International community appeals for restraint after fighting returns to Ethiopia

International community appeals for restraint after fighting returns to Ethiopia
Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 8, 2021. (AP/File)
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Updated 26 August 2022

International community appeals for restraint after fighting returns to Ethiopia

International community appeals for restraint after fighting returns to Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA: The international community appealed for restraint on Thursday after fighting resumed in northern Ethiopia between government forces and Tigray rebels, scuppering a truce and dimming hopes for peace.

The situation on the ground was unclear a day after fresh fighting erupted on the border of Tigray, where the warring sides accused each other of igniting the first major clashes in five months.

Rebel authorities in Tigray said on Wednesday that government forces failed to breach their defensive lines, but offered little detail on the status of combat or casualties.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has also not provided an update on the fighting, or whether combat has spread beyond the scenes of Wednesday’s battles on Tigray’s southern border.

Spokespeople for Abiy’s government and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment about the situation on the ground.

The return to combat has alarmed the international community, which has been pushing both sides to peacefully resolve the brutal 21-month war in Africa’s second most populous nation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the truce reached between the warring parties in March had “reduced violence and saved lives.”

“We are concerned that renewed fighting puts that at risk. We call on the Ethiopian government and TPLF to redouble efforts for peace to bring a permanent end to the conflict.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged both sides to pull back from “a full-blown war,” saying: “Reports of renewed conflict in Northern Ethiopia cast a shadow on the prospect for peace.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres and envoys from Britain, Turkey, the African Union and the East African bloc IGAD made similar calls for restraint and a commitment to dialogue.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen told diplomats that Ethiopia was “prepared to defend the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

“But it is equally committed to using peaceful means to put an end to the conflict and collaborating with humanitarian organizations to lessen needless suffering,” he told a gathering of foreign envoys in Addis Ababa.

The UN’s World Food Programme on Thursday accused the TPLF of seizing half a million liters of fuel from a warehouse in Tigray, a rebel-held region in the grips of a major humanitarian crisis.

“We demand the Tigrayan authorities return these fuel stocks to the humanitarian community immediately. As the next harvest is not until October, our deliveries of life-saving food could not be more urgent or critical to the survival of millions,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement.

The government on Thursday said the fuel was commandeered to further the TPLF’s military objectives and called on the international community to guarantee aid was “reaching intended beneficiaries”.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the people of Tigray had been through enough hardship: “This (fighting) will only exacerbate the suffering of civilians already in desperate need.”

The March truce paused the worst of the bloodshed and allowed aid convoys to slowly return to Tigray, where the UN says millions are severely hungry, and fuel and medicine are in scarce supply.

Since the end of June, Abiy’s government and the rebels have repeatedly stated their willingness to enter peace negotiations, but disagreed on the terms of such talks.

In recent weeks, too, they have accused each other of preparing for battle.

Addis Ababa wants talks without preconditions under the auspices of the AU, which is headquartered in the Ethiopian capital.

The rebels are demanding electricity, telecommunications and banking services be restored to Tigray before talks begin, and reject the AU’s envoy Olusegun Obasanjo as mediator, accusing him of a pro-government bias.

In a statement dated August 23, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said “two rounds of confidential face-to-face” meetings with top civilian and military officials had taken place, the first acknowledgement by either side of direct talks.

Abiy sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 to topple the TPLF after months of tensions with the party that had dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades until he took office in 2018.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

The TPLF mounted a comeback, recapturing Tigray and expanding into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, before the war reached a stalemate.

The conflict has killed untold numbers, with widespread reports of atrocities including mass killings and sexual violence.


Novocure’s lung cancer device extends survival in late-stage study

Novocure’s lung cancer device extends survival in late-stage study
Updated 06 June 2023

Novocure’s lung cancer device extends survival in late-stage study

Novocure’s lung cancer device extends survival in late-stage study
  • The device, used with certain chemotherapies and immunotherapies, helps in creating electric fields that disrupt cancer cell growth
  • Analysts raised concerns that only a small group of patients in the study were previously treated with ICI

DUBAI: Novocure said on Tuesday its experimental device to treat a type of lung cancer showed a statistically significant improvement in extending overall survival among patients in a late-stage study.
The device, used with certain chemotherapies and immunotherapies, helps in creating electric fields that disrupt cancer cell growth.
Data from the study showed the device, along with a class of immunotherapies know as immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), extended survival by 8 months compared to patients treated with ICI alone. However, analysts raised concerns that only a small group of patients in the study were previously treated with ICI such as Merck’s Keytruda, while it is now a standard of care and most patients take it.
This raises the question whether the data would apply in a real-world setting where most patients initiate treatment with checkpoint inhibitors, analysts said.
Novocure’s shares fell 17.1 percent to $67.70 in early trading.
“Only 2 percent of patients in the ICI arm had prior ICI exposure,” said Emily Bodnar, H.C. Wainwright & Co. analyst.
Novocure’s device along with standard therapies, including chemotherapies and immunotherapies, also extended survival to 13.2 months compared to 9.9 months in patients treated with standard therapies alone.
The therapy is the first in more than seven years to show a significant extension in overall survival in metastatic non-small cell lung cancer treatment (NSCLC) after a type of chemotherapy in late-stage study, the company said.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and NSCLC accounts for about 85 percent of all lung cancers, the company said.
Novocure plans to submit marketing application to the US Food and Drug Administration in the second half of 2023 based on the data.


