Giordano Middle East cap off successful year by bagging two prestigious global retail awards

Giordano Middle East cap off successful year by bagging two prestigious global retail awards


Giordano witnessed a winning streak at a spate of recent global retail award ceremonies, rounding off 2022 on a high.

The awards won include the RLI Global Retailer of the Year Award bestowed by Retail & Leisure International (RLI) and Best Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Retail Brand awarded by the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres & Retailers (MECS+R).

Considered one of the most prestigious events in the global retail calendar, the RLI Awards were presented at a glittering ceremony hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Giordano received the Highly Commended Global Retailer of the Year award in the presence of over 250 distinguished peers, including international retailers, shopping mall developers and operators .

The global retailer of the year awards solidified Giordano’s position as a world-class operator across all facets of its business, delivering exceptional retail experiences, growth, and innovative change to reflect evolving industry trends. Based in London, RLI is the only global magazine dedicated to the retail and leisure sectors, conferring awards across 18 categories.

Commenting on the win, Ishwar Chugani, CEO and Managing Director of Giordano Middle East, said: “I am delighted that the Giordano retail experience in the Middle East has received such prestigious international recognition. This award is an affirmation of our unrelenting drive to create a unique and innovative shopping experience and offer exceptional product quality to our customers and the wider community”. He concluded, “It’s an honour to be recognised at the RLI and MECSC-R awards once again – the accolade reflects not only Giordano’s successful growth in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, but also the tireless effort and perseverance of our staff across the region in enhancing our customers’ experiences through great service”.

At the equally esteemed MECS+R 2022 awards held at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai, Giordano was awarded the coveted Best Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Retail Brand Gold Award. Presented at a packed awards ceremony attended by over 400 regional and international retail and shopping mall owners and professionals , the 2022 MENA awards identify and honour the shopping centres, retailers and individuals that have demonstrated an unparalleled ability to succeed, continually set standards of excellence, and implement innovation and creativity throughout the industry.

Following his return from attending events in Riyadh, Giordano Executive Director and Head of Overseas Market Development, Mark Loynd, said: “MECS+R is considered the voice of the retail industry for retailers, mall owners and all retail professionals in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. The awards are particularly meaningful as it acknowledges the Group’s market expansion efforts in Africa over the last few years, especially in the face of adversity due to the pandemic”. He further stated, “Over the past 3 years, we have successfully penetrated South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt, and we are also in active negotiations with potential partners in Tunisia and Algeria. Hopefully, this award will signal further success for Giordano in north Africa and beyond”.



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Architecture of Exploitation: Behind the Qatar World Cup Spectacle

Architecture of Exploitation: Behind the Qatar World Cup Spectacle


Very similar discourses take place when architects are involved in commissions in the Middle East, especially the oil- and gas-rich Gulf. When asked about her responsibility with respect to the plight of migrant workers involved in the construction of Doha’s al-Wakrah Stadium (now known as al-Janoub Stadium) in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, the late and world-renowned British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid replied: “I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that’s an issue the government—if there’s a problem—should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.

Her design for the stadium is architecturally distinctive, in Hadid’s signature undulating style, but should aesthetic considerations supersede the social and political implications of accepting the Qatari state as a client? Such an audacious proclamation by Hadid—who faced similar scrutiny for her projects in other countries, like the Aliyev Cultural Center in Azerbaijan, which was likened to “artwashing a dictatorship”—illustrates one of the main issues plaguing this World Cup: the sordid relationship between autocracies, architecture and megaprojects, through which regimes seek to whitewash, or sportswash in this case, their abusive human rights records, presenting their country as a beacon of inclusivity and progress.

Qatar is hardly alone in this regard. Similar accusations can be directed at Argentina’s hosting of the 1978 World Cup while under the rule of a military junta; Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018, a propaganda win for Vladimir Putin; China’s own abuse of migrant workers during its preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing; or, much closer to Qatar, Dubai’s exploitation of a vast migrant workforce in the United Arab Emirates for its multiple international spectacles, such as the Dubai 2020 Expo. Consider even the United States’ treatment of undocumented migrant workers, as it will be host of the upcoming World Cup alongside Mexico and Canada. Injustices, whenever and wherever they occur, must be called out. Indeed, architects—especially those of the stature of Hadid, Koolhaas and others, like Norman Foster who designed Lusail Stadium that will host the World Cup final—have an added obligation to challenge those in power, rather than take another lofty commission from them.

