Norway says ready to recognize a Palestinian state

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store meets Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for a bilateral meeting in the government’s representation facility at Parkveien 45 in Oslo on Apr. 12, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 April 2024
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Norway says ready to recognize a Palestinian state

  • “Norway stands ready to recognize the state of Palestine,” Store told a joint press conference with Sanchez
  • Sanchez is currently on a tour of Poland, Norway and Ireland this week to drum up support for the recognition of a Palestinian state

OSLO: Norway is ready to recognize a Palestinian state together with other countries, its prime minister said on Friday while hosting Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, who is seeking support for the cause.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters that such a decision would need to be taken in close coordination with “like-minded countries.”
“Norway stands ready to recognize the state of Palestine,” Store told a joint press conference with Sanchez.
“We have not set a firm timetable,” Store added.
In November, Norway’s parliament adopted a government proposal for the country to be prepared to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Norway also hosted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the beginning of the 1990s, which led to the Oslo Accords.
Sanchez is currently on a tour of Poland, Norway and Ireland this week to drum up support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, according to a Spanish government spokesperson.
Speaking alongside Store, Sanchez said Spain was “committed to recognizing Palestine as a state, as soon as possible, when the conditions are appropriate, and in a way that can have the most positive impact to the peace process.”
On March 22, Spain issued a statement with Ireland, Malta and Slovenia on the sidelines of an EU leaders summit, saying they were “ready to recognize Palestine” in a move that would happen when “the circumstances are right.”
Last week, Sanchez told reporters traveling with him on his Middle East tour that he hoped it would happen by the end of June.
Store on Friday said that he welcomed Sanchez’s initiative to consult among countries to “strengthen coordination.”
“We will intensify that coordination in the weeks to come,” Store said.
The Spanish leader has repeatedly angered Israel with his outspoken comments since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The war in the Gaza Strip erupted after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,634 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.


Philippines deploys river rangers in battle against plastic

Updated 5 sec ago
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Philippines deploys river rangers in battle against plastic

  • The Philippines produces about 61,000 tons of trash every day, up to 24% of it plastic
  • The country is the world’s top source of plastic that ends up in the oceans
MANILA: Using a long-handled net, Ronnel Narvas scoops up discarded plastic soft drink bottles, shopping bags and palm-sized sachets as he wades through a foul-smelling tributary in the Philippine capital Manila.
Narvas, 30, is one of more than a thousand rangers employed by the government to clean up the city’s waterways, where tons of rubbish end up every year.
“It’s disappointing, because no matter how diligent we are at cleaning up, the garbage does not run out,” Narvas said of the never-ending battle against trash.
“But we need to persevere... at least we are managing to reduce it instead of letting it pile up more.”
Inadequate garbage collection services, lack of disposal and recycling facilities, and grinding poverty have been blamed for the growing problem of plastic waste across the country.
The Philippines produces about 61,000 tons of trash every day, up to 24 percent of it plastic, figures from the environment department show.
The country is the world’s top source of plastic that ends up in the oceans, a 2021 study by Dutch non-profit The Ocean Cleanup found.
It said the Pasig river, which flows through the capital and into Manila Bay, is the “most polluting” in the world.
Sachets and other single-use plastics are a huge part of the problem.
“When the rains come, we are literally swimming (in) them,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga said last month.
“But on a daily basis, we consume plastics in the fish caught in our seas, through the substandard water bottles we use and in the very air we breathe,” Loyzaga added.
Nieves Denso, a 63-year-old widow, sells small packets of powdered chocolate, coffee, milk, shampoo and detergent from her tiny shop in a riverside slum in Manila.
Sachets are popular in the Philippines, where many people cannot afford to buy household products in large quantities.
Denso collects the empty sachets and every few days she pays children 10 pesos (17 US cents) to take the garbage to a nearby road where she hopes it will be collected.
But she admitted she has no idea if her trash ends up there, or if the children throw it in the river or on vacant land where many of her neighbors discard their waste.
“I put everything in one container and that’s it,” Denso said when asked if she separates plastic from other waste.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to make people comply.”
Emma Gillego, who lives in a stilt shanty overlooking the Paranaque river, has not seen a garbage truck in her neighborhood since her family moved there 20 years ago.
Plastic litters the ground even though city sanitation workers visit several times a year to teach residents about waste segregation.
“We don’t tell off our neighbors who throw garbage into the water because we don’t want to meddle with their lives,” Gillego, 58, said.
Lawmakers have enacted a series of environmental measures in recent years, covering everything from rolling out recycling centers to compelling companies to take responsibility for their plastic waste.
“The Philippines has made really commendable efforts in pushing all these legislation efforts together,” senior World Bank environmental specialist Junu Shrestha said.
While the legislation gave the Philippines a “road map” in dealing with the waste management problem, implementing it was “another challenge,” Shrestha said.
In Manila, where more than 14 million people live, only 60 percent of rubbish is collected, sorted and recycled daily, according to a 2022 World Bank report.
Loyzaga said that the country was in the “infancy stage” of waste segregation and recycling, and she did not see an end to the use of single-use plastic.
“It performs a certain function at the moment for a certain income group in our economy,” she said.
While it was unpleasant standing in putrid water for hours on end, river ranger Narvas believed his efforts were helping to reduce flooding in areas along the waterway.
He just wished the community would stop throwing their rubbish in the water.
“It’s disheartening,” Narvas said.
“But this is our job and we’re used to that. We just keep on going.”

Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm

Updated 28 May 2024
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Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm

  • The Southeast Asian nation sees an average of 20 storms annually, often resulting in heavy rains, strong winds, and deadly landslides

MANILA: Philippine authorities said at least seven people had been killed by tropical storm Ewiniar, which hit the country on the weekend, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Tuesday that search and rescue efforts would continue.
Ewiniar brought strong winds and heavy rain in provinces south of the capital, shutting down airports and seaports and disrupting power supply.
The storm was heading toward east coast of Japan on Tuesday, with sustained winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) and gustiness of up to 160 kph (100 mph).
A 14-year-old girl was confirmed dead in southern Misamis Oriental province after a tree fell on a parked vehicle she was boarding. Another student was injured, the national disaster agency said in a report.
In Quezon province, east of the capital, six people were reported dead, police major Elizabeth Capistrano told DWPM radio station. Among the deceased were two men, aged 56 and 22, who drowned, and a 39-year-old man who was hit by a falling tree.
Marcos, speaking ahead of a state visit to Brunei, said the storm affected nearly 27,000 people, and disrupted operations of three airports and nine seaports over the weekend.
Ewiniar was the first tropical storm to hit the Philippines this year. The Southeast Asian nation sees an average of 20 storms annually, often resulting in heavy rains, strong winds, and deadly landslides.


Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

Updated 28 May 2024
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Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

  • Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration told Israel to take every precaution to protect civilians after a military strike in Rafah killed dozens of Palestinians, as it faced calls from some fellow Democrats to halt military shipments to Israel.
“Israel has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand this strike killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. “But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.
Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel, even before the airstrike on Sunday night that set tents and rickety metal shelters ablaze in a Rafah camp, killing 45 people.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives, on Monday called the strike “an indefensible atrocity,” adding in a social media post that “it is long past time for the President to live up to his word and suspend military aid.”
“Horrific and gut wrenching images coming out of Rafah last night,” Representative Ayanna Pressley said in a social media post. “How much longer will the US stand by while the Israeli military slaughters and mutilates Palestinian babies?“
Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American serving in Congress, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “genocidal maniac.”
Netanyahu on Monday said the strike was not intended to cause civilian casualties but went “tragically wrong.”
The NSC spokesperson said the US government was “actively engaging” with the Israeli military and others on the ground to assess what happened.
Almost half of Democratic voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, according to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos.
Weeks of campus protests about the war have added to the pressure, and wider demands for a permanent ceasefire have put Biden’s reelection campaign on the defensive.


Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Updated 28 May 2024
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Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

OTTAWA: Canada said on Monday it will issue visas to 5,000 Gazans, more than it originally pledged, and said it was “horrified” by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah that triggered a blaze causing 45 deaths.

The visas for Canadians’ relatives living in the enclave represent a five-fold increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program that Canada announced in December.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a policy not related to the special visa program, and 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

An Israeli airstrike late on Sunday night triggered a fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, prompting an outcry from global leaders including from Canada.

“We are horrified by strikes that killed Palestinian civilians in Rafah,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement, adding that Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah.

“This level of human suffering must come to an end. We demand an immediate ceasefire,” Joly said, echoing global leaders who urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Canada has repeatedly supported calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, including at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the strike in Rafah had not been intended to cause civilian casualties and that something had gone “tragically wrong.” Israel’s military, which is trying to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, said it was investigating.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75 percent of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Updated 27 May 2024
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Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

MADRID: Spain on Monday pledged one billion euros in military aid to Ukraine as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal in Madrid.

The deal “includes a commitment for one billion euros in military aid for 2024,” Sanchez told a joint news conference

“It will allow Ukraine to boost its capabilities including its essential air defense systems to protect its civilians, cities and infrastructure which are still suffering indiscriminate attacks as seen this weekend in Kharkiv,” he said, referring to a Russian strike on the northeastern city that killed at least 16 people.

Zelensky’s visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow’s biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

With the Russian assault now in its third year, Ukraine has been pleading for more weapons for its outgunned and outnumbered troops, notably seeking help to address its lack of air defense systems.

According to El Pais newspaper, the deal would include new Patriot missiles and Leopard tanks. Zelensky has already signed bilateral security agreements with several countries including France, Germany and the UK.

Sanchez said the security agreement would cover a range of a different issues.

“The agreement is based on a comprehensive overview of security and covers various areas such as military, humanitarian and financial support, as well as collaboration between Spanish and Ukrainian defense industries, as well as help with reconstruction and de-mining among other things,” he said.