Russia: West must remove obstacles to its grain exports

Update Russia: West must remove obstacles to its grain exports
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) give a joint news conference following talks in Ankara on Apr. 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2023

Russia: West must remove obstacles to its grain exports

Russia: West must remove obstacles to its grain exports
  • Moscow has repeatedly complained that the deal failed to work for Russian agricultural exports
  • “After we extended the deal for 120 days, we saw no indication that those issues could be solved and grew tired of appealing to the conscience of those who determine it,” Lavrov said

ANKARA: Russia may pull out of a wartime deal that allows the export of Ukrainian grain to global markets if the West fails to remove obstacles to Russian agricultural exports, Moscow’s top diplomat suggested Friday.
The deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkiye in July, unblocked shipments that were stuck in Ukraine’s blockaded and mined ports, alleviating rising food prices and threat of hunger in some countries.
A separate agreement aimed to facilitate the export of Russian fertilizers and grain. Moscow has repeatedly complained that the deal failed to work for Russian agricultural exports, which have had trouble reaching world markets due to Western sanctions.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Russia agreed last month to extend the deal for 60 days — instead of the 120 days set under a previous extension — to send a warning signal to the West.
“After we extended the deal for 120 days, we saw no indication that those issues could be solved and grew tired of appealing to the conscience of those who determine it,” Lavrov said of Moscow’s dissatisfaction.”
We made a small escalatory move and offered to extend the deal only for 60 days on the assumption that if there is no change in removing the obstacles to the exports of Russian fertilizers and grain, we would think whether the deal is needed.”
Lavrov shrugged off the West’s argument that Russian food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions. He noted that “obstacles related to financing, logistics, transportation and insurance of Russian exports have remained and even have grown tougher.”
Experts say private shipping and insurance companies remain cautious about handling Russian commodities amid the war in Ukraine, although Russian wheat shipments were at or near record highs in November, December and January, according to financial data provider Refinitiv.
Lavrov said the West has effectively blocked the UN-Turkiye agreement on Russian agricultural exports and “that’s why we’ve asked for letters of comfort from certain governments.”
Instead of agreeing to another extension later this year, Russia may decide to cooperate directly with Turkiye and Qatar to ensure grain gets to the countries that need it.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose country joined the UN and Ukraine in pressing for a 120-day extension before the deal on Ukrainian exports expired last month, said he and Lavrov “agreed that the obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer should be removed immediately.”
“We value the continuation of the deal,” Cavusoglu said. “This is not only important for Ukraine’s and Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports. It is also important in terms of reducing the world food crisis and especially the problem experienced by every household in the world.”
Lavrov’s warning echoed one from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said last month that Moscow could end its participation in the initiative if its conditions were not met. Putin said Russia expected the facilitation of exports of its own agricultural products as part of a package agreement.
Lavrov and Cavusoglu also discussed Russian efforts to forge a reconciliation between Turkiye and Syria. Earlier this week, Moscow hosted the deputy foreign ministers of Turkiye, Syria and Iran to facilitate the rapprochement.
Turkiye has backed armed opposition groups that have sought to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s government during the Syrian civil war. Turkiye has control over large swaths of territory in northwestern Syria, and Damascus is pressing for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria as a prerequisite for a normalization of ties.
Turkiye, for its part, is looking for security guarantees, including regarding Kurdish militants in Syria that Ankara considers to be terrorists.
“We know that not all issues can be settled in one or two meetings,” Cavusoglu said. “But the dialogue needs to continue and it would be beneficial if the consultations continue in the same way.”


Thousands of Israeli settlers on the march to illegal outpost

Thousands of Israeli settlers on the march to illegal outpost
Updated 18 sec ago

Thousands of Israeli settlers on the march to illegal outpost

Thousands of Israeli settlers on the march to illegal outpost
  • Far-right Israeli ministers lead challenge to Netanyahu
  • 200 Palestinians hurt in protests

RAMALLAH: Extremist Israeli government ministers led thousands of settlers on Monday on a march to an illegal settler outpost in the occupied West Bank that was abandoned two years ago.

