Middle East & Africa

Lebanon is ‘days away from social explosion, PM Diab warns
Middle East & Africa

Lebanon is ‘days away from social explosion, PM Diab warns

Speaking about the economic crisis in the country, caretaker Lebanese PM Hassan Diab announced that Lebanon is just a few days away from the social explosion. Diab has called on the international community to help the country. The World Bank has called Lebanon’s crisis one of the worst depressions of modern history. As the country’s economic disaster worsens, meeting with ambassadors and diplomats meet to discuss the dark fate alone.

Diab appealed to the public administration and influencers to spread the message for regional and international leaders to help rescue Lebanon from a crisis that has seen the local currency lose 90 per cent of its value and left 77 per cent of households without enough food, according to the United Nations. Lebanon’s population now spend hours in long lines at gas stations trying to buy fuel, as residents struggle with power outages of up to 22 hours a day and severe medical shortages.

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Diab mentioned to the ambassadors that he is calling on kings, princes, presidents and leaders of our friendly countries, and I am calling on the United Nations and all international organizations to help rescue Lebanon from its demise. He further added that Lebanese were running out of patience and linking Lebanon’s assistance to the formation of a new government has become a threat to the lives of the Lebanese and the Lebanese entity. The newly formed cabinet could re-start talks with the International Monetary Fund, however, this will take time to entail obligations on the next government that it may not endorse.

The World Bank has called Lebanon’s crisis one of the worst depressions of modern history. The currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value and more than half of the population has been propelled into poverty. Anger over fuel shortages has spilt into fights at petrol stations and the prime minister appeared to be a warning of the prospect of more unrest.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief told Lebanon’s leaders last month they were to blame for the political and economic crisis and some could face sanctions if they continue to obstruct steps to form a new government and implement reform. 

UAE continues to foster environment of tolerance, promote peace
Middle East & Africa

UAE continues to foster environment of tolerance, promote peace

UAE ambassador to Israel Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khajah has invited global religious leaders to visit the Abrahamic House in Abu Dhabi. The multifaith incubator brings together the doctrine of peace and tolerance along with the UAE’s global message to promote harmony among all religious faiths. It seeks to bolster the leading position of Arabs across the world against any extremist ideology, hate speech, and incitement to violence.

The Abrahamic House also compliments the historic normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel which aims to strengthen cordial relations and promote peace between countries in the region.

The UAE has followed the footsteps of its founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to endorse principles of tolerance and religious integrity. In accordance with the beliefs and vision of its leadership, the UAE has continued to work towards spreading amity, euphony and tolerance across the world which contributed to making its society a significant symbol of harmony and peace globally. Today, the UAE is home to people from all walks of life living with peace, contentment, and faith in the Emirati leadership.

Through its holistic approach to promote peace and security, the UAE aims to ensure the development and prosperity of not only its community but other sections of society across the world as well. The UAE’s humanitarian efforts undeniably demonstrate its vision to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of various communities in need.

Recently, UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja met Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and discussed the issue of rising antisemitism across the world. During the meeting, Mahmoud Al Khaja called on all global leaders to unite against violence and intolerance in the name of religion.

The UAE ambassador to Israel is advancing the Emirati approach to bridge the gap between extremist ideologies in the region. This has come in line with the Abraham Accords signed between the UAE and Israel in August 2020. The two countries have pledged to fight extremism and expand the benefits of peace in the Middle East. Recently, the UAE and Israel signed a tax treaty to prevent double taxation and strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

During the meeting, the two sides also discussed potential ways to enhance the ties between Arabs, Jews and monotheistic religions, in view of the principles of the Abraham Accords. The UAE ambassador has also extended a formal invitation to Rabbi Lau to visit the Emirates with the aim of furthering the relations between the two sides.

UAE’s unwavering position to respect all beliefs and prevent radical religious groups from enticing violence in the region has received praises from the international community.

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The UAE has continuously expressed its readiness to work with relevant parties to explore ways to de-escalate tensions and achieve peace between warring countries in the region.

This is a stern message in itself to those who launched a strategic campaign against the UAE Ambassador to Israel. The Emirati leadership will continue to foster an environment of tolerance within the community and strengthen its societal laws to nurture and protect freedom of expression, thought and individual beliefs at both local and international levels.

