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Saudi Arabia interested in Israel normalisation deal after war

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Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK says it is interested in normalising relations with Israel after the war in Gaza, but that any deal must lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Prince Khalid bin Bandar told the BBC a pact was “close” when the the kingdom paused US-brokered talks after Hamas’s deadly attacks on Israel on 7 October.

Saudi Arabia still believed in establishing ties with Israel despite the “deplorable” casualty figures in Gaza, he said, but it would not “come at the cost of the Palestinian people”.

The ambassador also warned that there was a “failure of humanity” over Gaza, with the international community not doing enough to end the fighting.

He also said he would like to see the UK “moderate it’s position” and “treat Israel the same way it treats everyone else”. “The blind spot towards Israel is a real problem because it provides a blind spot to peace,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is a leader of the Arab and Islamic world. It has never formally recognised Israel since its creation in 1948, and a deal normalising ties would represent a major breakthrough for the Jewish state.

In late September, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler had declared in a US television interview that “every day we get closer” to an agreement.

While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Palestinian issue was “very important” and that any agreement would have to “ease the life of the Palestinians”, he did not declare that it would be dependent on advances towards the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The public position of Palestinian leaders is that they will reject outright a deal if it does not leave them with a state, but earlier that month officials had said they were privately demanding a cash boost and more control of land in the occupied West Bank in return for engaging with the US-backed Saudi-Israel process.

Saudi officials reportedly asked the US to pause the three-way discussions a few days after the 7 October attacks, in which about 1300 people were killed and 240 others taken hostage by hundreds of Hamas gunmen who infiltrated southern Israeli communities from Gaza.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 23,200 people have been killed in the territory during the military campaign that Israel subsequently launched with the aim of destroying Hamas.

After meeting Crown Prince Mohammed on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters he had brought up the subject of normalisation.

“There’s a clear interest here in pursuing that,” he said. “But it will require that the conflict end in Gaza, and it will also clearly require that there be a practical pathway to a Palestinian state.”

In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme on Tuesday, the Saudi ambassador in London confirmed that “absolutely there is interest” among his country’s leaders for an agreement.

“[A deal] was close, there is no question. For us, the final end point definitely included nothing less than an independent state of Palestine. So, while we still – going forward after 7 October – believe in normalisation, it does not come at the cost of the Palestinian people,” Prince Khalid said.

He added: “We were close to normalisation, therefore close to a Palestinian state. One doesn’t come without the other. The sequencing, how it is managed, that is what was being discussed.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on January 8, 2024, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East. (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP)US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on 8 January 2024, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East. Photo: AFP
Asked if Saudi Arabia saw Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, UK and other Western countries – as part of that future Palestinian state, Prince Khalid said it “requires a lot of thought”.

“There is always room for change if you have optimism and hope. But when there is a conflict the first thing you have to recognise is that both sides have lost,” he added.

“The problem that we have today with the current government in Israel is there is an extreme, absolutist perspective which does not work to achieve compromise and therefore you are never going to end the conflict.”

He did not elaborate, but two far-right Israeli ministers were denounced by the US after they recently called for Palestinians to be resettled outside Gaza.

Prince Khalid also warned that there was a risk of radicalisation as a result of the war, which has not only left many thousands of civilians dead in Gaza but also caused widespread devastation and a deep humanitarian crisis.

“The unprecedented level of the violence that has been carried out by both sides – but in particular by what is meant to be a responsible state in Israel – over the past three months, I don’t think I have seen anything like it in my life,” he said. “The numbers are deplorable, absolutely deplorable.”

“That is going to create a lack of hope amongst not just the Palestinian people, but disaffected people [across the world]. All see a failure of humanity in what is happening, because nobody has done anything to stop it. Efforts are being made, but it is not enough.”

– This story was first published by the BBC.

VIA RNZ

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Chocolate prices expected to rise

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By Maytaal Angel and Maxwell Akalaare Adombila, Reuters

Major African cocoa plants in Ivory Coast and Ghana have stopped or cut processing because they cannot afford to buy beans, four trading sources said, meaning chocolate prices around the world are likely to soar.

Chocolate-makers have already increased prices to consumers, after three years of poor cocoa harvests, with a fourth expected, in the two countries that produce nearly 60 percent of the world’s cocoa.

Cocoa prices have more than doubled over the last year, scaling numerous all-time highs.

“We need massive demand destruction to catch up with the supply destruction,” Tropical Research Services’ Steve Wateridge, a world expert on cocoa, said.

Chocolate-makers cannot produce chocolate using raw cocoa and rely on processors to turn beans into butter and liquor that can be made into chocolate.

But the processors say they cannot afford to buy the beans.

A cacao is harvested for the beans inside which are fermented to make chocolate.

Photo: RNZ/Supplied

State-controlled Ivorian bean processor Transcao, one of the country’s nine major plants, said it had stopped buying beans because of their price.

It said it was still processing from stock, but did not say what capacity it was running at. Two industry sources said the plant was almost idle.

They asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak publicly on the issue.

One of the two sources said more major state run plants could shut soon in top grower Ivory Coast, which produces nearly half the world’s cocoa.

The same two sources said even global trader Cargill struggled to source beans for its major processing plant in Ivory Coast, halting operations for about a week last month. Cargill did not respond to a request for comment.

In No. 2 cocoa grower Ghana, most of its eight plants, including state-owned Cocoa Processing Company (CPC), have repeatedly suspended work for weeks since the season started in October, two separate industry sources said.

