Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Saudi Arabia to Target U.S. With Sharp Oil Export Cut, Sources Say

December 13, 2018

After flooding the U.S. market in recent months, Saudi Arabia plans to slash exports to the world’s largest oil market in the coming weeks in an effort to dampen visible build-ups in crude inventories.

American-based oil refiners have been told to expect much lower shipments from the kingdom in January than in recent months following the OPEC agreement to reduce production, according to people briefed on the plans of state oil company Saudi Aramco.

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Saudi crude shipments to the U.S. next month could even test the 30-year low set in late 2017 of 582,000 barrels a day, down about 40 percent from the most recent three-month average, the same people said, asking not to be named as the information isn’t public. The final figure could still change, they added.

By shifting the focus of Saudi export reductions toward the U.S., Riyadh hopes to show to the market it’s making good on its promise to cut supplies. Fluctuations in U.S. crude imports and stockpiles have an outsize impact on the market because data are available on a weekly basis. In other regions, oil traders only get official figures on a monthly basis, or not at all in the case of stockpiles in big consumers such as China and India.

The Saudi energy ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.

While the plan to slash Saudi exports to America may ultimately convince a skeptical oil market about the kingdom’s resolution to bring supply and demand in line, it may anger U.S. President Donald Trump, who has used social media to ask the Saudis and OPEC to keep the taps open.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!

31.9K people are talking about this

Saudi total exports are set to drop to around 7 million barrels a day in January, down from about 8 million barrels a day in November-December, one of the people said. Khalid Al-Falih, the kingdom’s energy minister, told reporters last week that Saudi production will drop in January to 10.2 million barrels a day, down from 11.1 million barrels a day in November.

The oil market has so far largely ignored the production cuts that OPEC and its allies announced in early December, a larger-than-expected 1.2 million barrels a day — or just over 1 percent of global demand. Despite the OPEC+ curbs, benchmark Brent crude has hovered near $60 a barrel. Futures in London jumped 2.2 percent Thursday on the prospect of lower Saudi shipments to the U.S., closing at $61.45. Prices are still down 7.7 percent for the year.

The export curbs, if fully implemented, will affect big U.S. refiners such as Valero Energy Corp., Phillips 66, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., and Marathon Petroleum Corp. forcing them to buy similar crude elsewhere, such as Mexico, Canada or Venezuela. They could also hit Motiva Enterprises LLC, the Saudi-owned company that operates the largest refinery in the U.S.

Saudi Arabia has shipped 860,000 barrels a day of crude to the U.S. on average so far this year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on weekly customs data. Saudi exports into America had run even higher in the second half of the year, with July-to-December shipments rising to an average of 975,000 barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Inventories Scrutinized

Oil trader Andy Hall, who earned the nickname “God” for his prescient calls on pricing before closing his hedge fund after suffering losses last year, says the oil market is heavily influenced by data like the weekly U.S. stockpile figures.

“People look at these things, scrutinize them,” he said of the data on Bloomberg Television Thursday. “The fact is, they only cover the U.S., which is 25 percent of the world oil market. The data available for inventories elsewhere in the world is poor at best.”

Hall now serves on the advisory board of Orbital Insight, a Palo Alto-based provider of analytic platforms to translate satellite and aerial images into useful data, including global oil supplies.

https://www.bloomberg.com/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-13/saudi-arabia-is-said-to-target-u-s-with-sharp-oil-export-cut

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Senate Passes Resolution to Withdraw U.S. Support for War in Yemen

December 13, 2018

Resolution faces limited prospects for passage in House this year

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, was co-sponsor of a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the war in Yemen.
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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate ignored appeals by the Trump administration and passed a resolution on Thursday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, delivering a bipartisan setback for the president’s Middle East policy.

The measure, which passed in a 56-41 vote, pits a Senate upset by the October killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents against the Trump administration, which views Saudi Arabia as a vital strategic ally. Seven Republicans joined with all 49 members of the Democratic caucus to support the resolution. Three Republican senators were absent.

The resolution, sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), would withdraw U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-allied Houthi militants in a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead and pushed millions to the brink of starvation. Among other elements, it would bar U.S. refueling of Saudi planes and scale back the U.S. presence in the region.

While setting up a clash between the Senate and Trump administration, the resolution is unlikely to affect U.S. military policy in the region. House Republican leaders on Wednesday stopped an effort that would have forced a vote on a similar Yemen resolution on the floor.

