Saudi Crown Prince-Macron meeting bodes well for energy-starved Europe

Saudi Crown Prince-Macron meeting bodes well for energy-starved Europe
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French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris on Thursday. (AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince-Macron meeting bodes well for energy-starved Europe
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If Europeans need to secure their energy supply, for the Gulf countries it is a question of preparing for the post-oil period. (SPA file)
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Updated 29 July 2022

Saudi Crown Prince-Macron meeting bodes well for energy-starved Europe

Saudi Crown Prince-Macron meeting bodes well for energy-starved Europe
  • Continent’s leaders are eager for solutions to alleviate the effects of the embargo on Russian oil and gas imports
  • Potential implosion of the Iran nuclear deal to figure in crown prince’s talks with President Macron 

PARIS: What can Saudi Arabia do to help France ease the looming energy crisis resulting from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and what can France — and Europe — do to support Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries if the Iranian nuclear deal falls by the wayside?

These questions, potential political emergencies, weigh heavily on the talks in Paris between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron. During their meeting, the two leaders will strive to find solutions.

David Rigoulet-Roze, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations, is of the view that the crown prince’s visit “is part of a resumption of contact with Europeans in general, in the context of the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy problem.”

Preparing for the post-oil period, on June 2 the informal alliance of OPEC and non-OPEC oil-producing countries, sometimes referred to as OPEC+, agreed to increase production by 216,000 barrels per day in addition to the 432,000 bpd set in previous months.




If Europeans need to secure their energy supply, for the Gulf countries it is a question of preparing for the post-oil period. (SPA file)

However, this increase does not seem to be of a sufficient level to reassure Europeans, especially as winter approaches.

It is therefore necessary to continue efforts to alleviate the effects of the embargo on Russian oil imports, says Rigoulet-Roze. The natural gas sector is also under pressure, so “it is hoped that the Gulf countries will lend a sympathetic ear to the pleas for energy supplies.”

If Europeans need to secure their energy supply, for the Gulf countries it is, above all, a question of preparing for the post-oil period.

“Europe in general, and France in particular, hopes that the petromonarchies will prove receptive to their requests for guaranteeing hydrocarbon supplies. The Gulf countries, for their part, would like to develop synergies with Europe on this subject,” Rigoulet-Roze told Arab News en Francais.

“In this context, Europe and France have expertise, particularly with regard to renewable energies, whether green hydrogen, solar, wind.”

Regarding the burning Middle East geopolitical issues and the deadlock in Iranian nuclear negotiations, the picture is not so clear. “Overall, it looks like the JCPOA renegotiation will be difficult to finalize and that is what the US now thinks due to a proven form of obstruction on the part Iran,” Rigoulet-Roze said.

“It is in this context that US President Joe Biden’s tour took place, focused in particular on the establishment of a regional security system in which Saudi Arabia would constitute a central piece, even if Riyadh has not yet agreed to normalization of relations with Tel Aviv, unlike the fellow GCC members who have committed themselves to the Abraham Accords.”

Both the French and the Americans continue to say that they are in favor of signing a new nuclear accord with Iran, but time is running out, Rigoulet-Roze said, adding that President Macron reiterated the point a few days ago during a telephone conversation with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.




Iran's nuclear ambitions had been a cause for concern among countries in the Middle East region. (AFP)

France has positioned itself in a way to maintain a channel of discussion with Iran, because it is not possible to cut ties. Macron adopts a similar approach vis-a-vis Russian President Vladimir Putin, believing that it is necessary, despite the circumstances, to try to keep the channels of dialogue open.

“This approach with President Vladimir Putin has been criticized because it has not necessarily been successful and it may be the same with Tehran. But he considers that it is still necessary to try,” Rigoulet-Roze said.

But if the Iranian nuclear deal were to eventually fall apart, what would happen the next day?

To Rigoulet-Roze, the problem is that Europe does not yet have a strategic identity, and is “not a partner” like the US.

“It will therefore be necessary to return to the strengthening of the regional architecture envisioned by the US, with all the difficulties that this implies,” he said.

The US would like to set up a kind of Israeli-Arab-Sunni NATO equipped with an anti-ballistic system to mitigate the growing threat of drones, and even missiles, of Iranian origin, used by Tehran’s proxies in Yemen or elsewhere.

