Ukraine peace plan is only way to end Russia’s war, says Zelensky aide

Ukraine peace plan is only way to end Russia’s war, says Zelensky aide
Kyiv pushes back after proliferation of other peace plans. (REUTERS)
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Updated 30 May 2023
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Ukraine peace plan is only way to end Russia’s war, says Zelensky aide

Ukraine peace plan is only way to end Russia’s war, says Zelensky aide
  • Ukraine sees courting Global South as top priority
  • Russia has built ties with the region during war

KYIV: Kyiv’s peace plan is the only way to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and the time for mediation efforts has passed, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Chief diplomatic adviser Ihor Zhovkva told Reuters that Ukraine had no interest in a cease-fire that locks in Russian territorial gains, and wanted the implementation of its peace plan, which envisages the full withdrawal of Russian troops.
He pushed back on a flurry of peace initiatives from China, Brazil, the Vatican and South Africa in recent months.
“There cannot be a Brazilian peace plan, a Chinese peace plan, a South African peace plan when you are talking about the war in Ukraine,” Zhovkva said in an interview late on Friday.
Zelensky made a major push to court the Global South this month in response to peace moves from some of its members. He attended the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19, holding talks with host Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Iraq and other delegations.
He then flew to Japan where he met the leaders of India and Indonesia — important voices in the Global South — on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit of major economic powers in Hiroshima.
While Kyiv has staunch backing from the West in its struggle against the Kremlin, it has not won the same support from the Global South — a term denoting Latin America, Africa and much of Asia — where Russia has invested diplomatic energy for years.
Moscow has bolstered ties with Global South powers during the war in Ukraine, including by selling more of its energy to India and China.
In response to a Western embargo on seaborne Russian oil imports, Russia has been working to reroute supplies away from its traditional European markets to Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Nairobi on Monday hoping to nail down a trade pact with Kenya, has repeatedly traveled to Africa during the war and St. Petersburg is due to host a Russia-Africa summit this summer.
In a sign of how Ukraine is trying to challenge Russia’s diplomatic sway, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba embarked on his second wartime tour of Africa last week.
Ukraine’s Zhovkva said winning backing in the Global South was a top priority. While Ukraine focused on ties with Western partners at the invasion’s start, securing peace was a matter of concern for all countries, he said.
He played down the prospects of calls for dialogue with Russia made by Pope Francis who described Ukraine’s occupied territories as a “political problem”.
“In this period of open war, we don’t need any mediators. It’s too late for mediation,” he said.

‘Peace Summit’
Zhovkva said the reaction to Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan had been extremely positive at the G7 summit.
“Not a single formula had any concerns from the (G7) countries,” Zhovkva said.
Kyiv wanted G7 leaders to help bring as many Global South leaders as possible to a “Peace Summit” proposed by Kyiv this summer, he said, adding that the location was still being discussed.
Russia has said it is open to peace talks with Kyiv, which stalled a few months into the invasion. But it insists that any talks be based on “new realities”, meaning its declared annexation of five Ukrainian provinces it fully or partly controls — a condition Kyiv will not accept.
China, the world’s second-largest economy and Ukraine’s top trade partner before the war, has touted a 12-point vision for peace which calls for a cease-fire but does not condemn the invasion or oblige Russia to withdraw from occupied territories.
Beijing, which has close ties with Russia’s leadership, sent top envoy Li Hui to Kyiv and Moscow this month to encourage peace talks.
Zhovkva said the envoy was briefed in detail on the situation on the battlefield, at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the power grid and the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, which Kyiv says is a Russian war crime.
“He listened very attentively. There was no immediate response … we will see. China is a wise country which understands its role in international affairs.”


Indonesia, Malaysia call on international community to ensure Israel’s compliance with ICJ ruling

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meets with Arab envoys in Indonesia on April 2, 2024 to discuss the situation in Gaza.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meets with Arab envoys in Indonesia on April 2, 2024 to discuss the situation in Gaza.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Indonesia, Malaysia call on international community to ensure Israel’s compliance with ICJ ruling

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meets with Arab envoys in Indonesia on April 2, 2024 to discuss the situation in Gaza.
  • Southeast Asian nations have been critical of Israel and vocal supporters of Palestine
  • ICJ also ordered Tel Aviv to allow clear access for investigations of genocide allegations

JAKARTA: Indonesia and Malaysia said on Sunday that the international community must ensure Israel’s compliance with an order by the UN’s top court to stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. 

The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday that Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate.” Judges at the ICJ also said the humanitarian situation there was “disastrous” and called on Tel Aviv to allow unimpeded access to any mission investigating allegations of genocide. 

Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which have been critical of Israel and vocal supporters of Palestine, have welcomed the ICJ order. 

“Indonesia supports the ICJ’s ruling ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, and to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body to investigate the allegation of genocide,” the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“Indonesia urges Israel to immediately comply with the measures ordered by the Court without reservation, and underlines the critical role of the Security Council in ensuring its implementation.”

