UN sees progress in talks to free up Ukraine grain exports

UN sees progress in talks to free up Ukraine grain exports
Russia’s invasion and sea blockade of Ukraine has stalled exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and more than 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos at Odesa. (AP)
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Updated 13 July 2022

UN sees progress in talks to free up Ukraine grain exports

UN sees progress in talks to free up Ukraine grain exports
  • Talks tackle resumption of Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea port of Odesa as a global food crisis worsens

ISTANBUL: The United Nations reported “positive” results Wednesday from the first face-to-face talks in months between Russia and Ukraine on a UN plan to ship millions of tons of grain blocked in Ukraine because of the war to world markets and enable Russia to also send out grain and fertilizer.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was to brief reporters Wednesday afternoon on the outcome of the grain meeting in Istanbul. His deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said: “The important point is we believe this is something positive and he will talk to you at some length about why that is.”
The war has trapped about 22 million tons of grain inside Ukraine, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. UN, Turkish and other officials are scrambling for a solution that would empty the silos in time for upcoming harvest in Ukraine. Some grain is being transported through Europe by rail, road and river, but the amount is small compared with the Black Sea routes.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says the war in Ukraine is endangering food supplies for many developing nations, raising food prices globally and could worsen hunger for up to 181 million people.
Russia said meanwhile, it had presented a package of proposals for a “practical and quick solution” to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain but did not elaborate.
The Russian and Ukrainian officials, dressed in civilian clothes, faced each other around a large square table, along with Turkish military officials and UN envoys.Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced the talks had ended about 90 minutes after it confirmed that they had begun.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion and war has disrupted production and halted shipments across the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
Turkey has offered to provide safe Black Sea corridors and worked with the UN, Russia and Ukraine to reach an agreement. The UN would establish a center in Istanbul to control the shipments, Turkish officials have said.
Speaking before the talks, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press that grain exports from his country’s ports won’t resume without security guarantees to ship owners, cargo owners and to keep Ukraine as an independent nation.
Any agreement needs to ensure that Russia “will respect these corridors, they will not sneak into the harbor and attack ports or that they will not attack ports from the air with their missiles,” he said.
Russian and Ukrainian officials have traded accusations over the stuck grain shipments.
Moscow claims Ukraine’s heavily mined ports are causing the delay. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged that Moscow wouldn’t use the corridors to launch an attack, if the sea mines were removed.
But Ukrainian officials have blamed a Russian naval blockade for holding up the exports and causing the global food crisis. They are skeptical of Putin’s pledge not to take advantage of cleared Black Sea corridors to mount attacks on Ukrainian ports, noting that he insisted repeatedly this year that he had no plans to invade Ukraine.
Ahead of the talks, a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow was willing to ensure safe navigation for ships to carry grain from Ukrainian ports but would press for its right to check the vessels for weapons.
Pyotr Ilyichev, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for ties with international organizations, said Russia’s military had repeatedly declared its willingness to allow safe shipping corridors in the Black Sea.
Seventy vessels from 16 countries have remained stuck in Ukrainian ports, Ilyichev said, alleging that Ukrainian authorities had barred them from departing.
“Our conditions are clear: We need to have a way to control and check the ships to prevent any attempts to smuggle weapons in, and Kyiv must refrain from any provocations,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Ilyichev as saying.
Guterres has worked for months to secure a deal that would allow Ukraine to export wheat and other commodities from Odesa, the country’s largest port, and also enable Russia to export its grain and fertilizer to global markets.
Western sanctions on Russia do not ban exports of food or fertilizer. But Moscow argues that Western sanctions on its banking and shipping industries make it impossible for Russia to export those goods and are scaring off foreign shipping companies.
Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based Penta Center think-tank, said a key issue at the talks was what country would offer security guarantees and send warships to escort vessels carrying grain.
Ukraine also wants to set up a control mechanism to ensure that Russia doesn’t ship grain from the territories it seized in Ukraine to global markets, he said.
“Ukraine is demanding to work out a transparent and clear mechanism of international control,” he said. “The Ukrainian authorities are using the talks in Turkey to urge international partners not to buy what was stolen or pay to Kyiv for it.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador last week after Turkish authorities briefly detained a Russian ship suspected of transporting stolen grain but allowed it to leave and return to a Russian port. A Turkish official said authorities were not able to determine that the ship carried stolen grain.


