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.

 


Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
Updated 11 sec ago

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
  • Catering course gave Ismet Shehu chance to serve late monarch during Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • ‘Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?’

LONDON: An Albanian who traveled to Britain hidden in a truck has told the Daily Mail that he served lunch to the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismet Shehu, now 32, made the dangerous journey aged 17 after traveling to Italy and then France, where in Lille he entered the back of a truck heading for Britain.

Shehu entered the construction and hospitality industries after arriving in the UK, working low-wage jobs before signing up to a university course teaching high-end catering in London.

That course, as part of its training program, offered a small group of students — including Shehu — the opportunity to serve lunch to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Now back in Tirana, the Albanian capital, Shehu has used his experience in hospitality to open a range of successful restaurants.

He told the Mail: “Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?

“It was such an honor for me to do that and all just a couple of years after getting into the country hiding in the back of a lorry. It was the most frightening experience of my life.”


Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
Updated 03 December 2022

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
  • Slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs

BEIJING: Local Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs, with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport.
The slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents frustrated by the rigid enforcement of anti-virus restrictions that are now entering their fourth year, even as the rest of the world has opened up.
The southern technological manufacturing center of Shenzhen said Saturday that commuters no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result to use public transport or when entering pharmacies, parks and tourist attractions.
Meanwhile, the capital Beijing said Friday that negative test results are also no longer required for public transport from Dec. 5. However, a negative result obtained within the past 48 hours is still required to enter venues like shopping malls, which have gradually reopened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeout services.
The requirement has led to complaints from some Beijing residents that even though the city has shut many testing stations, most public venues still require COVID-19 tests.
The government reported 33,018 domestic infections found in the past 24 hours, including 29,085 with no symptoms.
As the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China remains the only major nation still sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy which aims to isolate every infected person. The policy, which has been in place since the pandemic started, led to snap lockdowns and mass-testing across the country.
China still imposes mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers to the country, even as its infection numbers are low compared to its 1.4 billion population.
The recent demonstrations, the largest and most widely spread in decades, erupted Nov. 25 after a fire in an apartment building in the northwestern city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people.
That set off angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
The country saw several days of protests across various cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, with protesters demanding an easing of COVID-19 curbs. Some demanded Chinese President Xi Jinping step down, an extraordinary show of public dissent in a society over which the ruling Communist Party exercises near total control.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will stick with “zero-COVID.” Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.
While the government has conceded some mistakes, blamed mainly on overzealous officials, criticism of government policies can result in punishment. Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was recently fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for criticizing conditions in team quarantine facilities, according to local media reports.
On Friday, World Health Organization emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said that the UN agency was “pleased” to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions, saying “it’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.”


Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
Updated 03 December 2022

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
  • Capture of the town would have limited operational value
  • But it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk

Russia is likely planning to encircle the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut with tactical advances to the north and south, Britain’s defense ministry said on Saturday.
The capture of the town would have limited operational value but it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.
“There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia,” the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.


UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences
Updated 03 December 2022

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences
  • Military-installed government using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition
  • At least seven university students were sentenced to death behind closed doors on Wednesday

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military-installed government has sentenced more critics to death, bringing the total to 139, and is using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition, the UN high commissioner for human rights said Friday.
High Commissioner Volker Turk said at least seven university students were sentenced to death behind closed doors on Wednesday, and there are reports that as many as four more youth activists were sentenced on Thursday.
“The military continues to hold proceedings in secretive courts in violation of basic principles of fair trial and contrary to core judicial guarantees of independence and impartiality,” Turk said in a statement. “Military courts have consistently failed to uphold any degree of transparency contrary to the most basic due process or fair trial guarantees.”
The military seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The army’s action was met with widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts have characterized as civil war.
Turk said the military-installed government has arrested nearly 16,500 people for opposing the army takeover, including about 1,700 who have been convicted in secret courts without access to lawyers.
The Students’ Union of Dagon University in Yangon, the country’s largest city, announced Thursday on its Facebook page that seven university students between the ages of 18 and 24 who were arrested on April 21 had been sentenced to death Wednesday by a military court in Yangon’s Insein Prison.
An executive member of the Dagon University Students’ Union told The Associated Press that the seven were accused of links to an urban guerrilla group opposed to military rule and convicted of murder for allegedly taking part in shooting a bank branch manager in April.
In late July, the government hanged four political activists, in the country’s first executions in at least three decades.
The hangings prompted condemnations from Western nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has sought to defuse the crisis with a five-point plan that the military government has failed to implement.
“By resorting to use death sentences as a political tool to crush opposition, the military confirms its disdain for the efforts by ASEAN and the international community at large to end violence and create the conditions for a political dialogue to lead Myanmar out of a human rights crisis created by the military,” Turk said.


Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider
Updated 03 December 2022

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider
  • “The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said

PALMDALE , California: America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber made its debut Friday after years of secret development and as part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified.
As evening fell over the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, the public got its first glimpse of the Raider in a tightly-controlled ceremony. It started with a flyover of the three bombers still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit. Then the hangar doors slowly opened and the B-21 was towed partially out of the building, its wheels inching close to the outer pavement.
“This isn’t just another airplane,” Austin said. “It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love.”
The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernization.
China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its gains in hypersonics, cyber warfare and space capabilities present “the most consequential and systemic challenge to US national security and the free and open international system,” the Pentagon said this week in its annual China report.
”We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia, ” said Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015.
While the Raider may resemble the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities stop, said Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., which is building the bomber.
“The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said.
Other changes include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber harder to detect, Austin said.
“Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft,” Austin said. “Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.”
Other advances likely include new ways to control electronic emissions, so the bomber could spoof adversary radars and disguise itself as another object, and use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.
“It is incredibly low observability,” Warden said. “You’ll hear it, but you really won’t see it.”
Six Raiders are in production. The Air Force plans to build 100 that can deploy either nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew. Both the Air Force and Northrop also point to the Raider’s relatively quick development: The bomber went from contract award to debut in seven years. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades.
The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously put the price at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars — roughly $753 million today — but it’s unclear how much is actually being spent. The total will depend on how many bombers the Pentagon buys.
“We will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production. And we will build the bomber force in numbers suited to the strategic environment ahead,” Austin said.
The undisclosed cost troubles government watchdogs.
“It might be a big challenge for us to do our normal analysis of a major program like this,” said Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight. “It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still on schedule before it actually flies. Because it’s only when one of these programs goes into the actual testing phase when real problems are discovered.” That, he said, is when schedules start to slip and costs rise.
The B-2 was also envisioned to be a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, but the Air Force built only 21, due to cost overruns and a changed security environment after the Soviet Union fell.
Fewer than that are ready to fly on any given day due to the significant maintenance needs of the aging bomber, said
The B-21 Raider, which takes its name from the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, will be slightly smaller than the B-2 to increase its range, Warden said. It won’t make its first flight until 2023. However, Warden said Northrop Grumman has used advanced computing to test the bomber’s performance using a digital twin, a virtual replica of the one being unveiled.
Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will house the bomber’s first training program and squadron, though the bombers are also expected to be stationed at bases in Texas and Missouri.
US Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican of South Dakota, led the state’s bid to host the bomber program. In a statement, he called it “the most advanced weapon system ever developed by our country to defend ourselves and our allies.”
Northrop Grumman has also incorporated maintenance lessons learned from the B-2, Warden said.
In October 2001, B-2 pilots set a record when they flew 44 hours straight to drop the first bombs in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. The B-2 often does long round-trip missions because there are few hangars globally that can accommodate its wingspan, which limits where they can land for maintenance. The hangars also must be air-conditioned because the Spirit’s windows don’t open and hot climates can cook cockpit electronics.
The new Raider will also get new hangars to accommodate the size and complexity of the bomber, Warden said.
However with the Raider’s extended range, ‘it won’t need to be based in-theater,” Austin said. “It won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk.”
A final noticeable difference was in the debut itself. While both went public in Palmdale, the B-2 was rolled outdoors in 1988 amid much public fanfare. Given advances in surveillance satellites and cameras, the Raider was just partially exposed, keeping its sensitive propulsion systems and sensors under the hangar and protected from overhead eyes.
“The magic of the platform,” Warden said, “is what you don’t see.”