Migrant workers at a construction site for The Pearl, a man-made chain of islands with dozens of high-rise luxury towers off the coast of Doha, June 18, 2011. (Photo by Sam Tarling/Corbis via Getty Images)

No doubt, Doha’s feverish urban transformation has employed not just thousands of migrant workers, but also an army of architects, planners and consultants, all in the service of staging this World Cup—at a reported cost of some $300 billion. Much of the tiny petrostate’s spending spree has gone into building entire infrastructure, including a new metro system to accommodate an expected 1.2 million World Cup visitors. Seven new stadiums were exclusively constructed for the tournament; all with the exception of one will be dismantled at the conclusion of the tournament. There is also a new airport, a vast series of new roads and about 100 new hotels. Added to that is an extensive downtown regeneration project, which includes the Msheireb development, a high-end, mixed-use neighborhood billed as Doha’s “new downtown” that looks much like any other luxury development in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or other Gulf cities.

In line with similar ventures in the region, an entire new city, Lusail, has been constructed—also largely planned and designed by Foster—around the stadium that will host the final match. Official government figures note that 30,000 foreign laborers were hired just to build the stadiums, among a total migrant workforce estimated at 2 million. Most come from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines. To put this in a larger context, out of a population of approximately 3 million, Qatari citizens make up just 15 percent of the country, or about 350,000 people. Such a massive demographic imbalance is no doubt problematic and reveals the vast inequality in Qatar (as in much of the Gulf), but it also highlights the fact that these rapid construction efforts do not come without a human cost. As numerous reports have pointed out, it is indisputable that thousands of workers have died while toiling on Qatar’s many, many construction sites. The Guardian, in a widely cited report that relied in part on official embassy figures of migrant countries of origin, claimed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it was awarded the World Cup. The total figures are estimated to be much higher, since The Guardian‘s reporting did not include deaths from countries like the Philippines and Kenya that also send thousands of workers to Qatar.



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Giordano Middle East cap off successful year by bagging two prestigious global retail awards

GCC Supreme Council releases final communique after 43rd summit



RIYADH — The Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a final communique after its 43rd session in Riyadh.

The full text of the communique follows:

The Supreme Council thanked His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, for assuming the presidency of the meeting of the Supreme Council in its 43rd session, expressing its appreciation for the keenness and interest mentioned in his opening speech to activate the march of cooperation among the GCC countries in all fields.

1. The Supreme Council thanked His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for assuming the presidency of the meeting of the Supreme Council in its 43rd session, expressing its appreciation for the keenness and interest mentioned in his opening speech to activate the march of cooperation among the GCC countries in all fields.

2. The Supreme Council expressed its deep appreciation and gratitude for the great and sincere efforts exerted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and his esteemed government, during the presidency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the 42nd session, and the important steps and achievements that were achieved. The Council congratulated Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of the Sultanate of Oman, on the Sultanate of Oman’s assumption of the presidency of the 43rd session, wishing them success in strengthening the GCC march in all fields.

3. The Supreme Council commended the outcomes of the GCC-US Summit held in Jeddah on July 16, 2022, within the framework of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the United States of America, and Jeddah Security and Development Summit between the GCC, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and the United States of America, and valued their contributions to enhancing security and stability in the region and prosperity for its people.

4. The Supreme Council welcomed the convening of Riyadh Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development and Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development on December 9, 2022, and looked forward to their contribution to strengthening cooperation and strategic partnership relations with the Chinese side in a way that achieves common interests between them.