The UAE indicated at the end of Biden’s Middle East tour that it does not intend to be part of any anti-Iranian axis. The same message, in a more modified way, has come from Jordan, according Rigoulet-Roze.

The tipping point will come only when it becomes clear whether the nuclear agreement will be saved or not “and until this is established, the different countries concerned will have difficulty in communicating their official positions with clarity,” Rigoulet-Roze said.

“The Iranians are stalling the process. It is becoming clear that we will not be able to finalize an agreement as we still hoped for at the beginning of 2021 when negotiations were relaunched,” he added.


 

 

FASTFACT

History of modern France




(SHUTTERSTOCK)

The French Revolution of 1789 saw France transform from a monarchy to a republic, which came under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte 10 years later.

After he became emperor of the First French Empire from 1804-1814, his armies conquered large swaths of continental Europe. Another monarchy emerged from the wake of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and Napoleon’s nephew created the Second Empire in 1852, becoming the last monarch to rule over France.

He was ousted and the monarchy was replaced by the Third French Republic in 1870. Throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, France maintained a large colonial empire across West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

France sided with the Allied Powers during the Second World War, but was split in two during the conflict, with most of the country controlled by a collaborationist, pro-German government.

The country slowly recovered after the end of the war, but long wars in its colonies in Indochina (now Vietnam) and Algeria saw it ousted from these regions, and by the 1960s, most of France’s former colonies had achieved independence.

France has been a full member of the UN Security Council and NATO since the end of the Second World War, and played a vital role in the establishment of the EU. France has a large Muslim and Arab population owing to its former colonies in north Africa, and many of these populations suffer from social alienation and high unemployment rates.

The country has been the site of unrest and protests against the enforcement of strict secular policies and controversial bills, some of which have attempted to ban the wearing of headscarves or traditional Muslim face coverings in public.

 


On remote Bangladeshi island, Rohingya refugee children find healing in art

On remote Bangladeshi island, Rohingya refugee children find healing in art
Updated 9 sec ago

On remote Bangladeshi island, Rohingya refugee children find healing in art

On remote Bangladeshi island, Rohingya refugee children find healing in art
  • Bangladeshi cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy engaged refugees in drawing mural
  • He asked kids in Bhasan Char to picture their lives, fears, dreams

DHAKA: When Sona Maher’s family escaped a military crackdown in Myanmar, they arrived in Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and the images of blood and destruction she is still trying to forget.

The 14-year-old is one of more than 1 million Muslim Rohingya who in 2017 fled persecution, rape, and death at the hands of the Myanmar army.

Most of them found safety in neighboring Bangladesh, of which a southeastern part has since become the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Initially settled in the squalid camps of Cox’s Bazar, Meher’s family last year joined a group of nearly 30,000 Rohingya who Bangladeshi authorities have relocated to Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.

Before and when the relocation started, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and rights groups criticized the project on the grounds of safety and Bhasan Char’s livability, as it is prone to severe weather and flooding. But it is also where Maher and other children found solace — in art.

“I witnessed the atrocities by the Myanmar military in my neighborhood in Rakhine. Houses were burnt down, people were killed brutally all around me,” she told Arab News.

“I remember those horrific days and sometimes try to show those incidents in my drawings. I forget the pain when I see the colors of my drawings. It inspires me to hope for a new life, new dreams. I want to get rid of those horrible memories. Life is better now.”

Maher took part in an art project run by Bangladeshi cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy and the UNHCR, and art education NGO Artolution, who asked Rohingya children to picture their lives, fears, and dreams in a huge wall painting.

It took eight days, 50 participants, and long hours of consultation to complete the 50-meter-long mural last month.

“It was not just another pretty picture on the wall. We wanted to offer mental healing through art therapy with the engagement of the community,” Tanmoy told Arab News.

“Initially we experienced some reluctance … At this point, we started the paintings with brushes and colors. A few Rohingyas came forward to watch the process.”

Soon, they too began to paint.

A dominant motif appearing in their drawings was a boat.

“Most of the Rohingyas came up with the idea of drawing boats,” Tanmoy said. “They hold their dreams of returning to their homeland, and of a journey toward a better future.”

For those who participated in the project, such as 17-year-old Anowar Sadek, expressing themselves through art came with some sense of solace.

