World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

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People receive food as they wait near a damaged building following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, Turkey February 6, 2023. (Reuters)
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Members of the Syrian civil defence, known as the White Helmets transport a casualty pulled from the rubble into an ambulance, following an earthquake in Shalakh village in Idlib's eastern countryside, early on February 6, 2023. (AFP)
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People search for survivors under the rubble following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, Turkiye February 6, 2023. (Reuters)
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This aerial view shows residents helped by bulldozers, searching for victims and survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings, following an earthquake in the town of Sarmada in the countryside of the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, early on February 6, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 07 February 2023

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

  • Britain was sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists to Turkiye, a minister said
  • The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance

PARIS: Countries around the world mobilized rapidly to send aid and rescue workers on Monday after a massive earthquake killed more than 2,300 people in Turkiye and Syria.
The pledges of assistance came from countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, as well as North America.
Here are some of the chief pledges of support.

The European Union has mobilized 10 search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.
The EU’s Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services, it said adding the bloc was ready to support those affected in Syria too.

The UN General Assembly observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims.
“Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance. We count on the international community to help the thousands of families hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Two of India’s National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area, the foreign ministry said. Doctors and paramedics with medicines were also being readied.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the deaths in Turkiye — with whom India has frosty relations — and Syria.

Germany — home to about three million people of Turkish origin — will “mobilize all the assistance we can activate,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.
Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief “can set up camps to provide shelter as well as water treatment units,” she said. Generators, tents and blankets are also being readied.

President Vladimir Putin promised to send Russian teams to both countries in telephone calls with Syria’s Bashar Assad and Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“In the nearest hours, rescuers from the Russian emergency ministry will take off for Syria,” the Kremlin said. The defense ministry said 300 military personnel deployed in Syria were helping with the clear-up effort.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his war-torn country was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Turkiye’s historic rival Greece, whose relations with Ankara have suffered from a spate of border and cultural disputes, pledged to make “every force available” to aid its neighbor.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had approved the sending of aid to Syria — whose government does not recognize Israel — after receiving a request through diplomatic channels.
The government will also send humanitarian assistance to Turkiye, he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkiye, saying he was in touch with Turkiye’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilizing support now.”

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, whose bid to join NATO is meeting Turkish resistance, sent his “deepest condolences” to Erdogan. “We stand ready to offer our support,” Kristersson tweeted.

Polish firefighters flew from Warsaw to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. “Our team will be working non-stop, 24 hours a day, in two locations,” said Andrzej Bartkowiak, chief commandant of the state fire service.

Qatar said it would send 120 rescue workers to Turkiye, alongside “a field hospital, relief aid, tents and winter supplies.”
Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan offered “assistance” in telephone calls with his Syrian and Turkish counterparts, Emirates News Agency reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones. Canada stands ready to provide assistance.”

President Emmanuel Macron said France stood ready to provide emergency aid to Turkiye and Syria. “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he tweeted.

Foreign minister James Cleverly said the UK was sending a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs. Britain was also sending an emergency medical team to assess the situation on the ground.

The government in Japan — which frequently suffers earthquakes — is dispatching the Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team to Turkiye.

Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid to these two friendly nations,” President Ebrahim Raisi said, offering condolences on the “heartbreaking incident.”

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.

UN: Talks with Sudan warring parties ‘encouraging’

Updated 19 July 2024

UN: Talks with Sudan warring parties ‘encouraging’

  • War has raged since April 2023 between the Sudanese regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces
  • The conflict in Sudan has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than 10 million people, according to the UN

GENEVA: Talks between a United Nations envoy and delegations from both warring parties in Sudan have proven an encouraging first step, the UN said Friday as the discussions neared a close.
War has raged since April 2023 between the Sudanese regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s personal envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, invited delegations from the army and the RSF for talks in Geneva, focused on humanitarian aid and protecting civilians.
The discussions have been taking place under the so-called proximity format, with Lamamra meeting separately with each delegation at a time, in different rooms.
The two delegations were not scheduled to meet each other.
The discussions began on July 11 and are set to conclude on Friday.
Former Algerian foreign minister Lamamra and his team have held around 20 meetings during the talks.
“The personal envoy is encouraged by the willingness of the delegations to engage with him on critical matters related to the situation in Sudan, on which he seeks the necessary cooperation of the warring parties,” UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a press briefing in Geneva.
“He now counts on the parties to promptly translate their willingness to engage with him into tangible progress on the ground, both in the implementation of existing agreements and through possible unilateral commitments.
“The discussions held in Geneva have been an encouraging initial step in a longer and complex process. The personal envoy will remain in close contact with the leadership of the two warring parties.”
The two delegations were comprised of senior representatives of the warring parties and included humanitarian, security and military experts.
The conflict in Sudan has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than 10 million people, according to the UN.
A recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity.”
The two sides have been routinely accused of war crimes, including indiscriminately shelling residential areas and targeting civilians.