Neighboring Malaysia is also calling on the international community to take action in ensuring Israel’s compliance.  

“Malaysia strongly urges the international community to intensify pressure on Israel to comply with the (ICJ ruling), as failing to do so will only make a mockery of the sanctity of international law,” the Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry said. 

Israeli airstrikes and ground offensives in Gaza have since October killed 36,000 Palestinians and wounded over 80,000 people, the vast majority children and women. 

The emergency ruling comes a week after it was requested by South Africa as part of a wider case accusing Israel of genocide. The decision marked the third time this year that the 15-judge panel has issued preliminary orders seeking to alleviate the death toll and humanitarian suffering in Gaza. 

Israel launched its assault on Rafah earlier this month, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee a city that had become a refuge to around half of the region’s 2.3 million people.

Rafah, on Gaza’s southern edge, has also been the main entry route for aid, and international organizations have said the Israeli operation has cut off the enclave and raised the risk of famine.

While the ICJ is the highest UN body for hearing disputes between states and its rulings are final and binding, without enforcement powers, the court’s orders have been ignored in the past. 

Israel has repeatedly dismissed South Africa’s case accusing it of genocide as baseless, arguing in court that its operations in Gaza are self-defense and targeted at Hamas militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

But the situation in the Palestinian enclave had deteriorated since the court last ordered Israel to take steps to improve it, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.


Philippines boosts halal certification to cater to more Muslim tourists 

Exhibitors pose with a love sign at the Mindanao Tourism Expo in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.
Exhibitors pose with a love sign at the Mindanao Tourism Expo in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Philippines boosts halal certification to cater to more Muslim tourists 

Exhibitors pose with a love sign at the Mindanao Tourism Expo in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.
  • Tourism is key sector for the Southeast Asian country, comprising 13 percent of GDP
  • Philippines wants to double its halal-certified products and services by 2028

MANILA: The Philippines is working to cater more to Muslim tourists, officials have said, with efforts underway to increase halal accreditation of hotels and restaurants in the country. 

Tourism is a key sector for the archipelago known for its white sandy beaches, diving spots and diverse culture, having contributed nearly 13 percent, or about $44 billion, to the Philippines’ gross domestic product in 2019. 

The Department of Tourism has lately been trying to attract more Muslim tourists from around the world, particularly by ensuring halal certification in restaurants.  

“All the regions (in the Philippines) are working … to be Muslim-friendly … Throughout the country, we are doing the same … We continue to encourage our restaurant-owners to be Muslim-friendly and eventually put up their own halal kitchen,” DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Abubakar told Arab News over the weekend. 

The predominantly Catholic Philippines — where Muslims constitute about 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population — has also been working to develop its overall domestic halal industry by 2028, with plans to double the number of its halal-certified products and services. 

Earlier this month, the tourism department led a delegation to the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where they promoted the country’s best tourism to the international market at a time when tourist arrivals have been increasing from the Middle East. 

The Philippines welcomed more than 2 million international travelers since the beginning of the year, according to official data, including a 10 percent increase in visitors arriving from Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which has been among the Philippine government’s key emerging-market targets.

But the Southeast Asian country is also eager to attract international Muslim visitors beyond the Gulf, Abubakar said. 

“DOT is not only targeting the Middle East market but our neighboring countries as well such as Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia,” she said, citing Muslim-majority countries in the region. 

The Philippines was recognized with the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award last year at the Halal in Travel Global Summit held in Singapore. 

Since then, the Muslim market has been a priority for the country’s tourism sector.  

“We’re preparing to certify Muslim-friendly hotels and restaurants … We’re trying to be ready especially with the food because we know that the food, the halal certification, is very important,” DOT regional director Marie Elaine Unchuan told Arab News. 

The Philippines, which has Southeast Asia’s third-largest Muslim population, is preparing itself to be as halal-friendly as possible, as during international tourism fairs Philippine officials often get asked about the country’s readiness to host Muslim travelers, she said.  

“That was one of the questions … Do we have halal-certified restaurants, and do we have Muslim-friendly hotels? So, we’re really working on it. We’d rather be very prepared so that we can market more.” 


Zelensky urges Biden, Xi to join peace summit

Zelensky urges Biden, Xi to join peace summit
Updated 26 May 2024
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Zelensky urges Biden, Xi to join peace summit

