Iraqi PM to visit France for energy and security talks

Iraqi PM to visit France for energy and security talks
Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani travels to France on Thursday for energy and security talks with President Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 26 January 2023

Iraqi PM to visit France for energy and security talks

Iraqi PM to visit France for energy and security talks
  • Sudani said he wants to "activate the agreements" between oil-rich Iraq and France
  • French giant TotalEnergies in 2021 signed a $10 billion contract with Baghdad, but work on the multiple projects is yet to begin

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani will travel to France on Thursday for energy and security talks with President Emmanuel Macron, he told AFP.
Sudani, in written answers to AFP, said he wants to “activate the agreements” between oil-rich Iraq and France “particularly in the transport, energy and investment sectors.”
French giant TotalEnergies in 2021 signed a $10 billion contract with Baghdad, but work on the multiple projects is yet to begin.
They include construction of oil and gas processing facilities with the capacity for electricity production, along with a one-gigawatt photovoltaic power plant.
Despite being home to a wealth of hydrocarbon reserves, Iraq’s neglected electricity grid is dilapidated and a victim of the country’s rampant corruption, with power cuts lasting for hours.
Neighbouring Iran currently supplies a third of Iraq’s gas and electricity, and Baghdad is seeking greater energy independence.
Sudani’s coalition government, formed in October, is supported by pro-Iranian parties, which hold a majority in Iraq’s parliament.
Macron is particularly invested in Iraq, having twice visited the country since taking office in 2017, and last month told a regional conference in Jordan that Baghdad should embark on a path not “dictated from outside.”
Security will also be discussed, with Sudani saying talks will include “training and development of Iraqi security capabilities, as well as in the field of arms purchases.”


Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
Updated 14 sec ago

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
  • An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century

PANAMA CITY: Iranian naval ships will be allowed to sail through the Panama Canal as long as they abide by international norms, Panamanian authorities said Tuesday following reports that Tehran was sending vessels to the strategic waterway.

An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century, and Washington has warned that it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activity in the Western Hemisphere.

Citing an 1977 international treaty, which handed control of the canal to Panama and established its neutral status, the Panama Canal said the waterway must “remain safe and open for the peaceful transit,” provided that ships abide by global safety norms, pay tolls and not commit any hostile acts.

“Based on the aforementioned regulations, the Panama Canal Authority has the obligation to allow the passage of any vessel that meets all these requirements,” the agency said in a statement.

Local media have been reporting on the imminent arrival of Iranian Navy ships.

The newspaper La Estrella de Panama wrote on January 13 that Teheran plans to position its warships in the Panama Canal as it seeks to boost its presence in Latin America.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush added fuel to the fire when, in a Washington Post column on January 16, he accused Panama of helping Iran evade Western oil sanctions.

“Without Panama’s support, the Iranian regime would face significant hurdles in smuggling its oil and gas around the world,” wrote Bush, who is the brother and son of two American presidents.

Last week, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Washington is keeping a close eye on Teheran’s naval activities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We continue to have a number of tools in our tool belt available to hold the Iranian regime accountable,” Patel told reporters.

The United States completed the canal in 1914 and opened military bases to protect it.

The 1977 treaty paved the way for the handover of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.

More than 14,000 vessels went through the 80-kilometer (50 mile) waterway in 2022, according to the Panama Canal Authority. The canal accounts for five percent of world maritime trade.


GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
Updated 4 min 13 sec ago

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
  • Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK
  • Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi met with the British ambassador to Riyadh Neil Crompton on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the two officials discussed the latest regional and international issues, and Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK.

The head of the Gulf bloc also pointed out that he was looking forward to the success of the third round of Free Trade Agreement negotiations which will be held in Riyadh in March.

Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC which is Britain’s fourth largest trading partner.


UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region
Updated 41 min 41 sec ago

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region
  • Establishment to be key contributor to conservation in Gulf
  • Research team to conduct fundamental and applied studies

ABU DHABI: The UAE announced on Wednesday the opening of the region’s first dedicated marine research, rescue and rehabilitation center, Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue, in Abu Dhabi.
Emirates News Agency reported that the announcement was made by Miral, and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Located on Yas Island, the 8,602 sq. meters center will be a key contributor to marine-life conservation in both the UAE and the wider region, conducting integrated research, rescue, rehabilitation, and education programs.
The center’s efforts will aim to improve the public’s knowledge and commitment to the conservation of the region’s marine wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems.
The Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, attended the opening, along with Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, Miral’s chairman.
He said: “We are very proud to begin 2023, the UAE’s Year of Sustainability, by opening the first dedicated marine research and rescue center in the region, Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue.
“This is a cornerstone in the emirate’s journey of education and conservation, inspiring the next generation of marine scientists to learn more about Abu Dhabi’s impactful long-term vision of protecting our marine wildlife and their habitats.
“Together with SeaWorld, we will be pushing the limits of science and conservation to become the foremost knowledge hub for marine scientists, not only in the UAE but also in the wider region.”
Led by a team of dedicated marine scientists, zoologists and experts in research, rescue and animal care, the center will play an important role in research and conservation efforts.
The research team will conduct fundamental and applied studies which focus on the marine ecology of the Arabian Gulf, covering topics such as marine biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, sensitive wildlife conservation, critical habitats restoration, fisheries, pollution and wildlife health.
Scott Ross, chairman of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said that the company had committed itself to protecting marine wildlife and ecosystems for nearly 60 years.
He added: “Extending this legacy here in the UAE is important for global conservation and is consistent with the UAE and wider region’s tradition of honoring the importance of the sea.”
The center will boast more than 25 rescue pools, from large areas for marine mammals to smaller ones for fish, invertebrates and marine reptiles.