No sanctions on Israel for its occupation and annexation of Golan

No sanctions on Israel for its occupation and annexation of Golan
Updated 19 sec ago

No sanctions on Israel for its occupation and annexation of Golan

No sanctions on Israel for its occupation and annexation of Golan
  • Many in the Arab countries voiced hope that Japan would apply sanctions against Israel

TOKYO: While Japan and G7 partners apply severe sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine and changing the status quo by military force, they have expressed no interest in equally applying sanctions on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.

“Generally speaking, according to the international law, to unilaterally annex land which has been taken by force, is not recognized under that law,” Japanese Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa said in response to a question by Arab News Japan.

“From this perspective, Israel’s occupation is something that we do not recognize and we have been consistent on this point with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute under the two states solution. We feel that it should be resolved between the two parties concerned,” Hayashi added.

The foreign minister was reminded of the 56th anniversary of the 1967 war in the Middle East, resulting in Israel changing the status quo of the Syrian and Palestinian borders, by annexing the Golan Heights and occupying Palestinian Territories through military force.

Many in the Arab countries voiced hope that Japan would apply sanctions against Israel in the same way they did to Russia.

Hayashi’s reply, however, suggests that changing the status quo by military force can be dealt with on a case by case principle such as by diplomacy rather than the sanctions’ approach against Russia.

“We are strongly calling upon Israel’s government to refrain from unilateral activities which change the status quo,” he urged.

Hayashi went on to say, “With regard to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, this disturbs the international order which was developed by the efforts of the international society and we have been liaising with the international society to take a resolute action and response to this.”

Furthermore, the Japanese foreign minister noted, “With regard to relations between countries, we make a comprehensive review based on the individual situation,” thus intimating that the Israeli occupation of Palestine and annexation of the Golan Heights are not shaking the international order.


Top polluter Indonesia to phase out single-use plastic by 2030

Top polluter Indonesia to phase out single-use plastic by 2030
Updated 06 June 2023

Top polluter Indonesia to phase out single-use plastic by 2030

Top polluter Indonesia to phase out single-use plastic by 2030
  • Over 18 percent of waste produced by Indonesia is plastic
  • Bali was first Indonesian province to ban single-use plastic in 2019

JAKARTA: Indonesia, one of the world’s worst plastic polluters, is going to phase out single-use plastic products by the end of 2029, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya announced this week, as the country aims to achieve its zero-waste goals by 2040.  

Asia has been identified as the biggest contributor to ocean plastic, and Indonesia — an archipelago nation of 270 million people — is a major source country.  

Indonesia produced 68.5 million tons of waste in 2022, government data shows, more than 18 percent of which was plastic.  

Less than 10 percent of waste is recycled in Indonesia, and more than half ends up in landfills. 

“Plastic pollution is a real threat that will impact all communities across the world,” Nurbaya said in remarks issued on the occasion of World Environment Day.  

“By the end of 2029, we will phase out several types of single-use plastics.”  

This includes plastic shopping bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam items commonly used for food packaging.  

“This is a way to deal with packaging wastes that are difficult to collect, have no (economic) value, (and are) hard to recycle,” the minister said, adding that manufacturers are also mandated to reduce their use of plastic packaging by 30 percent by the end of 2029 to “push the growth of sustainable businesses and the circular economy in Indonesia.”  

The shift to a circular economy has been advocated by the UN Environment Program, which last month said countries and companies could slash plastic pollution by 80 percent in less than two decades by implementing deep policy and market changes. 

“We are heading toward sustainable waste management (and the) practices of a circular economy,” Nurbaya said. “The potential of the circular economy not only brings economic benefits for the public but is also in line with achieving the zero-waste target by 2040, and zero emissions by 2050, or sooner.”  

Indonesia has seen efforts to reduce single-use plastics, including Bali province’s 2019 ban on single-use plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam, and a similar one enforced in the capital, Jakarta, in 2020.  

But bans alone may not be enough when the world’s fourth most populous country is lacking a proper waste management system. 

“Government commitments and policies must prioritize reduction efforts,” Muharram Atha Rasyadi, urban campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told Arab News. 

“Sorting-based waste management is also key … so that some materials with the potential to become waste can be managed and not all of them turn into a residue that ends up in landfills.” 