Zelensky urges Biden, Xi to join peace summit
  • Moscow’s forces have in recent weeks advanced on the battlefield and stepped up air strikes on cities
  • Kyiv hopes the June meeting in Switzerland will help pile international pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday to join an upcoming peace summit as his country struggles to stave off unrelenting attacks by Russia in its 27-month-old invasion.
Moscow’s forces have in recent weeks advanced on the battlefield and stepped up air strikes on cities, and Kyiv hopes the June meeting in Switzerland will help pile international pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In English-language video recorded inside the charred remains of a printing press destroyed on Thursday in a Russian air strike, Zelensky said the summit would “show who in the world really wants to end the war.”
“I am appealing to the leaders of the world who are still aside from the global efforts of the Global Peace Summit – to President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China,” he said.
“Please, show your leadership in advancing the peace – the real peace and not just a pause between the strikes.
Russia has said it sees no point in the conference to which Moscow is not currently invited.
Zelensky’s comments came two days after Russian sources told Reuters that Putin was ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines.
Zelensky and Ukraine’s supporters say a ceasefire will only help Russia rearm and regroup.
Russia has in recent months made slow but steady gains along several parts of the sprawling eastern front and is attempting to push deeper into the northeastern Kharkiv region after a ground incursion launched earlier this month.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Zelensky said it was crucial to get as many countries around the table at the peace talks as possible. Putin has said he believes the talks may convert Ukrainian demands for a Russian withdrawal into an ultimatum for Russia.


Taiwan’s president says open to working with China on ‘peace’

Taiwan’s president says open to working with China on ‘peace’
Updated 26 May 2024
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Taiwan’s president says open to working with China on ‘peace’

Taiwan’s president says open to working with China on ‘peace’
  • China launched military games around the island three day last week
  • President Lai Ching-te made overtures to Beijing before his inauguration to resume communications

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s president said Sunday he was still open to working with China on building “mutual understanding and reconciliation,” days after Beijing launched military drills around the self-ruled island in response to his inauguration speech.
President Lai Ching-te was sworn into office on Monday, and China — which claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and regards Lai as a “dangerous separatist” — launched military games around the island three days later.
Fighter jets, naval vessels and coast guard ships encircled Taiwan until Friday night, which Chinese military analysts said was to practice seizing it.
On Sunday, Lai said his May 20 inaugural speech highlighted that “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is a necessary element for global security and prosperity.”
“I also called on China to jointly shoulder the important responsibility of regional stability with Taiwan,” he said during an event with his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in southern Tainan.
“I also look forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation through exchanges and cooperation with China... and moving toward a position of peace and common prosperity.”
He added that “any country making waves in the Taiwan Strait and affecting regional stability will not be accepted by the international community.”
Lai made overtures to Beijing before his inauguration to resume communications — severed since 2016 after former president Tsai Ing-wen took office.
Like Lai, Tsai is also part of the DPP, which holds a stance of defending Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In response, Beijing has upped military and political pressures on Taiwan, and its naval vessels, drones and warplanes maintain a near-daily presence around the island.
On Sunday, two days after the drills ended, Taiwan’s defense ministry reported that seven Chinese aircraft, 14 naval vessels and four coast guard ships were “operating around” the island in a 24-hour period ending at 06:00 a.m. (2200 GMT Saturday).


Moldova turns to Russia to seek extradition of convicted politician

Moldova turns to Russia to seek extradition of convicted politician
Updated 26 May 2024
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Moldova turns to Russia to seek extradition of convicted politician

Moldova turns to Russia to seek extradition of convicted politician
  • The Victory bloc, made up of four parties, campaigns with the slogan “No to the EU” and calls for Moldova instead to join the Eurasian Economic Union — a Russian-led regional grouping

CHISINAU: Moldova is now seeking extradition from Russia of an opposition politician convicted of mass fraud after he moved there from exile in Israel, the country’s justice minister said on Saturday.
Ilan Shor, a pro-Russian business magnate, was sentenced last year in absentia to 15 years in prison in connection with the disappearance from the banking system of $1 billion in 2014, dubbed Moldova’s “theft of the century.”
Shor has organized noisy street demonstrations against pro-European President Maia Sandu and urged Moldovans to vote “no” in a referendum authorities have called for October on joining the European Union by 2030.
Justice Minister Veronica-Mihailov Moraru said Moldova would redirect its extradition appeals to Moscow after Shor said he had moved to Russia and announced he had been granted Russian citizenship.
“The justice ministry has not been informed of this by the Russian authorities,” she told TVR Moldova television.
“If we are advised officially that he holds Russian citizenship, we will analyze the circumstances and consider how to act in procedural terms.”
Moldova, an ex-Soviet state lying between Ukraine and Romania, had repeatedly sought Shor’s extradition from Israel.
After his conviction, a party bearing Shor’s name was banned by the Constitutional Court and a new party, called “Chance,” was formed in its place.
Shor is the driving force behind the “Victory” electoral bloc launched last month — in Moscow — to oppose the EU referendum and Sandu’s bid for re-election at a poll to be held on the same date.
He said last week he wanted to become prime minister if a president favorable to his views would nominate him.
Sandu denounces Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and describes Russia and corruption as the biggest threats to her country.
The Victory bloc, made up of four parties, campaigns with the slogan “No to the EU” and calls for Moldova instead to join the Eurasian Economic Union — a Russian-led regional grouping.
It has not yet decided on a candidate to run against Sandu. The opposition Socialists and Communists, also friendly to Moscow, oppose the pro-EU referendum but have shown little inclination to cooperate with Shor and the Victory bloc.