5. The Supreme Council praised the results of Bahrain Dialogue Forum East and West for Human Coexistence, which was held in early November 2022, under the patronage of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, during the visit of Pope Francis, Pope of the Vatican; Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and Chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders, to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

6. The Supreme Council welcomed the results of the second edition of the (Green Middle East Initiative) summit, which was held in Sharm El-Sheikh under the presidency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Republic of Egypt on November 7, 2022, and the announcement of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, of the Kingdom’s donation of two and a half billion dollars in support of the initiative’s projects, stressing the importance of coordinating the joint efforts and the commitment of member states to international sustainability efforts in achieving the desired goals of the initiative to reduce global carbon emissions and contribute to increasing the region’s capabilities to achieve climate and environmental goals.

7. The Supreme Council praised the pioneering role played by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in confronting the phenomenon of climate change, and renewed its welcome and support for the UAE’s hosting of COP28 in 2023 to support international efforts in this framework. It also welcomed its declaration of commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

8. The Supreme Council commended the success achieved in the parliamentary and municipal elections in the Kingdom of Bahrain, to consolidate political gains, protect achievements and support the march of progress and prosperity in the Kingdom.

9. The Supreme Council commended the Sultanate of Oman’s announcement of adopting the year 2050 as the date for achieving carbon neutrality, and stressed the pioneering importance it attaches to the gradual transition to renewable energy in the member states, in a way that contributes to improving environmental performance and mitigating the effects of climate change.

10. The Supreme Council expressed its welcome and support for the State of Qatar’s hosting of the meetings of the second part of the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), from 5 to 9 March 2023, at the level of heads of state and government.

11. The Supreme Council praised the success of the State of Qatar in hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022, its good organization, and its positive effects on human heritage and the civilizational, cultural and intellectual rapprochement among the peoples of the world. It also expressed its condemnation of the malicious media campaigns directed against the State of Qatar.

12. The Supreme Council commended the State of Kuwait’s announcement of adopting the year 2050 as the date for achieving carbon neutrality in the oil and gas sectors, and the year 2060 as the date for achieving carbon neutrality at the level of the country as a whole.

13. The Supreme Council affirmed its support for the decisions of the OPEC+ group aimed at achieving balance in the oil markets, promoting prosperity for the peoples of the region and the world, and supporting global economic growth.

Vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques:

14. The Supreme Council reviewed the report of the Secretariat General on the progress made in implementing the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to enhance joint GCC action, which was approved by the Supreme Council at its 36th session in December 2015. The Council affirmed the full, accurate and continuous implementation of the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, which was approved by the Supreme Council at its 36th session in December 2015, including completing the elements of economic unity and the joint defense and security systems, and coordinating stances in a way that enhances the solidarity and stability of the GCC countries, preserving their interests, sparing them regional and international conflicts, meeting the aspirations of their citizens, and enhancing their regional and international role by unifying political stances and developing strategic partnerships with the international community, regional and international organizations, and brotherly and friendly countries.

15. The Supreme Council instructed the ministerial and technical bodies, councils, committees, the Secretariat General and all the Council’s bodies to redouble efforts to complete the remaining steps to implement the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, according to a specific timetable and precise follow-up. The Council instructed the Secretariat General to submit a detailed report in this regard to the next session of the Supreme Council.

16. The Supreme Council welcomed the intention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to present the second phase of the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to enhance the joint GCC action.

The Joint GCC action:

17. The Supreme Council was briefed on the results of the consultations regarding the implementation of the decision of the Supreme Council at its 32nd session regarding the proposal of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to move from the cooperation phase to the union phase, and his directives to the Supreme Council to continue efforts to move from the cooperation phase to the union phase, as well as assigning the Ministerial Council and the head of the specialized body to complete taking the necessary measures for that, and to submit what is reached to the Supreme Council in its next session.

18. The Supreme Council affirmed its keenness on the strength and cohesion of the GCC Council, the unity of the ranks among its members, and the achievement of more coordination, integration and interdependence in all fields, in a way that achieves the aspirations of the citizens of the GCC countries, stressing that its countries stand together in the face of any threat to any of the countries of the GCC Council.