The CIA’s Evidence Linking Saudi Crown Prince to Khashoggi Killing

The CIA’s Evidence Linking Saudi Crown Prince to Khashoggi Killing
How did the CIA conclude that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? WSJ’s Warren P. Strobel has an exclusive look at the secretive evidence behind the assessment. Photo: Reuters

“It’s important to send a message,” Mr. Sanders told reporters before the vote, adding that it could come up next year. “My very strong expectation is that in January, with Democratic control over the House, it will succeed.”

After the Senate approved the resolution, it also unanimously passed a resolution with broad bipartisan sponsorship that condemned the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and directly connected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the journalist’s death.

“It’s a strong statement of our condemnation of what has happened. To me, that’s important even if it doesn’t affect policy,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.).

The Saudi government has repeatedly said the crown prince had no knowledge of the operation.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Central Intelligence Agency determined in a highly classified assessment that Prince Mohammed sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death.

Senior administration officials urged senators to vote against the Sanders-Lee resolution, arguing that withdrawing U.S. support would only harm the international effort to secure an end to the conflict and hinder efforts to contain Iran.

A Yemeni man sits in front of a destroyed building allegedly targeted by a Saudi-led airstrike, in San'a, Yemen, earlier this month.
A Yemeni man sits in front of a destroyed building allegedly targeted by a Saudi-led airstrike, in San’a, Yemen, earlier this month. PHOTO: YAHYA ARHAB/SHUTTERSTOCK

The congressional action came hours after the warring parties meeting at United Nations-led peace talks in Sweden agreed to a breakthrough deal meant to avert a dangerous military fight over Yemen’s most important port city.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy on Yemen, secured agreement on Thursday from both sides for a peaceful handover of control of the Hodeidah port from Houthi fighters to U.N. forces, a deal designed to avert a risky military fight for the country’s main gateway for humanitarian aid.

The agreement marked a rare moment of diplomatic success in the four-year-old conflict.

Mr. Griffiths is hoping to use the peace talks in Sweden as a launching pad for more substantive talks to resolve the war in Yemen, which the U.N. says is home to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“The progress on the peace negotiations is not coincidental to this vote,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.). “The United States has said through the Senate that our support for the Saudi-led coalition is no longer open-ended. We expect our partners to be partners in peace.”

In addition to the Sanders-Lee resolution, the Senate is also reviewing a separate bill introduced last week by Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Sen. Todd Young (R., Ind.) that would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, sanction people who block humanitarian access in Yemen or aid Houthi rebels there, as well as sanction those responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com and Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-passes-resolution-to-withdraw-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen-11544732490?mod=hp_lead_pos6

Senate votes to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for Khashoggi killing

December 13, 2018

The Senate cast two historic votes Thursday to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen and condemn the Saudi crown prince as responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, delivering clear political rebukes of President Trump’s continued embrace of the kingdom.

The unanimous vote to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for Khashoggi’s murder reflects the extent to which senators of both parties have grown tired of Trump’s continued defense of Mohammed’s denials. It also puts significant pressure on leaders in the House — where the president’s Saudi policy is a much more partisan issue — to allow members to cast a similar vote condemning the crown prince before the end of the year.

Regardless, the two Senate votes Thursday set the stage for broader strategic debates about Saudi policy when Congress regroups next year.


Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) speaks to the media as the Senate prepares to vote on whether to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Just before the Senate voted to condemn Mohammed over Khashoggi’s murder, senators voted 56-to-41 vote to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen by invoking the War Powers Resolution — the first time a chamber of Congress has ever done so.

More importantly, the 56-vote majority — a figure that includes seven Republicans — suggests that Saudi critics will still have a majority next year to challenge Trump on Saudi policy. Both Republicans and Democrats have said they plan to pursue sanctions against Saudi officials involved in Khashoggi’s murder, to stop the transfer of nondefensive weapons until Saudi forces withdraw from Yemen, and other measures to restrain a crown prince whom many lawmakers see as out of control.

“Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will not be part of their military adventurism,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who co-sponsored the Yemen resolution with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “Today, for the first time, we are going to go forward . . . and tell the president of the United States, and any president … that the constitutional responsibility of making war rests in the United States Congress, not the White House.”

The votes came just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed House lawmakers behind closed doors — a meeting from which Republicans and Democrats emerged urging very different responses to Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.

A recent CIA assessment found Mohammed was probably responsible for the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

“They have to be held responsible,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said after the briefing, referring to Mohammed and Saudi King Salman.

