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What issues did Middle East leaders raise in UNGA address? | Israel-Palestine conflict News

Leaders from the Middle East gathered at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) commonly expressed concern about the Russian war on Ukraine and its consequences on global inflation, gas prices, and food – in addition to the fissures it opened among major powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.

The loss of important grain and fertiliser exports from Ukraine and Russia has triggered a food crisis, especially in developing countries, and inflation and a rising cost of living in many others.

Some of the Middle Eastern issues addressed these issues, but each also spoke of local or regional crises that have affected their countries in particular.

Jordan

King Abdullah II of Jordan said the pandemic, exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, has disrupted global supply chains and increased hunger.

Many well-off countries experiencing empty food shelves for the first time “are discovering a truth that people in developing countries have known for a long time – for countries to thrive, affordable food must get to every family’s table,” he said.

“On a global level, this demands collective measures to ensure fair access to affordable food, and speed the movement of staples to countries in need,” Abdullah said.

The monarch also spoke of the climate crisis and the need for “global partnerships” to affect change in an issue that has left a devastating impact on many countries.

“We see more opportunities to work with partners to preserve precious world heritage sites and natural wonders – the unique Dead Sea, the sacred Jordan River, and the resilient coral reefs of the Gulf of Aqaba – which are all threatened by climate change.”

Abdullah spoke of the refugee crisis in the Middle East. Jordan has historically welcomed refugees fleeing wars in neighbouring countries, including Iraqis and Syrians. He specifically referred to Palestinian refugees, whose rights, he said, should be supported to ensure “that Palestinian refugee children have schools to go to, and access to appropriate medical care.”

Jerusalem, its Muslim and Christian holy sites, was also a key part of the king’s speech.

Jordan has been the official custodian of Christian and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem since 1924 and ensuring the status quo in the holy city, especially at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, has been a contentious issue discussed among Israeli and Jordanian officials.

“Today, the future of Jerusalem is an urgent concern. The city is holy to billions of Muslims, Christians, and Jews around the world. Undermining Jerusalem’s legal and historical status quo triggers global tensions and deepens religious divides,” he said.

“Today, Christianity in the Holy City is under fire. The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. This cannot continue. Christianity is vital to the past and present of our region and the Holy Land. It must remain an integral part of our future.”

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the UN General Assembly. [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Qatar

The emir of Qatar has said that the UN Security Council must compel Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

In his speech before the General Assembly, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said, “The Security Council must shoulder its responsibility and must compel Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories and to establish a Palestinian state along the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The emir warned that “failure to implement international resolutions and in light of the continuous change of the situation on the ground, the occupation and its settlement activities is pursuing a policy of fait accompli”.

“This will change the rules of the conflict and will change the format of solidarity in the future. At this juncture, I stress that we stand in full solidarity with the brotherly Palestinian people in its aspiration to achieve justice,” he said.

The Qatari emir spoke on a number of regional issues such as conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Syria.

He backed the revival of Iran nuclear agreement, saying “it would be in the interest of the security and stability of the region.”

Sheikh Tamim used the occasion to welcome the world in November for the FIFA World Cup.

“In this tournament, which will be held for the first time in an Arab Muslim country, and for the first time in the Middle East in general, the world will see that one of the small- and medium-size countries is able to host global events with exceptional success, in addition to its ability to provide a spacious ambience for diversity and constructive interaction between peoples,” he said.

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised to world leaders at the UN headquarters the need for a peaceful solution to the war on Ukraine, stopping short of providing any tangible steps.

“That may not necessarily be reflective of Turkey’s shortcomings, in so much as it is a fact of where we are right now, where nobody or country has been able to find practical steps to put an end to this war,” said Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal.

“That said, maybe Ankara’s position is a lot more promising than others in that it has succeeded in finding common ground to some of the knock-on effects of this war, particularly with regards to food security and the global supply chain of grain and other important things coming out of there,” he added.

Erdogan did not limit his speech to the war on Ukraine; he also spoke about other conflicts, most recently the one between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, as well as other challenges facing the world.

“But ultimately Erdogan’s main message to delegates was one of seeking support for his country’s attempt at conflict resolution,” Elshayyal said.