19. The Supreme Council reviewed the developments of the joint GCC action and the action program of the Economic and Development Affairs Authority, and directed to expedite the achievement of economic unity among the GCC countries, and complete the requirements of the customs union, the GCC joint market, and the railway project, in accordance with previous resolutions of the Council.

20. The Supreme Council approved the Unified Industrial Regulatory Law of the GCC countries, the Unified Law for International Land Transport between the GCC Countries, and the Unified Law for Management of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the GCC Countries, and that the member states should complete their internal procedures to apply them. The Supreme Council praised the Future Factories Initiative (Siri), which was approved as a guide by the member states.

21. The Supreme Council approved the general framework of the strategic plan for joint media cooperation for the GCC countries 2023-2030, the charter for the preservation of urban heritage in the GCC countries, and the general framework of the GCC strategy for tourism 2023-2030.

22. The Supreme Council was briefed on the report on the most important achievements made in implementing the decision to examine expatriate workers, prepared by the Gulf Health Council.

23. The Supreme Council expressed its satisfaction with the conclusions of the 16th regular meeting on September 21, 2022 of the heads of the Shura, Parliament, National and Nation Councils in the GCC countries, appreciating the efforts made by the councils of the member states to contribute to strengthening the joint GCC action.

24. The Supreme Council affirmed the adoption of the main pillars of energy transitions (energy security, economic development, and climate change) through continuing sustainable investments in hydrocarbon sources to maintain the stability of global energy markets, taking into account technical developments by adopting the circular carbon economy approach as an integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges arising from greenhouse gas emissions, and managing them using all available technologies and innovations; to ensure the effectiveness, coherence and harmonization of the basic pillars.

25. The Supreme Council valued the achievements and efforts made by the member states in the four pillars of the circular carbon economy approach (emissions reduction, reuse, recycling, and removal) included in the Saudi Green Initiative, and the nationally determined contributions of the GCC countries (such as renewable energy projects, energy efficiency, clean hydrogen production, carbon capture, storage and reuse, and nature-based carbon removal solutions) and push for cooperation among the GCC countries to implement the circular carbon economy approach in the relevant policies, mechanisms, strategies, plans and initiatives, including the nationally determined contributions.

26. The Supreme Council affirmed the strengthening of the joint action to maximize the impact of the efforts and initiatives of the GCC countries related to energy transformations and climate change, and to activate cooperation, exchange experiences and develop potentials with the countries of the region under the umbrella of the Green Middle East initiative.

27. The Supreme Council reviewed the reports of the advisory body on the topics it was previously assigned to study (Preparing youth for the information revolution and digital technologies, GCC industry options in light of the fourth industrial revolution, the global water crisis and the dangers of its indicators on life), and directed that they are approved and referred to the relevant ministerial committees to benefit from them. It also decided to assign the advisory body to study the following issues: (Strengthening supply chains for food and medicine in the GCC countries, promoting tourism integration between the GCC countries in light of the developments in the tourism sector, ways to promote and protect the GCC values).

28. The Supreme Council directed the speedy completion of the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations, and the start of free trade negotiations in accordance with the priorities of the GCC countries, in order to strengthen the economic relations of the GCC Council with other countries and international blocs, in order to achieve the common trade and investment interests.

The Joint military and security action:

29. The Supreme Council approved the decisions of the Joint Defense Council at its 19th session, regarding the military cooperation between the GCC countries, and stressed the importance of strengthening the joint military action to achieve collective security for the GCC countries, and expressed its satisfaction with the steps taken in activating the Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies.

30. The Supreme Council praised the success of the drills carried out by the unified military command and its affiliated units and centers during 2022, stressing the importance of the joint exercises in strengthening the military cooperation between the GCC countries and the professional compatibility between the concerned agencies in order to consolidate the foundations of the security and peace in the region.

31.The Supreme Council adopted resolutions of Their Highnesses and Excellencies, the Ministers of Interior, in their (39) meeting, which was held on November 9, 2022, stressing the strengthening of joint Gulf security action.