But there remain Republicans in the House who defend the crown prince — and those who think that even if he should be called out for his involvement in Khashoggi’s death, the punishment should stop there.

“We recognize killing journalists is absolutely evil and despicable, but to completely realign our interests in the Middle East as a result of this, when for instance the Russians kill journalists . . . Turkey imprisons journalists?” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said. “It’s not a sinless world out there.”

That stands in sharp contrast to the Senate, where several Republicans have been encouraging a broad response to Saudi Arabia over not just Khashoggi’s killing and the Yemen war, but the Kingdom’s blockade in Qatar, its recent detainment of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and a slate of human rights abuses they say have compromised the U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Trump has refused to condemn Mohammed for the killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi national. Pompeo has echoed Trump’s stance in public interviews, and behind closed doors as well, lawmakers said.

“All we heard today was more disgraceful ducking and dodging by the secretary,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), who supports bringing up a War Powers resolution in the House to cut off U.S. support for the Saudis’ Yemen war effort. On Wednesday, the House narrowly voted to block rank-and-file members from demanding a floor vote on any such Yemen resolution, after leaders slipped in a rule change to do so into an unrelated agricultural bill.

House leaders also met with CIA director Gina Haspel on Wednesday to hear the details of Khashoggi’s slaying. But they emerged offering few details about the briefing — or about what step House Democrats would take, once they assume the majority in January, to pursue more punitive measures against Saudi Arabia, beyond holding hearings.

In the Senate, meanwhile, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are making plans to capi­tal­ize on the Yemen resolution vote with further measures next year — including sanctions on Mohammed and the other Saudis implicated in Khashoggi’s killing, and an order to halt all nondefensive weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia until hostilities in Yemen cease.

“The current relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working for America,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday, in comments to reporters about what next steps senators planned to take to address Saudi policy. “I’m never going to let this go until things change in Saudi Arabia.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-prepares-vote-to-curtail-us-support-for-saudi-led-military-effort-in-yemen/2018/12/13/cf934a96-fed7-11e8-862a-b6a6f3ce8199_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1fd88988a2cf

Committee to Protect Journalists: 251 journalists have been jailed around the world in 2018

December 13, 2018

The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 251 journalists have been jailed around the world in 2018.

This number, CPJ says, “[suggests] the authoritarian approach to critical news coverage is more than a temporary spike. China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia imprisoned more journalists than last year, and Turkey remained the world’s worst jailer.”

“The majority of those imprisoned globally—70 percent—are facing anti-state charges such as belonging to or aiding groups deemed by authorities as terrorist organizations,” CPJ also says.

“The number imprisoned on charges of false news rose to 28 globally, compared with nine just two years ago. Egypt jailed the most journalists on false news charges with 19, followed by Cameroon with four, Rwanda with three, and one each in China and Morocco. The increase comes amid heightened global rhetoric about ‘fake news,’ of which US President Donald Trump is the leading voice.”

December 8, 2018

A Myanmar court will hear the appeal later this month of two Reuters journalists jailed for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis, a lawyer said Saturday.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty under a state secrets act in September after exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men during a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state last year.

The pair — who have been held behind bars for nearly a year since their arrest last December — were sentenced to seven years in jail, a verdict that drew widespread condemnation, including from US Vice President Mike Pence. — AFP

Kyaw Soe Oo (left) and Wa Lone after their sentencing in September 2018
Kyaw Soe Oo (left) and Wa Lone have been in prison for one year. AFP photos
December 5, 2018

Turkey is seeking the arrest of two former aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who were dismissed amid the fallout from the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency says a court approved arrest warrants for former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, who are believed to have overseen the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October. Saudi authorities say the agents who killed Khashoggi exceeded their authority. — AP

November 23, 2018

Turkey says President Donald Trump intended to turn a “blind eye” to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder after he said Washington’s ties with Riyadh would not be affected by the incident.

November 22, 2018

US President Donald Trump has doubled down on his partnership with Saudi Arabia, calling it an indispensable ally after a journalist’s grisly murder, but critics say his position ignores Washington’s enormous leverage over Riyadh.

Trump gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, glossing over the Central Intelligence Agency’s reported conclusion that the kingdom’s de facto ruler had authorised the killing. — AFP

November 21, 2018

President Donald Trump says a CIA report into the killing by Saudi agents of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi found “nothing definitive.”

