GCC, Japan agree to resume talks on free-trade agreement

GCC, Japan agree to resume talks on free-trade agreement
GCC and Japan signed an agreement to resume negotiations on a free-trade deal. (Twitter/@@jasemalbudaiwi)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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GCC, Japan agree to resume talks on free-trade agreement

GCC, Japan agree to resume talks on free-trade agreement
  • GCC Secretary-General lauded Japan for its significant regional and international roles

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council and Japan signed on Sunday an agreement to resume negotiations on a free-trade deal as they reaffirmed the importance of close cooperation to strengthen their economic relations.

The signing took place on the sidelines of a meeting between GCC Secretary-General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio in Jeddah.

Albudaiwi lauded Japan for its significant regional and international roles, as well as its support for GCC member states on a variety of issues, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said in a report.  The GCC is composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In a joint statement, the two sides said it is their desire to expand trade liberalization and investment in a "mutually beneficial manner".

"Acknowledging that the Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (JGFTA) will provide the valuable foundations for expanding trade and investment and achieving greater cooperation between the two sides," the statement said.

As agreed upon, the next round of the JGFTA negotiations will be in 2024, said the statement signed by Ambassador Iwai Fumio, Japan's envoy to Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Raja Almarzoqi, chief negotiator of the GCC.

Prime Minister Kishida arrived in Jeddah on Sunday on the first leg of his three-day tour, which will also bring him to the UAE and Qatar.

In Jeddah, he met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and also attended a dialogue with Saudi dignitaries and businessmen.

Kishida's trip is intended to help Japan develop its ties with GCC ountries and build cooperation in various fields, particularly energy.  

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar account for over 80 percent of Japan’s total crude oil imports.  

Decoder

What is JGFTA?

Short for Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council, the proposed accord received a boost after GCC Secretary-General Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed a deal on July 16, 2023 in Jeddah to resume negotiations. The JGFTA is thought "to provide the valuable foundations for expanding trade and investment and achieving greater cooperation between the two sides."


Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media

Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media
Updated 4 sec ago
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Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media

Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media
  • News agency: Israel carried out aggression using drones against two military positions in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa
DAMASCUS: A Syrian army officer was killed Wednesday in an Israeli air strike in the country’s south, the official SANA news agency reported, citing a military source.
“The Israeli enemy carried out an aggression using drones against two military positions of our armed forces in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa,” the agency said, adding the attack resulted in the death of the officer and material damage.

No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says

No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says
Updated 18 min 16 sec ago
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No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says

No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says
  • In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions which hurt Iran’s oil sector
  • US President Joe Biden took office in 2021 and since then Iran has managed to raise output to 3.5 million bpd while tripling exports

DUBAI: Iranian oil exports will continue regardless of who is elected as the next US president, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Wednesday, amid concerns that a Donald Trump presidency could curb Iranian crude sales.
“Whatever government comes to power in the United States will not be able to prevent Iranian oil exports,” Owji said in comments quoted by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions which hurt Iran’s oil sector, with production dropping to 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd).
US President Joe Biden took office in 2021 and since then Iran has managed to raise output to 3.5 million bpd while tripling exports, according to Owji.
Iran has expanded oil trade with China.
Iran will elect a new president on June 28 following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May.
The US presidential election is scheduled for November 5.


Israel may have violated laws of war in Gaza campaign, UN rights office says

Israel may have violated laws of war in Gaza campaign, UN rights office says
Updated 36 min 32 sec ago
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Israel may have violated laws of war in Gaza campaign, UN rights office says

Israel may have violated laws of war in Gaza campaign, UN rights office says
  • Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory

GENEVA: Israeli forces may have repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war and failed to distinguish between civilians and fighters in their Gaza Strip military campaign, the United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday.
In a report assessing six Israeli attacks that caused a high number of casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, the UN human rights office said Israeli forces “may have systematically violated the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions in attack.”
“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimize to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.
Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to health authorities there.
Israel launched its assault after Hamas fighters stormed across the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
Last week the UN human rights office said the killing of civilians during an Israeli operation to free four hostages could amount to war crimes, but so might Palestinian militants’ holding of captives in densely populated areas.


Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking

Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking
Updated 19 June 2024
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Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking

Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking
  • The Tutor came under attack about a week ago by a bomb-carrying Houthi drone boat in the Red Sea

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: A bulk carrier sank days after an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels believed to have killed one mariner on board, authorities said early Wednesday, the second-such ship to be sunk in the rebel campaign.
The sinking of the Tutor in the Red Sea marks what appears to be a new escalation by the Iranian-backed Houthis in their campaign targeting shipping through the vital maritime corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
The attack comes despite a monthslong US-led campaign in the region that has seen the Navy face its most-intense maritime fighting since World War II, with near-daily attacks targeting commercial vessels and warship.
The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated Tutor sank in the Red Sea, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said in a warning to sailors in the region.
“Military authorities report maritime debris and oil sighted in the last reported location,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel is believed to have sunk.”
The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the sinking. The US military as well did not immediately acknowledge the sinking and did not respond to requests for comment.
The Tutor came under attack about a week ago by a bomb-carrying Houthi drone boat in the Red Sea. John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said Monday that the attack killed “a crew member who hailed from the Philippines.” The Philippines has yet to acknowledge the death, but the man who had been aboard the Tutor has been missing for over a week in the Red Sea, which faces intense summertime heat.
The use of a boat loaded with explosives raised the specter of 2000’s USS Cole attack, a suicide assault by Al-Qaeda on the warship when it was at port in Aden, killing 17 on board. The Cole is now part of a US Navy operation led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea to try and halt the Houthi attacks, though the rebels continue their assaults.
The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killing four sailors. They’ve seized one vessel and sunk two since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.
In March, the Belize-flagged Rubymar carried a load of fertilizer sank in the Red Sea after taking on water for days following a rebel attack.
The Houthis have maintained their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the US or the UK However, many of the ships they’ve attacked have little or no connection to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The war in Gaza has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians there, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.
A recent report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency acknowledged container shipping through Red Sea has declined by 90 percent since December over the attacks. As much as 15 percent of the world’s maritime traffic flows through that corridor.

 


UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause

UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause
Updated 19 June 2024
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UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause

UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause
  • The UN welcomed the move, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations said on Tuesday it has been unable to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip from the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing because of lawlessness and panic among hungry people in the area, despite Israel’s daytime pause in military activity.
Israel’s military said on Sunday there would be a daily pause in its attacks from 0500 GMT until 1600 GMT until further notice along the road that leads from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah Al-Din Road and northwards in Gaza.
The UN welcomed the move, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday, but added that “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need.” He said the area between Kerem Shalom and the Salah Al-Din road was very dangerous.
“Fighting is not the only reason for being unable to pick up aid ... The lack of any police or rule of law in the area makes it very dangerous to move goods there,” he said.
“But we are ready to engage with all parties to ensure that aid reaches people in Gaza, and we’ll continue to work with the authorities and with security forces, trying to see what can be done to have security conditions,” Haq said.
“When aid gets to a place, people are starving, and they’re worried that this may be the last food that they see,” he said. “They have to be assured that there’s going to be a regular flow of goods so that there’s not a panic when we get to the area.”
The United Nations and aid groups have long complained of the dangers and obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza, where the UN had warned a famine is looming.
Since the Israel-Hamas war began more than eight months ago, aid for 2.3 million Palestinians has primarily entered through two crossings into southern Gaza — the Rafah crossing from Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel.
But deliveries were disrupted when Israel stepped up its military operations in Rafah last month with the stated aim of routing remaining units of Hamas fighters. Egypt closed the Rafah crossing due to the threat posed to humanitarian work and has routed a backlog of aid and fuel via Kerem Shalom.
Haq said on Tuesday that the Rafah crossing remained closed and there was limited access via Kerem Shalom. In Gaza’s north, he said the Erez crossing was not accessible due to an escalation of fighting, while the West Erez and Zikim crossings were operational.