Pope briefly at hospital for tests two months after bronchitis, returns to Vatican

Pope briefly at hospital for tests two months after bronchitis, returns to Vatican
Updated 06 June 2023

Pope briefly at hospital for tests two months after bronchitis, returns to Vatican

Pope briefly at hospital for tests two months after bronchitis, returns to Vatican
  • The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pontiff underwent "some clinical examinations and returned to the Vatican before noon”
  • Witnesses at the Vatican's Perugino gate said Francis greeted guards as he usually does before returning to his residence

ROME: Pope Francis briefly went to Rome’s main hospital on Tuesday for tests and returned to the Vatican, two months after he was hospitalized with an acute case of bronchitis.
The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pontiff underwent “some clinical examinations and returned to the Vatican before noon” from the Gemelli hospital.
Witnesses at the Vatican’s Perugino gate, one of the main entrances to the city state, told The Associated Press that Francis greeted guards as he usually does before returning to his residence.
Francis, 86, spent three days at the Gemelli hospital in late March. Initially, the Vatican said he had gone in for scheduled tests, but the pontiff later revealed he had felt pain in his chest and was rushed to the hospital where bronchitis was diagnosed. He was put on intravenous antibiotics and was released April 1, quipping that he was “still alive.”
The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man. He also suffers from sciatica nerve pain and has been using a wheelchair and walker for more than a year because of strained ligaments in his knee.
Francis has had a packed schedule of late, with multiple audiences each day. The Vatican has recently confirmed a travel-filled August, when the Holy See and Italy are usually on vacation, with a four-day visit to Portugal the first week of August and a similarly long trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31.
In a sign that the trips were very much on, the Vatican on Tuesday released the planned itinerary for Francis’ visit to Portugal for World Youth Day events from Aug. 2-6. The itinerary confirms a typically busy schedule that includes all the protocol meetings of an official state visit plus multiple events with young people and a day trip to the Marian shrine at Fatima.
Francis’ next public appointment, if confirmed, would be his weekly general audience on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square.


Crisis-hit UK business lobby faces survival vote

Crisis-hit UK business lobby faces survival vote
Updated 06 June 2023

Crisis-hit UK business lobby faces survival vote

Crisis-hit UK business lobby faces survival vote
  • Police have launched an investigation following the allegations reported this year by The Guardian newspaper
  • The scandal comes as UK businesses look for leadership during a cost-of-living crisis, with the country's elevated inflation cooling more slowly than expected

LONDON: Britain’s scandal-hit business lobby group, the CBI, faces a vote crucial to its survival Tuesday, with members urged to back reform under new leadership after allegations of sexual harassment by staff.
The Confederation of British Industry risks folding after claims that more than a dozen women were sexually harassed at the organization and two others had been raped.
Police have launched an investigation following the allegations reported this year by The Guardian newspaper, triggering a shake-up at the organization and an extraordinary vote on its future.
The allegations, described as “absolutely devastating” by new CBI director general Rain Newton-Smith, caused an exodus of member companies — and the launch Monday of a rival body by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
Newton-Smith, who has described the situation as a “really deep and painful crisis” for the CBI, told an extraordinary general meeting Tuesday that she was “confident and determined this will be a turning point for us, the start of a new chapter, for a renewed CBI.”
She added: “We’re ready to deliver a better CBI. We just need one thing now — your vote.”
The resolution being voted on Tuesday calls on remaining member companies to put their confidence in CBI proposals to reform its “governance, culture, and purpose.”
The organization has proposed the creation of a People & Culture Committee plus an external expert-led Culture Advisory Committee.
And it has created the role of chief people officer.
At the same time it is cutting jobs as the reduction in members slashes revenue.
The scandal comes as UK businesses look for leadership during a cost-of-living crisis, with the country’s elevated inflation cooling more slowly than expected.
In a move seen as taking advantage of the crisis, the BCC has launched the rival Business Council.
“We have been talking to the nation’s largest corporates and it has become clear to us that they are looking for a different kind of representation,” said BCC director general Shevaun Haviland.
Founding partners include British energy group BP and Heathrow airport.
But Newton-Smith said Tuesday that a revamped CBI could still be a powerful driving force, with its depth of expertise and practical business insights over decades.
“Even our competitor groups have admitted they can’t match all that.”
About one dozen firms, including engineering giant Siemens, Microsoft and oil firm Esso, have signed a joint letter published in The Times newspaper backing the CBI reforms.
The signatories said that while the “CBI has recognized its failings,” they “will hold it to account on putting its plan into action.”
The letter added that “as the UK faces strong economic headwinds and anaemic growth and with a general election expected before the end of next year, it is vital that there is a credible voice representing all sectors and sizes of UK business.
“The CBI can do this.”
It comes after major companies including Unilever, UK bank NatWest and BMW Group canceled their membership.
Others have suspended their involvement — and cannot vote on Tuesday — while the UK government has distanced itself from the CBI.
Newton-Smith took over from Tony Danker, who recently departed over a separate misconduct allegation.