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Trump summons #Qatar Emir to explain destabilising actions



Last Friday, the White House announced that Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, will visit the United States next month. Whilst Doha will undoubtedly talk up the visit, it will likely prove an uncomfortable meeting for the Gulf monarch, with regional sources privately admitting that the Emir can expect a telling off from the US Commander in Chief fed up with the country’s actions following the meeting of Arab leaders in Mecca and continued regional intransigence.

Qatar’s actions are seen by the US administration as contradicting American attempts to reign in an increasingly hostile and aggressive Iran. Following the meeting in Mecca, Qatar made little effort to join other Gulf states in finding a consensus on their approach to Iran. The greatest frustration was with the Qatari decision to not engage in earnest with the meeting itself, instead choosing to air their grievances via the media afterwards. To many it represented their lack of willingness to work in partnership with their neighbours.

Recent attacks on the UAE’s Fujiairah Port and a drone strike on Saudi Aramco pipelines bore have increased regional tensions. At the United Nations last week, Norway, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the three nations whose ships were affected by the Fujairah incident, presented evidence strongly suggesting a state actor was behind the incidents, with many seeing Tehran’s destructive hand as responsible.

In the case of the Aramco attack, the link to Iran was clearer, with their Yemeni proxy, the Houthi rebels, gleefully claiming responsibility. Both regional and international actors have expressed widespread concerns about Iranian destabilisation efforts, triggered by their suspected involvement in these latest attacks. Qatar, however, is a notable exception, seemingly little troubled by the destructive impact the Ayatollah and his IRGC aggressors continue to seek.

Doha has gone to great lengths in recent years to cosy up to Iran. This comes despite the clear threat posed to their neighbours, the efforts to foment unrest in otherwise stable nations and its open hostility to the more tolerant, open approach adopted by the other Gulf states. In this respect, Qatar is seen to stand apart from the rest of the GCC in not only failing to oppose Iranian hostility, but in some cases, tacitly encouraging it.

Doha’s documented links to extremists and terrorist organisations, who also enjoy close relationships with Iran, is perhaps the best example of this. In 2015, for example, Qatar ended up disbursing more than $1bn in ransom funds to terrorist organisations, with a considerable portion ending up in the hands of known Iranian proxies, such as Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is believed to have orchestrated hundreds of attacks on American soldiers in recent years. Additionally, Al-Jazeera Arabic, the mouthpiece of the Qatari regime, has regularly hosted extremist voices supportive of Iranian belligerence.

It is not surprising that President Trump and America’s patience has worn thin. Whereas Washington has been able to rely on its other Gulf allies for support in pressuring Tehran to back down, it will be angered that Qatar has not supported these efforts. It seems that anger will now be channelled directly at the Emir, in what many will hope sees him reconsider Doha’s continued support for further Middle East unrest.




Balkans countries take united stand against anti-Semitism at historic conference



Parliamentary representatives and officials from Balkans countries have pledged to stand together against anti-Semitism at the first ever Balkans Forum Against Anti-Semitism. The landmark event comes just days after Albania’s parliament’s unanimously endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

Participants in the event, organized by the parliament of the Republic of Albania, in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and the Jewish Agency for Israel, included Michael R. Pompeo (United States Secretary of State), David Maria Sassoli (President of the European Parliament), Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, Miguel Ángel Moratinos (High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations), Gramoz Ruçi, (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Albania), Vjosa Osmani (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo), Talat Xhaferi (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia), Aleksa Becic (President of Parliament, Montenegro), Yariv Levin (Speaker of Parliament of the State of Israel), Elan Carr (United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism), human rights icon Natan Sharansky and Robert Singer (Senior Advisor, Combat Anti-Semitism Movement).

Participants discussed how Balkans countries can work together to eradicate anti-Semitism, creating better, more tolerant societies for future generations and the important role that the IHRA definition can play in this process.

United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo told the forum: “We are here because anti-Semitism is sadly still with us. We share the responsibility of those before us to crush it. We can do it. First, we must define this threat and understand it clearly.” He called on other countries and companies to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted by the US Federal government following President Trump’s Executive Order last December. Pompeo added, “The task of combating anti-Semitism is pressing, especially as we have seen a disturbing uptick during the pandemic.”

European Parliament President David Maria Sassoli said: “The shameful and sad truth is: In 2020, 75 years after the end of World War II, many Jewish people all over Europe cannot live a life free of worry” adding “This shows that we must never rest, that we must never stop, that we must never allow ourselves to think that the story we believed was over 75 years ago cannot repeat itself.”

