Japan will continue supporting Lebanon: Hayashi – Arab News
TOKYO: Japan will continue to offer assistance that will contribute to the welfare of the people in Lebanon, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa said at a press conference on Friday. 
“This is because we consider that peace and stability in Lebanon is extremely important for the Middle East as a whole,” he said in response to a question regarding Japan’s possible contribution to the French-Saudi Fund in support of Lebanon. 
“We are aware of the press reports that said the UAE will join,” Hayashi said.
“At this juncture, the details of the fund have not been made clear,” he continued.
With this in mind, he stated that it’s not yet the right time to make any concrete decisions on the matter. 
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank said on Friday it aimed to boost the Lebanese pound’s value by easing restrictions on dollar purchases after the currency hit a record low, fueling fresh protests about rising prices and a collapsing economy.
The pound, which has lost more than 90 percent of its value since Lebanon’s financial crisis erupted in 2019, dropped beyond 33,000 to the dollar, though it had clawed back some ground to around 27,200 by Friday.
Before the crisis, which has driven a significant proportion of residents into poverty, it traded at 1,500 to the dollar.
In response to the sharp decline, the central bank said it was removing a ceiling related to bank purchases of dollars using the official Sayrafa exchange rate platform.
“This initiative aims at curbing the volatility of the exchange market and aims at strengthening the pound’s value against the dollar,” bank Governor Riad Salameh told Reuters,
.”..The operation consists of decreasing the amount of bank notes in Lebanese pounds.”
Salameh also said there had been “signs of manipulation of the prices of the dollar to the pound,” without giving details.
One analyst has described the central bank move as like taking “a Panadol pill to treat a major crisis,” saying the government needed a program of reforms to tackle deep economic problems.
Commercial banks have all but shut their doors to depositors amid a liquidity crunch caused by the economy crumbling under a mountain of state debt.
A new cabinet was formed in September, promising to start fixing the economy and restart talks with the International Monetary Fund, but ministers have not met for three months because of dispute over the conduct of an investigation into a huge explosion in Beirut port in 2020.
Salameh is facing multiple domestic and international investigations into his conduct at the head of the central bank, which he has led for three decades. He denies any wrongdoing.
NEW YORK: The UN Security Council unanimously condemned the Houthi seizure and detention of UAE-flagged vessel Rwabee on Friday.
The cargo ship was seized by the militia in an Iranian-backed and planned operation from the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen said.
In a statement drafted by the UK, Security Council members demanded the immediate release of the vessel and its crew, urging the Houthis to ensure the crew’s wellbeing and safety until their release.
They also called for a quick resolution to the issue and underscored “the importance of freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, in line with international law.”
The council memebers also urged all parties to “stop the escalation of the situation in Yemen,” and to cooperate constructively with the UN Special Envoy toward the resumption of talks to resolve the crisis.
LONDON: UN human rights experts have expressed dismay at a decision by Iran’s judiciary to press forward with the execution of a juvenile offender, despite repeated calls to halt the killing.
Hossein Shahbazi was 17 years old when he was arrested for the fatal stabbing of a classmate during a brawl.
The court that sentenced him relied in part on confessions that the UN experts claimed were obtained through torture and ill-treatment.
Shahbazi, 20, was also denied access to a lawyer and his family throughout the 11-day interrogation.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and permanently halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi and annul his death sentence, in line with international human rights law,” said the experts, who are affiliated to the UN but do not work directly for the organization.
In a statement on Monday, the experts, including Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, said: “We underline again that reconciliation efforts do not replace the government’s obligation to prohibit such executions.
“International law unequivocally forbids the imposition of the death penalty on persons below 18 years of age. Iran must observe its international obligations by imposing de jure and de facto moratorium on the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all.”
According to the experts, another juvenile offender was executed in November.
More than 85 people who committed crimes while children are currently on death row in Iran.
ANKARA: Special envoys from Turkey and Armenia held their first round of talks in Moscow on Friday in the first steps towards normalization of diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries.
Armenia will hope that the talks will help it break its regional isolation, while for Turkey they are part of its wider efforts to rebuild trust with its neighbors and reduce the potential risk of conflict.
The first face-to-face meeting between the two countries since 2009 lasted for 90 minutes. Armenia’s special envoy is 31-year-old deputy parliamentary speaker Ruben Rubinyan. Turkey’s representative is its former ambassador to the US Serdar Kilic, a 64-year-old senior diplomat.
The move was welcomed by both the European Union and the US.
According to an official statement from the Turkish side, the special envoys “conducted (talks) in a positive and constructive atmosphere” and “exchanged their preliminary views regarding the normalization process through dialogue between Turkey and Armenia.
“(Both) parties agreed to continue negotiations without preconditions aiming at full normalization. The date and venue of their second meeting will be decided in due time through diplomatic channels,” the statement continued.