Saudi Arabia, Oman discuss trade and investment
Middle East & Africa

Saudi Arabia, Oman discuss trade and investment

A virtual meeting between senior Saudi and Omani officials was held on Tuesday, where trade and investment opportunities between both countries were discussed at length.

As per the reports of Oman’s state television, Omani Commerce and Industry Minister Qais al-Yousef and Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih carried out the talks.

The meeting comes a few days after Oman saw protests over a spike in unemployment and inflation in the country.

Last week, groups of Omanis demanding jobs took to roads to hold protests in what is seen as the biggest challenge to the Gulf state’s new ruler. The government countered the protests by announcing acceleration in plans to create thousands of jobs.

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The announcement wasn’t it as Omani security forces clashed with demonstrators who gathered in the industrial hub of Sohar against worsening economic conditions. Police, outside the Labour Ministry, fired tear gas at young Omanis and detained several people, as per witnesses.

Experts in Oman claim that the meeting between their leadership and Saudi officials was not planned in view of the protests and was scheduled way ahead of the talks. The meeting addressed the diversification of economies and sectors with the potential of attracting investments.

Oman is expected to engage other countries in its efforts to curb state deficits and debts in a bid to meet job demands.

The Gulf state is among the least financially robust countries in the region and is vulnerable to swings in oil prices since it has a small oil industry that represents a third of its GDP.

The country is shaken by twin shocks of the covid-19 crises and low oil prices that have strained its public finances and surged its debt to an all-time high. This has prompted the introduction of new taxes and a freeze in public sector hirings along with other austerity measures.

Why Is Egypt Brokering Peace Talks With Israel And Gaza
Middle East & Africa

Why Is Egypt Brokering Peace Talks With Israel And Gaza

It is the first visit by Israel in a decade to Egypt. The Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi visited Cairo, on the invitation of the Egyptian government which is trying to broker a peaceful resolution to the war like conditions being created in Gaza. He was in talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Meanwhile, the (almost) dictatorial PM of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu was met by Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem too. Netanyahu said they discussed regional security issues and how to prevent Hamas from siphoning off civilian aid to Gaza.

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Brining in a religious sentiment, Sameh Shoukry told Ashkenazi there was a “need to take into account the special sensitivity associated with East Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and all Islamic and Christian holy sites.”  Apparently, it has been confirmed that during the Ramadan period, the attacks were systematically made by Israeli security forces on worshippers in the mosque that lead to trigger of the Gaza conflict.

Egypt has its own reasons to broker peace between Israel and Palestine.  Political bigwigs feel there is more than the meets the eye. While on the surface, it would make sense to speak for the just cause of peace, but there is no more to it.

The war like condition has embarrassed some Middle Eastern countries who had brokered a peace deal with Israel last year, on the insistence of Donald Trump.

In 2014, Egypt brokered a fragile ceasefire after a devastating weeks-long war between arch-foes Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group which rules the densely populated Palestinian enclave. Egypt definitely wants to be noticed and the presence of its intelligence in talks with Israel is trying to make a point that it would liked to be the nodal point for peace talks.

Lebanon Lives On Borrowed Time Without Funds To Import Medical Aid Towards Covid Recovery
Middle East & Africa

Lebanon Lives On Borrowed Time Without Funds To Import Medical Aid Towards Covid Recovery

Lebanon’s central bank has been without hard cash for the longest time now.  It is, therefore, no surprise that the country which was once known for its medical infrastructure and services is bootstrapped to meet its own medical expenses. 

Above all, the Central Bank seems to have declared that it does not have enough reserves to pay off for medical supplies. 

Medical supplies to the tune of $1.3 billion are needed in the country. Currently, the Central Bank says it is having to hold onto its mandatory reserves and would not like to dip into them to meet this demand. 

 Lebanon has been using its own cash to import medical equipment on subsidized rates; something that the bank now feels cannot go on anymore. 

Lebanon has been using subsidized wheat, and other commodities like fuel to carry on its limping economy amidst the Covid-19 outbreak since 2020. The bank even turned down the request of the caretaker health minister Hamad Hasan.

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The country has been under siege for a long time, living on borrowed money and time. Its currency has been so weak that it has no value in the international market for any kind of trade. Lebanon’s hard currency reserves have dropped alarmingly from over $30 billion before the financial crisis hit in late 2019 to just over $15 billion in March.