How Israel’s new right-wing government impacts Palestinians

The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
Updated 08 February 2023

How Israel’s new right-wing government impacts Palestinians

The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
  • Policies do not receive the attention of the international community, experts say
  • Palestinians make up 20 percent of population within Israel

LONDON: The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity and to prohibit their lawful political expression, experts claimed this week.

One expert, Israeli Arab politician Sami Abu Shehadeh, a former Knesset member, also said the recently elected right-wing government in Israel will have a particular impact on Palestinian citizens, who make up 20 percent of the population within Israel.

He was speaking during a Galilee Foundation panel on Wednesday, which discussed the ramifications the government in Israel would have for Palestinians and their struggle for equality.

Abu Shehadeh said that one of the most dangerous signs of what is to come is the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir’s judicial reforms, which include the ordering of Israeli police to remove any Palestinian flags both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

He added: “The state of Israel doesn’t see our national component as a part of our identity.

“They continue reinventing us as a minority, which doesn’t have a national or religious identity, and that is affecting government policies.”

The landslide victory of Israel’s extremist right-wing parties in December sounded alarm bells throughout Israel and for its historic Western allies, he said.

Abu Shehadeh also said Palestinians can expect discrimination in the education sector as a result of the new government’s stance.

He added: “Most of the world is unaware that the Israeli education system, like the rest of its society, is built on racial separation.”

There are three different official education systems in the country: for Palestinians, for Jewish secular groups, and one for Jewish religious groups.

While all school systems include lessons in modern Zionist history, Palestinians are prohibited from studying their own history, with Israeli Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton once describing it as “dangerous incitement” against the Israeli government and army.

The experts speaking on the panel argued that the fundamental policies of the new coalition government were intended to target Palestinians, and they were not receiving the attention of the international community nor attracting public debate in the country.

They argued the focus had instead shifted toward the new government’s plans for judicial reform, which they said threatened Israeli democracy.

“While the legal reforms are important, the extreme Israeli audience is not waiting for these laws to pass,” Abu Shehadeh said.

Dr. Areen Hawari, director of the gender studies program at the Mada Al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, shared her thoughts on the matter.

She said: “Israel is a settler colonial state, the homeland of other people, just like South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

“Such colonial states, but particularly Israel, which was established in 1948 after World War II, need strongly as part of their existence to belong to the West.

“In order to be part of the West, you need to introduce that at least you are procedurally democratic.

“That is why the left wing in Israel is ready to fight against these new reforms because if you lose the support of the West, you lose your existence.”

However, Hawari said that, for the first time, the new government “simply doesn't care” about what the West thinks of them.

She claimed this was due to the success of its ongoing occupation, the recent normalization agreements with several Arab countries, the country’s gains during the Trump administration, and the continued silence of the EU.

Dr. Hassan Jabareen, a Palestinian human rights lawyer, acknowledged that among the thousands of Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv against the new judicial reforms, several have criticized the country’s treatment of Palestinians.

Dr. Hassan Jabareen. (Supplied/Galilee Foundation)

Equally, he said: “We cannot find ourselves protesting in Tel Aviv in saving Israeli democracy when we do not see Israel as a democratic state. We see ourselves as victims of that very legal system.

“So while it's very difficult for Palestinians to participate in the protest, we agree with some protester leaders that we are in fact the main victims of Israel’s new government.”

As the growing threat of Israel’s extremism looms, Abu Shehadeh told Arab News that Palestinians, especially those settled around the world, need to rethink the way they strategize for their liberation.

He said: “One of our challenges is that we, as Palestinians, are talking to ourselves and people who are similar to us.

“For us activists, everything that is going on [in Palestine] is taken for granted, but a lot of the world doesn’t know the basics.”

He claims activists must continue to educate others who do not know about the Palestinian cause, question, and narrative.

“It is important for the world to see that we are struggling against not a democracy according to its false image. To call it apartheid is not enough… I think this is the most racist society, “ he said.

“People should see this truth in order to support our struggle. We are struggling for peace, justice, and equality for all, both Palestinians and Jews.”


EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid
Updated 08 February 2023

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid
  • "Turkiye and Syria can count on the EU," von der Leyen wrote on Twitter
  • The European Union said the conference would be held early next month in Brussels

BRUSSELS: The EU plans to host a donors conference in March to mobilize international aid for Syria and Turkiye following this week’s devastating earthquake, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
“We are now racing against the clock to save lives together. Soon we will provide relief aid, together. Turkiye and Syria can count on the EU,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.
The European Union said the conference would be held early next month in Brussels in coordination with Turkish authorities “to mobilize funds from the international community in support for the people” of both countries.
“No one should be left alone when a tragedy like this hits a people,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
The event is aimed at coordinating the international response to the disaster and “will be open to EU Member States, neighboring countries, UN members” and international lenders, the bloc said.
Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will co-chair the conference, at a moment when it is facing a block from Turkiye on its push to join NATO.
“Sweden wants to ensure that the EU’s assistance is adequate to meet the need of the Turkish and Syrian people in this terrible time,” Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson said.
The European Union was swift to dispatch rescue teams to Turkiye after the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country on Monday close to the border with Syria.
But it initially offered only minimal assistance to Syria through existing humanitarian programs because of EU sanctions imposed since 2011 on the government of President Bashar Assad in response to his brutal crackdown on protesters, which spiralled into a civil war.
On Wednesday, Damascus made an official plea to the EU for help, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management said.
Now that Damascus has made the move, through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism that coordinates aid, Janez Lenarcic said the commission was asking European countries “to respond favorably to this request.”
The participants in the EU mechanism comprise the 27 EU countries plus eight neighboring non-EU nations that include Norway and Turkiye.