Egyptian customs thwart drug smuggling attempt

Egyptian customs thwarted an attempt to smuggle drugs into the country at Hurghada International Airport. (Hurghada International Airport)
Egyptian customs thwarted an attempt to smuggle drugs into the country at Hurghada International Airport. (Hurghada International Airport)
Short Url
Updated 19 March 2023

Egyptian customs thwart drug smuggling attempt

Egyptian customs thwart drug smuggling attempt
  • Passenger’s baggage was scanned and 36 grams of marijuana and two vapes containing marijuana oil found
  • The items were hidden between the folds of clothes

CAIRO: Egyptian customs thwarted an attempt to smuggle drugs into the country after an English passenger drew the attention of officials at Hurghada International Airport.

His baggage was scanned and 36 grams of marijuana and two vapes containing marijuana oil were found. The items were hidden between the folds of clothes.

The passenger was referred to the public prosecution.

Separately, officers at Luxor International Airport foiled an attempt to smuggle out of the country an amount of Egyptian and foreign cash, in violation of a number of regulations.

An Egyptian passenger traveling on a Jazeera Airways flight to Kuwait was found carrying a dark object in his hand baggage. A total of 184,400 Egyptian pounds, 1,615 Kuwaiti dinars, and 480 Saudi riyals were found hidden in the folds of his clothes.

Customs officers at Cairo International Airport last week foiled attempts to smuggle narcotic pills and underwater hunting rifles into the country.

An Egyptian passenger arriving from Poland was found hiding a large quantity of drugs in his baggage.

Another Egyptian traveler arriving from the US was found hiding seven underwater hunting rifles in his baggage.

Both men were referred to the public prosecution.


Jordan urges international community to take a stand against hate speech fueling violence in occupied Palestine

Jordan urges international community to take a stand against hate speech fueling violence in occupied Palestine
Updated 11 sec ago

Jordan urges international community to take a stand against hate speech fueling violence in occupied Palestine

Jordan urges international community to take a stand against hate speech fueling violence in occupied Palestine
  • Jordan’s deputy PM points to ‘reckless and disgusting’ comments by Israel’s Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich
  • EU envoy Josep Borrell denounces Israeli minister’s statements, describing them as ‘dangerous and unacceptable’

AMMAN: Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister has called on the international community to take a clear stand against hate speech fueling violence and conflict in occupied Palestine.
Ayman Safadi, who is also Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs and expatriates, pointed to the danger of extremist racist ideology, manifested in a “reckless and disgusting manner” in the statement of Israel’s Minister of Finance Betzalel Smotrich.
Jordan’s News Agency reported on Wednesday that the Israeli minister had denied the existence of the Palestinian people and their historical rights, and presented a map of Israel that included the occupied state of Palestine and Jordan.
In a phone call with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, Safadi stressed that Israel’s government should bear the responsibility for “hate speech, racist incitement, and the disgusting behavior of the Israeli minister.”
The government must declare its rejection openly and clearly, he said.
“Staying silent in the face of such statements and racist positions under the pretext of protecting government coalition is unacceptable and dangerous, and will only fan the flames of tension and further spread this extremist ideology.”
Borrell also denounced the Israeli minister’s statements, describing them as “dangerous and unacceptable,” and urged the Israeli government to take a stand.
The EU rejects all unilateral Israeli measures, underscoring its firm position that supports the two-state solution as a way to achieve peace, he added.
The two parties discussed the dangerous deterioration in the occupied Palestinian territories, underlining the need to halt all measures that fuel violence and undermine the chances of a comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution.
Safadi and Borrell also discussed the outcomes of the recent Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh meetings on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Jordan’s efforts to help relaunch negotiations to end the violence.
Safadi lauded the EU’s support for the two-state solution and its condemnation of racist hate speech in all its forms.


Three US Cyclone-class patrol boats handed over to the Egyptian Navy

Three US Cyclone-class patrol boats handed over to the Egyptian Navy
Updated 34 min 18 sec ago

Three US Cyclone-class patrol boats handed over to the Egyptian Navy

Three US Cyclone-class patrol boats handed over to the Egyptian Navy
  • American crews have been training their Egyptian counterparts to use the vessels since they arrived in Alexandria on Feb. 12
  • Adm. Brad Cooper: The Egypt-US maritime partnership has been a fundamental pillar of our bilateral defense cooperation for decades

CAIRO: The Egyptian Navy officially accepted delivery of three US Cyclone-class patrol boats during a special ceremony in Alexandria this week.

