US and Yemen sign cultural property agreement

US and Yemen sign cultural property agreement
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Assistant Secretary of State for Educational, Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield and Yemen Ambassador to the US Mohammed Al-Hadhrami. (Twitter/@ECA_AS)
US and Yemen sign cultural property agreement
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Assistant Secretary of State for Educational, Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield and Yemen Ambassador to the US Mohammed Al-Hadhrami. (Twitter/@ECA_AS)
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Updated 01 September 2023
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US and Yemen sign cultural property agreement

US and Yemen sign cultural property agreement
  • The signing of the deal is a major milestone in the US-Yemen bilateral relationship
  • It aims to combat cultural property trafficking

LONDON: The US and Yemen have signed a bilateral cultural property agreement that renews and extends protections for Yemeni cultural property that were put in place in 2020 on an emergency basis, the US State Department announced on Friday.

The deal was signed by US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield and Yemeni Ambassador to Washington Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, accompanied by the US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking on Wednesday.

“The signing of this agreement is a major milestone in the US-Yemen bilateral relationship and is a framework for cooperation between the two countries to combat cultural property trafficking, while encouraging its legal exchange for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes,” the State Department said.

“The agreement builds on the United States’ long-term collaboration to preserve Yemen’s cultural heritage through US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation grants to NGO partners totaling more than $550,000 and ranging from the restoration of historic buildings to the preservation of ancient manuscripts,” the statement said.

The agreement also builds on the Biden Administration’s support for a durable resolution to the Yemen conflict and reaffirms US support for Yemeni sovereignty, it said.

The State Department affirmed Washington’s commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world and to restrict trafficking in cultural property, which is often used to fund terrorist and criminal networks.

The US-Yemen cultural property agreement was negotiated by the State Department under the US law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

“With this agreement, Yemen joins 25 existing US bilateral cultural property agreement partners,” the department said. “In addition, US emergency import restrictions remain in place on cultural property from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.”


Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition
Updated 27 sec ago
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Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Medics in Gaza said on Monday they were working to step up screening of young children for severe malnutrition amid fears that hunger is spreading as people flee to new areas.
Aid group International Medical Corps (IMC) and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign, one of its doctors, Mumawwar Said, told Reuters by phone.
“With the displacement, communities are settling in new locations that do not have access to clean water, or there is not adequate access to food,” he said. “We fear there are more cases being missed.”
Over the weekend, families were already coming into an IMC clinic in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, opened after the agency said it had to shut down two centers in the southern city of Rafah due to insecurity.
Five-year-old Jana Ayad had weighed just 9 kilograms when she arrived, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, Nutrition Officer Raghda Ibrahim Qeshta told Reuters as she carefully held the child.
“My daughter was dying in front of me,” said Nasma Ayad as she sat next to the bed. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Jana had started putting on some weight after treatment, medics said, but she was still painfully thin with her ribs showing as she lay listlessly in her bunny pyjamas.
Staff can gauge nutrition levels by measuring the circumference of children’s arms. During a Reuters cameraman’s short visit at least two of the measurements were in the yellow band, indicating a risk of malnutrition.
A group of UN-led aid agencies estimates that around 7 percent of Gazan children may be acutely malnourished, compared with 0.8 percent before the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.
Until now the worst of severe hunger has been in the north, with a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine in March.
But aid workers worry it could spread to central and southern areas due to the upheaval around Rafah that has displaced more than 1 million people and constrained supply flows through southern corridors.
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
It says it has expanded efforts to facilitate aid flows into Gaza and blames international aid agencies for distribution problems inside the enclave.

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
Updated 24 June 2024
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UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: ‘If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system’
  • Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

GENEVA: The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Monday called on partners to fight back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded as it provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and across the region.
“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva had no immediate comment.
Lazzarini said the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel’s offensive, was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks.”
“In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed,” he said.
“More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking United Nations protection...Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
Lazzarini said the agency was being subjected to a “concerted effort” to dismantle it, including through legislative initiatives threatening to evict the agency from its compound and labelling UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding.
Lazzarini said that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
“The agency’s ability to operate beyond August will depend on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget,” he said.
Established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.


Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
Updated 24 June 2024
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Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
  • Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.

