Turkiye’s Erdogan to host Putin, hopes for Black Sea grain deal extension

In this file photo taken on March 05, 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands at the end of a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on March 05, 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands at the end of a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow. (AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2023
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Turkiye’s Erdogan to host Putin, hopes for Black Sea grain deal extension

Turkiye’s Erdogan to host Putin, hopes for Black Sea grain deal extension
  • Erdogan said work was under way on extending the Black Sea grain deal beyond its expiration date of July 17 and for longer periods beyond that

ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he was pressing Russia to extend a Black Sea grain deal by at least three months and announced a visit by President Vladimir Putin in August.
He was speaking at a joint news conference with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky after the two parties met to discuss
the fate of an arrangement
, brokered last year by Turkiye and the United Nations, to allow for the safe export of grain from Ukrainian ports via the Black Sea despite the war.
Zelensky’s visit followed stops in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, part of a tour of some NATO capitals aimed at encouraging them to take concrete steps at a summit next week toward granting Kyiv membership of the alliance, which Erdogan said Ukraine deserved.
Erdogan said work was under way on extending the Black Sea grain deal beyond its expiration date of July 17 and for longer periods beyond that. The deal would be one of the most important issues on the agenda for his meeting with Putin in Turkiye next month, he said.
“Our hope is that it will be extended at least once every three months, not every two months. We will make an effort in this regard and try to increase the duration of it to two years,” he said at the news conference with Zelensky.
Both men said they had also discussed another key question for Erdogan’s talks with Putin — the question of prisoner exchanges, which Zelensky said had been the first thing on their agenda. “I hope we will get a result from this soon,” Erdogan said.
Zelensky said he would wait for a result to comment but made clear the discussion had gone into specifics on returning all captives including children deported to Russia and other groups.
“We are working on the return of our captives, political prisoners, Crimean Tatars,” he said, referring to members of Ukraine’s Muslim community in the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. “Our partners have all the lists. We are really working on this.”
Erdogan said the issue could also come up in his contacts with the Russian leader before his visit. “If we make some phone calls before that, we will discuss it on the call as well,” he said.
The Kremlin said it would be watching the talks closely, saying Putin has highly appreciated the mediation of Erdogan in attempting to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.
“As for forthcoming contacts between Putin and Erdogan, we do not rule them out in the foreseeable future,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters ahead of the Istanbul talks with Zelensky, which began on Friday.
Russia, angry about aspects of the grain deal’s implementation, has threatened not to allow its further extension beyond July 17.
Turkiye, a NATO member, has managed to retain cordial relations with both Russia and Ukraine over the past 16 months of the war and last year it helped to broker prisoner exchanges.
Turkiye has not joined its Western allies in imposing economic sanctions on Russia, but has also supplied arms to Ukraine and called for its sovereignty to be respected.

 


Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return

Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return
Updated 4 sec ago
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Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return

Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return
  • Lebanese deputy leader Saadeh Al-Shami will head the committee
  • Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that for the first time Lebanon has a “clear and specific action plan” on the Syrian refugee issue