32.The Supreme Council praised the success of the tactical exercise (Arab Gulf Security 3), which was hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2022, stressing the importance of the exercise in strengthening security cooperation between the GCC states and the integration between the security agencies in facing challenges and deterring anyone who tries to compromise security and stability of the region. The Supreme Council also praised the success of the joint Bahraini-Emirati exercise (Jalmud 3), which concluded on November 10, 2022, as part of the efforts undertaken by the GCC states in combating terrorism. It also blessed the State of Qatar’s hosting of the upcoming joint tactical exercise for the security agencies (Arab Gulf Security 4).

33.The Supreme Council expressed appreciation for the efforts exerted by the anti-drug agencies in the GCC states, including joint initiatives aimed at monitoring emerging criminal phenomena and the exploitation of social media and modern technology in narcotics smuggling operations targeting the GCC states.

Regional and international issues:

34.The Supreme Council reiterated the keenness of the GCC states to maintain stability and security in the region, support the prosperity of their peoples, and strengthen the Council’s relations with brotherly and friendly countries and regional and international organizations out of the role of the GCC as a main pillar for preserving regional and global peace and security, and to strengthen the role of the GCC in achieving peace, sustainable development and meeting the lofty aspirations of the Arab and Islamic nations.

35.The Supreme Council affirmed respect for the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, based on international conventions, customs and laws, and that the security of the GCC states is a primary contributor for Arab national security, in accordance with the Charter of the Arab League. The Supreme Council also affirmed the stances of the GCC rejecting foreign interference in the Arab countries from any party, in addition to its rejection of any threat to any member state, stressing that the security of the GCC states is indivisible in accordance with the principle of joint defense and the concept of collective security, the GCC Charter and the joint defense agreement.

Counterterrorism:

36.The Supreme Council reiterated its firm stances and resolutions towards terrorism and extremism, whatever its source, rejecting all its forms, motives and justifications, drying up its funding sources, and supporting international efforts to combat terrorism. The Council affirmed that tolerance and coexistence among nations and peoples are among the most important principles and values upon which the communities of the GCC states were built.

37.The Supreme Council condemned all terrorist attacks against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, targeting innocent civilians and civil facilities such as schools, places of worship and hospitals, stressing the GCC’s solidarity with the Republic of Afghanistan in combating all terrorist organizations and enhancing security and stability in its territories.

38.The Supreme Council condemned the terrorist bombing on November 13, 2022, which targeted the Taksim Square in Istanbul, which resulted in a number of deaths and injuries, expressing sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and to the Turkish government and people, and wishing a speedy recovery to the injured. The Council affirmed its support for the Republic of Türkiye in its war against terrorism.

39.The Supreme Council condemned all terrorist attacks against the Federal Republic of Somalia, affirming support for Somali people to combat terrorism and violence.

40.The Supreme Council condemned Iran’s continued support for terrorist groups and sectarian militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and others, which threaten Arab national security, destabilize the region, and impede the efforts of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

The Palestinian cause:

41.The Supreme Council affirmed its firm positions on the centrality of the Palestinian cause, its support for the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over all the Palestinian territories occupied since June 1967, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and guaranteeing the rights of refugees, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy, stressing the need to activate the efforts of the international community to resolve the conflict, in a way that fulfills all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people according to those principles.

42.The Supreme Council praised the efforts exerted by the Arab countries to achieve national reconciliation to restore Palestinian national unity and Palestinian reunification, and achieve the interests of the Palestinian people.

43.The Supreme Council called on the international community to intervene to halt the targeting of the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, attempts to change its legal character, demographic composition, and arrangements for Islamic holy places. This is in addition to attempts to impose Israeli sovereignty on them in flagrant violation of international law, international resolutions, and existing agreements in this regard, stressing the need to avoid unilateral measures.

44.The Supreme Council expressed rejection of any intention to annex settlements in the West Bank to Israel, in clear violation of the United Nations Charter, principles of international law and United Nations resolutions, including Security Council Resolution No. 2334 of 2016, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 2004, and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. It also condemned Israel’s continued construction of settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territories, and called on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli authorities to reverse their settlement decisions that violate international laws and resolutions.

