Riyadh-Damascus flights resume after 12-year freeze

Riyadh-Damascus flights resume after 12-year freeze
A Syrian airline plane is pictured on the tarmac at the Damascus International Airport on the outskirts of Syria's capital (AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2024
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Riyadh-Damascus flights resume after 12-year freeze

Riyadh-Damascus flights resume after 12-year freeze
  • Direct route could be expanded to cover Jeddah and Dammam depending on demand

RIYADH: Commercial flights between Saudi Arabia and Syria resumed on Wednesday amid warming ties after a 12-year freeze.

A Syrian Airlines plane from Damascus carrying 170 passengers touched down in Riyadh, marking the resumption of a regular route.

Ayman Soussan, Syria’s ambassador to the Kingdom, said the two countries had agreed to operate one round-trip flight per week between the two capitals.

Syrian Transport Ministry official Suleiman Khalil said the direct route could be expanded to cover airports in Jeddah and Dammam, depending on demand.
Passenger flights between the two countries were halted in 2012 when Riyadh severed ties with Damascus over Bashar Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protesters at the start of the country's civil war.
Services between Syria and Saudi Arabia resumed in May on a temporary basis for pilgrims taking part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
While Saudi Arabia has championed restoring ties with Assad, the rapprochement has been sluggish. The Kingdom named a new ambassador to Damascus only in May, more than a year after relations werere-established.
In May 2023, Assad attended his first Arab summit in 13 years in Saudi Arabia, mending ties with Riyadh and marking Syria’s return to the regional fold.


Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
Updated 8 sec ago
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Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
  • Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations

IRBIL, Iraq: The Iraqi government announced Tuesday an official ban on a Kurdish separatist group which has been engaged in in a long-running conflict with Turkiye.
Turkiye has been seeking greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s and is banned there.
The order issued July 14 and published Tuesday by the Department of Administrative Affairs at the Iraqi Parliament said Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani had issued instructions for the PKK to be described as the “banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party” in all official correspondence. It was the clearest statement from the Iraqi government on the group’s status to date.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iraq in April for the first time in more than a decade. At the time, Erdogan said he and Sudani had “consulted on the joint steps we can take against the PKK terrorist organization and its extensions, which target Turkiye from Iraqi territory.”
Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations.
The PKK has maintained bases in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. In recent months, Turkiye has built up its troops in northern Iraq and has threatened an offensive to clear PKK forces from the border area.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq that it believes to be affiliated with the PKK. Baghdad has complained that the strikes are a breach of its sovereignty, but earlier this year, the two governments issued a joint statement saying that the “PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkiye and Iraq.”
The Turkish defense ministry said Tuesday that four suspected PKK militants were killed in an air offensive in northern Iraq, including one who was allegedly on a list of militants most wanted by Turkiye.
The ministry identified the man as Yusuf Kalkan and said he was wanted for membership in a terror organization as well as for founding and directing a terror group.

 


Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
Updated 9 min 18 sec ago
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Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
  • Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty also pledges Egypt’s continuing commitment to humanitarian aid efforts and development projects in Sudan
  • He stresses important need for donor countries and organizations to more quickly honor pledges of aid for Sudan and countries hosting Sudanese refugees

Egypt’s foreign minister, Badr Abdelatty, pledged his country’s continued support for the stability and security of Sudan, during a meeting on Tuesday with his counterpart from the country, Hussein Awad.

Abdelatty said Egypt would spare no effort to help its “Sudanese brothers overcome the political, security and humanitarian challenges resulting from the ongoing war” in the nation.

He highlighted the outcomes of a conference in Cairo on July 6 and 7 attended by Sudanese political factions and civil groups, the most important of which were, he said, recognition of the need to preserve state institutions, to provide relief and humanitarian support to Sudan and neighboring countries, and to ensure ownership of the political process remains with the Sudanese people.

He also reviewed the progress of development projects undertaken by Egypt in Sudan, and pledged his country’s continuing commitment to such initiatives along with its determination to respond to the nation’s humanitarian needs.

Abdelatty stressed the important need for donor countries and organizations to accelerate the fulfillment of pledges made during conferences in Geneva and Paris, in June 2023 and April 2024 respectively, of support for Sudan and neighboring countries hosting Sudanese refugees, support for the UN’s humanitarian response plan in the country, and to help bridge existing financing gaps.

He also discussed with Awad regional initiatives that have been proposed to help address the crisis in Sudan, and the important and pivotal role neighboring countries are playing, especially Egypt, which Abdelatty said was making strenuous efforts to help Sudan at this important time.

Other topics for discussion included wider bilateral ties and ways in which coordination between the countries might be enhanced, along with regional issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Horn of Africa, the war in Gaza, security in the Red Sea, the situations in Libya, the Sahel and the Sahara region, and the Renaissance Dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile upstream of Sudan and Egypt.

Awad thanked the Egyptian government for the facilities and services it has provided to the Sudanese people since the start of the crisis in his country.


Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
Updated 14 min 21 sec ago
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Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
  • In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy

KENITRA, Morocco: Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country’s entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.
The North African nation projects this year’s harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.
“In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought,” said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Belhoussni’s plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and, in regions like North Africa, shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.
The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

Farmers work on a wheat farm on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.
“The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops,” said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco’s rivers.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).
Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.
“When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more,” he said. “We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue.”
Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.
The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco’s primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world’s sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Turkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.
“Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change,” Benali said.

 


Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
Updated 23 July 2024
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Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
  • Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members

CAIRO: The rescue operation for the Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon oil tanker that capsized off Oman on July 15 has been deactivated, Oman’s Maritime Security Center said on Tuesday.
Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members.


UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
Updated 23 July 2024
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UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
  • “I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
  • Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed“

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Tuesday an accord brokered by China seeking reconciliation between Hamas and other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government in Gaza.
“I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that Guterres “very much welcomes the signing of the Beijing Declaration by the Palestinian factions.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas announced it had signed the agreement in Beijing with other Palestinian organizations — including rivals Fatah — to work together for “national unity.”
Hamas and Fatah are long-term rivals and fought a brief but bloody war in 2007 in which the former seized control of Gaza.
Fatah continues to dominate the Palestinian Authority, which has limited administrative control over urban areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed” and accusing Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a leader of Fatah, of embracing the group whose October 7 attacks triggered the war in Gaza.
The text of the deal outlines plans for “a temporary national unity government by agreement of the Palestinian factions” which would “exercise its authority and powers over all Palestinian territories” — the Gaza Strip as well the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the factions had agreed to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern post-war Gaza.
Speaking at the UN, spokesperson Dujarric said unity among the Palestinian factions was crucial.
“Palestinian unity... is crucial for peace and security and for advancing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for self determination and for fully independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian state,” he said.