“The CIA looked at it,” he tells journalists at the White House. “They have nothing definitive.” — AFP

November 17, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence has vowed the US would hold the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi to account, following media reports that the CIA had concluded the Saudi Crown Prince was behind the journalist’s killing.

“The United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” Pence says on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Papua New Guinea. — AFP

November 10, 2018

The killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi poured his remains down the drain after dissolving him in acid, a Turkish newspaper reports.

Samples taken from the drains at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul showed traces of acid, pro-government daily Sabah said, without quoting sources.

This led investigators to believe the dead body of the insider-turned-critic of the Riyadh regime was disposed of through the drains as liquid, the paper says. — AFP

November 9, 2018

The fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has expressed “shock and sadness” over reports suggesting that his body may have been dissolved with chemicals. — AP

October 26, 2018

Turkish president says Saudi chief prosecutor will arrive in Turkey on Sunday for investigation of Khashoggi killing. — AP

October 24, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will be briefed Wednesday afternoon by U.S. officials looking into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian agents.

After tomorrow, Trump says, “We’ll know pretty much everything there is to know.”

He calls the killing of Khashoggi “a total fiasco” and says Saudi Arabia never should have thought about killing the dissident Washington Post contributor.

Trump says, “Once they thought about it, everything else they did was bad too.”

Trump is repeating the denials by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he knew of the plot before it was carried out. — AP

October 20, 2018

Amnesty International says the “impartiality” of a Saudi investigation into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi would remain in question after authorities in the kingdom said the journalist died after a fight in the consulate in Istanbul.

Amnesty’s Rawya Rageh says early Saturday the rights group and other organizations have been very clear that what is needed is “an impartial and independent investigation by the U.N. to find out what happened and ensure justice” for Khashoggi.

She said rights groups have been concerned of a “whitewash” in the investigation.

Khashoggi disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Saudi authorities say a fight broke out in the consulate after which Khashoggi died. — AP

October 20, 2018

US President Donald Trump says that he found credible Saudi Arabia’s assertion that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of a fight.

“I do, I do,” Trump says when asked if the Saudis’ explanation was credible, while adding: “It’s early, we haven’t finished our review or investigation.” — AFP

October 19, 2018

President Donald Trump says he now believes journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead and warned of “very severe” consequences should Saudi Arabia be proven responsible. – AFP

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October 18, 2018

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is asking Turkey for audio and video relating to missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “if it exists.” The president on called Saudi Arabia an important ally, noting it is an important customer for U.S. military exports. Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudis’ Istanbul consulate, which Saudi officials have denied. U.S. officials say they are taking Khashoggi’s disappearance seriously, but Trump says he has not sent the FBI, stressing that he was not “American citizen.” In an intervie, Trump warned against a rush to judgment, comparing condemnation of Saudi Arabia to the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. — AP

October 18, 2018

The Washington Post has published a new column by Jamal Khashoggi in which he warns that governments in the Middle East “have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.” The Post published the column Wednesday, more than two weeks after Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say he was killed by Saudi agents. The Saudi government has denied it. Post Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah says she received the column from Khashoggi’s assistant a day after he was reported missing. Khashoggi writes that actions like imprisoning journalists and seizing control of newspapers “no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community.” He says, “Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation followed by silence.” President Donald Trump has suggested that the global community has jumped to conclusions that Saudi Arabia is behind Khashoggi’s disappearance. — AP

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October 18, 2018

The Washington Post plans to publish a new column by missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi in which he discusses the importance of a free press in the Middle East. The WashPost PR Blog says Khashoggi filed the column just before he disappeared. It will be published online Wednesday night in the U.S. Khashoggi was a Post Global Opinions contributor who had written opinion pieces critical of the Saudi crown prince. He was last seen Oct. 2 entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork he needed to get married. Turkish officials have claimed Saudi agents killed and dismembered him. Saudi Arabia has denied the allegations, but provided no evidence he left the consulate. The Post also plans to publish a page dedicated to Khashoggi in its opinions section Thursday.

September 22, 2018

A newspaper in southern Mexico says one of its reporters was shot to death as he left his home to work on a story.

El Heraldo de Chiapas says journalist Mario Gomez was attacked by two men Friday in Yajalon, a town in a jungle area of Chiapas state near the border with Guatemala.

Gomez is at least the 10th news worker to be killed in Mexico this year. — AP   

September 20, 2018

Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot at the house of a Talisay City-based radio broadcaster on Wednesday night, the Bacolod chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines reports.