Adm. Ashraf Atwa, commander of the Egyptian Naval Force, and Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the US Fifth Fleet, US Naval Forces Central Command, and the Combined Maritime Forces, signed the official handover document, according to Egyptian armed forces spokesperson Gharib Abdel-Hafez.

The transfer ceremony, during which the Egyptian flag was raised on the boats to mark their entry into service, followed a program of training and professional exchanges designed to improve cooperation and joint initiatives between the two countries’ naval forces.

Abdel-Hafez said that the Egyptian Navy has recently implemented great technological improvements to its armament systems and combat efficiency, in line with international standards.

Atwa highlighted the efforts of Egyptian armed forces to enhance the capabilities of its naval fleet to enhance security and stability. He added that the delivery of the vessels reflected the strong strategic partnership between Egypt and the US.

“The Cyclone-class patrol boats are among the most advanced units in the US Navy and represent a new addition to Egypt’s naval forces,” he said.

In a message posted on its website, the US Navy said: “The transfer ceremony represents the culmination of weeks of preparation, training and professional exchanges between Egyptian and US Navy sailors.”

US crews have been training their Egyptian counterparts to use the vessels since they arrived in Alexandria on Feb. 12, the US Navy said, with courses devoted to a range of disciplines including engineering, search-and-rescue operations, damage control, and weapons handling.

The vessels sailed to Egypt from Bahrain, with US and Egyptian sailors navigating around the Arabian Peninsula during a 4,000-mile, month-long journey. It included stops at Jebel Ali in the UAE, Duqm in Oman, Djibouti, and Berenice in Egypt.

“The Egypt-US maritime partnership has been a fundamental pillar of our bilateral defense cooperation for decades,” Cooper said.

“This transfer is yet another major milestone in our strong relationship that will enhance regional maritime security for years to come.”

Capt. Anthony Webber, commander of the US Navy 5th Fleet Task Force 55, said: “This transfer process was an incredible opportunity for our crews. It enabled us to strengthen our bilateral ties while enhancing our interoperability with a highly capable regional maritime partner.”

In November, the Egyptian Navy accepted delivery of its first German Meko A-200 frigate, which is equipped to secure cargo ships and provide humanitarian support. Named Al-Aziz, it is the first of four to be delivered and was built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems at the SBN shipyard,.

In August last year, the Egyptian Navy carried out a joint training exercise with US and Spanish naval forces in the Mediterranean. The Egyptian frigate El-Fateh joined the US destroyer USS Forrest Sherman and Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon for the drills, which included responses to threats to international navigation and the flow of global trade.


IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed
Updated 23 March 2023

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed
  • Disbursements under the 46-month program are subject to eight reviews

CAIRO: Preparations for the first review of Egypt’s economic reform program with the International Monetary Fund have begun and dates for the review mission will be announced when agreed with the authorities, an IMF spokesperson said on Thursday.
The IMF approved in December a $3 billion Extended Fund Facility loan for Egypt, which has been under acute financial pressure since long-standing problems were exposed by the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine.
Disbursements under the 46-month program are subject to eight reviews, the first of which was dated March 15, 2023 in an IMF staff report published in December.
Among the key commitments that Egypt made to secure the loan were a permanent shift to a flexible exchange rate regime and wide-ranging structural reforms to reduce the state’s footprint in the economy.
Egypt’s currency has lost nearly 50 percent of its value over the past year following three sharp devaluations. In the past two weeks it has traded in a narrow band between 30.75 and 30.95 pounds to the dollar, according to Eikon data, although the pound’s value on the black market has slipped.
Analysts say the pound has come under renewed pressure partly due to delays in expected sales of state assets.


World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt
Updated 23 March 2023

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt
  • Framework aims to boost private-sector jobs, improve human capital and enhance shock resilience

CAIRO: The World Bank Group’s board of executive directors on Wednesday approved a new Country Partnership Framework for Egypt, which lays out a strategy in the country for 2023–2027, Emirates News Agency reported.

The new CPF is in line with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy, Vision 2030, and National Climate Change Strategy 2050. It aims to achieve three high-level outcomes.

