Xi, Putin hail ties as ‘stabilising’ force in chaotic world

Update Xi, Putin hail ties as ‘stabilising’ force in chaotic world
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited China on the invitation of leader Xi Jinping. (AFP)
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Updated 16 May 2024
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Xi, Putin hail ties as ‘stabilising’ force in chaotic world

Xi, Putin hail ties as ‘stabilising’ force in chaotic world
  • It is Putin’s first trip abroad since his March re-election and the second in just over six months to China
  • Xi Jinping told his “old friend” Vladimir Putin that China-Russia relations were “conducive to peace”

BEIJING: Leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin framed their nations’ ties as a stabilising force in a chaotic world as they met Thursday in Beijing, where the Russian president is seeking greater Chinese support for his war effort in Ukraine and isolated economy.
It is Putin’s first trip abroad since his March re-election and the second in just over six months to China, an economic lifeline for Russia after the West hit it with unprecedented sanctions over its military offensive in Ukraine.
Putin was greeted by Xi at a grand welcoming ceremony outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, footage by state broadcaster CCTV showed.
The national anthems of both countries and martial tunes played as the two leaders met, kicking off a two-day visit by Putin that is expected to see the countries deepen a relationship they have declared has “no limits.”

In a meeting, Xi then told his “old friend” Putin that China-Russia relations were “conducive to peace,” according to a readout from Beijing’s foreign ministry.
“China is ready to work with Russia to... uphold fairness and justice in the world,” Xi added.
“The China-Russia relationship today is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it.”
Putin, in turn, told Xi the two countries’ relations were “stabilising factors in the international arena.”
“Relations between Russia and China are not opportunistic and not directed against anyone,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout.
“Together, we uphold the principles of justice and a democratic world order that reflects multipolar realities and is based on international law,” he added.

Major offensive on Ukraine
The Russian leader’s arrival came hours after he hailed his country’s troops for advancing on “all fronts” on the battlefield in Ukraine, following a major new ground assault.
Xi, who returned last week from a three-nation tour of Europe, has rebuffed Western criticism of his country’s ties with Moscow, enjoying cheap Russian energy imports and access to vast natural resources, including steady gas shipments via the Power of Siberia pipeline.
“This is Putin’s first trip after his inauguration, and it is therefore intended to show that Sino-Russian relations are moving up another level,” independent Russian political analyst Konstantin Kalachev told AFP.
“Not to mention the visibly sincere personal friendship between the two leaders.”
But their economic partnership has come under close scrutiny from the West in recent months.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met Xi in Beijing last month, warned China’s support for Russia’s “brutal war of aggression” in Ukraine had helped Russia ramp up production of rockets, drones and tanks — while stopping short of direct arms exports.
China claims to be a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, which it has never condemned and in which it has sought to frame itself as a mediator.
Putin, in an interview published in Xinhua ahead of his visit, hailed Beijing’s “genuine desire” to help resolve the Ukraine crisis.

Russia-China growing partnership
China-Russia trade has boomed since the Ukraine invasion and hit $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.
But after Washington vowed to go after financial institutions that facilitate Moscow, Chinese exports to Russia dipped during March and April, down from a surge early in the year.
An executive order by President Joe Biden in December permits secondary sanctions on foreign banks that deal with Russia’s war machine, allowing the US Treasury to cut them out of the dollar-led global financial system.
That, coupled with recent efforts to rebuild fractured ties with the United States, may make Beijing reluctant to openly push more cooperation with Russia — despite what Moscow may want, analysts said.
Eight people from both countries involved in cross-border trade told AFP in recent days that several Chinese banks have halted or slowed transactions with Russian clients.
Putin’s post-election trip to Beijing echoes Xi’s own visit to Russia after his re-anointing as leader last year.
The two leaders are set to sign a joint declaration following the talks, the Kremlin said, and attend an evening marking 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Putin will also meet Premier Li Qiang — China’s number two official — and travel to the northeastern city of Harbin for a trade and investment expo.


