UN says enough money pledged to begin salvage work on decaying oil tanker in Yemen

UN says enough money pledged to begin salvage work on decaying oil tanker in Yemen
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Updated 22 September 2022

UN says enough money pledged to begin salvage work on decaying oil tanker in Yemen

UN says enough money pledged to begin salvage work on decaying oil tanker in Yemen
  • The $75 million target for first phase was reached when the Netherlands pitched in a second donation of $7 million
  • US envoy Tim Lenderking told Arab News it happened in ‘the context of the truce in Yemen’ and the door could be open for a durable ceasefire’ in months ahead 

NEW YORK CITY: The UN has received enough pledges of funding to begin the first phase of the salvage operation on the decaying Safer oil tanker, David Gressly, the organization’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, announced on Wednesday.

The vessel, which contains more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for more than seven years. It has had little or no maintenance during that time and its condition has deteriorated to a point where there are growing fears of a catastrophic oil spill.

The planned salvage operation to make it safe is split into two phases: The transfer of the oil from the tanker to another vessel, followed by a permanent storage solution until the political situation in Yemen allows for it to be sold or be transported elsewhere.

Speaking during a briefing on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, Gressly said 17 countries contributed to raising the $75 million needed for the first phase of the operation, including $10 million from Saudi Arabia, in addition to contributions from private sector, public foundations and a crowdfunding campaign organized by the UN. A second donation of $7 million by the Netherlands ensured the target was reached.

Donors need to follow through on their pledges by delivering the cash but Gressly told Arab News he is hopeful that the money will be in hand by the end of this month “because it’s already happening.”

He added that he senses a “high degree of will,” that he does not normally see, to tackle this problem because the cost of failure is so high. If the oil spills into the Red Sea the clean-up operation could cost about $30 billion. Such an environmental disaster would not only affect Yemen but also neighboring countries, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. In addition fisheries would be damaged and shipping disrupted.

“While most of the money has not yet come in, most of the agreements have now been signed, which are the prerequisite for the actual funds to be transferred,” Gressly told Arab News.

“So I’m pretty confident that by the end of this month, September, there will be more than enough resources to do the initial round of contracts required to go forward. We have very hard commitments from those who have yet to sign contracts to do so.”

Tim Lenderking, the US Special Envoy for Yemen, said during the briefing that this positive development is the result of a combined effort by many countries, including those in the immediate vicinity of the tanker, the private sector and ordinary citizens who responded to a GoFundMe campaign organized by the UN. It came within “the context of the truce in Yemen,” he added.

“The Yemeni conflict has enjoyed progress; a lot of hard work between the UN, US, the Saudi-led coalition, the Yemeni government, (and) the Houthis agreeing to the truce and largely abiding by it,” said Lenderking.

Reflecting on the benefits of the existing truce for the people of Yemen — civilian casualties have fallen by 60 percent, four times more fuel is now entering Yemeni ports, and more than 21,000 people who had been “pinned in the country” since 2016 have been able to travel internationally from Sanaa airport following the resumption of commercial flights — Lenderking told Arab News that he believes the door is open for a “durable ceasefire” to be agreed in the months ahead.




The planned salvage operation to make it safe is split into two phases: The transfer of the oil from the tanker to another vessel, followed by a permanent storage solution until the political situation in Yemen allows for it to be sold or be transported elsewhere. (MAXAR/AFP)

He described the Houthi cooperation that helped achieve the truce on April 2, then extend it in June and again in August, as “a very positive step.”

The latest extension expires in 10 days and Lenderking said all parties with an interest in peace in Yemen are looking at the way forward with the aim of reaching a permanent political solution.

“We see strong signals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the UAE, from the Sultanate of Oman,” he said. “And again, within the (five permanent members of the UN Security Council) there is a convergence of views that there is no military solution to the Yemen conflict, that there must be a process of reaching a political agreement.

“I can say that the international community is really united around seeing that the truce is expanded, and that those benefits that are accruing to the Yemenis from the truce are developed further.”

Lenderking said the US “would like to see more oil enter the market through Hodeidah port and used to power food mills, hospitals, schools and the transportation network.”

He said even the Iranian authorities, who back the Houthis, welcomed the truce “both in April and again in June.” But he added that “we need Iranian behavior to match these positive reactions to the truce,” as he called on the regime in Tehran to stop arming and training the Houthis.

The Houthis control Yemen’s western Red Sea ports, including Ras Issa, where the Safer is moored. The UN had been negotiating with the rebel group for years to gain permission for experts to examine the tanker. Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding in March, authorizing a four-month emergency operation to eliminate the immediate threat by transferring the oil on the tanker to another vessel.

