Germany to appoint regional official as defense minister

Boris Pistorius, former Interior Minister of Lower Saxony and future Federal Minister of Defense, speaks during a press statement at Lower Saxony’s Interior Ministry in Hannover on Jan. 17, 2023. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 17 January 2023
Follow

Germany to appoint regional official as defense minister

  • The defense minister-designate, Boris Pistorius, is a member of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party
  • “I am very pleased to have won Boris Pistorius, an outstanding politician from our country, for the post of defense minister," said Scholz

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday he will appoint a regional official as the new defense minister following the resignation of the much-criticized Christine Lambrecht.
The defense minister-designate, Boris Pistorius, is a member of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party and has served as interior minister of Lower Saxony state since 2013.
“I am very pleased to have won Boris Pistorius, an outstanding politician from our country, for the post of defense minister,” Scholz said in a written statement.
“Pistorius is an extremely experienced politician who has administrative experience, has been involved in security policy for years and, with his competence, assertiveness and big heart, is exactly the right person to lead the Bundeswehr through this change of era,” the chancellor added.
Pistorius, 62, is scheduled to receive his certificate of appointment from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and take his oath of office in parliament on Thursday, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.
Following Lambrecht’s resignation, the chancellor consulted closely with the members of his party and parliamentary group leaders and decided on Pistorius as the new defense minister, Hebestreit said in a written statement.
“I’m convinced this is someone who will get along with the troops and whom the servicemen and women will like very much,” Scholz told reporters later on Tuesday.
The designated defense minister thanked the chancellor for his nomination and said it is “truly an extraordinary honor for me to take on this office.”
“I know the importance of the task in these times,” Pistorius told reporters. “The tasks that lie ahead of the troops are enormous ... I want to make the Bundeswehr strong for the times that lie ahead.”
Lambrecht announced her resignation on Monday.
Pistorius is inheriting the job of steering Germany’s military modernization project and overseeing expanding weapons deliveries to Ukraine amid Russia’s war.
He also is getting quickly thrown into the deep end of his new position. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to visit Berlin this week and then host a meeting of allies at Ramstein Air Base in western Germany. On Sunday, the German and French governments are expected to hold bilateral talks that include a meeting of the countries’ joint security council.
Pistorius completed his military service from 1980 to 1981, then studied law in the western German towns of Osnabrueck and Muenster.
Before being appointed interior minister of Lower Saxony, he served as mayor of Osnabrueck from 2006 to 2013, Germany news agency dpa reported.
Lambrecht had been defense minister since Scholz became chancellor in December 2021. Critics had long portrayed her as being out of her depth.
The German government has faced mounting pressure to make another significant step forward in German military aid to Ukraine by agreeing to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks. Earlier this month, the government agreed to provide 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and a Patriot air defense missile battery to Kyiv.
Germany has given Ukraine substantial support in recent months, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and the first of four IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems. But critics, some inside Germany’s governing coalition, have long complained of Scholz’s perceived hesitancy to step up aid.
Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, a member of Germany’s Greens party, welcomed Scholz’ choice of Pistorius. He pointed out that the job comes with a lot of responsibility, especially after Russia’s attack on Ukraine almost a year ago.
“Germany, as part of the European Union and NATO, must be ready to defend itself and strengthen its defense capability, in close cooperation with its partners,” he said.
“There are also important decisions to be made in the short term, in particular the pressing question of how we continue to support Ukraine in its right to self-defense,” Habeck added.


UN lifts arms embargo on Somali forces

The United Nations headquarters building is seen from inside the General Assembly hall, on Sept. 21, 2021. (AP)
Updated 02 December 2023
Follow

UN lifts arms embargo on Somali forces

  • “The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats, including those posed by Al-Shabab,” he said

