Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit comes as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged rockets and missiles over Gaza. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2023

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

  • The pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program”
  • Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine

PARIS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran’s nuclear program but shadowed by an upsurge of violence in the region.
Israel’s Paris embassy said the pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu hopes that Iran’s role supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, calling its nuclear program “dangerous” and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.
Tehran also holds several foreign nationals who Western governments see as political hostages.
But Macron’s office said the French leader would “reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians — while offering “France’s solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism.”
Netanyahu visits as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged rockets and missiles over Gaza, the latest violent episode as the conflict intensifies.
A week ago, seven were killed in a mass shooting by a Palestinian at a synagogue in annexed east Jerusalem — one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
In France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.

Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes

Updated 9 sec ago

Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes

  • Hezbollah targets 3 Israeli settlements ‘for the first time’ with dozens of drones in response to ‘attacks on civilians,’ vows more will follow
  • Prime Minister Najib Mikati concerned about deteriorating situation despite ‘external reassurances’ it is under control, government source says

BEIRUT: Russian diplomat Vladimir Safronkov held talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut on Friday during which he emphasized “the need for all parties to exercise restraint in preparation for reviving the peace process.”

After a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Safronkov, the Russian foreign minister’s special envoy to Lebanon, stressed the importance of strengthening relations between their nations.

He also met the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, whose office said: “The discussions focused on the developments in Lebanon and the region in light of Israel’s continued aggression against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.”

Safronkov’s visit was part of a regional tour. It was preceded by a stop in Saudi Arabia and followed by a trip to Israel, a government source in Lebanon said.

Prime Minister Mikati is worried about the “deteriorating situation on the southern front, like other Lebanese officials, despite external reassurances that the situation is under control,” the source added.

Safronkov’s visit came amid an escalation of the conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli army along their shared border, as the former deploys new types of heavy missiles to the battlefield.

The government source said an Israeli assault on the village of Jmaijmeh in the Bint Jbeil District of southern Lebanon on Thursday night did not bode well for the prospects of peace. An airstrike destroyed a three-story building, killing four people and injuring 14. Among the dead was Ali Ahmed Maatouk, from the village of Sir El-Gharbiyeh, who was said to be a leader in Hezbollah’s Radwan Force.

Hezbollah responded on Thursday night and Friday morning with an aerial attack by “a squadron of assault drones on the Filon base (the headquarters of Brigade 210) and its warehouses in the northern region southeast of the occupied city of Safad, targeting the positions and accommodations of its officers and soldiers.”

The group said it carried out another aerial attack “with a squadron of assault drones on the newly established headquarters of the Western Brigade … south of the Ya'ara settlement, and targeted the positions and accommodations of its officers and soldiers.”

Israeli media reported that dozens of rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Western Galilee while Safronkov was holding talks in Beirut.

Hezbollah said it had targeted the settlements of Neve Ziv, Abirim, and Manot with dozens of Katyusha rockets “for the first time” since hostilities began nine months ago. It said the assaults were in response to “attacks on civilians on Thursday in southern Lebanese towns,” and vowed that “any attack on civilians will be met with a response against new Israeli settlements.”

Amid the threats, Israeli forces carried out attacks on several locations along the border. Warplanes targeted the village of Hula, and shortly after paramedics arrived at the scene there a second attack took place nearby, injuring some members of the emergency crews and narrowly missing others.

Hezbollah’s attacks on Friday included one it said targeted the “Ruwaisat Al-Alam site in the occupied Lebanese hills of Kfarchouba with a heavy Wabel rocket, manufactured by Islamic Resistance fighters, which directly hit the site, partially destroying it and causing fires.” The group also used a Burkan missile and anti-tank missiles in its assaults.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that about 70 rockets had been launched by Hezbollah at Israel since that morning.

Hezbollah reportedly struck Israeli artillery bunkers in Khirbet Ma’ar and soldiers in their vicinity with dozens of Falaq and Katyusha rockets. The group also targeted the Metula military site with artillery shells, and Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Ramim barracks were attacked with a Burkan missile, Hezbollah said.

The Lebanese Resistance Brigades said it took part in military operations against Israeli positions and had targeted “Al-Raheb site with guided missiles and artillery shells, hitting it directly.”

On Friday, Hezbollah mourned the death of member Mohammed Hassan Mostapha, 37, from the village of Aitaroun in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli army said on Thursday night that a 25-year-old officer serving at its Ma'aleh base had died of injuries caused by a drone explosion in Golan.


DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub

Updated 19 July 2024

DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub

  • Merger capitalizes on the strengths of two major ports on the Marmara Sea

DUBAI: Emirati logistics firm DP World and Evyap Group, a Turkiye-based consumer conglomerate, have merged their Turkish operations to form a new international logistics hub, Emirates News Agency reported.

The newly formed entity, DP World Evyap, sees DP World assume a 58 percent stake in Evyapport and Evyap Group secure a 42 percent share of DP World Yarımca.

It capitalizes on the strengths of two major ports on the Marmara Sea, enhancing Turkiye’s pivotal role in global trade. The key maritime gateways will be rebranded as DP World Evyap Yarımca and DP World Evyap Korfez.

DP World Evyap will help meet the region’s growing demand for sophisticated logistics, increase Turkiye’s export and import volumes, open up new sectors, and strengthen the country’s growing status as a major hub in global supply chains.

The merger will result in a total of 2,088 meters of berthing space and the ability to accommodate more than one ultra-large container vessel at the same time at both terminals. The total annual container handling capacity will also exceed 2 million TEUs, as the integrated operation expands to include project and heavy-lift cargo services.

Furthermore, DP World Evyap will benefit from advanced road and rail connections, as well as faster turnaround times, with a team of over 900 logistics experts geared to optimizing cargo journeys.