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said: “We need to continue to fight every form of anti-Semitism, not only as a threat to Jews and Israel, but as a threat to our own civilization and values, on which our future is being built.” Prime Minister Rama also took aim at the dangers of online anti-Semitism, saying “Let us not forget that the very first pogroms originated from the ‘fake news’ and slanders of the day against the actions of Jews. This is where it all originated. The new form of spreading this in the digital world should worry us. There is a lot of hope in digital society for progress, but this must not turn into a nightmare spiraling out of control.”

Gramoz Ruçi, speaker of parliament of the Republic of Albania, said: “All nations that aspire towards democracy, pluralism, diversity and tolerance should join the front against ant-Semitism.”

Aleksa Becic, president of parliament, Montenegro, voiced concern at the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe and across the world: “It is the obligation of our generation and of generations to come to never again allow this to happen. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in the modern world.”

Vjosa Osmani, speaker of parliament of the Republic of Kosovo, said: "This forum is a great opportunity to have the space to understand where we stand and how we can come together to respond responsibly to the rising levels of anti-Semitism and bigotry around the world." She added, "The role of parliaments in this is indisputable, but so is the role of every community."

Talat Xhaferi, speaker of parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia, said: “Holocaust education is one of the key things that individuals should acquire to raise awareness in order to create values of respect for difference and to build an equal society.” He added: “Even the smallest contribution to eradicating this phenomenon [anti-Semitism] is a contribution towards building more tolerant societies.”

Yariv Levin, speaker of parliament of the State of Israel, said: “Anti-Semitism happens not only in the darkest corners of the internet but also in the open. We must ask how we got here and how we can combat it. We need to use all the tools available, legislation, education to stop hate speech and anti-Semitism. We must urge adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. I hope that the message of Albania’s vote will inspire other parliaments in the Balkans and around the world.”

Robert Singer, chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact, chairman of World ORT and senior adviser to the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement said: “This is an extraordinary event. It is the first time that a European parliament has led such an initiative alongside a global movement fighting anti-Semitism. Successful cooperation has brought about this unique and groundbreaking event, with the participation of senior officials from Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro, led by the US Secretary of State, European Parliament President, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and others. The fact that Albania, as a country with a Muslim-majority population, is hosting the conference is amazing. I call on other countries to follow suit and fight anti-Semitism.”

Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said: “I welcome this important Balkans Forum and in particular the Prime Minister of Albania and the country’s leadership for the significant step it has taken in the fight against anti-Semitism. The adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the most important and effective tool currently in place in the international arena to take practical action against the scourge of anti-Semitism. I call on countries around the world to adopt the same just decision and join the moral struggle against hatred and racism.”

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms. Since its launching in February 2019, 280 organizations and 290,000 individuals have joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement by signing the campaign’s pledge. The CAM Pledge draws upon the IHRA international definition of anti- Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.

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Caribbean Export and WIRSPA partner on the Absolutely Caribbean Virtual Expo



Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) are working together to support increased trade of rum and spirits between the Caribbean and Europe with the Absolutely Caribbean Virtual Expo, scheduled for 17-18 November.

The Absolutely Caribbean Virtual Expo will host some 50 exhibitors from across the Caribbean that manufacture products in the areas of sauces and condiments, natural products and alcoholic beverages. “The rum and spirits sectors are an important sector for trade in CARIFORUM and we have seen exports to the European Union grow by nearly 27% between 2017-2019” informed Dr. Damie Sinanan, Manager of Competitiveness and Export Promotion at Caribbean Export.

Despite a contraction in sales in domestic markets and internationally due to the restrictions around lockdowns and social gatherings, Caribbean rum producers report continued interest in their premium offerings and are working to ensure that they capitalize on this interest once markets return to normalcy. Brands from Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti and Suriname will participate.

Rhum Barbancourt Managing Director Delphine Gardere (pictured) says they’re pleased to be participating: “The coronavirus has kept us from implementing our growth plans in this important market – we think the virtual exhibition will allow us to reach new markets and provide tangible export results”.

Vaughn Renwick, CEO of WIRSPA said: “This virtual trade show is designed to benefit smaller brands looking to extend their reach in export markets - key to its success is attracting solid importers, distributors and wholesalers to be part of the show. We think Caribbean Export has done a great job on this score.”

He added: “We’re pleased to partner with Caribbean Export on this innovative venture - presenting a virtual exhibition is new for many of us and it is great to see Caribbean Export leading the way.”

The Absolutely Caribbean Virtual Expo, provides an opportune time for Caribbean producers to showcase what they have to bring to the global market and is a follow-up to the 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum held, in Frankfurt Germany last year which saw some 70 industry buyers and investors conduct over 150 business to business meetings.