45.The Supreme Council praised the generous assistance provided by the GCC states to support the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), calling on the international community to continue supporting UNRWA to continue its mission until the return of the Palestinian refugees.

Iran’s seizure of the three islands of the United Arab Emirates:

46. The Supreme Council reiterated its firm stances and previous decisions on condemning Iran’s continued seizure of the three islands (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa) of the United Arab Emirates, and reaffirmed the following:

A. Supporting the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates over the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, and over the territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of the three islands as an integral part of the territory of the United Arab Emirates.

B. Considering any decisions, practices or actions by Iran on the three islands as null and void that do not alter any of the historical and legal facts that approve the United Arab Emirates’ sovereignty over its three islands.

C. Calling on Iran to respond positively to the United Arab Emirates’ endeavors to resolve the issue through direct negotiations or resorting to the International Court of Justice.

Iran:

47. The Supreme Council stressed its firm stances and resolutions on relations with the Iran, stressing the need to adhere to the fundamental bases and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, the principles of good-neighborliness, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful resolution of disputes, non-use or threat of force and rejection of sectarianism.

48. The Supreme Council stressed that negotiations on Iran’s nuclear file and any future negotiations with Iran should include addressing its destabilizing behavior in the region, its sponsorship of terrorism and sectarian militias, its missile programs, the safety of international navigation and oil facilities. It also stressed the need for GCC states’ participation in those negotiations and all relevant regional and international discussions and meetings.

49. The Supreme Council expressed its full rejection of some officials’ statements from the Iranian government that included abuses and accusations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and GCC states, expressing concern over Iran’s escalatory steps to tamper with regional security and stability, reaffirming its rejection of continuous Iranian interventions in the internal affairs of the GCC states and the region, fueling sectarian conflicts, and supporting, financing and arming militias, organizations and groups that fuel such conflicts, including providing them with ballistic missiles and drones.

50. The Supreme Council affirmed the readiness of the GCC states to cooperate and deal seriously and effectively with Iran’s nuclear issue in a way that contributes to achieving joint objectives and interests within the framework of respect for sovereignty, good-neighborliness policies and respect for international resolutions to ensure boosting regional and international security and stability.

51. The Supreme Council condemned Iran’s continued failure to fulfill its obligations and its excesses in raising uranium enrichment ratios beyond the need for peaceful uses and called on Iran to back down from this move and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

52. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of maintaining maritime and waterways security in the region and combating activities that threaten the security and stability of the region and the world, including the threat to maritime shipping and international trade routes, and oil facilities in the GCC states.

Yemen:

53. The Supreme Council commended the outcomes of the comprehensive Yemeni-Yemeni consultations held under the auspices of the GCC between March 29 and April 7, 2022, which reached an agreement among the Yemeni brothers on a roadmap and effective mechanisms towards strengthening their unity, restoring security and stability in Yemen and alleviating the suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people.

54. The Supreme Council affirmed its full support to the Presidential Leadership Council under the presidency of His Excellency Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi and supporting entities to enable the council to carry out its functions in realizing security and stability in Yemen, calling on Houthis to respond to the call of the Presidential Leadership Council to embark on negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations to reach a political solution in accordance with the relevant references of the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference, and Security Council Resolution No. 2216 in a way that preserves Yemen’s unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

55. The Supreme Council renewed its support for the efforts of the United Nations led by its Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and the efforts of the United States Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to reach a political solution as per the three references, commending the Yemeni government’s adherence to the humanitarian truce announced by the United Nations, calling for practicing international pressure on the Houthis to renew the humanitarian truce, lift the blockade on Taiz and open humanitarian crossings there as per the truce, and praising the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen’s efforts to renew the truce in line with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s initiative announced in March 2021 to end the crisis in Yemen and reach a comprehensive political solution.

56. The Supreme Council called on the parties to the Riyadh Agreement to complete the implementation of the remaining provisions of the agreement, provide support to the Yemeni government to carry out its work, and accelerate development in liberated areas.