In a statement, NUJP Bacolod says men on two motorcycles strafed the house of Muews Radio’s Rey Siason in Carmela Valley Homes in Talisay City.

Siason was not in his home at the time as he had stopped along the way home to eat. His daughter, a minor, told him of the incident over the phone, NUJP-Bacolod says.

“We call on the authorities to swiftly investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice,” Marchel Espina, NUJP-Bacolod chair, says in the statement.

In February, Ranilo Azue, also with Muews Radio, was mauled outside the radio station by men believed to be associated with the government.

August 30, 2018

A Mexican television reporter was shot in the resort city of Cancun, the eighth journalist killed this year in a country notoriously dangerous for the media.

Javier Enrique Rodriguez Valladares worked as a cameraman and reporter for Canal 10.

The station says his family had confirmed his death.

News reports in Cancun say he was shot while walking with another man in the central part of the city. Local officials have not released any information about the case. — AFP

July 20, 2018

Broadcaster Joey Llana, 38, was shot dead by an unknown attacker in Daraga, Albay early Friday morning.

Llana, a blocktimer at Legaspi City’s DWZR and known for his hard-hitting commentaries, was shot while he was on the way to work, the Bicol Standard reports.

June 30, 2018

Hundreds of people have gathered in the shadow of the Maryland State House for a candlelight march in memory of five slain newspaper employees.

The mood was somber as Capital Gazette reporter Phil Davis read aloud the names of his five slain co-workers before those gathers began marching through downtown Annapolis.

Some in the crowd carried signs and banners that said “#AnnapolisStrong.”

Melissa Wilson and her husband, Benjamin Wilson, brought their children to the vigil. Melissa Wilson’s employer has offices in the same building as the newspaper and has co-workers who were there when the gunman opened fire. She said many Annapolis residents have a “one degree of separation” connection with at least one of the five paper employees who were fatally shot. — AP

“It’s not something you can ignore when it’s in your backyard,” she said.

Dennis Denora, a Sun.Star reporter and publisher of the Trends and Times community paper, has been shot dead by unidentified killers, according to the Davao chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Denora was killed near the wet market of Panabo City in Davao Del Norte on Thursday afternoon, NUJP Davao says.

The Davao del Norte Press & Radio-TV Club says in a statement that is is angered and saddened by news of the killing.

“His death awakens the anger and pains of journalists who do their job and yet are being judged by the pistol,” the group also says.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/happens/399#LearEVbS0VM6cDvl.99

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Nations ‘face extinction’ without instant climate action

December 13, 2018

Dozens of nations threatened with catastrophe from unchecked climate change warned Thursday they “face extinction” without immediate action to rein in mankind’s emissions, as UN climate talks limped towards their conclusion.

Representatives from nearly 200 nations are locked in negotiations in Poland over how to make good on the promises they made in the landmark 2015 Paris agreement aimed at limiting global temperature rises.

Talks have however hit a wall over a host of disputes ranging from adopting the newest environmental data to how the fight against climate change will be financed in future.

"We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change," Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September

“We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September “We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September AFP

But with Earth already experiencing widespread droughts, flooding and mega-storms made worse as our planet heats up, many nations simply cannot wait for action.

“We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, told delegates at the COP24 summit.

“We represent a number of nations, like my own, that face extinction. Species of all kinds also face existential risk.”

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Marshall Islands

A group of 48 nations representing more than one billion people urged developed countries — responsible for the lion’s share of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions — to pay up to help the worst affected.

“We are in Poland in the name of the children of tomorrow whose interests we must secure, compelled by science and duty,” said Emmanuel De Guzman, from the Philippines Climate Change Commission.

“We find the ambivalence of countries in these negotiations unacceptable. We are discussing here not trivial text or punctuation marks but our very survival.”

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Ocean levels are up in the Philippines

A major sticking point at talks scheduled to wrap up Friday remains how nations use the findings of a landmark UN report released in October.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the need for greenhouse gas emissions to be nearly halved by 2030 and for fossil fuel use to be slashed in order to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.

Four nations — the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait — blocked a proposal for nations to “welcome” the IPCC report as a basis of future climate action.

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Part of the Maldives have already disappeared under water.

– ‘Talking and talking’ –

Delegates in the Polish mining city of Katowice must agree on a rulebook to implement the Paris accord and are encouraged to outline what they plan to do in practice ahead of a stock-taking in 2020.