CAIRO: Reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Hamas and Fatah officials told Reuters on Monday.
After hosting a meeting of Palestinian factions in April, China said Fatah — which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas — and Hamas had expressed the will to seek reconciliation through unity talks in Beijing. Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.


Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
Updated 24 June 2024
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Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
  • Sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment

Tehran: Iranians broadly deplore Western sanctions that have battered the economy, but the country’s six presidential candidates offer differing solutions — assuming the winner gets a say on foreign policy.
Punishing US sanctions, reimposed following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, have brought years of economic hardships, fueling political malaise and wide popular discontent.
With the June 28 snap election fast approaching, debates between the candidates vying for Iran’s second-highest office have featured a key question: should Tehran mend ties with the West?
Under the late president Ebrahim Raisi, who died last month in a helicopter crash, Western governments have expanded sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as well as its support for militant groups across the Middle East and for Russia in its war in Ukraine.
The sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment and a record low for the Iranian rial against the US dollar.
At Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazaar, shopkeeper Hamid Habibi, 54, said years of sanctions “have hit people very hard.”
“Sanctions should be removed and ties mended with the US and European countries,” he said.
In two televised debates focused on the economy ahead of the presidential polls, “almost all the candidates explained that the sanctions have had devastating effects,” said Fayyaz Zahed, a professor of international relations at the University of Tehran.
“It is crucial to resolve this issue to alleviate the people’s suffering,” he said.
While the six contenders — five conservatives and a sole reformist — have all vowed to tackle the economic hardships, they offered varying views on Iran’s relations with the West.
“If we could lift the sanctions, Iranians could live comfortably,” said reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian, considered one of three frontrunners.
Pezeshkian, who is backed by key reformist groups in Iran, called for “constructive relations” with Washington and European capitals in order to “get Iran out of its isolation.”
On the campaign trail, he had the support of Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former foreign minister who helped secure the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and insists it had positive impact on the Iranian economy.
Since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, Iran has gradually reduced its commitment to its terms, meant to curb nuclear activity which Tehran has maintained was for peaceful purposes.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the deal have long stalled as tensions between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly flared.
Former president Hassan Rouhani, whose government negotiated the deal, said the sanctions cost Iranians “$100 billion a year, directly or indirectly, from the sale of oil and petrochemicals and the discounts they give” — in reference to preferential trade with China, a signatory to the 2015 agreement.
Ultraconservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator, has called for Tehran to press ahead with its long-running anti-Western policy.
“The international community is not made up of just two or three Western countries,” Jalili has repeatedly said in debates and campaign rallies.
He said Iran should bolster its ties with China and Russia, and forge stronger relations with Arab countries, particularly regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the incumbent parliament speaker, has offered a more pragmatic approach, saying Iran should negotiate with Western countries only if it stands to gain an “economic advantage.”
Ghalibaf called for increasing Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, a strategy he said was already “forcing the West to negotiate with Iran.”
Zahed, the international relations professor, said Jalili has positioned himself as “the most inflexible candidate on the diplomatic level.”
In any case, the expert added, the next president will have limited say over strategic issues in the Islamic republic where supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, wields ultimate authority.
On Saturday, Khamenei urged the candidates to avoid making any remarks that would “please the enemy” — in reference to the West, mainly the United States.
The president “could only influence foreign policy” if he “earned the trust” of Khamenei and Iran’s most influential government institutions, Zahed said.


EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war
Updated 24 June 2024
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EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU adopts sanctions against six over Sudan civil war

EU countries adopted sanctions against six people in Sudan on Monday over the war between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has engulfed the country.
The listings include a general commanding the RSF in West Darfur, who the EU Council said is responsible for committing atrocities, instigating ethnically motivated killings, sexual violence and the looting and burning of communities.
They also include the RSF’s financial adviser, as well as a prominent tribal leader of the Mahamid clan affiliated with the RSF in West Darfur.
On the side of the Sudanese army, sanctions target the director of Defense Industry Systems and the commander of the Sudanese Air Force for their responsibility in the “indiscriminate aerial bombing of densely populated residential areas,” the EU Council said.
Former Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmed Karti Mohamed is also listed.
The six are now subject to an asset freeze and travel ban in the 27-nation European Union.