Zelensky visits port as Ukraine readies for grain exports

Zelensky visits port as Ukraine readies for grain exports
A view shows silos of grain from Odesa Black Sea port, before a shipment of grain as the government of Ukraine awaits signal from UN and Turkey to start grain shipments, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 July 2022

Zelensky visits port as Ukraine readies for grain exports

Zelensky visits port as Ukraine readies for grain exports
  • “The first vessel, the first ship is being loaded since the beginning of the war,” Zelensky said at a port in the Odesa region
  • The departure of wheat and other grain will begin with several ships that were already loaded

ODESA, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited a Black Sea port Friday as crews prepared terminals to export grain trapped by Russia’s five-month-old war.
Work has been inching forward a week after a deal was struck to allow critical food supplies to flow to millions of impoverished people facing hunger worldwide.
“The first vessel, the first ship is being loaded since the beginning of the war,” Zelensky said at a port in the Odesa region.
He said, however, that the departure of wheat and other grain will begin with several ships that were already loaded but could not leave Ukrainian ports after Russia invaded in late February. Ukraine is a key global exporter of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil, and the loss of those supplies has raised global food prices, threatened political insecurity and helped push more people into poverty and hunger in already vulnerable countries.
Ukraine’s military is committed to the safety of ships, Zelensky said, adding that “it is important for us that Ukraine remains the guarantor of global food security.”
His unannounced visit to the port is part of a broader push by Ukraine to show the world that it is nearly ready to export millions of tons of grains after last week’s breakthrough agreements, which were brokered by Turkey and the United Nations and signed separately by Ukraine and Russia.
The sides agreed to facilitate the shipment of wheat and other grains from three Ukrainian ports through safe corridors on the Black Sea, as well as fertilizer and food from Russia.
But a Russian missile strike on Odesa hours after signing the deal has thrown Moscow’s commitment into question and raised new concerns about the safety of shipping crews, who also have to navigate waters strewn with explosive mines.
The security concerns and complexities of the agreements have set off a slow, cautious start, with no grains having yet left Ukrainian ports. The sides are facing a ticking clock — the deal is only good for 120 days.
The goal over the next four months is to get some 20 million tons of grain out of three Ukrainian sea ports blocked since the Feb. 24 invasion. That provides time for about four to five large bulk carriers per day to transport grain from the ports to millions of people in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, who are already facing food shortages and, in some cases, famine.
Getting wheat and other food out is also critical to farmers in Ukraine, who are running out of storage capacity amid a new harvest.
“We are ready,” Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov, told reporters at the port of Odesa on Friday.
But he said Ukraine is waiting on the UN to confirm the safe corridors that will be used by ships navigating the waters. In the meantime, a ship at the port of Chernomorsk was being loaded with grains, he said.
Martin Griffiths, the UN official who mediated the deals, cautioned that work was still being done to finalize the exact coordinates of the safest routes, saying this must be “absolutely nailed down.”
Lloyd’s List, a global publisher of shipping news, noted Friday that while UN officials are pushing for the initial voyage this week to show progress in the deal, continued uncertainty on key details will likely prevent an immediate ramping-up of shipments.
“Until those logistical issues and detailed outlines of safeguarding procedures are disseminated, charters will not be agreed and insurers will not be underwriting shipments,” wrote Bridget Diakun and Richard Meade of Lloyd’s List.
They note, however, that UN agencies, such as the World Food Program, have already arranged to charter much of the grain for urgent humanitarian needs.
Since the deal was signed a week ago, shipping companies have not rushed in because explosive mines are drifting in the waters, ship owners are assessing the risks and many still have questions over how the agreement will unfold.
Ukraine, Turkey and the UN are trying to show action on the deal signed a week ago. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Al Jazeera on Thursday that “the deal has started in practice” and that the first ship leaving Ukraine with grains is expected to depart “very soon.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed similar optimism in a press briefing, framing the deal as a significant step forward between the warring sides.
“This is not just a step being taken to lift the hurdles in front of the export of food. If implemented successfully, it will be a serious confidence-building measure for both sides,” he said.
The deal stipulates that Russia and Ukraine will provide “maximum assurances” for ships that brave the journey through the Black Sea to the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
For ships heading to Ukraine’s three ports, smaller Ukrainian pilot boats will guide the vessels through approved corridors. The entire operation will be overseen by a Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul staffed by officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations.
Once ships reach port, they will be loaded with tens of thousands of tons of grains before departing back to the Bosphorus Strait, where they will be boarded to inspect them for weapons. There will likely be inspections for ships embarking to Ukraine as well.


Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
Updated 7 sec ago

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
  • Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug urges international community to help Sahel region combat instability, terror
  • Emphasizes Mauritania’s support for ‘sovereignty and dignity’ of the Palestinian people

LONDON: Mauritania’s foreign minister on Monday urged the international community to cancel foreign debt for African nations amid the intensifying global financial crisis.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug also asked for support for the Sahel region in countering terrorism.

He thanked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his “diligent efforts aimed at promoting the UN and bolstering its role” amid “very difficult and complex international conditions.”

Merzoug highlighted a perfect storm of issues, from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism and climate change-related natural disasters, noting how these events are placing disproportionate pressure on poorer countries, especially in Africa.

“These crises, and the economic, social and humanitarian repercussions of them, are unprecedented,” he said, adding how, for instance, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected food and fuel supply lines to developing countries.

