US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

1 / 2
In this satellite image provided by Planet Labs, the Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar is seen in the southern Red Sea near the Bay Al-Mandab Strait leaking oil after an attack by Yemen's Houthi militia on Feb. 20, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
2 / 2
In this satellite image provided by Planet Labs, the Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar is seen in the southern Red Sea near the Bay Al-Mandab Strait leaking oil after an attack by Yemen's Houthi militia on Feb. 20, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Short Url
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

  • The Belize-flagged Rubymar was damaged Sunday by a missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels
  • It was transporting 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, says Roy Khoury, the CEO of Blue Fleet CEO

WASHINGTON: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels is taking on water and has left a huge oil slick, in an environmental disaster that US Central Command said Friday could get worse.

Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in a Sunday missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury told AFP.
CENTCOM said the ship is anchored but slowly taking on water and has left an 18 mile oil slick.
“The M/V Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, which could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster,” it said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The ship’s operator said Thursday the ship could be towed to Djibouti this week.
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury had said there was “no risk for now, but always a possibility.”
The attack on the Rubymar represents the most significant damage yet to be inflicted on a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.
 


Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister

Updated 8 min 54 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister

  • No reason for rupee to depreciate more than the range of about 6 percent to 8 percent seen in a typical year, Aurangzeb tells Bloomberg 
  • Pakistan expects IMF mission to visit in May, would like to reach staff-level agreement on new loan by end of June or early July

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new government does not anticipate any significant currency devaluation as part of its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to unlock billions of dollars in lending and bolster the nation’s economic reform agenda, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in an interview to Bloomberg published on Thursday. 
While massive devaluations have accompanied some of Pakistan’s previous IMF loans and are often a condition of the crisis lender’s programs around the world, nothing comparable should be necessary this time around, Aurangzeb said in an interview on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
“I don’t see the need for any step change,” Aurangzeb said, citing solid foreign-exchange reserves, a stable currency, rising remittances and steady exports. “The only thing which can be a wild card, although in our projections we should be OK, is the oil price.”
He added there would be no reason for the rupee to depreciate more than the range of about 6 percent to 8 percent seen in a typical year. 
Pakistan last devalued its currency in January 2023.
Aurangzeb, 59, said the new government in Islamabad was looking to bolster industries including agriculture and information technology with support that it hopes will help push the nation’s growth above 4 percent in the coming years.
In its talks with the IMF, Pakistan plans to seek a traditional IMF loan through the institution’s so-called extended fund facility. It also wants to get money via the IMF’s new Resilience and Sustainability Trust, which works to strengthen low-income and vulnerable countries against external shocks like floods that devastated Pakistan in 2022.
One of the new government’s tasks will be to steer the country out of a high-inflation and low-growth pattern. It also faces about $24 billion in external financing needs in the fiscal year starting July, about three times its reserves. 
Aurangzeb said Pakistan was in “relatively good shape” to make those payments.
Pakistan needs to repay “a couple of billion dollars” in the present fiscal year but reserves are expected to reach around $10 billion by the end of June from $8 billion now, said Aurangzeb. The dollar reserves currently cover about two months of imports.
Pakistan expects an IMF mission to visit in May and would like to reach a staff-level agreement on its next loan by the end of June or early July, Aurangzeb said, without specifying how much the nation was seeking. Bloomberg News earlier reported that the nation plans to ask for at least $6 billion.
Securing a new deal may also boost Pakistan’s dollar bonds and stock market, which have handed investors one of the best gains globally since the nation began the current IMF loan last July. The IMF executive board is expected to approve the final disbursement this month from the nation’s existing $3 billion loan that helped it avert a default on its debt last year.
Key objectives in the loan negotiations will include broadening the tax base, improving debt sustainability and restoring viability to the energy sector, the IMF said last month. These are steps that Pakistan has avoided for decades because of their unpopularity among a nation of more than 250 million people.
Pakistan in recent years increased tax revenue and energy prices to meet IMF demands but hasn’t been able to make progress on long-term structural issues such as privatizing state-owned companies.


Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza joins Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people

Updated 7 min 31 sec ago
Follow

Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza joins Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people

  • Azaiza honored in “Icons” category for his work documenting the conflict in Gaza

LONDON: Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza has been named one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2024” by Time Magazine.

Azaiza was recognized in the “Icons” category for his work documenting the conflict in Gaza, with his photographs offering a rare insight into the realities faced by those living in the enclave.

“For 108 days, Motaz Azaiza acted as the world’s eyes and ears in his native Gaza. Armed with a camera and a flak jacket marked ‘Press,’ the 25-year-old Palestinian photographer spent nearly four months documenting life under Israeli bombardment,” the magazine’s entry description said.

