France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza

France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza
This picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing after an Israeli strike in the Palestinian territory on December 4, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2023
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France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza

France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza
  • The French ambassador to the UN urges council members to take more action to address the conflict because it requires more than only humanitarian pauses
  • More than 700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel resumed its military operations in Gaza on Dec. 1 after a week-long temporary truce

NEW YORK CITY: France on Monday urged the UN Security Council to do more to address the conflict in Gaza, stressing that pauses in the fighting are not enough and what is needed is a truce that can pave the way for a ceasefire.

Nicolas de Riviere, France’s permanent representative to the UN, said that in the short term “we need more than a humanitarian pause. We need a truce leading to a ceasefire, full humanitarian access, full respect of international humanitarian law. Of course, we need the release of hostages.”

He also reiterated that his country respects “Israel’s right to defend itself and go after the terrorists who committed crimes on Oct. 7.”

De Riviere was speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York ahead of a closed meeting of the Security Council. It was called by the UAE, which cited the “deeply concerning resumption of hostilities” at the weekend and the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

More than 700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel resumed its military operations in Gaza on Dec. 1 after a week-long humanitarian pause in the fighting. Another 15,500 were killed before the temporary truce.

Israel this week expanded its operations into southern Gaza, forcing tens of thousands of already displaced Gazans into “increasingly compressed spaces, desperate to find food, water, shelter and safety,” according to Lynn Hastings, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Warning that “an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold,” she added: “Nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go. The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist.”

De Riviere meanwhile, also called for the resumption of a political process to address the wider Palestinian issue, saying: “I don’t think we can continue to refuse to address the aspirations of the Palestinians to statehood. It is a necessity. It should not be under the carpet like has been the case for the past seven years.”

Council members have been discussing a draft resolution, proposed by the UAE, for the scaling up and monitoring of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

However, speaking before the closed-doors meeting on Monday, US Ambassador Robert Wood told reporters there is no need at the moment for additional resolutions or statements from the council.

He said it already adopted an “important” resolution on Nov. 15, which calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and aid corridors to be established throughout the Gaza Strip. Resolution 2712, the first one that council members have agreed on since the beginning of the conflict, also calls for the release of all hostages and for all sides to refrain from depriving Gazan civilians of access to the basic goods and services that are critical to their survival.

Wood said what is needed now is a “focus on how we can actually bring relief to the people on the ground, improve the situation, and try to get the negotiations back on again, with regard to the hostages. We’re seeing more aid getting in, although clearly not enough. So that’s where we need to focus our efforts.”

Asked to comment on the latest death toll, and whether or not Israel is doing enough to avoid civilian casualties, Wood said: “Israel is doing more and we have been saying to Israel for quite some time now, ‘You need to do more to protect civilians.’

“It’s a difficult operation when you’re trying to root out Hamas and protect civilians, because Hamas is hiding among the civilians. But they’re listening to us and I think that’s important, and they’re taking steps and we’ll continue to encourage them. Because, obviously, no one is happy with the situation on the ground and it needs to improve and they need to do it.

“The Israelis want to do a better job protecting civilians and we’re going to continue to work with them on that.”


British Council signs agreement to help empower Jordanian youth

British Council signs agreement to help empower Jordanian youth
Updated 11 sec ago
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British Council signs agreement to help empower Jordanian youth

British Council signs agreement to help empower Jordanian youth
  • Project designed to prepare 90 young Jordanians for leadership roles within their communities

AMMAN: The British Council has announced a collaboration with the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, Jordan News Agency reported on Monday.

The JOHUD is a nonprofit organization focusing on promoting sustainable social, economic, and cultural development in Jordan’s local communities.

The agreement was signed as part of the British Council’s Youth Connect project, which is designed to prepare 90 young Jordanians for leadership roles within their communities.

The agreement will help empower younger Jordanians in the Princess Basma Development Centers in Tafilah and Ma’an in southern Jordan, through specialized training sessions in communication skills.

Alexander Lambert, who is Jordan director at the British Council, spoke of the importance of the project as a milestone in the deep-rooted partnership between the council and the JOHUD.

The partnership with the British Council “added to the purposeful and fruitful partnerships that combine efforts with various local institutions to contribute to achieving national goals to enhance the role of youth and women in society,” JOHUD’s Executive Director Farah Daghistani said.
 


Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
Updated 47 min 2 sec ago
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Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
  • Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons
  • Top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports includes the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Norway

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 to reach 1.6 billion euros as the Russia-Ukraine war drove a search for weaponry, a government agency said Monday.

Most of the exports went to European Union countries and 39 countries which Sweden cooperates with, the Swedish Inspectorate for Strategic Products (ISP) said in a statement.

Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

“The degradation of the security situation and the continuing rearmament in the world means that the Swedish defense industry can expect many orders for a long time,” said ISP director general Carl Johan Wieslander in a statement.

“Swedish military equipment is attracting great interest, particularly in Ukraine,” he added.

Turkiye also benefited from Swedish arms, according to ISP, with exports in 2023 worth four million Kronor (356,000 euros).

In 2019, Stockholm introduced restrictions on arms sales to Ankara in response to Turkiye’s military incursion into Syria.

The embargo was lifted following negotiations between the two countries during Sweden’s NATO accession process.

“The resumption of arms exports to Turkiye clearly shows that Sweden places greater importance to NATO membership than to respecting human rights, democracy and international law,” said the peace and disarmament NGO Svenska Freds in a statement.

“The arms industry wants to present itself as a contributor to freedom and democracy, but Swedish arms companies also export (their products) to undemocratic regimes, countries that violate human rights and international law,” the NGO added.

People in these countries “pay a high price” for flourishing arms industry, it said.

The top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports are the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Norway, France and the Czech Republic.


Shehbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister, capping weeks of political upheaval

Shehbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister, capping weeks of political upheaval
Updated 04 March 2024
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Shehbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister, capping weeks of political upheaval

Shehbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister, capping weeks of political upheaval
  • This is Sharif’s second term in office, his first one ran from April 2022 to August 2023
  • The new government faces an overlapping trio of political, economic and security troubles

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took oath as Pakistan's prime minister for a second term on Monday, taking over a troubled country of 241 million people that faces profound political, economic and security challenges.

Sharif, 72, officially took up office at a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential office in the nation's capital, Islamabad. 

On Sunday, Sharif, the candidate for his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and coalition allies, secured a comfortable win over Omar Ayub Khan of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of jailed former PM Imran Khan. 

His election comes three weeks after Feb. 8 general elections threw up a hung National Assembly, unleashing weeks of protests by opposition parties over allegations of rigging and vote count fraud.

“As prime minister of Pakistan, I will discharge my duties, and perform my functions, honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully in accordance with the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law," Shehbaz said as he took oath.

In his first speech after being voted in on Sunday, Sharif spoke about the struggling $350 billion economy and said it would require "radical reforms" to rid the country of its financial difficulties.

“Can a nuclear-capable Pakistan sustain its existence with the burden of debts,” he had asked. “It will sustain if we collectively decide on a deep surgery and change the system. We have to bring reforms.”

Sharif, the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, played a key role as prime minister in keeping together a coalition of disparate parties for 16 months after parliament voted Imran Khan out of office in April 2022, and in securing a last gasp International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout deal in 2023.

 

 

He now faces an overlapping trio of political, economic and security crises, much like in his previous tenure.

Sharif's first order of business will be negotiating a new bailout deal with the IMF. The current IMF program expires this month. 

A new program will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth.

Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent.

The new PM will also have to tackle a spike in attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and other groups, including separatists.

But the gravest challenge will be on the political front.

Independent candidates backed by Khan gained the most seats, 93, after the elections, but the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of the Bhutto dynasty agreed to an alliance to form a coalition government. No single party won a majority.

The Sunni Ittehad Council backed by Khan alleges that the election was rigged against it and has called for an audit of the polls. Lowering political temperatures will thus be a key challenge for Sharif as Khan maintains mass popular support in Pakistan, and a continued crackdown on his party and his remaining in jail would likely stoke tensions at a time when stability is needed to attract foreign investment to shore up the economy. For now, the Khan-led opposition has signaled it would "cooperate" with the new government on issues of public concern but keep protesting the alleged manipulation of election results.

Sharif will also have to manage ties with the all-powerful military, which has directly or indirectly dominated Pakistan since independence. Unlike his elder brother, who has had a rocky relationship with the military in all his three terms, the younger Sharif is considered more acceptable and compliant by the generals, most independent analysts say.

For several years, the military has denied it interferes in politics. But it has in the past directly intervened to topple civilian governments and no prime minister has finished a full five-year term since independence in 1947.