“DP World’s vision is to lead global trade to a stronger, more efficient and sustainable future. Our strategic partnership with Evyapport advances this strategy in Turkiye, one of our most important markets. We’re delighted to bring enhanced end-to-end solutions to our customers and the many benefits in speed and efficiency of this union,” DP World Group Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said.

Evyap Holding CEO Mehmed Evyap added: “This partnership combines the global expertise of DP World and the local knowledge of Evyapport and strengthens our presence in the port sector as we expand our investments in this field.

“The new company will shorten operation times, increase service diversity and add value to our customers and Turkiye’s trade with efficiencies achieved across the two partnership terminals.”

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

Updated 19 July 2024

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

  • Agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun

AMMAN: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Jordan River Foundation have signed an agreement to support women in agriculture through vocational and technical training, Jordan News Agency reported on Friday.

JRF provides local communities and refugees with economic opportunities through its Community Empowerment Program, improving standards of living.

The agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun. It will include a technical and vocational training program that will teach project management and financial literacy, in addition to skills in the processing of carob, sumac and honey.

By improving technical and administrative capacities, the agreement aims to empower women to start agricultural initiatives, enhancing their standard of living and raising household earnings.

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

Updated 19 July 2024

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

  • First MoU to establish a framework to promote use of local currencies in settling bilateral transactions
  • Second MoU entails collaboration on services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, messaging systems

DUBAI: The central banks of the UAE and Seychelles signed two memoranda of understanding on Friday to promote the use of local currencies in cross-border financial and commercial transactions, as well as to link payment and messaging systems between the two countries, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The agreements were inked by CBUAE Gov. Khaled Mohammed Balama and CBS Gov. Caroline Abel in Abu Dhabi.

The first MoU aims to establish a framework to promote the use of local currencies in settling bilateral commercial transactions, developing the exchange market, and facilitating bilateral trade and direct investment, remittance settlement, and financial market development.

Under the second MoU, both parties will collaborate and benefit from the services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, and messaging systems by directly connecting them in accordance with the countries’ regulatory requirements.

This includes connecting the CBUAE’s Instant Payments Platform, which is being developed as part of the Financial Infrastructure Transformation Programme, to the Seychelles’ similar platform to facilitate mutual acceptance of local cards and transaction processing.

Balama said that the signing of the MoU reflects the central bank’s desire to expand its ties with regional and international counterparts in order to strengthen the UAE’s economic and commercial partnerships around the world.

“The use of the two countries’ currencies for cross-border financial and commercial transactions reflects the growing trade, investment, and financial cooperation and contributes to reducing costs and saving time in settling transactions. This helps in developing the foreign exchange market in the UAE dirham and the Seychellois rupee, leading to enhancing trade exchanges, investments, and remittance between the two countries,” he explained.

Abel added: “For small open island economies like Seychelles, the importance of an effective and efficient financial system to facilitate trade cannot be overemphasized. In this regard, the MoUs just signed between our two central banks, guided by the relevant and applicable laws to safeguard the soundness and integrity of our respective financial systems, can assist this endeavor.”

She stated that the agreement to establish the necessary framework for promoting the use of UAE dirhams and Seychelles rupees in cross-border transactions will improve trade relations between stakeholders in both jurisdictions.

“With the Central Bank of Seychelles spearheading efforts to modernize and develop the Seychelles national payment system, in line with the government’s digital economy agenda, the opportunity to collaborate on interlinking our payment and messaging systems will facilitate the processing and settlement of cross-border financial transactions between the two countries,” Abel said.

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

Updated 19 July 2024

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

  • America, the largest historical donor, is now a ‘shameful outlier’
  • Major aid cutoff in January followed unproven Israeli allegations

LONDON: The US must restore funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said Human Rights Watch on Friday.

The organization’s appeal also referred to the UK, which, until it was lifted today, had also suspended crucial funding to the largest relief group in Gaza.

In January this year, UNRWA said that 16 countries had suspended donations to the agency.

These included the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden.

After today, the US is the only country with an active suspension.

The aid cutoff followed Israeli allegations that 19 UNRWA staff, out of the agency’s 3,000 employees, had taken part in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel.

But an independent review released on April 20, as well as a UN investigation, found no evidence to support the allegations.

UNRWA officials also said that Israeli authorities had failed to provide evidence supporting the claims.

Last week, the US and UK both endorsed a set of UNRWA commitments “recognizing the serious humanitarian, political and security risks that would result from any interruption or suspension of its vital work.”

But despite signing the statement, the US has yet to resume funding to the agency.

Akshaya Kumar, crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The US is now a shameful outlier as most donors have resumed funding UNRWA.

“Cutting off aid was disproportionate to the allegations against UNRWA from the start. Palestinians in Gaza are facing catastrophic food insecurity, massive shortages of medical supplies, and repeated displacement, and there’s no substitute for UNRWA’s networks, experience, and capacity to provide relief.”

UNRWA, which relies on crucial donations from national governments to carry out its work, has warned that it faces a financial crisis as a result of the stalled funding.

Washington has historically served as the largest donor to UNRWA, and contributed one-third of the agency’s budget last year.

But the US Congress has passed a law forbidding any new funding to UNRWA until at least March next year.

In response to the Human Rights Watch appeal, officials from the Joe Biden administration claimed that US funds were diverted from UNRWA to other aid agencies operating in Gaza.

As a result of Israel’s war, 90 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, and 96 percent are expected to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity by September this year.

Despite the agency’s urgent humanitarian work in the enclave, it has faced a sustained campaign by Israel resulting in reputational and physical damage.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January that “UNRWA’s mission has to end.”

The country’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said that the agency would “not be part of the day after” in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch has also documented two cases of UNRWA aid workers being struck by Israeli munitions despite having relayed their locations to the army’s personnel.