57. The Supreme Council commended the announcement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of a package of vital development projects to support Yemen, implemented by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, which included 17 development schemes in the sectors of energy, transport, education, water, health and building the capacity of state institutions, with a value of USD400 million, in addition to offering USD200 million to provide oil derivatives for the operation of power plants to meet the Yemeni people’s priority needs and alleviate their suffering.

58. The Supreme Council reiterated the importance for brotherly and friendly countries to participate in providing economic, humanitarian and development support to Yemen in a bid to alleviate the suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people.

59. The Supreme Council praised the achievements of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), the development projects implemented by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, the humanitarian support provided by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Office for Relief and Humanitarian Coordination to Yemen, the humanitarian and development assistance provided to Yemen by all states, and the efforts of the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen (MASAM) that managed to remove more than (371,952) mines and unexploded ammunition, and the clearance of 39,959,663 square meters of land in Yemen, where mines and unexploded ammunition were installed randomly by the Houthi terrorist militia and claimed the lives of innocent victims of children, women and the elderly.

60. The Supreme Council denounced the terrorist attacks carried out by the Houthi terrorist militia with drones targeting Al-Dabba oil port in Hadramout on October 21, 2022 during the docking of a crude oil shipping vessel at the port, and the Qana commercial port in Shabwa on November 9, 2022, during the unloading of an oil tanker with diesel in a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 2216, and in violation of international laws and norms, which confirms the continued targeting of civilian and economic facilities, global energy supplies and corridors by the Houthi terrorist militia and those behind them. The Supreme Council stressed that those attacks were an escalation of the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist militia after the end of the United Nations truce in Yemen, which the militia refused to extend and expand despite all efforts, and the Yemeni legitimate government’s keenness to provide all facilities to renew the truce out of its responsibilities to the Yemeni brotherly people.

61. The Supreme Council condemned Iran’s continued interference in the internal affairs of Yemen, the smuggling of military experts and weapons to the Houthi militia in clear contravention of Security Council Resolutions No. 2216, 2231 and 2624, referring to the British government’s announcement on July 7, 2022 that it seized shipments of sophisticated Iranian-made weapons and missiles in international waters in southern Iran on Janyary 28 and February 25, 2022, including 358 surface-to-air missiles and 351 cruise missile engines with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, bound for the Houthis, and the announcement of the Fifth US Fleet’s of intercepting an Iranian vessel on November 8, 2022 that was carrying 70 tons of ammonium chlorate used in the rocket fuel industry, and 100 tons of explosive urea fertilizer en route from Iran to the Houthi terrorist militia, stressing the importance of preventing arms smuggling to the Houthi militia that threatens maritime freedom and global trade in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea.

Morocco:

62. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of the special strategic partnership between the GCC and the Kingdom of Morocco, the implementation of the joint action plan, its consistent positions and resolutions in support of Morocco’s Sahara, and the preservation of the security and stability of the Kingdom of Morocco and its territorial integrity, commending the Security Council Resolution No. 2654 issued on October 27, 2022 regarding the Sahara.

Iraq:

63. The Supreme Council stressed its consistent stances and decisions regarding Iraq and supporting existing efforts to combat terrorism and achieve security and stability in Iraq, reiterating the importance of preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity, full sovereignty, Arab-Islamic identity, social fabric and national unity, and its support for combating terrorist groups and armed militias in order to uphold state sovereignty and law enforcement.

64. The Supreme Council congratulated His Excellency President Abdul Latif Rashid on his election as President of the Republic of Iraq and Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani on his selection as Prime Minister, expressing its best wishes to Iraq and its brotherly people for further stability and growth.

65. The Supreme Council condemned the bombing that targeted the Kurdistan region in Iraq, endorsing what came in the statement of the Iraqi government on November 14, 2022, condemning what the Iranian side did, in terms of artillery and drone strikes, against several areas of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which caused many civilian casualties, considering this a blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and security.

66. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of Iraq’s commitment to the sovereignty of Kuwait and non-violation of international resolutions and agreements, particularly the Security Council Resolution No. 833 regarding the demarcation of the borders between the two countries and the agreement regulating maritime navigation in Khor Abdullah, signed between the two countries and deposited with the United Nations. The Council called on Iraq to complete the demarcation of the maritime borders with Kuwait beyond Mark 162, expressing its categorical rejection of any violation affecting the sovereignty of Kuwait and preserving its right to respond per legal channels.