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said
The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set July 4 as the date for a national election that will determine who governs the UK, choosing a day of good economic news to urge voters to give his governing Conservatives another chance.
“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s center-right party has seen its support dwindle steadily after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of crises including an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.
The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party.
Speculation about an imminent election mounted after Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon – rather than the usual Tuesday – and Foreign Secretary David Cameron flew back early from a trip to Albania to attend.
The election will be held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers making risky English Channel crossings from Europe.
The announcement came the same day official figures showed inflation in the UK had fallen sharply to 2.3 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.
The drop in April marks the greatest progress to date on five pledges Sunak made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had climbed to above 11 percent at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the new figure as a sign his plan was working.
“Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” Sunak said Wednesday. “Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.”
Voters across the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current favorite. The party’s momentum has built since it dealt the Conservatives heavy losses in local elections earlier this month.
The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.
Following on his party’s successes in the local elections, Starmer, 61, last week announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of soaring inflation as he tries to win over disillusioned voters.
He also pledged to improve border security, recruit more teachers and police and reduce lengthy waiting lists at hospitals and doctors′ clinics across the country.
Elections in the UK have to be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to call an election. The last one was in December 2019.
Many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight.
Sunak had been noncommittal about the election date, repeatedly saying — as late as lunchtime on Wednesday — that he expected it would be in the second half of the year.
Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.
He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.

France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state
Updated 22 May 2024
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France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state
  • “France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said
  • Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo

PRAIS: France said on Wednesday conditions were not right to officially recognize a Palestinian state and that such a decision must be more than just symbolic or political posturing.
Remarks by Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne distanced France from Ireland, Spain and Norway, which said on Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, hoping to accelerate efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza war.
“France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said after talks in Paris with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo, but should be part of a broader effort to achieve a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis.
Despite lobbying by several European countries and some Arab states to recognize a Palestinian state, France has said that doing so would do little to change the situation on the ground without genuine negotiations.
“This is not just a symbolic issue or a question of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool in the service of the solution of two states living side by side in peace and security,” Sejourne said.
French diplomats say symbolic recognition will be of no use, especially without real momentum toward a political process supported by the United States, Israel’s main ally.
France has been working on a draft UN Security Council resolution that it hopes to table over the summer.
It wants to bring the parameters for talks on a two-state solution back to the Security Council, while also underpinning clear condemnation of Islamist militant group Hamas after the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. The negotiating process has been moribund for a decade.
The US believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations and not unilateral recognition, and has the power of veto at the United Nations.


India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave

India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave
Updated 22 May 2024
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India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave

India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave
  • Heatwaves reached dangerous levels in India, Asian countries since April
  • High mercury expected to impact livestock, land transport, power supply

NEW DELHI: Delhi and other parts of northern India were on the meteorological department’s highest alert over severe heatwaves on Wednesday, with temperatures in some regions expected to soar over 47 degrees Celsius.

The India Meteorological Department forecasts heatwave conditions to persist until the end of the week and issued a severe weather warning, known as the “red alert,” in the Indian capital region and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and West Uttar Pradesh.

Delhi officials ordered schools to shut on Tuesday as parts of the city recorded temperatures above 47 degrees Celsius. Though summer temperatures often peak during May in India, IMD director-general Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said the warning was necessary for the general public.

“Any heatwave conditions must be taken seriously because it can cause mortality or morbidity if care is not taken,” Mohapatra told Arab News on Wednesday.

The IMD has warned of the “very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heatstroke in all ages” due to the high temperatures. It added that “extreme care” was needed for vulnerable people and that citizens should drink sufficient water even if they are not thirsty.

“People should be under the shades, they should take water so that there is no dehydration,” Mohapatra said.

The severe heat is expected to impact not only people but also livestock, land transport, and the country’s energy supply.

“There is heavy demand in the power sector — there was the highest demand in Delhi yesterday — so therefore there could be disruption in the power supply,” he added.

Santwana Biswas, a domestic worker from Noida on the outskirts of Delhi, is among those who have been dealing with power disruptions in their neighborhoods.

“The electricity situation in my locality has worsened, with the night passing with just a couple of hours of electricity. Imagine, how can I sleep in this heat without a fan? I have not been able to get proper sleep for at least a week now,” Biswas told Arab News.

“Heat hasn’t allowed me to function normally. I am dragging myself just to save my job.”

Heatwaves, most likely fueled by climate change, have been reaching dangerous levels across India and other Asian countries since April, with eastern India experiencing its hottest April on record and reporting deaths related to soaring temperatures.

Saloni Kumari, a housewife in Delhi, said the heat was disorienting.