CPC said it is operating at about 20 percent of capacity because of the shortage of beans.

Disruption at the farm gate

The price rally has derailed a long-established mechanism for global cocoa trade, through which farmers sell beans to local dealers who sell them on to processing plants or global traders.

Those traders then sell beans or cocoa products – butter, powder and cocoa liquor – to global chocolate giants such as Nestle, Hershey, and Mondelez.

In normal times, the market is heavily regulated – traders and processors purchase beans from local dealers up to a year in advance at pre-agreed prices. Local regulators then set lower farmgate prices that farmers can charge for beans.

However, in times of shortage like this year, the system breaks down – local dealers often pay farmers a premium to the farmgate price to secure beans.

The dealers then sell the beans on the spot market at higher prices instead of delivering them at pre-agreed prices.

As global traders rush to purchase those beans at any price to meet their obligations with the chocolate firms, local processors are often left short of beans.

Ivorian and Ghanian authorities normally try to protect local plants by issuing them with cheap loans or by limiting volumes of beans that global traders can purchase.

This year, however, plants are not getting the cocoa they pre-ordered and cannot afford to buy at higher spot prices.

Already, chocolate-makers have raised prices. US retail stores charged 11.6 percent more for chocolate products last year compared with 2022, data from market research firm Circana shows.

The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) expects global cocoa production will fall by 10.9percent to 4.45 million metric tons this season.

Grindings – a measure of demand – will fall by 4.8 percent to 4.78 million as processors struggle to buy beans, and supply less butter at a higher price to chocolate-makers, which in turn raise prices.

The supply-demand mismatch will leave the market with a deficit of 374,000 tons this season, up from 74,000 tons last season, according to the ICCO.

This means processors and chocolate firms will have to draw on cocoa stocks to fully cover their needs. The ICCO expects global cocoa stocks to fall to their lowest in 45 years by the season end.

Wateridge of Tropical Research said the cocoa market could post another deficit next season based on the severity of bean disease in West Africa.

The market has not seen four successive years of deficit since the late 1960s, ICCO data shows.

– This story was first published by Reuters
VIA RNZ

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Rebel group in Indonesia’s Papua to release kidnapped New Zealand pilot

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A rebel group in Indonesia’s eastern region of Papua said on Wednesday it will release a New Zealand pilot it has held hostage for a year.

It was unclear when the pilot, Philip Mehrtens, who was kidnapped exactly a year ago when he landed a small commercial plane in a mountainous area, would be released.

Terianus Satto of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), one of several groups fighting for Papua’s independence from Indonesia, said in a statement that Mehrtens will be released to “protect humanity and… human rights”.

“TPNPB will return the pilot Philip Max Martherns [sic] to his family through the jurisdiction of the Secretary General of the United Nations,” he said.

A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said: “New Zealand continues to work with all parties on securing Mr Mehrtens’ safe release. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has no further comment at this time.”

A low-level but increasingly deadly battle for independence has been waged in the resource-rich western half of the island of Papua since it was controversially brought under Indonesian control in a vote overseen by the United Nations in 1969.

Indonesia’s government and military, which have struggled to stamp out the separatist movement, had said they were in negotiations to free the pilot.

This story was first published by ReutersAdditional reporting by RNZ.

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US Man Throws Joint Baby Shower For 5 Women He Got Pregnant

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A 22-year-old musician from New York City named Zeddy Will recently hosted a joint baby shower for 5 women he got pregnant. According to the New York Post, one of his partners, Lizzy Ashliegh, claimed it on TikTok.

Ms Ashleigh, 29, on the social media platform, shared the party invitations which said the shower would be hosted in Queens on January 14.

The pregnant woman and Mr Will posed for a joined photo on the invitation, which said, “Welcome little Zeddy Wills 1-5.”

 

US Man Throws Joint Baby Shower For 5 Women He Got Pregnant

MsAshliegh also posted pictures of the large untraditional family posing outside their party.

A 22-year-old musician from New York City named Zeddy Will recently hosted a joint baby shower for 5 women he got pregnant. According to the New York Post, one of his partners, Lizzy Ashliegh, claimed it on TikTok.

Ms Ashleigh, 29, on the social media platform, shared the party invitations which said the shower would be hosted in Queens on January 14.

The pregnant woman and Mr Will posed for a joined photo on the invitation, which said, “Welcome little Zeddy Wills 1-5.”

“I guess we’re Sister Wives now,” Ms Ashleigh captioned the video, referring to the popular TLC show that follows the lives of a polygamist family.

Ms Ashliegh also posted pictures of the large untraditional family posing outside their party.

In another picture, Ms Ashliegh revealed in a follow-up video that 5 moms- Ashleigh, Bonnie B, Kay Merie, Jylene Vila, and Iyanla Kalifa Galletti – have “accepted each other” because it is “better for the little ones” to grow up in a “big family.”

“Look at our beautiful family!” she captioned one of the photos. “We love our Baby Daddy! We will not ruin our babies’ lives! Our families have accepted this!”

Will’s co-manager told The New York Post: “Society has shifted, and in turn so has modern relationship dynamics. The essence lies in redefining relationships personally, breaking away from the one-size-fits-all approach and societal pressures to conform.”

The video of the baby shower shows the 5 moms dancing and eating together and enjoying each other’s company.

However, the internet was unhappy with the family’s acceptance of the unconventional life.

“That’s embarrassing, not going to lie,” wrote one TikTok user.

 

NDTV

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