Erdogan also made a renewed emphasis on the need for the UN to reform itself, “highlighting his position that the world is greater than five, referencing the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and how it is unfair and unjust that they have veto power over many significant decisions that impact billions of people around the world”.

Iran

In his speech on Wednesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Tehran is not seeking nuclear weapons and is serious about reviving a nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Our wish is only one thing: observance of commitments,” he said.

He demanded guarantees that the United States will not again abandon Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, as it did under former President Donald Trump’s administration in 2018.

“We have before us the experience of America’s withdrawal from the [deal],” Raisi said at the UN General Assembly. “With that experience and this perspective, can we ignore the important issue of guarantees for a durable agreement?”

Raisi also called for Trump to face trial for the 2020 assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in a US drone attack.

The Iranian president also sought to deflect criticism of last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody, which has unleashed protests across several cities.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects some of the double standards of some governments vis-a-vis human rights,” Raisi said. “[So long as] we have this double standard where attention is solely focused on one side and not all equally, we will not have true justice and fairness.

“Human rights belong to all, but unfortunately, it is trampled upon by many governments,” he added, referring to the discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous people in Canada, the suffering of the Palestinians, and images of migrant children held in cages in the United States.

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IMF to consider $1.3bn in emergency funding for Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war

Sources say Ukraine has received sufficient financial assurances from partners to meet IMF’s debt sustainability rules.

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board will consider Ukraine’s request for $1.3bn in additional emergency funding on Friday as Russia’s war against the country continues, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

IMF staff have prepared the necessary documents and believe Ukraine has received sufficient financial assurances from its global partners to meet the IMF’s debt sustainability requirements and qualify for further emergency funds, the sources told the Reuters news agency.

If approved, the funds would come from a new emergency lending program to address food shortages approved by the board last week.

IMF officials have praised the Ukrainian government and its central bank for their management of the economic shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of the country in February.

The IMF provided $1.4bn in emergency assistance to Ukraine in March, shortly after the war began.

Ukrainian officials are pressing for additional, non-emergency funds under a full-fledged IMF lending program, but such a program could come later.

An IMF spokesperson declined to comment.

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North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan into Pacific | Military News

Pyongyang’s fifth test in 10 days comes after South Korea and the United States hold military drills.

North Korea has fired a mid-range ballistic missile over Japan, the fifth launch in 10 days, amid expectations that it is gearing up to test its first nuclear weapon in five years.

The missile, detected by the Japanese coast guard and South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, prompted warning alarms in northern Japan with residents advised to take shelter. Train services in northern regions of the country were suspended temporarily.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned what he called a “barbaric” act.

TV Asahi, citing an unnamed government source, said North Korea might have fired an intercontinental ballistic missile and that it fell into the sea some 3,000 km (1,860 miles) from Japan.

There were no further details on the weapon.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of launches around military drills held by the United States and South Korea, which it considers a rehearsal for invasion. The US and South Korea, which staged its own show of advanced weaponry on Saturday to mark its Armed Forces Day, say the exercises are defensive in nature.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said that firing a weapon over Japan represented a “significant escalation” of recent provocations.

“Diplomacy isn’t dead, but talks aren’t about to resume either,” Easley said in comments by email. “Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle and is likely waiting until after China’s mid-October Communist Party Congress to conduct an even more significant test.”

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build its capacity for ballistic weapons, which it is banned from testing under UN sanctions.

Officials in South Korea have suggested North Korea might carry out a nuclear test after the end of the Congress in China and before the US holds its mid-term elections in November. Pyongyang last carried out a nuclear test in September 2017.

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As Japan’s Kishida marks 1st year, ‘new capitalism’ is flailing | Business and Economy

Tokyo, Japan – When Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came to power in October last year, he pledged to foster a “new form of capitalism” that would spur healthy growth alongside a more equal distribution of wealth.

But as Kishida marks one year in office on Tuesday, the Japanese leader’s “new capitalism” is still struggling to get off the ground amid criticism that his signature strategy lacks concrete details or clear targets.

Kishida’s struggles to turn his vision into a coherent economic plan capable of reversing decades of stagnation come as the world’s third-largest economy faces mounting challenges at home and overseas, from rising inflation and a weakening yen to global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine.

Kishida, a former banker who positioned himself as the only post-war prime minister with experience in the finance industry, is widely seen as an awkward fit for the populist rhetoric he has championed.