The Avitar outpost, built on Palestinian land on Mount Sabih south of Nablus, is illegal even under Israeli law, and the marchers demand that it be repopulated is the latest challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin’s authority by far-right members of his Cabinet.

Waving Israeli flags and chanting religious slogans and songs, settlers from across Israel marched toward the outpost. They were protected by Israeli security forces who attacked Palestinian protesters near by. The Palestinian Red Crescent treated 216 people suffering from tear gas inhalation and 22 hurt by rubber bullets.
The march was led by more than 20 Knesset members and seven Israeli ministers, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who are leading demands for the legalization of outposts. “With God’s help we will legalize dozens more,” Ben-Gvir said at the march.
Rivka Katzir, 74, who lives in the Elkan settlement, said: “I believe that the one solution for all of this problem is if we will settle this place. If there is a new settlement that we want to develop, then we will walk there.”

All settlements are illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those planned by the state and outposts established by rogue settlers’ groups without government permission.

The Avitar outpost was set up by one such group in 2013, and destroyed and rebuilt several times between then and July 2021, when the last settlers were evicted. Over the years the outpost sparked violent clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinians from the nearby town of Beita, in which 12 Palestinians were killed.

Ministers including Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are at the forefront of demands for settlement expansion. Last month the Knesset paved the way for settlers’ return to four settlements in the occupied West Bank by amending a 2005 law that ordered their evacuation, a move condemned by Palestinian leaders and the EU.
In February Israel granted retroactive recognition to eight illegal West Bank outposts, also condemned by international organizations.
Ghassan Daghlas, who is responsible at the Palestinian Presidency for the settlement issue in the northern West Bank, told Arab News that the settlers’ march aimed to legitimize the theft and plundering of Palestinian lands in favour of Israeli settlement.

“We are facing a new settlement battle with this extreme right-wing Israeli government, and if their policies are not met with a strong Palestinian and international popular response, they will reactivate settlement in the northern West Bank and rebuild the settlements that were evacuated in 2005,” he said.


New Yemen peace talks ‘will protect people of the south,’ says Southern Transitional Council head

New Yemen peace talks ‘will protect people of the south,’ says Southern Transitional Council head
Updated 11 April 2023

New Yemen peace talks ‘will protect people of the south,’ says Southern Transitional Council head

New Yemen peace talks ‘will protect people of the south,’ says Southern Transitional Council head
  • Saudi officials have been in Sanaa since Sunday for talks with the Iran-backed Houthi militia

RIYADH: Protecting the rights of people in southern Yemen is a key aim of talks to end the country’s war, Yemen’s southern separatist leader told Arab News on Monday.

Maj. Gen. Aidarous Al-Zubaidi, president of the Southern Transitional Council and deputy head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, said all the country’s leaders were closely cooperating with the Arab Coalition and were in full agreement with the coalition on a roadmap for the political process in Yemen.

Saudi officials have been in Sanaa since Sunday for talks with the Iran-backed Houthi militia, as part of newefforts to end Yemen’s nine-year conflict.

Saudi Arabia’s delegation, led by the Kingdom’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, met Mahdi Al-Mashat, head of the Houthis’ supreme political council. An Omani delegation is also taking part in the talks.

“The peace roadmap and negotiations that are due to take place over the coming days will shed light on all issues and concerns of the nation, foremost of which is the case of our people in the south,” Al-Zubaidi told Arab News.

The Southern Transitional Council was set up in May 2017, with the aim of a separation of southern Yemen from the rest of the country, as it was before 1990. Al-Zubaidi is a former governor of Aden, the southern capital.