To top it all, its own government has not been able to generate neither money, infrastructure nor employment, to help the economy get back on its feet. According to a formal media statement made by Hasan, almost 50 percent of the medication needed for consumption in various hospitals is awaiting procurement in different importer warehouses but payments are stuck. 

Lebanon continues to reel under debts. It is struggling to raise funds from potential donor states and institutions. It had been surviving on subsidies that will eventually run out end of this month.  Over long criticism has been the design and implementation of its subsidy system, which included long lists of non-basic items. It has been misused in using wasteful by traders and consumers.

Syria holds “sham” Presidential elections that would bring Assad back to regime, dismissed by opposition
Middle East & Africa

Syria holds “sham” Presidential elections that would bring Assad back to regime, dismissed by opposition

Assad government-held parts of Syria are witnessing presidential elections that are labelled as “sham” by opposition. The elections would bring Bashar Al-Assad fourth consecutive seven year term as the leader of war-struck country. The “little known” opposition has dismissed the elections as “farce”. US and EU has called the elections not a free or fair deal. As Assad caste his ballot, he called West’s opinion mattered ‘zero’ to him.

Assad dynasty has been ruling Syria for over five decades now. Assad Al-Bashar took over presidency in 2000, succeeding his late father Hafez was Syria’s ruler for over four decades. Assad had won his third seven year term in 2014 elections where he had won 88% votes. The election was equally farce with no opposition as country was in middle conflicts and fighting. Assad has a backing of Russia and Iran in the Civil War since then.

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Russian air strikes and militia backed by Iran have helped Syrian army gain back the big cities, thus turning the tide of war in Assad’s favor. However, with many regions still in control of Kurds, rebels and jihadists, getting a solution to conflict politically seems far-fetched. Syria’s Assad-led government says that an election showcases the country is functioning normally and aptly. 18 million Syrians internally and abroad are eligible to vote in these elections.

Voting from Damascus, Assad said, “Syria is not what they were trying to market – one city against the other and sect against the other, or civil war. Today, we are proving from Douma that the Syrian people are one.”

Syria is war-torn since pro-democracy protests that erupted in March 2011 quickly changed to violence and emergence of rebel groups and jihadists, what we call as Syrian Civil War. A decade since but peace hasn’t been restored in Syria where the government is accused to taking extreme measures to suppress dissent, including use of chemicals on civilians leading to death of hundreds of thousands. 

In these elections, Assad’s challengers include Abdullah Salloum Abdullah, a former minister of state from the Socialist Union Party. It is part of a coalition led by Assad’s ruling Baath party.

Blinken on a Middle East mission to strengthen Gaza ceasefire
Middle East & Africa

Blinken on a Middle East mission to strengthen Gaza ceasefire

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a Middle East mission, reached Israel on Tuesday with a message that Washington would provide all sorts of aid to help rebuild Gaza in a bid to bolster a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas rulers.

Blinken will face the same obstacles that have derailed a wider peace process for more than a decade now. These include hawkish Israeli leadership, divisions in the Palestinian leadership, and tensions that are deeply rooted around Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Blinken reiterated the U.S. is committed to helping Israel in pepping up its defenses. It is pertinent to mention that the U.S.-funded “Iron Dome” missile defense system stopped the majority of the Palestinian rockets from getting to the ground.

The top U.S. diplomat said that the Biden administration believed in preventing all sorts of future flare-ups of the decades-old conflict. He said all sides must ensure a better “use of the space created” by the ongoing cease-fire. 

“We agree that to prevent further violence, we have to use the space created to solve a larger set of underlying challenges and issues,” he said. 

Blinken said there is a lot of hard work needed ahead to restore respect, hope, and some trust across communities. 

Blinken, in a press appearance with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, said the U.S. would go forth with the reopening of its Jerusalem consulate that served as its diplomatic channel with the Palestinians.

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He also appeared alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, where he said that the United States would give an additional $75 million in economic and development aid to the Palestinians this year. He assured $5.5 million for Gaza under immediate disaster relief and another $32 million to the U.N. Palestinian aid agency.

A potential U.S. compliance to the Iran nuclear agreement was also discussed at length between the two.

