Talk of closing last Syrian aid lifeline ‘a moral abomination,’ UN commission says

Talk of closing last Syrian aid lifeline ‘a moral abomination,’ UN commission says
In this file photo, Syrian refugees make their way through a border crossing to Turkey. (AFP file)
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Updated 27 May 2022

Talk of closing last Syrian aid lifeline ‘a moral abomination,’ UN commission says

Talk of closing last Syrian aid lifeline ‘a moral abomination,’ UN commission says
  • Cross-border agreement set to expire on July 10, with Security Council members already sparring over whether it should be extended
  • Number of Syrians facing hunger has almost doubled since 2019, as Ukraine war pushes up prices, and hits wheat and fuel supplies

NEW YORK: With the current UN Security Council’s exceptional authorization for humanitarian aid delivery through the last remaining border crossing into northwest Syria set to expire on July 10, the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry warned that it would be a “failure of the highest order” if the council failed to extend the life-saving operation.

“As the country faces its worst economic and humanitarian crisis since the start of the conflict, the international community must safeguard existing, life-saving cross-border assistance and increase their funding pledges to support this aid,” said a commission statement, which also expressed alarm at what it called a “trajectory of consistent narrowing of the cross-border humanitarian aid delivery.”

When deliveries of international aid to Syria began in 2014, the Security Council approved four border crossings. In January 2020, permanent member Russia used its power of veto to force the closure of all but one, Bab-al-Hawa.

Moscow argues that international aid operations violate Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Security Council discussions about the issue often prove difficult, with Russia and China consistently insisting that all humanitarian aid deliveries require the consent of the Syrian authorities.

Opposing views among council members last week on the need to extend the cross-border mechanism have sparked concern among humanitarian agencies, as the crossing so far has guaranteed access to desperately needed aid for millions of Syrians since 2014.

“It is a moral abomination that a Security Council resolution was in itself deemed necessary to facilitate cross-border aid in the face of consistent violations — by the government of Syria and other parties — of their obligations under international law to allow and facilitate humanitarian relief for civilians in need,” Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN Syria Commission, said.

The July 10 renewal vote comes as humanitarian needs throughout Syria are at their highest since the start of the war 11 years ago.

The UN estimates that 14.6 million Syrians are now in need of aid. Across the war-ravaged country, 12 million people face acute food insecurity, a staggering 51 percent increase since 2019, amid a conflict in Ukraine that has sent food prices skyrocketing and threatened supplies of wheat and other commodities.
 
In opposition-held northwest Syria, conditions are deteriorating due to continuing hostilities and a deepening economic crisis. About 4.1 million people there, mostly women and children, depend on aid to meet their basic needs.

Cross-border operations authorized by the Security Council allow aid to reach around 2.4 million people every month.

The commission said in its latest report that this lifeline is vital to the population in northwest Syria, adding that while some aid is delivered cross-line from within Syria, these deliveries contain much smaller, insufficient quantities and are exposed to attacks along a dangerous delivery route that crosses active front lines.

During its 11 years of investigating the conflict, the commission has documented that both the government and armed groups have repeatedly used humanitarian aid as a political bargaining chip, often deliberately withholding it for specific populations, particularly those under siege.

The commission also maintains that across all territories of Syria, staff members of humanitarian organizations constantly run the risk of being harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Commissioner Hanny Megally said: “Parties to the conflict have consistently failed in their obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need across Syria. It is unconscionable that the discussion seems to focus on whether to close the one remaining authorized border crossing for aid, rather than how to expand access to life-saving aid across the country and through every appropriate route.”

Earlier this month, humanitarian aid organizations sounded the alarm at an EU-hosted Brussels VI Conference on Syria.

“The funds for humanitarian assistance are simply not sufficient to address the needs and protect the Syrians right now,” Pinheiro said.

“The international community cannot now abandon the Syrian people. They have endured 11 years of devastating conflict that has inflicted unspeakable suffering. They have never been more impoverished and in need of our help.”