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN Security Council on Friday completely lifted an arms embargo on Somali government forces, but continued to maintain sanctions against the Al-Shabab jihadist group.
The UN implemented a general arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, but has since largely eased it in regards to Somali forces.
The embargo did not apply to deliveries of weapons for the development of Somali security forces, although the UN committee overseeing the sanctions had to be notified and could object to certain heavy weapons.
A first resolution adopted unanimously Friday lifted the general embargo, removing the last restrictions on the Somali government.
A second resolution reimposed the arms embargo on Al-Shabab, maintaining the ban on delivery of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to the Islamist group and “other actors intent on undermining peace and security in Somalia.”
Somali ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman welcomed the moves.
“The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats, including those posed by Al-Shabab,” he said.
“It also allows us to bolster the capacity of the Somali security forces by accessing lethal arms and equipment to adequately safeguard our citizens and our nation.”
After making significant progress, Somalia’s offensive against Al-Shabab has stalled for months, raising concerns about the government’s capacity to crush the 16-year insurgency led by the Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The Somali army, in alliance with clan militias, has been supported by troops from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) in recapturing vast areas of the territory.
UN resolutions call for the ATMIS force to be reduced to zero by the end of next year, handing over security to the Somali army and police.
However, the government requested in September a three-month “technical pause” in the pullout of 3,000 troops.
The drawdown of those troops “will conclude as scheduled on December 31 of 2023,” the Somali envoy said, adding that the government was committed to the country’s forces taking over security responsibilities “within the agreed timelines.”
 

 


Sanchez says Israel is a ‘friend’ of Spain

Updated 02 December 2023
Follow

Sanchez says Israel is a ‘friend’ of Spain

  • “I reaffirmed that Spain considers the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” Sanchez added

MADRID: Israel is “a friend of Spain,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday, a day after Israel recalled its envoy to Madrid over “outrageous remarks” he made regarding the country’s military campaign in Gaza.
The Socialist premier, one of the most critical voices within the European Union regarding Israel, at the same time stood by his position regarding Israel’s campaign, which has sparked tension between Madrid and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in recent days.
In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, Sanchez said he had “reiterated that Israel is a partner and friend of Spain” in a telephone conversation with Israeli former defense minister and current war cabinet member, Benny Gantz.
“Once again, I condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7,” he said, before adding “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
“But I reaffirmed that Spain considers the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” Sanchez added.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Thursday he was recalling the country’s envoy to Spain for consultations in Jerusalem “because of the outrageous remarks by the Spanish prime minister, who again repeated baseless claims.”
Speaking to Spanish public television on Thursday, Sanchez said he had “serious doubts” that Israel is complying with international humanitarian law in its military campaign in Gaza given the “images we are seeing and the growing number of people dying, especially boys and girls.”
Israel has also recalled its ambassadors from Turkiye and South Africa following remarks by those countries’ leaders over the war in Gaza.
Hamas broke through Gaza’s militarised border with Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and seizing around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response and unleashed a withering military campaign that Gaza’s Hamas government says has killed more than 15,000 people in the coastal territory.
 

 


Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

Police stand guard in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 December 2023
Follow

Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

  • The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October

WASHINGTON: A protester outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta was in critical condition Friday after setting themself on fire, in what police said was likely an “extreme” political statement.
“A Palestinian flag was reported at the location and was part of the protest,” said Darin Schierbaum, police chief of the southern US city.
He said the incident was “likely an extreme act of political protest.”
A security guard was also injured after trying to stop the protester, according to emergency first responders.
“Both individuals sustained burns,” Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith told journalists.
He did not specify the age or gender of the protester.
“The security guard noticed that the individual was attempting to set themselves afire” shortly after the protester arrived outside the consulate building around noon (1700 GMT), Smith said.
The guard “immediately attempted but failed to stop the individual.”
The guard was burned on his wrist and leg, Smith said, while the protester was in critical condition with “full thickness” burns to their body. Both were taken to the hospital, he added.
“We actually have dedicated patrols that are occurring at this location and other Jewish and Muslim communities in the city,” Schierbaum added.
The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October.
Earlier this week a US man was charged with attempted murder over the shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Vermont, and a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in Illinois in October.
 

 


Philippines builds new coast guard station on island in South China Sea

Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

Philippines builds new coast guard station on island in South China Sea

THITU ISLAND: The Philippines inaugurated a new coast guard monitoring base Friday on an island occupied by Filipino forces in the disputed South China Sea and plans to expand joint patrols with the US and Australia to counter China’s “pure bullying” in the strategic waterway, a Philippine security official said.
High-seas faceoffs between Chinese and Philippine ships have intensified this year in the contested waters, fueling fears of a larger conflict that could involve the US. The US has repeatedly warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.
China has accused the US of meddling in an Asian dispute and sowing discord in the region.
National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano and other Philippine officials flew to Thitu Island on an air force plane on Friday and led a ceremony to open the newly constructed, two-story center that will have radar, ship-tracking and other monitoring equipment to monitor China’s actions in the hotly disputed waters and other problems, including sea accidents.
“It’s no longer gray zone. It’s pure bullying,” Ano told reporters after the seaside ceremony, describing the actions of Chinese ships as openly flouting international law.
Dwarfed by China’s military might, the Philippines decided this year to allow an expansion of the US military presence in its local camps under a 2014 defense pact.
It also recently launched joint sea and air patrols with the United States and Australia in a new deterrence strategy that puts the two allied powers on a collision course with Beijing.
Ano said the separate joint patrols involving the US and Australia would continue and could expand to include other nations like Japan once a security agreement being negotiated by Tokyo and Manila was concluded.
“We’re open to like-minded countries to join as observers or participants,” Ano said.