UAE announces to host Climate Change Convention in 2023
Middle East & Africa

UAE announces to host Climate Change Convention in 2023

The Foreign Minister of UAE, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is keen to host the Conference of Parties (COP28) international conference on climate change in 2023. COP is a responsible and sensitive decision-making body that monitors and reviews the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Since UAE exports oil and hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) headquarters, it has announced itself as a natural host for high-level large format international events focused on climate action and sustainable development. 

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As the Foreign Minister announces it, he also reveals that UAE has demonstrated a proven track record in progressive climate action and multilateral cooperation that makes it an ideal convener for COP 28. We cannot ignore the fact that they have invested around USD17 billion in commercial renewable energy projects on six continents and provided over USD1 billion of grants and soft loans for renewable energy power plants. Feeling closely about the global issue of climate that we are facing, Sheikh Abdullah adds, in this Convention, UAE would leverage its experience as a regional and global convener to mobilise all actors in achieving the Paris Agreement and reinforcing the compelling investment case for raising ambitions.

Sadly, the climate impacts are already being acutely felt, but our experience gives us optimism that we can meet global climate goals while creating social and economic opportunities but somehow we are all failing in contributing that are required to drive the change. 

Also, the upcoming Dubai Expo is expecting tens of millions of visitors starting in October this year. The Expo will be especially focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and will including 192 national pavilions where they display their concerns and technical solutions. It also heard rumours that the British government will host the next summit in Glasgow. 

UN launches aid appeal as Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds
Middle East & Africa

UN launches aid appeal as Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds

A cease-fire between Hamas and Israel entered its third day as all parties decided to extend the halt to an 11-day military confrontation, between Israel and Palestine, that killed hundreds and sparked international alarm. 

The truce, brokered by Egyptian officials, was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he announced the truce after his cabinet voted for it unanimously. The announcement ended the assault being carried out in the Gaza Strip.

Mediators spoke to all sides so that the period of calm could be extended. The worst outbreak in years saw at least 248 Palestinians killed by Israeli bombing.

Hamas shot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas of Israel. The strikes, even though most were stopped by the advanced Israeli defense, killed 12 Israelis, including two children.

Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, said while confirming the deal that the Palestinian resistance will go on as long as the occupation is committed. He said, “we will abide by the truce from our end”.

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The development came after the U.S. and international pressure grew on Israel to call its military operation off. 

Egyptian mediators pressured Israel and the Gaza Strip to try to sustain the ceasefire. They have also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asking him to hold on to the ceasefire. 

President Joe Biden, after the ceasefire was announced, said: “These hostilities have led to the tragic deaths of many civilians”. He hailed the truce and praised the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for brokering the deal. 

On Sunday, in the badly damaged Gaza City, volunteers came up in clouds of dust to aid and assist those in misery.

Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that Israeli police, on Sunday, assaulted Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque and “excessively beat” them to make way for Jewish Israeli settlers to enter the Islam’s third-holiest site.

World welcomes ceasefire between Israel and Palestine
Middle East & Africa

World welcomes ceasefire between Israel and Palestine

Thousands of people across the occupied Palestinian territory took to the streets to express jubilation on a ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian groups.

The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt – after 11 days of relentless bombing – in the early hours of Friday and was welcomed across the nook and cranny of the globe. 

World leaders hailed a ceasefire and vowed to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli bomb spree that killed about 230 people and left thousands injured.

The United Nations secretary-general asked Israel and Hamas rulers to abide by the ceasefire and called on global leaders to come up with a reconstruction package “that aids the Palestinian people and rebuilds their institutions”.

Antonio Guterres voiced his thoughts after Thursday’s announcement saying that “Israeli and Palestinian leaders are faced with the responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to initiate a serious dialogue to solve the root causes of the conflict.”

Experts are of the opinion that there soon will be progress seen towards resolving the fundamental issues between both parties. 

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Guterres said the UN was set to work with Israelis, Palestinians, and others to get to “meaningful negotiations” on a two-state solution upon territorial lines that was ascertained before the 1967 war.

China welcomed the ceasefire between the two sides and expressed hopes that the relevant parties will implement the ceasefire and end of violence.

“The international community should promote the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestine issue on the basis of the two-state solution.”

“I welcome the ceasefire that puts a stop to a cycle of violence with a hefty civilian toll,” French External Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. 

The violence has “reiterated the need for a genuine political process between the two parties,” he said, adding that without this “violence will be repeated.”

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