“We are very keen to see an end to this potential disaster,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told Arab News on Wednesday at an event hosted by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.

“We are supporting all the initiatives by the UN … Yemen cannot afford such a disaster. It would cost Yemen directly more than $21 billion. It would damage not just the Red Sea but the effects would be harmful to the planet.”

In the longer term, the memorandum of understanding calls for replacing the Safer within 18 months with a vessel capable of safely holding a similar quantity of oil.

“We rely on the UN and the international community to make sure this plan will be implemented and to avoid any interruption that will delay the process,” Hannah Omar, from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, told Arab News.

“For us it is really important to end this catastrophe and ensure that the Red Sea is safer after this implementation.”

The Safer’s structure, equipment and operating systems have deteriorated over the years, leaving it at risk of springing a leak, exploding or catching fire. The UN has warned for years that an oil spill from it could be four times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989, which is still considered the world’s worst oil spill in terms of environmental damage.

Experts estimate a major leak could severely damage Red Sea ecosystems upon which about 30 million people depend, including 1.6 million Yemenis, according to the UN.

The emergency has been ongoing for five years, yet it was only in the spring of this year that funding pledges began to come through.

The total pledge of $14 million from the Netherlands was a significant contribution toward hitting the target for the first phase.

Marc Gerristen, director for the Middle East and North Africa at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News that delay in reaching the funding target was largely due to the fact that it took time to convince people of the need to contribute.

“It’s very complicated, of course, to raise awareness if the scope of the problem is not yet completely clear,” he said, adding that the first challenge, therefore, was to make sure everyone understood the scale and severity of the situation.

“The UN played a very important role in this,” he said. “So this is something that was a collective effort, led by the UN. But when it came to mobilizing resources, getting others on board to pledge, this started about one or two years ago.

“This is when the UN looked for a lead country and this is where we (the Netherlands) took off the gloves, so to speak, and gladly played that role.”


Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
Updated 56 min 10 sec ago

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
  • Team of 30 psychologists, specialists will provide support to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti charity is offering psychological aid and emotional support for victims of wars and crises in the Middle East.

The International Islamic Charity Organization charity has established a team of 30 psychologists and specialists who will provide support in three refugee-hosting countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Othman Al-Asfour, head of the lICO Tarahum team, said that the initiative affirms an integral part of social and psychological support in humanitarian aid.

Psychologist Dr. Shereefa Al-Khamees stressed that refugees were in urgent need of psychological aid as much as handouts and donations.

The psychological health of the affected is very delicate and requires thorough treatment and support, Al-Khamees added.

 


Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
Updated 05 December 2022

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, Algerian president witness signing of two agreements and three MoUs
  • Governments instructed to take steps to boost investment, commercial opportunities in both countries

ALGIERS: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune have launched a new phase of bilateral relations.

The leaders held talks on Sunday in Algiers to discuss boosting Jordanian-Algerian cooperation in politics, economics, trade, investment, and defense, Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both sides, also affirmed interest in maintaining coordination and consultation on Arab causes and other issues of mutual concern. 

King Abdullah reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the need to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights. 

He called for a just and comprehensive peace plan based on the two-state solution which establishes an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He also reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the historical and legal status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Following the meeting, the leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement on visa exemptions for diplomatic passport-holders, as well as a cooperation program between Jordan News Agency and the Algerian Press Service. 

Three memorandums of understanding on political consultations, cooperation between the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and the Algeria Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, and the mutual recognition of maritime qualification certificates for seafarers, education programs, and maritime training between the two countries were also signed.

King Abdullah and President Tebboune further instructed their governments to take the necessary steps to encourage investors and businesses to explore investment and commercial opportunities in both countries. 

They were also directed to move forward with agreements that would expand collaborations in health care, energy, medical tourism, hotels, transportation, aviation training, higher education, and cultural exchange between universities. 

Economists have praised the outcomes of King Abdullah’s state visit to Algeria.

Jordanian Senator Mazen Darwazah said that Jordanian investment in Algeria has gradually increased over the last two decades, with the drug industry spending nearly $1 billion.

Jordanian-Algerian Business Council Coordinator Khaled Al-Soub said that Algerian law allows Jordanian investors to expand their projects and acquire shares from foreign partners. 

Energy expert Hashem Akel said that Algeria was rich in petrol and natural resources and hoped that energy imports from the country would increase after Jordan receives preferential prices.

 


Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 05 December 2022

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.


UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 05 December 2022

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.

 


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 05 December 2022

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • Israeli president among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.