5-year-old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir dies after UK hospital refuses admittance

5-year-old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir dies after UK hospital refuses admittance
Updated 59 min 26 sec ago

5-year-old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir dies after UK hospital refuses admittance

5-year-old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir dies after UK hospital refuses admittance
  • Rotherham General Hospital staff said ‘there are no beds and not enough doctors’
  • Uncle: ‘We begged and begged and begged for help. We couldn’t get it’

LONDON: A family in Britain who “begged and begged” for their nephew to be admitted to hospital have told Sky News the boy would still be alive if they had been listened to.
Five-year-old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir died on Nov. 21 after being refused admittance to Rotherham General Hospital as staff said “there are no beds and not enough doctors,” even though the doctor treating him described it as “the worst case of tonsilitis he had ever seen.”
Nazir first complained of a sore throat on Nov. 13, with his GP prescribing antibiotics, but as his condition worsened his parents took him to the Rotherham emergency department.
Nazir’s uncle Zaheer Ahmed told Sky News that the family waited all night to be seen by a doctor, who after examining the child sent him home despite Nazir struggling to breath, being unable to swallow and clearly in a distressed state.
Paramedics were called to the family home, but with the infection having spread to his lungs, he experienced multiple organ failure leading to a series of cardiac arrests that killed him.
Ahmed told Sky News that Nazir “stopped breathing, he stopped talking, when he was choking, he couldn’t breathe. He was struggling. And it’s led to his life being taken at 5 years old.
“If they would have treated him where we wanted him to be treated, he would be here with us now. He would have been here playing like he was.
“We’ve lost a beautiful child … It’s not his fault. We begged and begged and begged for help. We couldn’t get it. We just did not get the help we wanted, or we needed, or we should have got.”
Senior paediatric consultants have warned of unsustainable pressure on emergency children’s services.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “All children deserve the highest levels of care and we are taking urgent action to ensure no families have to experience these kinds of tragedies.
“Last week we announced up to £8 billion ($9.67 billion) for health and social care in 2024/25 and we’re giving an extra £500 million to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds.”


Bangladesh’s urea imports from Middle East up 15% as local supply dwindles

Bangladesh’s urea imports from Middle East up 15% as local supply dwindles
Updated 26 November 2022

Bangladesh’s urea imports from Middle East up 15% as local supply dwindles

Bangladesh’s urea imports from Middle East up 15% as local supply dwindles
  • Global energy price hike, gas crisis forces fertilizer companies to cut production
  • Country has imported over 1.1m tons from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar this year

DHAKA: Bangladesh is relying more on Middle Eastern countries to meet its demand for urea, a state agency official said, as an ongoing gas crisis tightens local supply and raises concerns about food security in the South Asian nation.

With a population of about 166 million and an agriculture sector making up more than 11 percent of its gross domestic product last year, Bangladesh needs around 2.6 million tons of urea, a fertilizer widely used in food crops.

As local gas fields struggled to meet rising demand amid a global hike in energy prices sparked by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, fertilizer companies in Bangladesh were either shut down or forced to cut their production, leading to a dwindling supply of urea. To resolve the supply gap, the Bangladeshi government has been importing more fertilizer from countries in the Middle East.

“We can say our fertilizer imports from Middle Eastern countries have increased around 15 percent due to the gas supply crisis in the local market,” Kazi Mohammad Saiful Islam, a director at the state-run Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corp., told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

He said more than 1.1 million tons of urea had been imported from three countries — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar — and there were plans to increase that quantity later this year.

“Considering the present global situation, we have already confirmed the respective countries to buy this additional amount,” Islam said.

He added that Bangladesh normally imported about a quarter of the urea it needs, but since the start of the Ukraine invasion in February, the price per ton had more than doubled.

“Due to the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, the global fertilizer market has turned very volatile,” agricultural economist and researcher Dr. Jahangir Alam told Arab News.

Due to its dwindling reserves of foreign exchange, he said Bangladesh should consider setting up a long-term contract with its foreign suppliers to buy urea “at a cheaper rate” and “pursue the urea purchase on a credit basis.”

Dhaka should also look to boost local fertilizer production, said Alam, who is a former vice chancellor of the University of Global Village in southern Bangladesh.

“Producing urea locally is much cheaper for us. So, the authorities should try to increase the production ability in the country.”