UN rights chief warns ‘great replacement’ theory inspiring violence

UN rights chief warns ‘great replacement’ theory inspiring violence
Updated 04 March 2024
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UN rights chief warns ‘great replacement’ theory inspiring violence

UN rights chief warns ‘great replacement’ theory inspiring violence
  • Turk insisted that racially mixed and multicultural societies were not something to fear but should be seen as a benefit to people everywhere
  • Concern of the growing influence of so-called ‘great replacement’ conspiracy

GENEVA: The pernicious “‘great replacement’ conspiracy theories” spreading in many countries are “delusional” and racist and are directly spurring violence, the United Nations rights chief warned on Monday.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk also took aim at the “war on woke,” which he stressed was “really a war on inclusion.”
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Turk insisted that racially mixed and multicultural societies were not something to fear but should be seen as a benefit to people everywhere.
“In many countries — including in Europe and North America — I am concerned by the apparently growing influence of so-called ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theories, based on the false notion that Jews, Muslims, non-white people and migrants seek to ‘replace’ or suppress countries’ cultures and peoples,” he said.
“These delusional and deeply racist ideas have directly influenced many perpetrators of violence.”
The UN rights chief cautioned that “together with the so-called ‘war on woke’, which is really a war on inclusion, these ideas aim to exclude racial minorities — particularly women from racial minorities from full equality.
“Multiculturalism is not a threat. It is the history of humanity and deeply beneficial to us all.”
He regretted the fact that discriminatory legislation and policies were spreading.


Afghan Taliban attend Doha maritime conference to increase engagement with international community 

Afghan Taliban attend Doha maritime conference to increase engagement with international community 
Updated 04 March 2024
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Afghan Taliban attend Doha maritime conference to increase engagement with international community 

Afghan Taliban attend Doha maritime conference to increase engagement with international community 
  • Afghanistan is a landlocked country with no naval forces
  • Afghan delegation joins over 60 other countries at Qatar event 

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban government said on Monday that its participation at the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference is “very important,” as it seeks to increase engagements with the international community. 

The eighth edition of DIMDEX, which is organized by Qatar Armed Forces and runs from March 4 to 6 at the Qatar National Convention Center, will be attended by official delegations from more than 60 countries, at least five of which are bringing their warships to visit the Hamad Port. 

Despite being a landlocked country with no naval forces, the Afghan delegation is among the participating countries this year and is led by the Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, who is accompanied by the Chief of Army Staff Mohammad Fasihuddin Fitrat. 

Afghanistan's Minister of Defense, Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub Mujahid, and Chief of Staff, Qari Fasihuddin Fitr inspect weapons at the Defense Exhibition of Weapons in Qatar on March 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy: @Zabehulah_M33/X)

“They are going to take part in the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition today … This conference and exhibition is very important for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, particularly for its engagements with the international community,”Suhail Shaheen, Taliban government spokesperson in Doha and permanent representative-designate to the UN, told Arab News on Monday. 

“The invitation for the delegation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in this exhibition means that the world understands the reality of Afghanistan and accepts it … and wants to interact with the IEA … and I think this is part of the process of engagement.” 

The Taliban seized power in August 2021 after two decades of war that killed tens of thousands of Afghans. With most nations having closed their embassies in Kabul following the group’s return to power, the new rulers remained officially unrecognized by any country.

The Taliban government has hosted several meetings with other countries in the hopes of improving ties and gaining formal recognition, including talks hosted by interim Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi in late January that were attended by officials from Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia. 

Afghanistan's Minister of Defense, Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub Mujahid, and Chief of Staff, Qari Fasihuddin Fitr inspect weapons at the Defense Exhibition of Weapons in Qatar on March 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy: @Zabehulah_M33/X)

“They will also hold meetings with top Qatari officials and participants from other countries to discuss and have talks on various topics,” Shaheen said. 

Though maritime security may not be top of mind for Taliban officials, the event in Qatar offers opportunities to interact with the wider international community on other issues, said Abdul Waheed Waheed, an international relations expert based in Kabul. 

“Afghanistan may not have military products to showcase and does not have maritime security (concerns), but the Afghan delegates participation at the exhibition in Qatar can still achieve significant outcomes by leveraging the event for networking, diplomatic outcomes, investment attraction, promoting their own military assets, and fostering peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region,” Waheed told Arab News. 

“The ongoing defense exhibition in Qatar provides a valuable platform for the Afghan delegation to engage with global defense stakeholders.”