He praised the international community for work on securing agreements for the shipment of grain through the Black Sea, but called for “ramped up efforts to find solutions that would guarantee peace, security and dignity for all the peoples of the world,” which, he said, should include canceling African debts.

“The Islamic Republic of Mauritania calls upon the international community to fulfil its responsibilities to developing and poor countries, to assist them as quickly as possible to address the challenges threatening their food security as well as to counter other negative effects of these crises,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has made progress across a raft of issues, including “re-establishing the values of justice, equity, democracy, individual and collective freedoms, the freedom of the press, and the adoption of dialogue and consultation to manage government affairs with participation by civil society.”

He highlighted the country’s efforts to protect human rights by combating human slavery and child trafficking, as well as illegal migration.

He also discussed government programs to support the poor and youngest in society by building schools and medical centers, and providing clean water.

“We have prepared programs to train youth and to empower youth so that they will be positive elements when joining the labor market. We have also worked to promote women’s participation in political life,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has taken in and provided assistance to 85,000 refugees from neighboring Mali, but called for greater efforts to resist instability and terrorism in the region.

“Mauritania has always taken care to establish an interlocking approach to combating terrorism in all its forms,” he said.

“We believe that the countries of the Sahel represent a key force to resist terrorism and to establish development throughout the region. Here, we call for support for this group of countries as we move and overcome those obstacles they face today.”

Merzoug reiterated Mauritania’s commitment to the environment and renewable energy, saying the country is focused on sustaining 40 percent of its power from “clean, renewable” sources.

He added that Mauritania will make the most of its “enormous natural resources” in wind and solar potential to expand this weighting in the future. 

“We have achieved significant results in our efforts to address desertification through agricultural reforms in those areas that have been affected by droughts,” Merzoug said.

“We are looking to improve our use of water resources and to protect biodiversity. Here, we are very hopeful about COP27, which is to be held in Egypt from Nov. 6-18, and we hope that all states will respect their commitments there.”

Merzoug emphasized his country’s support for the “sovereignty and dignity” of the Palestinian people, calling for a “political solution that maintains Palestine’s territorial integrity and independence.”

He also called for support for the “legitimate powers” in Mauritania’s “brother country” of Yemen, adding: “We call for a peaceful solution.”


US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations
Updated 25 min ago

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

TOKYO: US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel issued a statement Monday ahead of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo’s state funeral emphasizing how Abe’s work had brought Japan and the United States together.

“I am honored to be part of the Presidential Delegation and to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the former Prime Minister at the state funeral,” Rahm said in the statement. “As President Biden said on the day of Abe-san’s death: ‘The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief’.  It was true then; it remains true today.”

Rahm said the attendance of Vice President Kamala Harris at the funeral “demonstrates the respect President Joe Biden has for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his family, and sends a strong signal of our deep commitment to the Japanese people. While we are allies by treaty, we are friends in our hearts.”

Rahm also noted the achievements of Abe in the context of Japan-US relations: “Abe-san lived a life worth living. He was a great statesman with strong connections to America and Americans; he was the first and only Japanese Prime Minister to address a joint session of the US Congress; he accompanied President Obama on the first visit by a sitting US President to Hiroshima; and he was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the memorial aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.”

“These were historic events that show his unwavering commitment to the US-Japan Alliance and our two countries’ friendship. Abe-san was indispensable for developing the strong relations between us, and his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific informs strategic architecture across the region.”

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies
Updated 8 min 53 sec ago

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies
  • The FSB said the consul was declared persona non grata after he was caught “red-handed” receiving secret information

MOSCOW: Russia’s FSB security agency said on Monday it had detained a Japanese consul in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok for alleged espionage and ordered him to leave the country, Russian news agencies said.
The FSB said the consul was declared persona non grata after he was caught “red-handed” receiving secret information on the effect of Western sanctions on the economic situation in Russia’s far east.
It said the classified information, which also concerned Russia’s cooperation with an unnamed Asia-Pacific country, had been obtained in return for a “monetary reward.”
Russia has protested to Japan, the agencies quoted the FSB as saying. There was no immediate reaction from Tokyo. 


Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo
Updated 26 September 2022

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

DUBAI: Member of Abu Dhabi executive council and chairman of Abu Dhabi executive office, Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, met with the governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike on Sept. 26.

The Emirati political leader was on a visit to the Japanese capital to further enhance the strategic bilateral relations between the two countries.

Several official figures attended the meeting, such as, minister of industry and advanced technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Jaber and the UAE ambassador to Japan, Shihab Ahmed Al-Faheem; as well as officials from the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation.

Originally published in Arab News Japan


UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements
Updated 26 September 2022

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

TOKYO: Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, paid a courtesy call on Japan Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Monday and welcomed the planned signing of the framework document for the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative that is expected to take place in a matter of days.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry also said the two sides welcomed the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which is near finalization.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE this year, Sheikh Khalid and Kishida also resolved to strengthen bilateral cooperation over the next 50 years in a wide range of areas, from clean energy and advanced technology to human resource development.

The two sides noted the upcoming resumption of visa-free travel to Japan, which was temporarily suspended due to the spread of the COVID-19, and confirmed the early introduction of full visa waiver measures for UAE nationals possessing valid ordinary passports.

Sheikh Khalid will attend the state funeral of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo and Kishida expressed his appreciation for this. Sheikh Khalid expressed his heartfelt condolences on the demise of former Prime Minister Abe and stated that UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has also entrusted him with his condolence message.

The meeting was also attended by Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and the UAE’s special envoy to Japan.

Originally published in Arab News Japan