March for Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls to take place in London

March for Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls to take place in London
Updated 26 November 2022

March for Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls to take place in London

March for Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls to take place in London
  • British government urged to create safe asylum route for those at risk
  • MP: ‘Those who supported the UK and others over the last two decades have been left behind’

LONDON: Thousands of marchers will descend on London on Sunday to demand that the UK government create a safe asylum route for Afghan women and girls at risk, The Guardian reported on Saturday.
Organized by the campaign group Action for Afghanistan, Sunday’s March for Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls follows MPs’ demands that Foreign Secretary James Cleverly renew the government’s focus on those left at risk after Britain’s 20-year military endeavor.
“The Afghan relocations and assistance policy isn’t working, and there isn’t a dedicated route for women and girls,” Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain told The Guardian.
“It has been lost in the narrative around Ukraine, but also lost in the narrative around small boats.
“We’ve gotten to the stage where the Afghanistan situation is in the too-difficult basket and those who supported the UK and others over the last two decades have been left behind.”
The appeal follows a clampdown by the Taliban on women’s rights and freedoms, including the banning of girls from secondary school and the banning of women from parks.
Fawzia Koofi, the Afghan Parliament’s first female deputy speaker, said six women communicating with those planning the London march had been arrested in Kabul.
“I think it’s time for the UK to lead a feminist foreign policy, a human rights-centric foreign policy,” she added.
Chamberlain, who coordinated the appeal to Cleverly with an incoming all-party group, has urged the continuation of aid to Afghanistan, a consultation mechanism including Afghan stakeholders, and a dedicated asylum route.
Zehra Zaidi, a lawyer and co-founder of Action for Afghanistan, said a new settlement route would give hope.
Two resettlement schemes launched in 2021, which brought 7,000 eligible Afghans to the UK, came under intense scrutiny for failing to prioritize the most vulnerable, and was described by a House of Commons committee report as a “betrayal of our allies.”
Zaidi said those left behind in Afghanistan after the UK withdrawal “need to know people still care … They need to know that allies like the UK have not completely abandoned them.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson told The Guardian: “We remain committed to using all our diplomatic and development levers to support the Afghan people and protect the rights of women and girls.”
More than 40 civil society organizations are expected to attend the London march alongside Afghan politicians and activists.
Coordinated marches are also set to take place in Washington DC and four Canadian cities, with organizers saying they are expecting to see other countries follow suit after the UN said: “In no other country have women and girls so rapidly disappeared from public life.”


Wales fan dies in Qatar

Wales fan dies in Qatar
Updated 26 November 2022

Wales fan dies in Qatar

Wales fan dies in Qatar
  • Kevin Davies, 62, had not attended the Wales match against Iran after feeling ill
  • He was rushed to Doha Hamad General Hospital after ‘medical incident’ at apartment where he was staying

LONDON: The UK Foreign Office is supporting the family of a Wales fan who died in Qatar on Friday while attending the World Cup, Sky News has reported.
Kevin Davies, 62, from the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire, was rushed to Doha Hamad General Hospital on Friday following what is being described as a “medical incident” at the apartment where he was staying. He had not attended the Wales match against Iran after feeling ill.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said British officials are “supporting the family of a British man who has died in Qatar.”
Noel Mooney, CEO of the Football Association of Wales, tweeted: “So sorry to hear that one of our supporters has passed away here. Our condolences go to the family and of course we are here to support however we can.”
It is believed more than 2,500 Wales supporters have gone to Qatar for the World Cup — Wales’ first since 1958 — which has seen them draw with the US and lose to Iran.


Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable
Updated 26 November 2022

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable
  • The Ukrainian leader said the plan demonstrated that global food security was "not just empty words" for Kyiv
  • The summit was attended in-person by the prime ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the president of Hungary

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hosted a summit in Kyiv on Saturday to promote its “Grain from Ukraine” initiative to export grain to countries most vulnerable to famine and drought.
The Ukrainian leader said the plan demonstrated that global food security was “not just empty words” for Kyiv. The Kremlin has said that Ukraine’s Black Sea exports during the war have not been reaching the most vulnerable countries.
Zelensky said Kyiv had raised around $150 million from more than 20 countries and the European Union to export grain to countries including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
“We plan to send at least 60 vessels from Ukrainian ports to countries that most face the threat of famine and drought,” Zelensky told the gathering.
The summit was attended in-person by the prime ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the president of Hungary. Germany and France’s presidents and the head of the European Commission delivered speeches shown by video.
Announced by Kyiv earlier this month, the initiative is in addition to a UN-brokered deal that has allowed some Ukrainian grain shipments through the Black Sea, a vital route for the major wheat producer’s exports that had been blocked.
Flanked by his chief of staff and prime minister on Saturday, Zelensky said the Grain from Ukraine initiative aimed to demonstrate that for Kyiv global food security is “not just empty words.”
“This will be one of the biggest contributions to global stability – a real and very necessary step,” he said.