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Saudi Arabia at UN stresses importance of international humanitarian aid

Saudi Arabia stressed the importance of strengthening the coordination of international efforts related to humanitarian aid and “working hand in hand with the United Nations to alleviate the suffering of disaster-affected groups all over the world,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday.

The Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi in a speech said that what the world is witnessing today in terms of natural and health disasters and conflicts “requires the international community to unite and unify its efforts to work jointly to extend a helping hand to those affected by these crises and mitigate the damages resulting from them.”

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Al-Mouallimi said that COVID-19 has created complex and overlapping challenges at the humanitarian, health, economic, educational and social levels, stressing the Kingdom’s commitment to collective international action to address this pandemic, as it played a vital role through its presidency of the G20 last year.

Saudi Arabia also supported global efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic with donations amounting to $500 million, as well as providing $300 million to help efforts in several countries in addressing the pandemic.

The ambassador said that Saudi Arabia supports joint international efforts to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines, adding that the Kingdom is one of the three largest donors of humanitarian and development assistance at international level, according to the UN Financial Tracking Platform.

Women and children are the most affected groups in disaster situations, and they are the most in need of relief assistance, al-Mouallimi said in his speech.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia implements qualitative relief programs aimed at supporting and empowering these groups and strengthening the integrated protection of women and children affected in many countries, including Yemen and Somalia, he added.

Vision 2030

In his speech, the ambassador pointed out that the Kingdom “believes in the importance of volunteer work, especially related to humanitarian and relief work,” citing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which has given volunteer work great attention, placing it among its priorities.

Vision 2030 aims to focus on volunteer work, raise its efficiency and provide a supportive and appropriate environment for it.

Saudi Arabi’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has launched 170 voluntary humanitarian programs benefiting more than 378,000 people in 21 countries around the world at a cost of more than $41 million, al-Mouallimi said.

“The Kingdom believes in the vital and central role played by workers in relief and humanitarian organizations, and stresses the importance of protecting them, ensuring their safety and confronting all obstacles that affect their lives and the efficiency of delivering humanitarian aid to those who deserve it,” SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia also calls on the international community to continue to pressure militias and terrorist groups to abide by the principles of international humanitarian law and to stop its obstructive and threatening practices of relief work, the ambassador said in his speech.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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