BEIRUT: Lebanon has stepped up its push to have Syrian refugees returned to their homeland with the announcement of a Cabinet committee to negotiate directly with the Syrian government on the issue.
Lebanese deputy leader Saadeh Al-Shami will head the committee, which was set up during a Cabinet session on Tuesday with their aim of speeding up the repatriation process.
Speaking following a conference in Brussels on Monday on the future of Syria and the region, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that for the first time Lebanon has a “clear and specific action plan” on the Syrian refugee issue.
Mikati said that Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, who represented Lebanon at the Brussels forum, had called for safe areas to be found in Syria so the return process could get underway as soon as possible.
Arab ministers from countries hosting Syrian refugees, including Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, were urged to agree on a united plan to communicate with the Syrian government and “support early recovery in Syria.”
“During the conference, Lebanon emphasized the need for support and aid to encourage the Syrians to return to their country,” Mikati said.
In his speech, Bou Habib highlighted Lebanon’s continued cooperation, not confrontation, with international organizations affiliated with the UN.
International donors, led by the EU, pledged at the end of the conference to provide $5.4 billion to Syrians inside Syria and refugees in the region, in addition to more than $2.5 billion in soft loans to host countries.
Lebanon estimates there are at least 2 million Syrian refugees in the country, including those registered with UNHCR, workers, legal residents, and those who entered illegally.
Hostility toward Syrian refugees in Lebanon worsened after the abduction and murder of Pascal Suleiman, a local official in the Lebanese Forces Party.
Over the past two months, hate speech against Syrian refugees has escalated and work restrictions have been placed on them to hasten their return.
Lebanon is pushing ahead with plans to repatriate Syrians who entered the country illegally, and has organized voluntary return trips, but participation remains low, with only 225 people joining a convoy two weeks ago.
At the opening of the Brussels conference, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected any discussion of refugees’ return to Syria.
“We consider that there is no safe, voluntary, and dignified return for refugees to Syria at present,” he said.
“Voluntary return must be voluntary; refugees should not be coerced. The situation in Syria today is more perilous than a year ago, humanitarian needs have never been greater, and efforts toward a political solution remain deadlocked.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese security forces are continuing to evict Syrian families living in illegal settlements across towns and villages in Mount Lebanon and the north as part of a crackdown.
On Tuesday, about 1,000 Syrians in Koubba in the Batroun region of northern Lebanon were evicted on orders from Ramzi Nohra, the North Lebanon governor.
Ahead of the Brussels conference, Amnesty International urged those attending to “ensure that any funds pledged to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon do not contribute to human rights violations, including forced deportation to Syria.”
The rights group quoted refugees in Lebanon saying they “live in fear, avoid leaving their homes, going to work, or sending their children to school.”
Dozens of municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrian refugees, and shuttered scores of small businesses and shops employing or run by Syrians nationwide.
Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security has suspended procedures for granting or renewing residency permits through lease contracts, Lebanese sponsorship, or financial guarantees. It has also cautioned people against employing, hosting, or providing accommodation to undocumented Syrian refugees.


Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment

Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment
Updated 30 min 29 sec ago
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Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment

Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment
  • Saqqaf highlighted Jordan’s extensive network of trade agreements with numerous economic blocs

AMMAN: Jordan’s Minister of Investment Kholoud Saqqaf on Tuesday welcomed a high-level delegation of executive directors and representatives from prominent American companies, who are visiting Jordan to explore investment opportunities, Jordan News Agency reported.

During the meeting, Saqqaf highlighted Jordan’s extensive network of trade agreements with numerous economic blocs, which have enabled Jordanian exports to reach non-traditional markets and more than 1.5 billion consumers worldwide.

The visit of the US delegation, organized in coordination with the New York-based Business Council for International Understanding, will include meetings with various Jordanian ministries and public and private sector institutions.

The BCIU is a non-partisan organization comprising 200 major US companies, which works to expand international trade, provide essential services to facilitate global growth opportunities, and foster mutually beneficial relationships between business and government leaders worldwide.

Saqqaf emphasized the importance of strengthening economic and investment relations between Jordan and the US, noting that the free trade agreement between the two countries had significantly increased trade volume and encouraged new investments in Jordan.

She outlined key reforms undertaken by Jordan, including the approval of the investment environment law, the initiation of public-private partnership projects, and the launch of an investment promotion strategy targeting various countries, with a particular focus on the American market.

Saqqaf also highlighted improvements in Jordan’s national economy, citing satisfactory economic growth rates, low inflation compared with regional and global levels, and robust foreign currency reserves.

She pointed to Moody’s recent upgrade of Jordan’s credit rating from B1 to BA3, with a stable outlook, as further evidence of Jordan’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

Encouraging the American businesses to invest in Jordan, Saqqaf assured the delegation of the country’s supportive environment for their ventures. She highlighted various investment opportunities available through the Invest in Jordan platform (invest.jo) and reaffirmed Jordan’s openness to business and investment.