“Even early in the morning, you don’t feel comfortable going for a walk or doing any work. Air conditioning at home does not work properly when you have high temperatures,” she said.

“Life has become disoriented in this heatwave.”


Attacks on health care in war zones surge 25 percent last year, NGOs say

Attacks on health care in war zones surge 25 percent last year, NGOs say
Updated 22 May 2024
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Attacks on health care in war zones surge 25 percent last year, NGOs say

Attacks on health care in war zones surge 25 percent last year, NGOs say
  • The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents
  • The group apportions responsibility and said governments were to blame for nearly half of the attacks

GENEVA: Attacks on medics and health facilities in war zones jumped in 2023 to the highest level since records began 11 years ago, a group of non-governmental organizations said on Wednesday, with nearly half attributed to state forces.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents of violence or obstructions including arrests, killings and kidnappings of doctors and strikes across hospitals in 30 conflicts including Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan.
That is up by about a quarter compared with 2022.
Unlike the World Health Organization which also documents attacks on health care, the group apportions responsibility and said governments were to blame for nearly half of the attacks.
Len Rubenstein, chair of the coalition and a Johns Hopkins University professor, called for “far more assertive action to end the scourge of violence against health care,” asking governments to cease arms transfers to perpetrators and press prosecutors to hold them accountable.
The group uses open source data and partner contributions and cross checks to ensure no double counting.
The coalition attributed 489 incidents in Gaza last year to Israeli forces, including medic deaths or injuries and strikes or raids on hospitals. No responsibility had been established in seven other cases, including the deaths of six Israeli military medics killed in fighting in separate incidents between October and December, and the bombing of the Al-Ahli Hospital on Oct. 17, 2023, it said.
Israel, whose military offensive in Gaza began after the deadly Hamas cross-border attacks of Oct. 7, says hospitals in the Palestinian enclave are used by Hamas militants as bases.


Indonesian pilgrim’s journey to Makkah: 60 years of unforgettable memories

Indonesian pilgrim’s journey to Makkah: 60 years of unforgettable memories
Updated 22 May 2024
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Indonesian pilgrim’s journey to Makkah: 60 years of unforgettable memories

Indonesian pilgrim’s journey to Makkah: 60 years of unforgettable memories

Riyadh: In 1964, six-year-old Indonesian Maryam Mohammad Munir traveled to Saudi Arabia for the first time to perform Hajj with her family. Since then, she has traveled 22 more times to the Kingdom to perform Umrah and Hajj.

In the Makkah Route Initiative hall at Surabaya airport, Munir reminisced about the memories and experiences of her 22 trips.

According to the Saudi Press Agency report, she said that 60 years ago, her family’s first trip to perform Hajj was costly and made on a primitive ship that took five to eight months to arrive in the Kingdom.

These ships would first sail from the port of Jakarta, pass through India, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, and then finally arrive at the port of Jeddah.

The journey, she said, was fraught with dangers, challenges and fear. However, her family’s commitment to fulfilling their religious obligations gave them the strength to persevere through the hardships they encountered along the way.

Munir also talked about Indonesians’ traditions surrounding Hajj in the past. The pilgrims would all gather in Jakarta and bid farewell to their family members before setting off. After completing Hajj and returning home, the pilgrims’ families would warmly welcome them with various gifts, celebrating their safe return and the fulfillment of their religious journey.

She said that with development, travel to Makkah has become much easier, which has led to an increasing number of pilgrims traveling to the holy city.

Munir expressed sincere thanks and appreciation to the Saudi leadership, which, she said, continues to exert great efforts to serve pilgrims from all over the world and help them perform Umrah and Hajj with ease.

 

Indian pilgrims arrive in Makkah

Mutawifs of Arabs Hajj Company (Ashraqat) subsidiary Rahlat wa Manafi Company has welcomed the first group of pilgrims from India who arrived in Makkah for this year’s Hajj season.

The first group consisted of some 2,500 pilgrims distributed in three centers, the SPA reported.

Rahlat wa Manafi Company CEO Ahmad Tamar said that the company strives to provide the utmost comfort to pilgrims, helping them perform their rituals with ease, according to instructions from King Salman regarding visitors, Umrah performers and pilgrims.

The Indian pilgrims expressed gratitude for the efforts exerted by the government of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to provide the best services for pilgrims. They also voiced appreciation for the warm hospitality and reception.