First, the framework aims to boost private-sector jobs by fostering an enabling environment for private sector-led investments and job opportunities, as well as by establishing a level playing field for the private sector.

Second, the CPF seeks to improve human capital outcomes by promoting inclusive, equitable, and improved health and education services, as well as effective social protection programs.

Third, it seeks to improve shock resilience through improved macroeconomic management and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

“The Country Partnership Framework 2023 -2027 between Egypt and the World Bank Group establishes a new phase of development cooperation and joint action to support efforts in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth. This is anchored in national objectives, the country’s 2030 vision and presidential initiatives,” Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, said.

“Through our extended partnership with the World Bank Group, more work will be done over the next five years to stimulate private sector engagement in development projects, increase job opportunities, enhance investment in human capital and promote climate action,” Al-Mashat added.

Marina Wes, the World Bank’s country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, said: “This CPF supports Egypt’s efforts to build back better by creating conditions for green, resilient, and inclusive development. It puts the Egyptian people at the center of its strategy, with a heavy focus on job creation by improving the business environment and leveling the playing field.”

The CPF also aims to strengthen Egypt’s role in regional integration by improving regional trade and increasing connectivity in infrastructure, transportation, energy, and labor.

Furthermore, the CPF seeks to integrate governance and citizen engagement as well as women’s empowerment across its programs.


IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled
Updated 23 March 2023

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled
  • IMF warns Lebanon will face crisis without reforms
  • Lebanon must ‘accelerate’ some reform measures, IMF says
  • Losses from financial meltdown must be borne by all, IMF says

BEIRUT: The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that Lebanon was in a very dangerous situation a year after it committed to reforms it has failed to implement and said the government must stop borrowing from the central bank.
IMF mission chief Ernesto Rigo told a news conference in Beirut that the authorities should accelerate the implementation of conditions set for a $3 billion bailout.
“One would have expected more in terms of implementation and approval of legislation” related to reforms, he said, noting “very slow” progress. “Lebanon is in a very dangerous situation,” he added, in unusually frank remarks.
Lebanon signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF nearly one year ago but has not met the conditions to secure a full program, which is seen as crucial for its recovery from one of the world’s worst financial crises.
Without implementing rapid reforms, Lebanon “will be mired in a never-ending crisis,” the IMF warned in a written statement after Rigo’s remarks.
The economy has been crippled by the collapse of the Lebanese currency, which has lost some 98 percent of its value against the US dollar since 2019, triggering triple-digit inflation, spreading poverty and a wave of emigration.
The crisis erupted after decades of profligate spending and corruption among the ruling elites, some of whom led banks that lent heavily to the state.
The government estimates losses in the financial system total more than $70 billion, the majority of which were accrued at the central bank.
“No more borrowing from the central bank,” Rigo said.
“Over the years, the government has been borrowing from the central bank. Not just in the past (but also) the last few months, which is something we have recommended should stop.”
The IMF has called for financial sector losses to be distributed in a way that preserves the rights of small depositors and limits recourse to state assets, though powerful politicians and banks have pushed back, delaying the recovery.
“Suffice it to say that the loss is so large that there will unfortunately have to be a distribution between the government, the banks and depositors,” Rigo added.
Still, he said that the IMF would “never walk away” from helping a member country and there was no deadline for Lebanon to implement the reforms.

SLOW REFORMS
Some observers say that an IMF deal now appears further away than ever before.
“To anyone observing Lebanon over the last four years, the likelihood of an IMF program being implemented appears slim to none,” Mike Azar, a financial consultant and expert on the Lebanese financial crisis, told Reuters.
“There is no urgency, no incentive and no pressure on decision-makers to implement any of the basic reforms,” he said, adding that Lebanon was instead headed for disorderly dollarization, collapsing public services and the wiping out of remaining deposits.
Authorities have passed some reform measures, such as a 2022 budget, an audit of the central bank’s foreign asset position and a revised banking secrecy law.
But the IMF’s statement on Thursday said the revised banking secrecy law should be amended again “to address outstanding critical weaknesses.”
Lebanon still has no capital control law, has not passed legislation to resolve its banking crisis and has failed to unify multiple exchange rates for the Lebanese pound — all measures the IMF has requested.
Rigo said that Lebanon should move toward a market-determined exchange rate, rather than maintaining multiple rates including the central bank’s Sayrafa exchange rate, which is not set by market forces.