Azaiza’s images offer a perspective rarely seen in international media, given Israel’s ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

The photographer took to social media after the announcement, saying the honor symbolizes more than just his individual achievements.

“I am really blessed to share my country name with me wherever I go or whatever I achieve,” he wrote on X.

During his time in Gaza, Azaiza captured images showing the destruction wrought by the conflict, and the resilience of its people.

His photographs, shared with over 18 million followers on Instagram, served as a crucial source of information, despite the risks involved.

Since leaving Gaza in January and relocating to Doha, Azaiza has continued to call for greater awareness of the crisis, and international intervention to halt the conflict.

“What is happening in Gaza is not content for you,” he was quoted as saying by the magazine. “We are not telling you what is happening … for your likes or views or shares. No, we are waiting for you to act. We need to stop this war.”

Since 1999, Time Magazine has published its annual Time 100 list, recognizing influential individuals in various fields.

Others who made this year’s list include singer Dua Lipa, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, American footballer Patrick Mahomes, Formula One driver Max Verstappen and Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

In November 2023, GQ Middle East named Azaiza as its Man of the Year, underscoring his role in inspiring positive change.

Azaiza’s nomination for the Time 100 list was submitted by Yasmeen Serhan, a staff writer at Time Magazine.


Saudi finance minister stresses need for ‘decisive financial policies’ amid global economic uncertainties

Updated 17 min 39 sec ago
Follow

Saudi finance minister stresses need for ‘decisive financial policies’ amid global economic uncertainties

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s finance minister stressed the need for “decisive financial policies” across the world during a high-level meeting with ministers and governors, to navigate through uncertain economic conditions.

Speaking during the Spring Meetings 2024 of the International Monetary Fund held in Washington, D.C, Mohammed Al-Jadaan noted that this would bolster resilience and sustainability amid this current highly uncertain period.

“I also participated in the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable, where I highlighted the importance of enhancing Comparability of Treatment by establishing a clear and fair framework that ensures equitable treatment among all creditors,” Al-Jadaan said in a post on X.


Indonesia and China make joint call for permanent Gaza ceasefire

Updated 20 min 21 sec ago
Follow

Indonesia and China make joint call for permanent Gaza ceasefire

  • Countries’ foreign ministers also support Palestine’s bid for full UN membership
  • Both officials urge restraint following Israeli, Iranian strikes this month

JAKARTA: Indonesia and China made a joint call on Thursday for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and the implementation of the two-state solution in Palestine.

The move came after a meeting between Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Jakarta. The two ministers exchanged views on international security and stability amid fears of a regional conflict in the Middle East.

“The visit of the Chinese foreign minister comes at a time when we all have concerns about the evolving situation in the Middle East. We share the same view on the importance of all parties exercising restraint and the necessity of deescalation,” Marsudi told reporters during a joint press briefing.

“I am sure that China will use its influence to prevent escalation. We also shared the same views on the importance of a ceasefire in Gaza and the fair resolution on the issue of Palestine through a two-state solution,” she said.

“Indonesia will support full Palestinian membership at the UN. Stability in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Palestinian issue.”

Wang’s visit to Jakarta is part of a six-day tour that also involves trips to Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.

His meeting with Marsudi followed Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend. The attack was a response to an Israeli airstrike earlier this month that destroyed an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Syria, killing 13 people, including two top military commanders.

“We urge all parties involved to maintain calm and restraint in order to avoid escalation of the situation, and prevent conflicts from spilling over. China supports the UN Security Council in promptly accepting Palestine as a full member of the UN,” Wang said.

The council is due to vote on Friday on a Palestinian request for full UN membership.

Beijing is also advocating “a larger, more authoritative and more effective international peace conference” that will formulate a timetable and road map to implement the two-state solution.

“Unconditional and lasting ceasefires need to be immediately implemented, and substantive action should be taken to protect civilians. Urgent humanitarian assistance should be sent to Gaza to ensure that supplies can be delivered quickly, safely and sustainably,” Wang added.

Six months on, Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 33,800 Palestinians as the UN warns of impending famine in the besieged enclave.

Although the UN Security Council in March adopted a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, there was no stop in the deadly Israeli attacks.


KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen

Updated 11 min 33 sec ago
Follow

KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen

  • Allocation of $4.85 million to treat malnutrition in children aged under five as well as pregnant and lactating women in Yemen
  • Agreement was signed by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and KSrelief’s supervisor general, and WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a joint cooperation agreement with the World Food Programme allocating $4.85 million to treat malnutrition in children aged under five as well as pregnant and lactating women in Yemen.

The signing took place on the sidelines of the International Conference for Sudan and Neighboring Countries, which was organized by France and the EU in Paris.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and KSrelief’s supervisor general, and WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.

It aims to improve the nutritional situation for Yemen’s most impoverished people by providing supplements in targeted areas, benefiting 86,985 people.