoning.
Wednesday’s ruling can still be appealed at France’s highest court.
Italy’s justice ministry said in a statement it respected the French judicial process as they await to hear the assessments of the ruling by the Paris attorney general, who is the only one authorized to appeal the court’s decision to deny the extradition of each of the 10 convicted militants.
“I am waiting to know the reasons behind the ruling that denies all extraditions without distinction,” said Italian Justice Minister Marta Cartabia.
“This is a long-awaited ruling for the victims and the entire country, which concerns a dramatic and still painful page in our history,” Cartabia said.
The French presidency said it will not comment on the court’s ruling.
The unwillingness of French authorities to detain convicted Italian former left-wing militants living in France has long been a thorny issue between Paris and Rome.
Italy has sought the extradition of around 200 convicted former militants believed to be in France over the years.
Italy’s far-left Red Brigades group killed about 50 people in a terror campaign in the 1970s and ‘80s.


Otokita: Diplomatic relations with the Middle East are important for Japan

Otokita: Diplomatic relations with the Middle East are important for Japan
Updated 29 June 2022

Otokita: Diplomatic relations with the Middle East are important for Japan

Otokita: Diplomatic relations with the Middle East are important for Japan
  • The party’s policies include calls for free education, free childbirth and bold tax cuts
  • Otokita was elected to the House of Councilors in 2019 in Tokyo

TOKYO: Shun Otokita, member of the House of Councilors, believes that relations with the Middle East is important for Japan.
Otokita is the chairman of the Policy Research Council of the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).
The ritzy Ginza district in Tokyo was part of his campaign trail where he gave his support to candidates, Kiyoshi Nakajo and Yuki Ebisawa, and appealed to passers-by saying, “We will stamp down the liar LDP.”
The party’s policies include calls for free education, free childbirth, bold tax cuts and economic stimulus measures, as well as the elimination of the 1 percent GDP limit for Japan’s defense budget. The party sees a need for greater defense spending and military capabilities.
Otokita, 38, was elected to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in 2013 and to the House of Councilors in 2019 in Tokyo. He serves on the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense and sees the Middle East as an important ally.
“Our relationship with Middle Eastern countries will become increasingly important due to soaring energy prices,” Otokita said. “I will do my best to continue building Japan’s diplomatic relations with them as well as with Asia and Europe.”
 


Afghan pilgrim bicycling to Makkah reaches Saudi Arabia by air

Afghan pilgrim bicycling to Makkah reaches Saudi Arabia by air
Updated 29 June 2022

Afghan pilgrim bicycling to Makkah reaches Saudi Arabia by air

Afghan pilgrim bicycling to Makkah reaches Saudi Arabia by air
  • Noor Mohammad, 48, departed from his home in Ghazni province in early May
  • He was stranded in Iran after failing to obtain Iraqi visa to continue journey by land

KABUL: A pilgrim from southeastern Afghanistan, who became a social media sensation when he embarked on a bicycle journey to Makkah last month, has reached Saudi Arabia, Afghan authorities said on Wednesday, after his expedition took a series of unexpected turns, including a sponsored flight.

Noor Mohammad departed from his home in Layeq village, in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province in early May, planning to cover more than 6,000 kilometers to reach the holy city of Islam by July and perform Hajj.

As he cycled through Afghanistan, a Taliban scholar offered him assistance in getting a plane ticket, but the 48-year-old refused, wanting to go the extra mile in fulfilling the sacred obligation.

Little did he know that soon the help would be needed when after three weeks he got stranded in Iran, trying to obtain an Iraqi visa in the border city of Khorramshahr.

“My Afghan friends promised to get me Iraq’s visa there,” Mohammad told Arab News, as he described his further attempts to get a Kuwaiti visa instead. Again, to no avail.

That was when he decided to reach out to the scholar.

“I had no other way. I contacted Shaikh Hammasi through WhatsApp,” he said. “He introduced me to an Afghan businessman who helped with the stay in Iran and return back to Kabul.”

In Kabul, he was immediately accepted for a Hajj preparation course, where officials took care of his departure. His flight was reportedly covered by acting Interior Minister Serajuddin Haqqani, a close aide of Anas Haqqani — the minister’s brother and senior Taliban leader — told Arab News.

“The ministry of Hajj processed my passport on an urgent basis,” Mohammad said, just days before leaving for Saudi Arabia.

He flew from Kabul on Tuesday, after all his travel documents were processed.

“His name was put on the first flight after that,” Mawlawi Israrulhaq, an official at the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, said. “He traveled to Jeddah from where he will join other Afghan Hajjis in Makkah.”

Mohammad was preparing for his flight days after a deadly earthquake wreaked havoc in eastern Afghanistan, killing an estimated 1,150 people last week.

He has been praying for the victims and said he would remember them too when he reached Makkah.

“As soon as I get to Makkah, I will pray to Allah to make it easy for the families who lost loved ones and their houses,” he added. “I am going to ask him to solve all problems of Afghans.”


British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 
Updated 29 June 2022

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 
  • One million people will perform Hajj this year
  • Sarah Rana said she feels “special and honored” to be performing Hajj next month

LONDON: A British pilgrim has said she feels “very blessed” to be among the 1 million people performing Hajj this year.

Sarah Rana, a management consultant and chartered surveyor, is performing Hajj for the first time and said she feels “special and honored” to be part of the annual gathering.

This year’s Hajj will be the first post-pandemic pilgrimage open to foreign pilgrims, and 1 million people will perform it this year as people across the globe start traveling again. 

Around 2.5 million people performed Hajj in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and approximately 1,000 and 60,000 people from within the Kingdom performed it in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

The chartered surveyor said that she started thinking about going to Hajj during the pandemic when she began reading the Qur’an more and learning about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

A man reads the Qur'an at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (@ReasahAlharmain)

Rana told Arab News that she has done “a lot of the emotional processing” and is now concentrating on preparing herself physically for the journey ahead which starts with her flight to the Kingdom on Friday.

“45 degrees is not going to be easy. That's going to be massive. If it goes over 30 degrees, my hands and feet start swelling,” Rana said. 

An employee hands out umbrellas at the Grand Mosque in Makkah to help beat the heat. (@ReasahAlharmain)

She said that although she walked the London Marathon last year, walking in the heat “is going to be a very different experience. So I’m not not taking it lightly. I’m thinking it through.”

Rana added that her friends and family have been giving her Hajj tips and that she is “quite well prepared.”

The Kaaba can be seen at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (@ReasahAlharmain)

“I’ve been buying clothes. I found that the stuff that was more expensive was more uncomfortable. So I’m just going to take my practical stuff,” Rana said.

Muslims believe that supplications that pilgrims make during Hajj, especially on the ninth day of Dhu Al-Hijjah, are definitely accepted.

A woman supplicates at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (@ReasahAlharmain)

Rana said she believes that God knows her needs and will give her what is best for her. She will be praying for her kids, that the remainder of her life is a good one and for financial independence.

She said performing Hajj represents a new start for her and will give her closure from any painful experiences in the past. 

“As I turn 50 this year, I think it’s closure to a lot of stuff and genuinely about a new start, whatever that new start is. It’s very meaningful.”