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EU launches a new agenda for the Mediterranean

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Today (9 February) Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood presented a relaunch of the EU’s strategic partnership with the EU’s “Southern Neighbourhood” called “a  new agenda for the Mediterranean”. 

The new agenda includes a dedicated Economic and Investment Plan to spur the long-term socio-economic recovery in the Southern neighbourhood. Under the new EU's Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), up to €7 billion for the period 2021-2027 would be allocated to its implementation, which aims to mobilise up to €30 billion in private and public investment in the region in the next decade.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi said: “With the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood we are presenting a new beginning in our relations with our Southern partners. It shows that Europe wants to contribute directly to a long-term vision of prosperity and stability of the region, especially in the social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In close dialogue with our partners, we have identified a number of priority sectors, from creating growth and jobs, investing in human capital or good governance.

“We consider migration to be a common challenge, where we are ready to work together to fight irregular migration and smugglers together”

“This Communication sends a crucial message about the importance we attach to our Southern Neighbourhood,” said High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, “A strengthened Mediterranean partnership remains a strategic imperative for the European Union. We are determined to work together with our Southern Partners on a new Agenda that will focus on people, especially women and youth, and help them meet their hopes for the future, enjoy their rights and build a peaceful, secure, more democratic, greener, prosperous and inclusive Southern neighbourhood.”

The new agenda focuses on five policy areas:

Human development, good governance and the rule of law: Renew the shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and accountable governance

Resilience, prosperity and digital transition: Support resilient, inclusive, sustainable and connected economies that create opportunities for all, especially women and youth

Peace and security: Provide support to countries to address security challenges and find solutions to ongoing conflicts

Migration and mobility: Jointly address the challenges of forced displacement and irregular migration and facilitate safe and legal pathways for migration and mobility

Green transition: climate resilience, energy, and environment: Taking advantage of the potential of a low-carbon future, protect the region's natural resources and generate green growth.

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Egypt

Egypt-brokered ceasefire takes effect between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza

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A ceasefire brokered by Egypt went into effect Friday (21 May) at 2 am between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. The fighting began on 10 May after Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets at Israel, prompting a swift response from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system managed to shoot down most of the rockets -more than 4,000 rockets fired- although the barrages resulted in the death of a dozen Israelis. Gazan health officials report 232 killed, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Israel says most of them were terrorists. According to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the security cabinet “unanimously accepted the recommendation of all of the security officials, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, the head of the ISA, the head of the Mossad and the head of the National Security Council to accept the Egyptian initiative for a mutual ceasefire without pre-conditions” to take effect “at a time to be determined.” It added that “the political leadership emphasizes that it is the reality on the ground that will determine the future of the operation.”

Israeli security officials reportedly told cabinet ministers that Hamas’s military capabilities had been badly damaged, including drones, anti-tank units, tunnels and operations on the ground for intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare. While Hamas still has a stockpile of rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv, its launchers were damaged as well. Israel’s aerial and artillery campaign focused on targeting Hamas’s extensive terror network, including tunnels for moving fighters and munitions. Israel has also sought to target the organization’s leadership and fighters.

Nearly ten days into Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas and the launch of approximately 3,750 rockets and missiles into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Israel’s achievements are unprecedented compared to previous rounds of fighting in Gaza, According to analysts and intelligence source, , Israel’s achievements in Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas are unprecedented compared to previous rounds of fighting in Gaza, Specifically, the destruction of the Gaza underground tunnel system, so called “metro”, deprives Hamas of a critical strategic capability, they say. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have suffered failures. For example, many rockets fired at Israel fell short, landing in Gaza, resulting in Palestinian casualties, including children.

Prior to the hostilities, Israel invested in infrastructure in electricity, health and sewage infrastructure to allow for normalcy in Gaza. Despite this, irrationally, Hamas initiated an attack on Israel. Palestinians celebrated in Gaza and the West Bank with demonstrations and fireworks after the ceasefire came into force, claiming a “victory for the resistance”, Israel’s Kan reported. US President Joe Biden praised the ceasefire as a “genuine opportunity to make progress”. He said the US would help replenish the Iron Dome systems and, through international organizations, assist the Palestinians in reconstructing damaged buildings and providing humanitarian assistance.