“Whenever I hold the painting materials, it helps me forget the agonies I witnessed earlier in Rakhine,” he said. “The paintings give me much comfort and pleasure.”

But both the children and art educators know that the comfort will be only temporary as long as they remain without a place that they can call home. And isolation in Bhasan Char also adds to their distress.

“My heart filled with joy when I painted the wall with colors … I want to continue painting throughout my life,” Roksana Akter, a 12-year-old who joined the mural project, said.

“But I have many friends and relatives in Cox’s Bazar. I didn’t see them for a long time. It’s the saddest part of my life at this moment.”


Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials

Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials
Updated 1 min 43 sec ago

Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials

Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials
  • Border service: ‘An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters’

Air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday following warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes.
“An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters,” country’s border service wrote on Telegram messaging app.


Biden should stop arms shipments to far-right Israeli govt, ex-diplomats say

Biden should stop arms shipments to far-right Israeli govt, ex-diplomats say
Updated 42 min 24 sec ago

Biden should stop arms shipments to far-right Israeli govt, ex-diplomats say

Biden should stop arms shipments to far-right Israeli govt, ex-diplomats say
  • Washington Post op-ed calls for ‘unprecedented’ action to curb annexation of West Bank, support two-state solution
  • Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller warn US: ‘Have no dealings with Ben-Gvir, Smotrich’

LONDON: US President Joe Biden has been urged by two former diplomats to halt arms shipments to Israel if the weapons are used in an offensive capacity against Palestinians.

Describing the incoming administration of Benjamin Netanyahu as “the most extreme government in the history of the state,” Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, and Aaron David Miller, a US Middle East peace negotiator, wrote in the Washington Post that Biden should take the “unprecedented and controversial” decision to reconsider Washington’s military support for Israel.

They warned that Netanyahu’s government could seek to annex or “change the status of the West Bank,” and “build infrastructure for settlers that is designed to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution,” adding: “Israel should be told that, while the US will continue to support its ally’s legitimate security requirements, it will not provide offensive weapons or other assistance for malign Israeli actions in Jerusalem or the occupied territories.”

The pair also wrote that Biden should end Washington’s protection of Israel in international diplomatic forums, such as the UN Security Council, where it regularly vetoes motions that criticize Israel.

They said this break with protocol was justified as Netanyahu had “brought to life the radical, racist, misogynistic and homophobic far-right parties” to form his coalition, including Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister, whom they described as a “convicted inciter of hatred and violence” who will have “far-reaching authority for the West Bank, Jerusalem and mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel proper” as part of his remit.

The elevation of Bezalel Smotrich to a potential role overseeing the Civil Administration was also criticized given that he “has called for the expulsion of Arabs” and will have a say in the running of the West Bank.

“Biden should also make it clear to Israel that his administration will have no dealings with Ben-Gvir, Smotrich or their ministries if they continue to espouse racist policies and actions,” Kurtzer and Miller said.

“For a US president to put pressure on a democratically elected Israeli government would be unprecedented and controversial. But Israel has never before embarked on such a dangerous course. Political will matters, and this is a moment for Biden to show American strength and resolve.”

Ben-Gvir’s presence in the government has drawn widespread criticism at home and abroad, with outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warning that the US-armed Israeli border police could be used as a “private army” in the occupied territories.

The Washington Post article added that the White House should not focus solely on Israel, adding that the administration need to apply pressure the Palestinians to “curb violence and terrorism,” and pave the way to holding open and fair elections.


China eases some COVID-19 controls

China eases some COVID-19 controls
Updated 01 December 2022

China eases some COVID-19 controls

China eases some COVID-19 controls
  • Major cities are easing testing requirements and controls on movement
  • With a heavy police presence, there is no indication of protests