Representatives from the BCIU praised Jordan’s stable and secure environment, as well as the reforms aimed at improving the business landscape.

They expressed their commitment to promoting Jordan’s investment environment to their members and other American companies.
 


Israeli tanks hit evacuation zone west of Rafah, 21 dead, Gaza health officials say

Israeli tanks hit evacuation zone west of Rafah, 21 dead, Gaza health officials say
Updated 30 min 58 sec ago
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Israeli tanks hit evacuation zone west of Rafah, 21 dead, Gaza health officials say

Israeli tanks hit evacuation zone west of Rafah, 21 dead, Gaza health officials say
  • It came two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp stirred global condemnation
  • The attack site is a coastal area that Israel had advised civilians in Rafah to move to for safety

CAIRO: Israeli strikes on a tent camp in an evacuation area west of Rafah killed at least 21 on Tuesday, Gaza health authorities said, and tanks advanced to the center of the southern Gaza city for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment.
Two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp stirred global condemnation, Gaza emergency services said four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in Al-Mawasi, a coastal area that Israel had advised civilians in Rafah to move to for safety.
At least 12 of the dead were women, according to medical officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. An Israeli military spokesperson said: “As of this time, we are not aware of this incident.”
In central Rafah, tanks and armored vehicles mounted with machine guns were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area, without commenting on reported advances into the city center.
International unease over Israel’s three-week-old Rafah offensive has turned to outrage after an attack on Sunday set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of the city, killing at least 45 people. Israel said it had targeted Hamas commanders and had not intended to cause civilian casualties.
Global leaders voiced horror at the fire in a designated “humanitarian zone” of Rafah where families uprooted by fighting elsewhere had sought shelter, and urged the implementation of a World Court order last week for a halt to Israel’s assault.
Tuesday’s attack occurred in an area designated by Israel as an expanded humanitarian zone, to which it had called on civilians in Rafah to evacuate for their own safety when it launched its incursion in early May.
In a diplomatic move purportedly aimed at reining in the violence, Spain, Ireland and Norway were to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday.
The three countries have said they hope their decision will accelerate efforts toward securing a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas militants, now in its eighth month, that has reduced much of the densely populated territory to rubble.
Residents said Rafah’s Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood, the scene of Sunday’s night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being bombarded.
“Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families have fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night,” one resident told Reuters via a chat app.
Around one million people — many repeatedly displaced by shifting waves of the war — have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.
A video obtained by Reuters showed families on the move again, carrying their belongings through Rafah’s shattered streets, their weary children trailing behind them.
“There are a lot of attacks, smoke and dust. It is death from God...The (Israelis) are hitting everywhere. We’re tired,” said Moayad Fusaifas, pushing along belongings on two bicycles.

Israel says it’s in combat near Egypt border

Since Israel launched its incursion by seizing control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago, tanks had probed around the outskirts and entered some eastern districts but had not yet rumbled into the city in full force.
In recent days, Israeli tanks have thrust toward western neighborhoods and taken up positions on the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah. On Tuesday, witnesses reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the Zurub area.
Witnesses in central Rafah said the Israeli military appeared to have brought in remote-operated armored vehicles and there was no immediate sign of personnel in or around them. An Israeli military spokesperson had no immediate comment.
The Israeli military said it operated overnight along the Philadelphi Corridor that separates Gaza from Egypt “based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets.”
Israeli troops were engaged in close-quarter combat and were locating tunnel shafts, weapons and militant infrastructure, it said in a statement.
Israel has kept up attacks despite the ruling by the International Court of Justice on Friday ordering it to stop given a high risk of civilian casualties. Israel has argued that the top UN court’s decision had left it some scope for military action there.
The ICJ also reiterated calls for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.
In Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, one of the largest of the enclave’s eight historic refugee camps, Israeli forces have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, residents said.
In some residential districts from which Israeli forces have retreated, civil emergency teams said they were recovering bodies from the ruins.