The Presidential Leadership Council was established a year ago as the executive body of Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
 


Israel’s Netanyahu vows to restore security as violence surges

Israel’s Netanyahu vows to restore security as violence surges
Updated 11 April 2023

Israel’s Netanyahu vows to restore security as violence surges

Israel’s Netanyahu vows to restore security as violence surges
  • The latest surge came late last month after he announced a “pause” for dialogue on judicial reform legislation, which split the nation and caused divisions in his government

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to restore security “on all fronts” after surging violence that included rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria and two more deaths on Monday.
Netanyahu also reinstated the defense minister whose firing he announced last month.
Heavy clashes, shootings, rocket strikes and a car-ramming attack have marred a period when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.
The latest casualties were a Palestinian teenager and a British-Israeli mother who succumbed on Monday to injuries from a West Bank gun attack that earlier killed her two daughters.
The day after Israeli police on Wednesday stormed the prayer hall of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque — Islam’s third-holiest site — more than 30 rockets were fired from Lebanese soil into Israel.
The Israeli army said the attack was most likely carried out by the Palestinian armed movement Hamas.
Israel then bombarded the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, targeting “terror infrastructures” it said belonged to Hamas.
“We will not allow the terrorist Hamas to establish itself in Lebanon,” by acting on “all fronts,” Netanyahu said at a news conference Monday.
Israeli-Palestinian violence had already intensified since Netanyahu’s new government took power in December, a coalition with extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.
The latest surge came late last month after he announced a “pause” for dialogue on judicial reform legislation, which split the nation and caused divisions in his government.
Among the political casualties was Yoav Gallant, whom the prime minister dismissed on March 26 after he called for a halt to the legislative process, citing national security concerns and threats by reserve military personnel not to report for duty.
Netanyahu is currently battling very low levels of domestic popularity. A recent survey showed him likely to lose if an election were held now.
At his news conference, Netanyahu said he and Gallant had “difficult disputes” but he had decided to put them in the past.
“Gallant remains in his post and we will continue to work together for the safety of the citizens of Israel,” he added.
In Tel Aviv, several hundred protesters took to the streets to denounce the government and condemn the prime minister’s speech, according to images broadcast by Israeli television.
Earlier Monday several government ministers joined a protest march by Jewish settlers, held under tight security in the north of the occupied West Bank.
In the latest shooting in the territory, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Fayez Balhan, 15, and wounded two other people, the Palestinian health ministry said, during what the army described as a raid to arrest a “terror suspect.”
The Israeli army confirmed its forces were operating in the Aqabat Jaber camp, the site of previous deadly Israeli raids this year, near Jericho, where soldiers were seeking “to apprehend a terror suspect.”
The army said troops responded with live fire after “suspects opened fire toward (soldiers), hurled explosive devices and Molotov cocktails.”
A suspect was taken in by security forces, they added.
Clashes erupted when the army entered the camp and surrounded several houses, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa. A Palestinian security official told AFP that five individuals had been arrested during the raid.
Hamas said it mourned the “young martyr” and praised those “standing up to this arrogant enemy.”
The operation came as a Jerusalem hospital confirmed that a British-Israeli woman, Lucy (Leah) Dee, had died after being seriously injured in a shooting attack Friday in the West Bank that killed her two daughters, aged 16 and 20.
Their car came under fire in the Jordan Valley, where Jericho is also located. The families were residents of Efrat, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that there could be “no justification” for the “senseless violence.”
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in Israeli-approved settlements there which are considered illegal under international law.
Hundreds of Israelis marched Monday in the north of the West Bank, pushing for state approval of an Israeli settler outpost.
Several government ministers — including Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — appeared at the march to Eviatar, whose residents agreed to leave in 2021 while officials examined their case.
Addressing the crowd, Ben-Gvir said “the response to terror is to build” settlements.
Violence has flared anew since Israeli police stormed the prayer hall of Al-Aqsa mosque in a pre-dawn operation aimed at dislodging “law-breaking youths and masked agitators” they said had barricaded themselves inside.
Late Friday, an Italian tourist was killed and seven others wounded in a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv.
The Israeli army also said it had launched strikes on targets in Syria Sunday after rockets fired from there landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The conflict has this year claimed the lives of at least 94 Palestinians, 19 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian, according to an AFP count based on Israeli and Palestinian official sources.
These figures include, on the Palestinian side, combatants and civilians, including minors, and on the Israeli side, mostly civilians, including minors, and three members of the Arab minority.


