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Saudi Arabia at UN stresses importance of international humanitarian aid

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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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Saudi tourist killed by elephant in Uganda park

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A Saudi tourist was trampled to death by an elephant during a game drive at a popular park in Uganda, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

The attack happened on Tuesday at the Murchison Falls National Park when the man left the vehicle he was travelling in with friends, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman Bashir Hangi.

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“They stopped along the way and the deceased went out of the car, an elephant charged at him, killed him on the spot,” Hangi said in a statement.

The victim was identified as Ayman Sayed Elshahany.

Park officials said police will investigate Elshahany’s death as they review security protocols to “avoid repeat of such incidents.”

Animal attacks are not unheard of in the East African country.

In 2018, a leopard snatched and ate the three-year-old son of a female game ranger at another park in the west of the country.

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US responds to Russia’s security demands in Ukraine crisis

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The US delivered its response to Russia’s security demands, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the latest step in the high-stakes diplomacy over Moscow’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.

The response delivered by Ambassador John Sullivan on Wednesday sets out “a serious diplomatic path forward, Blinken told reporters in Washington. “We are open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way.

The report delivered to officials in Moscow largely sticks to points made by Blinken and other US officials: It rejects Russia’s demand that NATO close its door to potential Ukraine membership in the future, but offers suggestions for areas of mutual interest, such as arms control talks and greater transparency over troop movements and military exercises, Blinken said.

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“We will uphold the principle of NATO’s open door, Blinken said, repeating the US and European position that Russia shouldn’t get to dictate which nations join the military alliance.

“We also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia, Blinken said.

The top US diplomat said he expects to speak with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the “coming days, adding that the US response won’t be released publicly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to speak to reporters soon on the alliance’s response to Russia.

Tensions have soared as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, though officials in Moscow have repeatedly said they have no intention of invading the country.

Nevertheless, a top official of the pro-Kremlin ruling party who’s also a senior member of the Senate, Andrey Turchak, suggested it could send “certain weapons to the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Openly arming the separatists would undermine Russia’s claims — rejected by Ukraine and the West — that it’s not a party to the conflict.

Russia has said it will decide on whether to continue diplomatic efforts with the US and its allies based on the written answers.

The Kremlin has said it wants the US to respond to its key demands — no further expansion of NATO to the east, no deployments of weapons there that can strike Russia and a pullback of alliance forces in the region — even though Washington has made clear those are non-starters.

Moscow has said previously that the talks the US did offer publicly on limiting missiles and reducing risks around military maneuvers were positive, but not sufficient to address its security concerns.

Even as talks continued and Russia awaited the replies in recent days, the Kremlin continued its buildup of troops, tanks and equipment near Ukraine’s borders, with a major deployment to Belarus for exercises. Russia has said the forces aren’t a threat to anyone, but has refused Western calls to reverse the buildup.

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US to shut down Afghan embassy, strip diplomats of immunity: Sources

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The US government has informed Afghanistan’s diplomats that they will shut down the embassy in Washington and the consulate missions in Los Angeles and New York, sources familiar with the matter tell Al Arabiya English.

The Afghan diplomats will also be stripped of their diplomatic immunity, according to a memo sent to the Afghan diplomats at the beginning of the week.

– Developing

Read more: Once-bustling Afghan Embassy in US down to few diplomats

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