Jordanian minister calls for greater water cooperation with Iraq

Jordanian minister calls for greater water cooperation with Iraq
Updated 47 min 32 sec ago
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Jordanian minister calls for greater water cooperation with Iraq

Jordanian minister calls for greater water cooperation with Iraq
  • Abu Saud stressed pivotal role of the private sector in operating and maintaining water and sanitation facilities

AMMAN: Jordan’s minister of water and irrigation has called for increased regional cooperation in a bid to address water challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions.

On Tuesday, Raed Abu Saud met with a delegation from the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources who are visiting Jordan to bolster collaboration in managing water resources, Jordan News Agency reported.

The visit aims to facilitate an exchange of expertise, drawing from Jordan’s experience in water conservation, reducing waste, improving irrigation efficiency, utilizing treated water, and providing training as part of a joint program between the two countries.

During the visit, the Iraqi delegation toured the command and control center at the Jordanian ministry’s headquarters. They were also scheduled to visit various water sites to observe the management of irrigation water systems and the modern technologies employed.

Abu Saud highlighted the need for collective efforts to combat the effects of climate change, implement advanced water harvesting techniques, and enhance capacity building through specialized technical courses.

He pointed out the significant decline in Jordan’s water resources, which he attributed to erratic rainfall and climate change, and outlined the ministry’s initiatives in developing water and sanitation services, notably through Build-Operate-Transfer projects and other sustainable initiatives.

Abu Saud also stressed the pivotal role of the private sector in operating and maintaining water and sanitation facilities, underscoring the importance of strengthening partnerships with private entities.

He highlighted the water authority’s training center as a regional hub for training technical personnel in modern water management practices and thanked the Iraqi ministry’s efforts in fostering cooperation with Jordan’s water sector.
 


WHO condemns ‘abrupt halt’ to medical evacuations from Gaza

WHO condemns ‘abrupt halt’ to medical evacuations from Gaza
Updated 28 May 2024
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WHO condemns ‘abrupt halt’ to medical evacuations from Gaza

WHO condemns ‘abrupt halt’ to medical evacuations from Gaza
  • Thousands of Gazans are estimated to require urgent medical evacuation
  • WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris warned that the cut-off obviously meant more people will die waiting for treatment

GENEVA: Desperately needed medical evacuations from Gaza — already very limited — came to a full stop when Israel launched its military offensive on Rafah three weeks ago, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
The United Nations health agency has long been pleading for Israeli permission to evacuate more critically ill and severely wounded people from Gaza.
Thousands of Gazans are estimated to require urgent medical evacuation but few have been able to leave the besieged Palestinian territory since war erupted there nearly eight months ago.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said that since Israel launched its military offensive in the densely crowded southern city of Rafah in early May, “there’s been an abrupt halt to all medical evacuations.”
She warned that the cut-off obviously meant more people will die waiting for treatment.
Before the war in the Gaza Strip erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attacks, around 50 to 100 people left the enclave every day with medical referrals for complex treatments that were not available in the Palestinian territory, including for cancer.
“Those people didn’t go away simply because conflict started, so they all still need a referral,” Harris told reporters in Geneva.
And since services in Gaza have been disastrously disrupted by the conflict, far more people need to leave to get services they used to access inside the strip, like chemotherapy or dialysis, she said.
In addition, thousands now need to evacuate after suffering severe trauma injuries in the war.
WHO estimates that there are now typically at any given time “around 10,000 people who need to be evacuated... to receive the much-needed medical treatment elsewhere,” Harris said.
They include more than 6,000 trauma-related patients and at least 2,000 patients with serious chronic conditions, like cancer, she said.
Since the complete halt to medical evacuations from Gaza on May 8, an additional 1,000 critically ill and wounded patients have been added to that list, Harris said.
Before the cut-off, WHO had received approval from Israel for 5,800 medical evacuations — around just half of the number it had requested since the war began.
Of those 5,800, only 4,900 patients had actually been able to leave, Harris said.
The Gaza war began after Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Palestinian militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.
Israel’s relentless military retaliation has killed at least 36,096 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.