First ship with Ukraine grain cleared to sail on to Lebanon

First ship with Ukraine grain cleared to sail on to Lebanon
Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials arrive to the cargo ship Razoni for inspection while it is anchored at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul on Aug. 3, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 03 August 2022

First ship with Ukraine grain cleared to sail on to Lebanon

First ship with Ukraine grain cleared to sail on to Lebanon
  • An inspection team spent about 90 minutes conducting checks aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni
  • The Razoni is carrying 26,527 tons of corn set sail Monday from Odesa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast

ISTANBUL: The first grain ship to depart Ukraine under a wartime deal entered the Bosporus Strait on the way to Lebanon after its cargo was checked and approved Wednesday, Turkish and Ukrainian authorities said.
An inspection team spent about 90 minutes conducting checks aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which was carrying Ukrainian corn and anchored off Istanbul, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
The team included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, the parties to the agreement struck last month to create safe shipping corridors for exporting Ukraine’s agricultural products as Russia’s invasion of its neighbor continues.
Pictures tweeted by the Turkish Ministry of National Defense showed an inspector reaching into the Razoni’s open hold and touching the grain. The Razoni’s horn rang out as the inspectors left the ship. The detailed mechanics of the inspection were not explained.
The Razoni, which the United Nations says is carrying 26,527 tons of corn, set sail Monday from Odesa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. From Istanbul, it is on a voyage to cross the Bosporus Strait, a 19-mile scenic waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, before sailing on to Lebanon, its final destination.
The inspectors, some wearing white helmets, headed out to the Razoni in two boats, escorted by the Turkish coast guard. Turkish media said there were about 20 inspectors.
The checks are intended to ensure that outbound cargo vessels are bearing only grain, fertilizer or related food items and not any other commodities, and that inbound ships are not carrying weapons.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure confirmed the Razoni had passed the inspection. It said 17 other vessels “are loaded and are awaiting permission to leave” Ukrainian ports.
Some 27 vessels have been waiting in three Ukrainian ports with cargo and signed contracts, ready to go, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
There was no word about then those ships might set sail, although more are expected to depart Ukraine in the coming days. Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22 to end a wartime standoff that threatened food security around the globe.
However, the ongoing war and mistrust between Kyiv and Moscow have threatened to derail the deal, which is due to expire after 120 days.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month-old war. The UN-brokered agreement provided for the establishment of safe corridors through the mined waters outside Ukraine’s ports.
Most of the grain stuck in Ukraine is to feed livestock, according to David Laborde, an expert at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. Only 6 million tons is wheat, and just half of that is for human consumption, Laborde said. He said the Razoni is loaded with chicken feed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the resumption of grain exports would reduce Russia’s ability to extract concessions from the West. “They are losing one of the opportunities to terrorize the world,” he said in his nightly video address late Tuesday.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has also disrupted energy supplies in western Europe, with Moscow drastically cutting how much it sends amid fears it could stop sending any at all.
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear chief warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine “is completely out of control” and urgent steps are needed to avoid a nuclear accident.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the situation is getting more perilous every day at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, soon after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.”
He issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex.
Meanwhile, Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, hitting it with shells twice over the past 24 hours — around 9 p.m. on Tuesday and 5 a.m. on Wednesday, governor of the Mykolaiv region Vitaliy Kim reported.
The shelling damaged a pier, an industrial enterprise, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy, Kim said. It wasn’t immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Mykolaiv is a southern port city, somewhat on par with Odesa, and is located on the Black Sea. The Russians said in April they wanted control over not just eastern, but southern Ukraine. Taking over Odesa and Mykolaiv in the south will give them control over the entire Black Sea coast and a land corridor to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province in 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said Wednesday.
Amid the relentless onslaught by Moscow’s forces, Zelensky issued an order to all those remaining in the embattled province to evacuate as soon as possible.
The compulsory evacuation is meant to remove 200,000-220,000 people from Donetsk province by the fall, officials say.
Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko estimated a higher number — 250,000 — ought to leave, though he noted that many residents reluctant to go.


UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
Updated 18 sec ago

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
  • Emirates records top results in 4 out of 5 key pillars in this year’s report

ABU DHABI: The UAE has been ranked as the sixth best destination in the world for expatriates in 2022, according to InterNations.

In the annual Expat Insider survey, the German research firm examines every aspect of the expat experience in 181 countries.

The firm’s rankings are based on a range of factors, including language, bureaucracy, professional prospects, leisure options, travel, transport, job satisfaction, safety, healthcare, digital life, housing, wages and job safety, InterNations said.

This “Expat Insider 2022” report included the overall rankings of expatriate destination countries in terms of quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and the availability of basic essentials.

Mexico was ranked first in 2022, followed by Indonesia in second, Taiwan in third, Portugal in fourth, and Spain in fifth.