BEIJING: More Chinese cities eased some anti-virus restrictions as police patrolled their streets to head off protests Thursday while the ruling Communist Party prepared for the high-profile funeral of late leader Jiang Zemin.
Guangzhou in the south, Shijiazhuang in the north, Chengdu in the southwest and other major cities announced they were easing testing requirements and controls on movement. In some areas, markets and bus service reopened.
The announcements didn’t mention last weekend’s protests in Shanghai, Beijing and at least six other cities against the human cost of anti-virus restrictions that confine millions of people to their homes. But the timing and publicity suggested President Xi Jinping’s government was trying to mollify public anger after some protesters made the politically explosive demand that Xi resign.
With a heavy police presence, there was no indication of protests. Notes on social media complained that people were being stopped at random for police to check smartphones, possibly looking for prohibited apps such as Twitter, in what they said was a violation of China’s Constitution.
“I am especially afraid of becoming the ‘Xinjiang model’ and being searched on the excuse of walking around,” said a posting signed Qi Xiaojin on the popular Sina Weibo platform, referring to the northwestern region where Uyghur and other Muslim minorities are under intense surveillance.
Protesters have used Twitter and other foreign social media to publicize protests while the Communist Party deletes videos and photos from services within China.
On Thursday, the government reported 36,061 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, including 31,911 without symptoms.
Meanwhile, Beijing was preparing for the funeral of Jiang, who was ruling party leader until 2002 and president until the following year. The party announced he died Wednesday in Shanghai of leukemia and multiple organ failure.
No foreign dignitaries will be invited in line with Chinese tradition, the party announced. It has yet to set a date for the funeral or announce how it might be affected by anti-virus controls.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the disruption of its “zero COVID-19” strategy by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But it says it will stick to restrictions that have repeatedly shut down schools and businesses and suspended access to neighborhoods.
The protests began Friday after at least 10 people were killed in a fire in an apartment building in Urumqi in Xinjiang. That prompted questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus for public frustration.
The government says it is making restrictions more targeted and flexible, but a spike in infections since October has prompted local officials who are threatened with the loss of their jobs if an outbreak occurs to impose controls that some residents say are excessive and destructive.


Spain steps up security as Prime Minister’s office targeted in spate of letter-bombs

Spain steps up security as Prime Minister’s office targeted in spate of letter-bombs
Updated 01 December 2022

Spain steps up security as Prime Minister’s office targeted in spate of letter-bombs

Spain steps up security as Prime Minister’s office targeted in spate of letter-bombs
  • An “envelope with pyrotechnic material” addressed to Sanchez was received on Nov. 24
  • The device was “similar” to subsequent packages sent to Ukrainian embassy, a Spanish arms firm and air force base

MADRID: Spain has stepped up security at public and diplomatic buildings after a spate of letter-bombs were sent to targets including the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the Ukrainian embassy, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
The ministry said that an “envelope with pyrotechnic material” addressed to Sanchez was received on Nov. 24 and disarmed by his security team.
The device was “similar” to subsequent packages received by the Ukrainian embassy and a Spanish arms firm on Wednesday, it said, and a device intercepted at Spain’s Torrejon de Ardoz air force base in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The first letter-bomb was received and opened by a security officer at the Ukrainian embassy on Wednesday lunchtime and exploded, causing minor injuries to the official.
Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev told the Ukrainian news site European Pravda that the suspicious package addressed to him was handed to the embassy’s Ukrainian commandant.
“The package contained a box, which raised the commandant’s suspicions and he decided to take it outside – with no one in the vicinity – and open it,” Pohoreltsev was quoted as saying.
“After opening the box and hearing a click that followed, he tossed it and then heard the explosion...Despite not holding the box at the time of the explosion, the commandant hurt his hands and received a concussion.”
EU SATELLITE CENTRE ALSO TARGETED
After the first incident, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered all of Kyiv’s embassies abroad to “urgently” strengthen security and urged Spain to investigate the attack, a Ukrainian ministry spokesperson said.
A second package was confirmed to have been received on Wednesday night at the headquarters of Spanish weapons manufacturer, Instalaza in Zaragoza, in northeastern Spain, police said.
Instalaza manufactures the C90 rocket launcher that Spain has supplied to Ukraine.
Spanish security forces found a third suspected explosive device hidden in an envelope mailed to a European Union satellite center located at an air force base in Torrejon de Ardoz, outside Madrid, the defense ministry said.
After scanning the envelope by X-ray, air force security officers determined it contained “a mechanism,” the ministry statement said.
The satellite center supports the EU’s common foreign and security policy by gathering information from space intelligence devices, according to its website. EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell described such systems as “the eyes of Europe” in September.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that another device had been sent to Spain’s Ministry of Defense in Madrid, but this has not yet been confirmed by the authorities.
Spain’s High Court, which specializes in terrorism offenses, has opened a probe into the attack.