How does climate change affect farming and food security?

Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

How does climate change affect farming and food security?

  • As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving extreme weather from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves
  • Such events can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work, threatening everyone’s access to food

LONDON: As impacts from prolonged droughts to extreme heat worsen, climate change is threatening the world’s ability to produce enough nutritious food and ensure everyone has access to it. 

At COP28 in Dubai, more than 130 country leaders on Friday called for global and national food systems to be rethought to address climate change — the first such official recognition at a UN climate summit of growing worries about food security and planet-heating emissions from agriculture. 

Here’s how global food systems and climate change affect each other, and what might be done about rising risks: 

How is climate change threatening food security? 

As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving more extreme weather — from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves — as well as gradual sea level rise. All can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work. 

A warming climate also is bringing crop diseases and pests into new locations or making infestations more severe, ruining more harvests and reducing yields. 

Such problems, combined with other pressures on food systems — from growing conflict to crop export restrictions by food-producing countries and speculation in markets — mean food is becoming less affordable and more people are going hungry. 

The UN World Food Programme estimates that 333 million people face “acute” food insecurity in 2023 in the 78 countries where it works — a huge boost from about 200 million prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Alex Flores walks on a dry area of Lake Titicaca, Latin America's largest freshwater basin, as it is edging towards record low levels, on Cojata Island, Bolivia on October 26, 2023. (REUTERS/File)

Crop failures are not a new phenomenon, with surpluses in some regions long making up for shortfalls in others, but scientists fear stronger climate impacts could drive simultaneous failures across major global “breadbaskets,” resulting in a swift rise in global hunger. 

What is being done to address these threats? 

Around the world, many farmers are adapting to climate extremes in a variety of ways, from digging irrigation ponds to trap floodwater and store it for dry times, to adopting new climate-smart seeds and bringing back hardy traditional crops. 

But some challenges — such as more frequent and extreme heatwaves that can make it difficult for farmers to work outside — are harder to counter. 

Money to help small-scale farmers — who supply about a third of the world’s food — adapt to climate risks is also falling dramatically short. 

In 2021, they received only about $2 billion, or 0.3 percent of total international climate finance from public and private sources, according to Amsterdam-based think-tank Climate Focus. 

With little outside help available, many such farmers — who have contributed little to the emissions heating up the planet — are paying the costs of climate adaptation themselves. 

The Climate Focus survey of 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America found nearly 440 million small-scale farmer households now spend about $368 billion annually on adaptation costs, or about $838 each per year. 

Analysts say efforts to shore up global food security also need to reach well beyond farms, to try to rein in speculators in food markets, discourage export clampdowns and revamp increasingly overwhelmed humanitarian aid systems. 

Can we find ways to grow more food to make up for the losses? 

Expanding the amount of land being farmed — or boosting the use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and developing new crop varieties — have long been accepted ways to grow more food. 

But agricultural land expansion often comes at the expense of forests and other natural ecosystems that are critical to conserve because their vegetation absorbs and stores climate-heating carbon dioxide emissions in order to grow, helping to curb climate change. 

For example nearly 20 percent of the vast Amazon rainforest has now been lost, largely to soybean farming and cattle ranching. 

Scientists fear additional deforestation could over time turn the forest into a dry savanna, imperiling rainfall for agriculture across South America — and sabotaging the world’s climate and biodiversity protection goals. 

Efforts to intensify the amount of food grown on a set land area have shown some success but often require large amounts of expensive fossil fuel-based fertilizers. 

In recent years, however, more environmentally friendly farming methods are gaining new adherents, from the United States to India. 

But food analysts say the best way to increase global supplies is not to grow more but to reduce the huge amount of food wasted each year. 

While the world produces enough food for everyone, about a third of it is lost or wasted along the supply chain from field to fork, according to the United Nations, which says the average person wastes 74 kg (163 lb) of food each year.