“The key point is that Kishida has no strong personal convictions, particularly on economic policy,” Jesper Koll, an economist and executive director at Monex Group in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera,

“Setting up this ‘new capitalism’ slogan, and various teams around it, is effectively just a plan for business as usual.”

“There’s absolutely nothing new or radical in what [Kishida’s] proposed or in what’s going to be coming,” Koll added, describing the Japanese leader’s “steady hand” governance as in accordance with the incremental approach favoured by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party establishment.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Japan’s economy is facing a host of challenges including rising inflation, a weakening yen, global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

In an address at London’s Guildhall in May, Kishida spoke of capitalism’s “two major transformations”, from laissez-faire to the welfare state and from the welfare state to neoliberalism.

“In both of these transitions, the pendulum swung between two ideas: ‘market or state’, ‘public or private,’” he said. “But the next transition will be to a ‘new form of capitalism’, in which the public and private sectors work together.”

While stressing the need for a “virtuous cycle” of growth and wealth redistribution, Kishida has laid out policy in mostly broad terms, including investment in human capital, greater female participation in the workforce, funding for green initiatives, the digitalisation of government, and support for startups.

Tom Learmouth, who is undertaking doctoral studies on Japan’s economic history at the London School of Economics, said Kishida appeared to be aiming for a return to the industrial strategy of Japan’s post-war, high-growth era when the public and private sectors worked in close collaboration.

During this period of rapid economic growth, Tokyo actively tried to pick winners in industry by directing investment to sectors deemed to be promising, such as automobiles and electronics.

“Trying to resurrect that now, in a very different economic climate – where interest rates are close to zero – it’s difficult to see how the government can exercise much power over the private sector,” Learmouth told Al Jazeera.

Kishida, who criticised his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” for exacerbating wealth inequality, did weigh concrete reform early in his tenure by proposing to raise Japan’s capital gains tax from the current rate of 20 percent. The Japanese leader, however, backpedalled within days after pushback from the business community and investors.

Eric J Ritter, a professor of economics at Lakeland University Japan, said Kishida’s redistribution agenda had failed to make headway.

“He had to give up on raising capital gains taxes on the rich which could’ve been spent on the poor,” Ritter told Al Jazeera. “Another issue is raising the tax ceiling on working wives who have to start paying tax if they earn above 1.1 million yen [$7,580] a year. This depresses family incomes and female participation.”

Ageing population

More recently, Kishida tried to spur, through corporate tax breaks, a rise in Japan’s long-stagnant wages, which have scarcely risen since the late 1990s and sit well below the OECD average. These efforts have also fallen short of expectations, with real wages continuing to fall as a result of rising import costs.

The plunging yen, which last month hit a 24-year low against the US dollar, has heaped more pressure on retailers and households, causing famously thrifty Japanese consumers to tighten their belts further.

Worse for the long-term health of the economy, Japan’s labour force is shrinking. After years of plunging birth rates, the country already has the world’s oldest population, with 28 percent of residents aged over 65. Japan’s labour market has also been criticised for lacking mobility, which is ranked about half of the OECD average.

Shigeto Nagai, head Japan economist at Oxford Economics, said labour market reforms and social security reforms that provide for the vulnerable working age population as well as the elderly should be key priorities of Kishida’s economic strategy.

“Rigid seniority-based wages under the lifetime employment system have undermined the dynamism of Japanese companies,” Nagai told Al Jazeera, describing the Japanese leader’s strategy so far as “very conceptual and confusing”.

“Making the labour market more flexible and dynamic will enable individual workers to earn more competitive wages reflecting productivity,” Nagai said. “It is [also] essential that the state takes responsibility for providing social security for the working-age population, rather than leaving it to the companies.”

NTT, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, recently announced plans to shift from seniority to performance-based promotion and compensation, raising hopes that corporate peers could be encouraged to follow suit.

While Kishida has struggled to initiate significant economic reform, some analysts say that simply keeping Japan’s economy steady during such a period of global turmoil would be an achievement in itself.

“This is a political world where it’s another day, another crisis,” Koll said. “Having a steady hand, which doesn’t rock the boat, but focuses on incremental changes – maybe that’s the right thing to do in the current environment.”

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