Renewable energy in Arab region to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Arab region to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
Updated 10 sec ago

Renewable energy in Arab region to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Arab region to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
  • A GEM report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a predicted total capacity of 73.4 GW

LONDON: Renewable energy generation projects in the Arab countries will reach nearly 92 percent of the region's total targets by 2030, according to a Global Energy Monitor report published Tuesday.The Arab region currently produces more than 12 gigatonnes of wind and solar energy, the report said.

In 2013, the Arab League clean energy initiative pledged to increase the region's installed renewable power generation capacity from 12 gigatonnes to 80 gigatonnes by 2030.

The report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a total capacity of 73.4 gigatonnes, which is nearly five times the region's current renewable energy production.

These projects include 114 solar power plants and 45 wind power plants.

The report also said that Egypt produces the most renewable energy, with 3.5 gigatonnes, followed by the UAE with 2.6 gigatonnes, Morocco with 1.9 gigatonnes, Jordan with 1.7 gigatonnes, and Saudi Arabia with 0.78 gigatonnes.

The UAE leads the region in utility-scale solar energy generation, with 2.6 gigatonnes of capacity.

Egypt is the region's wind leader, with 1.6 gigatonnes of electricity generated by wind farms.Oman, Morocco, and Algeria, on the other hand, are pursuing more than 39.7 gigatonnes of potential solar and wind energy projects.

These countries are expected to top the list of renewable energy producers in the near future, the report concluded.


Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
Updated 54 min 51 sec ago

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
  • During his visit, the prime minister expressed condolences on the death of former UAE President

ABU DHABI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after concluding his visit to Germany, where he attended the G7 Summit.

During his visit to the UAE, Modi expressed his condolences on the death of former UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away last month.

"In a very special gesture, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and members of the Royal family came all the way to the airport to meet PM Modi" said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperon Arindam Bagchi.

At the airport, the leaders were seen hugging and greeting each other.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to congratulate Sheikh Mohammed on his election as the new President of the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

This was the prime minister’s first visit since the two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement earlier this year.

India-UAE trade is valued at $59 billion, making the UAE India's third largest trading partner for the year 2019-20 after China and the US, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

The UAE is India's third largest export destination, with nearly $16 billion clocked in 2020-21.

The two countries also enjoy strong trade and cultural ties, with Indians making up 35 percent of the UAE’s 10 million population, the biggest expatriate community.


Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
Updated 28 June 2022

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
  • A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke

AQABA, Jordan: Jordan’s prime minister said Tuesday that he has instructed authorities to launch an investigation into the deadly blast the previous day at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 13 people.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke. Along with those killed, some 250 were sickened, authorities said.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port has resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said “other nationalities” were among the dead, without elaborating. He said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.


Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice
Updated 28 June 2022

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

DUBAI: Kuwait’s interior ministry said Tuesday that it has suspended issuing tourist visas for those wishing to visit the gulf state. 

“The interior ministry has announced that it has stopped issuing family and tourist visit visas from Monday until further notice,” read a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

The decision comes in light of preparations for a new regulations to serve the interests and develop the process, it said.


Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
Updated 28 June 2022

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
  • Talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of discussions

GENEVA: Two senior Libyan officials began two days of talks Tuesday on constitutional arrangements for elections, the latest UN effort to bridge gaps between the country’s rivals.
Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of the country’s east-based parliament, and Khaled Al-Meshri, head of the government’s Supreme Council of State, based in the west, in the capital of Tripoli, met at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
According to the United Nations, the talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The criteria for a presidential candidacy were a contentious point in the talks, according to Libyan media. The Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personal from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are loyal to the east-based administration.
Haftar had announced his bid in elections slated for last December but the vote was not held because of myriad issues, including controversial hopefuls who had announced bids and disputes about election laws.
There are growing tensions on the ground, and sporadic clashes between rival militias recently erupted in Tripoli. Living conditions have also deteriorated, mainly because of fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest field.
The blockade was largely meant to cut off key state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down even though the vote was not held in December.
Now, Dbeibah and another prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, appointed by the east-based parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power. The rivalry has sparked fears the oil-rich country could slide back to fighting after tentative steps toward unity last year.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.