Daesh landmine kills at least 6 civilians in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor 

Daesh landmine kills at least 6 civilians in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor 
Updated 11 April 2023

Daesh landmine kills at least 6 civilians in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor 

Daesh landmine kills at least 6 civilians in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor 

DAMASCUS: A deadly landmine explosion in Syria killed at least six people, according to media reports.

News agency SANA said the explosion hit civilians who were foraging for truffles in the countryside, and blamed the incident on a land mine planted by Daesh in the southern Deir Ez-Zor province. 

The area is a former stronghold of the militants.

A day earlier, SANA reported six people — also heading to search for truffles — were killed by an anti-tank mine left by Daesh in the desert of Homs’ eastern countryside.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, put the number killed on Sunday at nine. The monitor said the incident brings to 139 the number of civilians reported killed this year as a result of the explosion of mines and other explosive objects left over from the war, including 30 children.

The truffles are a seasonal delicacy that can be sold for a high price. Since truffle hunters work in large groups in remote areas, Daesh militants have repeatedly preyed on them, emerging from the desert to abduct them, kill some and ransom others for money.

In February, Daesh sleeper cells attacked workers collecting truffles near the central town of Sukhna, killing at least 53 people, mostly workers but also some Syrian government security forces.


Egyptian community creates giant iftar table for Ramadan

Residents of Al-Matariyya neighborhood in Cairo came together to host an iftar where everyone was welcome. (Supplied)
Residents of Al-Matariyya neighborhood in Cairo came together to host an iftar where everyone was welcome. (Supplied)
Updated 10 April 2023

Egyptian community creates giant iftar table for Ramadan

Residents of Al-Matariyya neighborhood in Cairo came together to host an iftar where everyone was welcome. (Supplied)
  • Magical creation brings ‘joy and happiness’ to all, organizer says
  • Residents of Al-Matariyya contribute what they can afford to ensure event’s success

CAIRO: The people of Al-Matariyya, east of Cairo, are celebrating Ramadan in a special way once again this year, by creating a huge iftar table.

The wondrous creation, which is surrounded by lights, balloons and other decorations, took a week to put together and involved people from all across the community.

Ahmed Khalaf, one of the organizers, said: “We divided the roles, with the young men taking charge of buying the table supplies and the women preparing all the different types of food.

Residents of Al-Matariyya neighborhood in Cairo came together to host an iftar where everyone was welcome. (Supplied)

“On the day of iftar, the children participated in cleaning and decorating the streets to welcome the fasting people.

“We do not care about the cost, as all the residents of the neighborhood participate in financing the table in order to bring joy and happiness to the people of the region and other neighboring areas.

“Each person contributes according to their income and financial situation,” he said. “Some gave 50 Egyptian pounds ($1.60), while others gave up to £5,000.”

Alaa Saqr, one of the founders of the Ramadan table in Al-Matariyya, told Arab News the event had been held for the past nine years.

“There is a state of harmony and understanding between the participants and the organizers,” he said.

Hundreds of residents, including photographers and social media users, gathered round the iftar table to “document an event that embodies the spirit of love and social cohesion between Egyptians,” Saqr said, adding that the event caused such a stir online that it inspired other neighborhoods to organize similar events.

Moataz Abu Rayya, a resident of the New Helmeya area in central Cairo, told Arab News: “We also hold an annual iftar in Helmiya El-Jadida on the last Friday of the holy month, and the Matariyya iftar prompted us to try to organize an iftar table that would compete.”