But talks are dogged by competing interests, and even if the Paris pledges are realised Earth is on the path towards 3C warming — enough to tear at the fabric of society.

“We are not prepared to die,” said Mohamed Nasheed, former Maldives president and a veteran of UN climate summits.

“Perhaps now it’s time to tell ourselves some hard truths. Carbon emissions keep rising, and rising, and rising. And all we seem to be doing is talking and talking and talking. We are not winning the battle.”

AFP

Lebanon’s Hariri hopes for new government by end of year (The election was held on 6 May 2018)

December 13, 2018

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Thursday he hoped a new government would be formed by the end of the year, seven months after a general election.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri speaks during a news conference in Beirut on Nov. 13. (Reuters)

Hariri, who was speaking at Chatham House in London, said negotiations on the formation of the new national unity government were in “the last 100 metres”.

Saudi to make biggest foreign investment in Pakistan’s history

December 13, 2018
Finance Minister Asad Umar says an incoming foreign investment package from Saudi Arabia will be the biggest in Pakistan's history. ─ AFP/File
Finance Minister Asad Umar says an incoming foreign investment package from Saudi Arabia will be the biggest in Pakistan’s history. ─ AFP/File

He added that he keeps getting messages from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman “through other people to hurry up”.

Image result for Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been in talks recently over a bailout package for Islamabad. At a time when various foreign countries and business delegations were pulling out of an investment conference in Saudi after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the event, inviting foreign investors to put their money into projects in Pakistan.

Image result for Mohammed Bin Salman, arab news, pictures

It was the prime minister’s second visit to Saudi Arabia since assuming office, and came as Pakistan was on the lookout for “friendly” nations to court in search of billions of dollar to shore up its deteriorating finances in the face of a balance of payments crisis and talks with the International Monetary Fund over a possible bailout.

‘People keep asking when we will jail thieves’

The finance minister, responding to a question, said that he keeps being asked “When will you jail the thieves? This is the demand of the people of Pakistan,” he added.

Umar said that he had attended a dinner in Karachi on Sunday with members of Pakistan’s business, corporate and executive elite, who had advised him to school Imran Khan “to look forward now and stop harping on about corruption”.

Image result for saudi currency, Riyal, pictures

“But wherever I come across a Pakistani citizen, they ask me, ‘When will you jail the thieves?’,” he said. “This class divide has always existed.”

“It’s a challenge, it’s a double-edged sword. You’ve made a commitment for bringing accountability into society, which demands that if a pickpocket goes to jail for stealing, so does the person who loots the public. It is the leadership’s responsibility to ensure that such a situation is not created, that a negative outlook does not prevail.”

The minister said that the government is committed to the welfare of the people, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said that the government is focusing on economic revival in order to deliver, and that citizens would soon see “visible improvement”.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1451201

‘Hope is very much in the air’: Asad Umar on Pakistan’s economy

December 13, 2018
Finance Minister Asad Umar said both the monetary and fiscal policies were moving in the direction of reforms that are required by the IMF. —BBC News screengrab
Finance Minister Asad Umar said both the monetary and fiscal policies were moving in the direction of reforms that are required by the IMF. —BBC News screengrab

When asked how well the government was doing to keep up with the promises made by Imran Khan before coming into power, especially given the fact that the prime minister had previously remarked that he would be “ashamed to go abroad and ask for money”, Umar responded by saying:

“When the government came into power, it was a well-known fact that Pakistan needed some kind of a bailout…the real challenge, the real decision is — and that’s how we will be judged in the future — did we take the decisions of setting the country’s economy on a path where this is going to be what I have repeatedly said, the last IMF programme if we get into one right now.”

Umar said after he took charge as the finance minister, the government reached out to friendly countries for bilateral financial assistance as well as started a dialogue with the IMF simultaneously because it had no time to first work out a strategy and then start negotiations.

The finance minister said, the government did not wait for the IMF to impose any conditions on Pakistan to do what it was required to do.

“In the very first 100 days we increased electricity prices, gas prices, we put in place a supplementary finance budget, we increased taxes, the policy rate has been increased by the central bank, the currency rate has been adjusted by the central bank,” he explained.

He said both the monetary and fiscal policies were moving in the direction of reforms that are required by the IMF.

“We don’t need IMF’s dictation for us to do that because we believe this is what’s necessary. However, the path for reforms is different in the eyes of IMF, as we stand today, versus what we think is right.”