The partnership with WIRSPA aims to support the participation of regional producers and leverage their knowledge and expertise in the international market. WIRSPA is one of the oldest private sector trade associations in the Caribbean. It represents rum producers in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago. #END# About Caribbean Export

Caribbean Export is a regional export development and trade and investment promotion organization of the Forum of Caribbean States (CARIFORUM) currently executing the Regional Private Sector Programme (RPSDP) funded by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Caribbean Export’s mission is to increase the competitiveness of Caribbean countries by providing quality export development and trade and investment promotion services through effective programme execution and strategic alliances.

More information about Caribbean Export. 

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Investment, connectivity and co-operation: Why we need more EU-African co-operation in agriculture



In recent months, the European Union has demonstrated its willingness to promote and support agricultural businesses in Africa, under European Commission’s Africa-EU Partnership. The Partnership, which stresses EU-African co-operation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to promote sustainability and biodiversity and have championed promoting public-private relationships across the continent, writes African Green Resources Chairman Zuneid Yousuf.

Though these commitments apply to the entire continent, I would like to focus on how increased African-EU co-operation has helped Zambia, my country. Last month, European Union Ambassador to Zambia Jacek Jankowski announced ENTERPRISE Zambia Challenge Fund (EZCF), an EU-backed initiative that will award grants to agribusiness operators in Zambia. The plan is worth an overall total of €25.9 million and has already launched its first call for proposals. In a time where Zambia, my country, is battling serious economic challenges this is a much-needed opportunity for the African agribusiness industry. More recently, just last week, the EU and Zambia agreed to two financing agreements that hope to boost investments in the country under the Economic Government Support Programme and the Zambia Energy Efficiency Sustainable Transformation Programme.

Europe’s collaboration and commitment to promoting African agriculture is not new. Our European partners have long been invested in promoting and helping African agribusiness realise their full potential and empower the sector. In June of this year, the African and European Unions launched a joint agri-food platform, which aims to link African and European private sectors to promote sustainable and meaningful investment.

The platform was launched off the back of the ‘Africa-Europe alliance for sustainable investment and jobs’ which was part of European Commission President’s Jean Claude Junker’s 2018 state of the Union address, where he called for a new “Africa-Europe alliance” and demonstrated that Africa is at the heart of the Union’s external relations.

The Zambian, and arguably the African agricultural environment, is dominated largely by small-to-medium sized farms that need both financial and institutional support to navigate these challenges. In addition, there is a lack of connectivity and interconnectedness within the sector, preventing farmers to connect with each other and realise their full potential through cooperation.

What makes EZCF unique among European agribusiness initiatives in Africa, however, is its specific focus on Zambia and empowering Zambian farmers. Over the past few years, the Zambian farming industry has grappled with droughts, lack of reliable infrastructure and unemployment. In fact, throughout 2019, it is estimated that a severe drought in Zambia led to 2.3 million people requiring emergency food assistance.

Therefore, a solely Zambia-focused initiative, backed by the European Union and aligned with promoting increased connectedness and investment in agriculture, not only reinforces Europe’s strong connection with Zambia, but will also bring some much-needed support and opportunity for the sector. This will undoubtedly allow our local farmers to unlock and leverage a wide range of financial resources.

More importantly, the EZCF is not operating alone. Alongside international initiatives, Zambia is already home to several impressive and important agribusiness companies that are working to empower and provide farmers with access to funding and capital markets.

One of these is African Green Resources (AGR) a world-class agribusiness company of which I am proud to be the chairman. At AGR, the focus is to promote value addition at every level of the farming value chain, as well as look for sustainable strategies for farmers to maximise their yields. For example, in March this year, AGR teamed up with several commercial farmers and multilateral agencies to develop a private sector financed irrigation scheme and dam and off grid solar supply which will support over 2,400 horticultural farmers, and expand grain production and new fruit plantations in the Mkushi farming block in Central Zambia. Over the next few years, our focus will be to continue promoting sustainability and the implementation of similar initiatives, and we are ready to invest alongside other agribusiness companies that seek to expand, modernise or diversify their operations.

Though it appears that the agricultural sector in Zambia may be facing challenges in the years to come, there are some very important milestones and reasons for optimism and opportunity. Increased cooperation with the European Union and European partners is an important way of capitalizing on opportunity and ensuring that we are all doing as much as we can to help small and medium sized farmers across the country.

Promoting increased interconnectedness within the private sector will help ensure that small farmers, the backbone of our national agricultural industry, are supported and empowered to collaborate, and share their resources with larger markets. I believe that both European and local agribusiness companies are heading in the right direction by looking into ways of promoting agribusiness, and I hope that together, we can all sustainably promote these goals on the regional and international stage.

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