Turkey To Facilitate Talks To Establish A Safe Corridor For Grain Exports Amid Russia-Ukraine War
Plus: Ultra-nationalist Jews storm Al-Aqsa, Israel signs historic trade deal with UA, NFTs get Egyptian women out of debtor's prison, and much more.
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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkey facilitating talks to establish a safe corridor for grain exports
Turkey is in talks with Russia to establish a safe corridor for blocked Ukraine grain exports via Istanbul, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, May 31.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is set to meet his Turkish counterpart next week, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan made progress on the grain-shipment issue on Monday, May 30.
Russia's offensive in Ukraine and western sanctions have disrupted supplies of wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fuelling concerns about the risk of shortages and hunger around the world.
About 30 percent of the global wheat supply is produced in Russia and Ukraine.
Russian control of Ukrainian ports has blocked dozens of container ships and choked off exports of wheat, sunflower oil, and other products.
Mines placed by both warring sides in the Black Sea have also hindered navigation.
Turkey would play a role in mine removal and ensuring that Russian navy ships would allow the safe passage of freighters out of Ukraine.
Ultra-nationalist Jews storm Al-Aqsa ahead of the Israeli flag march
Hundreds of far-right Jewish nationalists entered Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday, May 29, ahead of a provocative flag march that could re-ignite confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of a small ultranationalist opposition party in the Knesset, entered the compound early on Sunday, May 29, along with dozens of supporters.
Israelis prevented Palestinian journalists and photographers from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and threatened them with arrest.
Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at Palestinian protesters in the compound to disperse them.
According to Israeli police, at least 18 Palestinians were arrested from within occupied East Jerusalem's Old City.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel's capture of occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized.
Palestinians, who have been forced to shutter their businesses and stay indoors, view the march as a blatant provocation as Jewish settlers flaunt their sovereignty over the occupied territory.
Israel signs historic trade deal with UAE
Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed on Tuesday, May 31, a multi-billion dollar free trade agreement, the latest product of the two countries' historic normalization deal in 2020 known as the Abraham Accords.
With a stated target of increasing annual bilateral trade to more than $10 billion over the next five years, the trade agreement is the largest ever between Israel and any Arab country. According to Israel's economy minister, it covers 96 percent of the trade between the two Middle Eastern countries, which reached $885 million last year.
Nabih Berri re-elected again as Lebanon house speaker
Nabih Berri was re-elected as Lebanon's Speaker of the House on Tuesday, May 31, marking the lawmaker's seventh consecutive term since he first took the job 30 years ago.
Berri, the 84-year-old leader of the Shia-dominated Amal Movement, was elected by 65 votes, the minimum amount needed. In 2018, he received an absolute majority with 98 votes.
Read more on The New Arab and my pre-election analysis on the same online publication.
Iran building collapse sparks anti-government protests
Iranian protesters chanting anti-government slogans took to the streets of several cities, including southwestern Abadan, where a building collapse blamed on widespread corruption killed at least 37 people.
Demonstrators vented their anger at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chanting "Death to Khamenei" late on Thursday, May 26, as they stormed the gate of Abadan.
Syrian rebels say they are ready to back Turkish intervention in northern Syria
On Sunday, May 29, Syrian rebels said they would be ready to join Turkish troops in a possible new offensive threatened by Turkey against Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria to seize back towns and villages held by Kurdish-led forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week Ankara would soon launch new military operations along its southern borders to create safe zones 30 km (20 miles) deep to combat what he characterized as terrorist threats from these regions.
Turkey has conducted three incursions into northern Syria since 2016, seizing hundreds of kilometers of land and pushing some 30 km deep into the country in operations targeting mainly the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
NFTs get Egyptian women out of debtor's prison
The Children of Female Prisoners Association (CFPA), an Egyptian organization helping poor female debtors, has partnered with the creative collective Horizon FCB Dubai to raise funding and awareness outside the country about the plight of these women in an innovative way: through non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The Emirati collective is asking international artists to create NFTs to sell for the amount it will cost to clear a woman's debt and get her out of jail. The organizations also hope that the project will attract notice outside Egypt and help to accelerate legal change in the country.
Iran's enriched uranium stockpile 18 times over 2015 deal limit, UN nuclear watchdog says
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Monday, May 30, that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium had grown to more than 18 times the limit laid down in Tehran's 2015 deal with world powers.
Its latest report on Iran's nuclear program says that it "estimated that, as of May 15, 2022, Iran's total enriched stockpile was 3,809.3 kilograms."
The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 300 kg (660 pounds) of a specific compound, the equivalent of 202.8 kilograms of uranium.
The report also says that Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment to levels higher than the 3.67 percent limit in the deal.
Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is peaceful.
The report said Iran explained that the higher levels are due to an "act of sabotage by a third party to contaminate" the sites. However, no proof was provided to corroborate this.
The latest reports come as talks to revive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers remain deadlocked after stalling in March.
Iraq makes it illegal to attempt normalizing ties with Israel
Iraq's parliament approved a law on Thursday, May 26, that will ban normalizing relations with Israel at a time when several Arab countries have established formal ties.
Iraq has never recognized the state of Israel since its establishment in 1948, and Iraqi citizens and companies cannot visit Israel. However, the new law goes further, explicitly criminalizing any attempts to normalize relations with Israel.
Some Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are forging ties with Israel against a backdrop of shared concerns about Iran's threat to the region.
Saudi Arabia ready to pump more oil if Russian output sinks under ban
Saudi Arabia has indicated to western allies that it is prepared to raise oil production should Russia's output fall substantially under the weight of sanctions.
There have been tensions between the US and the Saudi leadership. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly rejected calls from the White House and the G7 to accelerate production increases immediately. But several visits in recent weeks from a high-level US delegation have helped improve the relationship, according to a person familiar with the diplomacy.
Meanwhile, The European Union has agreed to an embargo on most Russian oil imports. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, said the ban "will effectively cut around 90 percent of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year".
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading Inshallah. Share this article and subscribe to be up to date about news from the Middle East every week. It's free.
My name is Dario Sabaghi, a freelance journalist. I am interested in human rights and international news focusing on the MENA region.
Check out my work at dariosabaghi.com.
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