Although experts hailed the beginning of talks between the two countries as a promising development, they also remained cautious and acknowledged that there will be no easy breakthrough in the frosty relationship.
Nigar Goksel, Turkey director of the International Crisis Group, told Arab News: “The Turkey-Armenia track and the Armenia-Azerbaijan track are referred to as ‘mutually reinforcing’ by Ankara, which reflects a hope that progress on one will positively feed into the other.
“Azerbaijan has regained the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, which was the main issue holding back Turkey-Armenia normalization since 1993,” she continued. “However, Azerbaijan wants to see progress towards the opening of a new transit route to Nakhchivan through Armenian territory. The extent to which Azerbaijan’s expectations will bleed into Turkish-Armenian negotiations has yet to be seen.”
Both Baku and Ankara are keen to reopen a land link connecting Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhchivan and on to Turkey through Armenia’s Syunik province.
Azerbaijan has also prioritized projects in the Zangezur corridor that will comprise roads and railways across territories in Syunik.
The renovation of rail connections between Armenia and Turkey is expected to bring economic benefits as they could be used by traders from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Iran.
Because of its decades-long isolation, Armenia has been excluded from the key oil and gas pipelines, as well as rail networks, in the South Caucasus.
“Heading into the talks, stakes were high,” Samuel Ramani, a tutor of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford, told Arab News.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993. The two countries reached an agreement in 2009 to establish formal relations, but the peace accord — which was opposed by Azerbaijan — was never ratified.
Ankara announced that it is coordinating the current rapprochement process with its key regional ally Baku, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Armenia should establish good ties with Azerbaijan if it expects results from the current reconciliation.
“Turkey and Armenia have experienced disruptions to their bilateral relationship since 2009 and a cessation of all but indirect bilateral trade,” Ramani said.
However, Ramani warned, the talks are unlikely to lead to a short-term breakthrough.
“The 1915 massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire — considered as genocide by Armenia — continues to hang over the bilateral relationship, as do ongoing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which (tend to) flare up but stop short of open conflict. What these talks might provide is a foundation for future, more comprehensive, discussions,” he said.
Yerevan expects that the talks will lead to the consolidation of diplomatic relations, the opening of land borders that have been closed since 1993, and the mutual appointment of ambassadors.
The opening of borders will help the landlocked Armenian economy increase its trade with Turkey, which was valued at $3.8 million in 2021, while Turkish goods will then have a good opportunity with compete with more-expensive Russian imports in Armenia. Armenia lifted its embargo on Turkish imports in December.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently floated the possibility of launching charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan, which are expected to begin in early February.
BEIRUT: One of Lebanon’s most famous kayakers and rafters, and founder of the country’s Canoe-Kayak Federation, was found dead on Wednesday after an alleged burglary of his house in the south of the country.
The body of Ali Mohammed Awada, who hails from the southern village of Khiyam, was discovered in a pool of blood at his home near Al-Kharadly Bridge in a suspected case of a bungled burglary.
Awada was also founder of the local Al-Kharadly Canoe-Kayak and Rafting Club, which was headquartered at his home in the town, close to one of Lebanon’s longest rivers — the Litani River — where his body was found.
Forensic examiner Ali Deeb told Arab News that the victim had been stabbed in the left side of his chest, which caused bleeding in his lungs and was the cause of death.
Deeb, who examined the crime scene, said: “He was obviously standing at the time he was stabbed since the blood dripped down to the floor.”
He said Awada must have tried to defend himself because his body had bruising.
According to the forensic examiner, the alleged burglars had brought with them an iron saw in an attempt to open Awada’s safe.
The time of death was estimated to be between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Jan. 12.
An officer at the Internal Security Forces told Arab News that investigations were ongoing to identify the culprits responsible for the killing.
The founder and former secretary-general of the Lebanese Canoe-Kayak Federation, Awada had previously lived in Toulouse where he once served as a technical director for the French Olympic team.
He came to Lebanon in 1995 and established the federation in a bid to introduce canoeing and kayaking as a means to unite people after 20 years of civil war. He also helped to popularize rafting.
He returned to Lebanon for good in 2000 after the conclusion of the South Lebanon conflict.
Awada said he established the federation with the aim of developing the sports in Lebanon to produce athletes at a competitive level as well as to allow more people to participate in them.
Awada’s death triggered a social media frenzy with many followers, friends and members of his club mourning him and posting obituaries and condolences.
One of his close friends, Elie, commented on Awada’s Facebook page, saying: “Rest in peace my dearest friend…I cannot believe what I just read.”
Another friend, Mohammed, posted photos of them together and a long obituary commemorating Awada’s visit to Al-Hermel’s Assi river — one of Lebanon’s top rafting and kayaking spots — in 1998.


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