He vowed to work through the Palestinian Authority to ensure it does not go to aiding Hamas replenish its arsenal of rockets. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East “in the coming days”, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. He added: “We will meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed the announced ceasefire. "We are appalled and regret the loss of life over these past 11 days. As the EU has consistently reiterated, the situation in the Gaza Strip has long been unsustainable. Only a political solution will bring sustainable peace and end once for all the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution now remains of utmost importance. The EU is ready to fully support Israeli and Palestinian authorities in these efforts," he said.

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Investigation begins into how ship got stuck on Suez Canal

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Formal investigations into how the giant container ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, shutting down shipping in the major global waterway for almost a week, begin on Wednesday, a canal official told Reuters, writes Yusri Mohamed.

Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie has suggested weather conditions, including high winds, and human error could have played a role in the grounding on 23 March.

The investigation will include examining the seaworthiness of the ship and its captain’s actions to help determine the causes, Rabie advisor Captain Sayed Sheasha told Reuters.

The Ever Given’s captain was committed to fully complying with the probe, which will start on Wednesday, Sheasha said.

The six-day blockage threw global supply chains into disarray after the 400-metre-long (430-yard) ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

The incident is expected to give rise to flurry of insurance claims, with Lloyd’s of London expecting a “large loss”, possibly amounting to $100 million or more, according to its chairman.

The Japanese owner of the Ever Given said it had not received any claims or lawsuits over the blockage.

Investigators had already boarded the ship, which is in a lake that separates two sections of the canal, on Tuesday, a canal source and a shipping agent said.

The SCA has scheduled accelerated shipping convoys to clear a backlog of more than 400 ships that built up at either end of the canal and along its course after the Ever Given became stranded.

It has said it hopes the queues can be cleared by the end of the week.

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Huge ship blocking Suez Canal partially refloated, more work needed

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A massive container ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal for nearly a week has been partially refloated, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Monday (29 March), raising hopes the busy waterway will soon be reopened for a huge backlog of ships, write Yusri Mohamed, Nadine Awadalla and Aidan Lewis.

Huge ship partially refloated, more work needed

The 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday (23 March), halting shipping traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

After further dredging and excavation over the weekend, rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage worked to free the ship using tug boats in the early hours of Monday, two marine and shipping sources said.

The SCA said Ever Given has been straightened in the canal and further tugging operations would resume once the tide rises later on Monday. Marine traffic through the canal will resume once the ship is directed to the lakes area, a wider section of the canal, it added.

Graphic: Ever Given afloat again, being secured by authorities

Reuters Graphic

BIG BACKLOG

At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said.

“It is very possible that by today noon shipping activity would resume, god willing,” Rabie told Egyptian state television on Monday. “We will not waste one second.”

Completing refloat of Suez Canal ship won't be easy: Boskalis CEOVideo appears to show Ever Given's stern swung towards canal bank: social media

The SCA has said it can accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given is freed.

“We have movement, which is good news. But I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake now,” Peter Berdowski, the CEO of Smit Salvage’s parent company Boskalis, told Dutch public radio.

High pressure water would be injected under the bow of the ship to remove sand and clay but if that was unsuccessful, containers might have to be removed from the ship, which would cause a considerable delay, he said.

A source involved in the salvage operation told Reuters on Monday they were re-ballasting the ship and expect that with a favorable tide, cargo will not need to be removed.

“The good news is she’s moved. But she is still stuck in the mud. A second large anchor-handling tug will arrive this morning. Hopefully they will be able to pull her free.”

The ship’s technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said operations to ensure the vessel is completely refloated were still ongoing.

Graphic: Ever Given contained vessel refloated, but massive ship jam remains at Suez Canal -

Reuters Graphic

CHEERS ERUPT, CRUDE PRICES FALL

Video posted on social media appeared to show the ship had swung around, opening space in the canal. Other footage, which could not be immediately verified by Reuters, included cheering and ships’ horns sounding in celebration.

Crude oil prices fell after news of progress in refloating the ship, with Brent crude down by $1 per barrel to $63.67. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp - the vessel’s lessor - rose 3.3%.

About 15% of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is a key source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The current stoppage is costing the canal $14-$15 million a day.Slideshow ( 3 images )

Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.

Some shippers rerouted their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.

A note from A.P. Moeller Maersk seen by Reuters said it had so far redirected 15 vessels around the Cape after calculating that the journey would be equal to the current delay of sailing to Suez and queuing.

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