The finance minister said that this was what the ongoing dialogue with IMF was debating over. “There is no difference of opinion with the IMF in terms of what needs to be done. It is the pace, the sequence, and the extent which is being discussed,” he added.

To a question regarding Pakistan standing with Saudi Arabia and in return acquiring monetary assistance, while the world was shocked and disgusted over the news of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the finance minister said:

“I would be happy to be ashamed of standing up with a country with whom we have had close bilateral ties…maybe the western leaders should be ashamed of themselves talking about democracy, talking about freedoms, and still reaching out in the same Saudi pockets to take billions of dollars of business deals. The leader of the Western world Donald Trump stands up and openly says ‘I am getting too much business from Saudi Arabia for me to worry about what happened to Khashoggi.'”

He clarified Pakistan was just being consistent in the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia which has remained the same regardless of who remains in power. Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia goes back half-a-century and it had got nothing to do with Yemen or Khashoggi, he added.

With respect to the investment in Balochistan under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the minister said the Balochistan government was eager to enhance investment in the province under the CPEC project.

He said Pakistan’s debts payable to China were less than 10 per cent of its total debts while the US was the largest debtor of China with over $1.3 trillion debt owed to it.

To another question, Umar said people of Balochistan were patriotic Pakistanis but there were some sponsored activities by terrorists who were trained and funded from outside Pakistan.

“There are concerted efforts led by India to damage the CPEC. People of Balochistan have elected a government that fully stands by CPEC and have also shown loyalty with Pakistan,” the finance minister said.

To a question regarding tax reforms, he said the government has taken several new initiatives aimed at enhancing the tax base and revenue to facilitate the socio-economic development of the country.

The revenue generation aspect is absolutely central to be able to deal with the horrendous challenges that we have, the finance minister said.

“The health and education situation needs drastic reforms and for that you need revenue, and for that, you need an efficient revenue authority,” Umar said, adding: “We have separated tax policy from tax administration.”

The finance minister said that almost the entire top leadership of the revenue authority has been changed.

He also said that modern technology is being utilised to chase those who were evading taxes and 3,100 of them have already been served notices, whereas a list of over 7,000 top tax evaders has been prepared.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1451028

U.S. Senate Votes To End U.S. Militiry Support for Saudi War in Yemen

December 13, 2018

In a rare break with President Donald Trump, the Senate voted on Wednesday to move ahead with a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in the war in Yemen and lawmakers vowed to push for sanctions against the kingdom in the new year.

Eleven of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Democrats to provide the 60 votes needed to advance the war powers resolution in the Republican-led chamber. The vote paved the way for debate and a vote on U.S. involvement in a conflict that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, many of them young children and left millions more at risk of starvation and death by disease.

Image result for Lindsey Graham, photos

Lindsey Graham

The nearly unprecedented break the 11 Republicans made from Trump was largely symbolic because the House of Representatives is not expected to take the matter up this year. Trump has threatened a veto.

But backers of the resolution said it sent an important message that lawmakers are unhappy with the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, and angry about the lack of a strong U.S. response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers also vowed to keep pushing after the new Congress take office in January for further tough action against Saudi Arabia, including legislation to impose human rights sanctions and opposition to weapons sales.

“If you want to buy our weapons, there are certain things you have to accept. How you use them matters,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told a news conference.

“The individual, the crown prince, is so toxic, so tainted, so flawed, that I can’t ever see myself doing business with Saudi Arabia unless there’s a change there,” said Graham, generally a close Trump ally in the Senate.

Republicans will hold a slightly larger majority in the new Senate, but Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, increasing the chances of sanctions legislation passing.

The Trump administration had urged Congress not to oppose U.S. fueling, targeting help and other support for the Saudi-led coalition as it battles the Houthis, Shi’ite Muslim fighters viewed by Yemen’s neighbors as agents of Iran.

Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the administration’s handling of Khashoggi’s killing.

Pompeo repeated his assertion there was no direct evidence linking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi in Istanbul, despite a CIA assessment it was likely he ordered the killing.

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance, then offered contradictory explanations, including that he was killed in a rogue operation.

TRUMP STANDS BY CROWN PRINCE

Trump condemned the murder but has stood by the Saudi crown prince. “He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump told Reuters on Tuesday in an Oval Office interview.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel briefed leaders of the House of Representatives behind closed doors about the killing. After the classified meeting, House members said they had not heard anything to change their minds about Khashoggi’s death.

Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, likely the next chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee when Democrats take control of the House in January, said he intended to hold hearings starting early next year on all aspects of Saudi behavior and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

“Saudi Arabia’s an important … partner, but I don’t think we can simply look the other way when things happen and talk about business as usual,” Engel said.

Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who held a separate briefing for the entire Senate, are due to discuss Saudi Arabia with the entire House on Thursday.

But several lawmakers have urged that Congress keep the Yemen conflict separate from anger over the killing of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist.

They view Saudi Arabia as an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran, arch-enemy of close U.S. ally Israel. White House officials see Saudi support as a linchpin for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan yet to be unveiled by the Trump administration.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Wednesday in Jerusalem that Saudi Arabia’s role in the Middle East must be taken into account in responding to Khashoggi’s “horrific” fate.

“If Saudi Arabia were to be destabilized, the world would be destabilized,” Netanyahu told foreign reporters, speaking in English.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker

Reuters

Pakistan rejects ‘politically motivated’ listing as violator of religious freedoms by US

December 12, 2018
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo

The Foreign Office (FO) today issued Islamabad’s reaction to the listing, saying: “Pakistan rejects the US State Department’s unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement … Besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions over the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.”

The FO explained measures that the government had taken to safeguard the rights of its citizens, including the use of legal and administrative mechanisms, adding that Islamabad submits compliance reports on its obligations with respect to fundamental freedoms as a party to seven of nine core human rights treaties.


How Pakistan safeguards its minorities, according to FO:

  • Equal treatment of minorities enshrined in Constitution
  • Special seats reserved for minorities in Parliament
  • National Commission on Human Rights addresses concerns over violations of minorities’ rights
  • Successive governments make protection of minorities a priority
  • Judiciary has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worship of minority communities

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities,” the statement asserted.

The FO suggested that honest introspection on Washington’s part would have been a timely move in order to ascertain the causes behind the exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

“Sadly, the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes to the systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement added.

The FO described Pakistan as a “multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.”

Last year, Pompeo had placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — which is used to persuade the targeted nation into introducing reforms suggested in annual US reports for religious freedom.

The designation is based on these annual reports and opens the door for further actions, including US economic sanctions. The US has already imposed strict economic sanctions on Pakistan for its alleged refusal to follow the Trump administration’s Afghan strategy.

The designation also includes al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Isis, Isis-Khorasan, and the Taliban as entities of particular concern.

Blacklisting Pakistan a ‘brazen political tactic’: Mazari

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari expressed surprise at the US administration’s decision to designate Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”, terming it a “brazen political tactic to pressure Pakistan to mitigate US failures in Afghanistan”.

The PTI minister, in her official statement on the development, acknowledged that “there is no doubt that Pakistan’s record on religions freedom is not ideal” but questioned if “the EU’s record” is any better “given the restrictions on churches, the banning of certain dress codes of Mulsims, refusal of entry of certain preachers — the list continues.”

Mazari reminded the US that “in our own neighbourhood we have India where Muslims are being targeted and where the BJP is supporting violence against Muslims ostensibly over beef.”

“The timing of the US move smacks of pure political blackmailing because it comes in the wake of Pakistan opening the Katarpur corridor to ease access for the Sikhs of India,” the statement reads.

The human rights minister said that she would “like to educate the Trump administration” that a “diverse denominations of Christian churches are present in Pakistan”, including Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian and others.

Mazari made it clear that the US attempt to pressurise “Pakistan to do its bidding” will not work, directing their attention to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent remarks that he would net allow the country to be anyone’s “hired gun” anymore.

“It is time for the US to take responsibility for its failures in Afghanistan … and if it is serious about religious freedoms then it needs to examine the record of Modi’s India and and some of its EU allies,” she added.

Pompeo waives CPC sanctions for Pakistan

A US Embassy spokesperson today told DawnNewsTV that Pompeo, along with placing Pakistan on the list, had concurrently issued a waiver of ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) sanctions against Pakistan “as required by ‘the important national interest of the United States’.”

The spokesperson explained that each country given the CPC designation “presents unique challenges, as well as a different potential for change”.

“The measures the United States carries out or waives with respect to a CPC are part of a broader strategy that aims to improve respect for religious freedom in that country,” the spokesperson added.

“In certain instances, the Secretary (Pompeo) has determined that a waiver of the Presidential Action was required in the important national interest of the United States.”