While ranking sixth overall, UAE also ranked highly in four out of five key pillars and 11 out of 17 indexes.

It revealed that 94 percent of those surveyed felt safe in the UAE, while 86 percent were satisfied with the available government services.

Furthermore, 90 percent of respondents said that they can use cashless payments in the UAE.

Regarding health, 78 percent of respondents emphasized the ease of access to healthcare services in the country, while 79 percent of those surveyed said that living in the UAE improved their professional prospects.

About 85 percent of those polled said that not knowing the local language was not a barrier, and 83 percent of people said that administrative procedures are “simple and straightforward.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of people said the process of finding housing in the UAE was simple.

Lastly, 83 percent respondents said that it was simple to apply for a resident visa, making the UAE the world leader in this area.

 


Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
Updated 17 August 2022

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
  • Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, spent 11 days in intensive care being treated for burns to her entire body
  • Husband arrested as he was planning to flee the country

DUBAI: A pregnant Lebanese woman who was badly beaten and set on fire by her husband because she would not have an abortion died in hospital on Wednesday.
Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, lost her fight for life at Al-Salam Hospital in northern Lebanon where she had been for the past 11 days.
A doctor from the hospital said on Tuesday that Khodor was admitted on Aug. 6 and had been receiving treatment for burns to her entire body.
He added that her unborn child died in the womb and had to be surgically removed, and described Khodor’s chances of survival as “very bleak.”
A family friend, Abdul Rahman Haddad, told Arab News that Khodor died on Wednesday. A hospital official confirmed the news and said her body had already been claimed by her family.
According to local media reports, Khodor’s husband, identified only by the initials A. A., beat his wife because she refused to abort their unborn child.
He was reported to have said the couple — who came from a poor background in the northern city of Tripoli — could not afford to raise it.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV on Tuesday, Khodor’s aunt said: “When she refused to abort the baby, he took her home and set her on fire using the gas cylinder.”
Haddad said A. A. had been arrested by Lebanese Internal Security Forces as he was planning to flee the country.
Prior to her death, Khodor’s family made several appeals for financial support to help pay for her hospital treatment, which included multiple operations and blood transfusions.
 


Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
Updated 17 August 2022

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
  • The absence of al-Sadr's bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's effort to resolve the 10-month crisis
  • Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year's parliamentary elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s caretaker prime minister called a meeting of senior political leaders and party representatives Wednesday, seeking a way out of a monthslong crisis amid a power struggle between rival Shiite blocs. But the party of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr did not attend the gathering.
The absence of Al-Sadr’s bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s effort to resolve the 10-month crisis.
Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year’s parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the October vote but failed to form a majority government.
His bloc later resigned from parliament and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.
Leaders of Iran-backed Shiite groups, Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish political blocs, and the head of the country’s High Judicial Council attended Wednesday’s meeting, as did the UN special representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
After the meeting, a statement from Al-Kadhimi’s office said the discussions focused on possible solutions to the political crisis, prioritizing the maintaining of peace among Iraqis. Al-Sadr last Wednesday gave the judiciary a week to dissolve the legislature, to which it responded saying it has no authority to dissolve parliament.
On Saturday, he called on his followers to be ready to hold massive protests all over Iraq but then indefinitely postponed them after Iran-backed groups called for similar rallies the same day, saying he wants to preserve peace and that “Iraqi blood is invaluable” to him.
Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals from the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
Updated 17 August 2022

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
  • Iran called on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows”

DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.


Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
Updated 17 August 2022

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties”
  • But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause”

JERUSALEM: Israel and Turkey announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties on Wednesday, following years of strained relations between the Mediterranean nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel.”
Lapid’s office said the diplomatic development will see ambassadors and consuls general posted to the two countries once more.
The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to mend ties, with reciprocal visits by top officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties.”
But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause.”
Cavusoglu in May became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years, during a trip which also saw him meet the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.
During a landmark visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara two months earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed their meeting marked “a turning point in our relations.”
Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into Gaza in 2010.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when ambassadors were withdrawn once again over the killing of Palestinians. More than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests from 2018 to 2019.
Reconciliation publicly got underway after Herzog took office in July 2021.
The Israeli president on Wednesday said the full renewal of ties “will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism, and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples.”
Despite the diplomatic differences in recent years, trade had continued and Turkey has remained a popular destination for Israeli tourists.
Israel however warned its citizens to return home in June, citing an Iranian assassination plot against its nationals in Istanbul.
Lapid then thanked Ankara for its cooperation on the issue and Israelis swiftly resumed their Turkish holidays.
Israel has been wary of upsetting regional allies over its decision to strengthen ties with Turkey, with Herzog dispatched to Cyprus and Greece ahead of his Ankara trip.
Turkey has meanwhile been keen to stress that its normalization with Israel could yield benefits for the Palestinians.
“As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians,” Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.