67. The Supreme Council renewed its support for Security Council Resolution No. 2107 (2013), regarding the transfer of the prisoners’ file and missing persons, Kuwaiti property, and the national archive to the United Nations Mission (UNAMI), expressing the aspiration for Iraq to continue cooperation to ensure progress in all files, and calling on Iraq and the United Nations to make maximum efforts to solve these files.

Syria:

68. The Supreme Council reiterated its firm stances towards preserving the territorial integrity of Syria, respecting its independence and sovereignty over its territories, and rejecting regional interference in its internal affairs. The Council also affirmed its previous decisions regarding the Syrian crisis and the political solution based on the principles of (Geneva 1), Security Council Resolution No. 2254, and support for the efforts of the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, looking forward that the meetings of the Constitutional Committee in Syria would result in a consensus that would be supportive to the efforts made to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis, renewing its support for the UN efforts to care for Syrian refugees and displaced persons, and ensure their safe return to their cities and villages, and reject any attempts to bring about demographic changes in Syria.

69. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of continuing all efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, welcoming Security Council Resolution No. 2642 of July 12, 2022, regarding extending the mandate of the mechanism for the delivery of UN humanitarian aid across the border from Turkey to Syria for six months until January 2023.

Lebanon:

70. The Supreme Council reiterated the GCC’s firm positions with the Lebanese people and its continuous support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, and for the Lebanese Armed Forces that protect its borders and counter the threats of extremist and terrorist groups, stressing the importance of implementing comprehensive structural political and economic reforms to ensure that Lebanon overcomes its political and economic crisis, and does not turn it into a launching platform for terrorists, drug smuggling or other criminal activities that undermine the security and stability of the region. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of extending the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territories, including the implementation of the provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions and the Taif Agreement, to exercise its full sovereignty, so there will be no weapons except with the approval of the Lebanese government, and no authority other than its authority.

71. The Supreme Council called on all Lebanese parties to respect the constitution and constitutional deadlines, and exert all efforts that would achieve the aspirations of the Lebanese people for stability, progress, and prosperity, praising the efforts of Lebanon’s friends and partners in restoring and strengthening confidence and cooperation between Lebanon and the GCC countries, and their support for the role of the Lebanese army and Internal security forces in preserving the security of Lebanon.

Libya:

72. The Supreme Council expressed concern about the repeated outbreak of armed clashes in the Libyan territories, which threatens the security and safety of the Libyan people and undermines the stability of the country, and affirmed the stance of the GCC states in support of Libya and the political track and relevant Security Council resolutions to preserve its security, stability, and sovereignty, and called on all Libyan parties to halt the clashes in a way that guarantees the cessation of escalation and stop the bloodshed, and to give priority to wisdom and reason, and to adopt political dialogue to resolve differences in a way that preserves Libya’s interests and achieves its people’s aspirations for development and prosperity.

73. The Supreme Council reaffirmed firm positions and decisions regarding the Libyan crisis, renewing its keenness to preserve the interests of the Libyan people, to achieve security, stability, and development in Libya, to ensure its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, to stop interference in its internal affairs, and for the exit of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libyan territory, and support the UN efforts to reach a political solution, hold elections and unify state institutions, to achieve what the Libyan people’s aspirations, and to lay the foundations for security and stability.

74. The Supreme Council welcomed the appointment of Abdoulaye Bathily as UN Special Representative for Libya, wishing him success in reaching a political solution agreed upon by the Libyan parties.

Sudan:

75. The Supreme Council welcomed the joint declaration on December 5, 2022, regarding the agreement on a principled political framework and constitutional arrangements that will lead Sudan during the transitional period, reiterating the firm positions and decisions of the GCC regarding the importance of preserving Sudan’s security, safety and stability, achieving the aspirations of its people, and supporting dialogue between the Sudanese political parties, reviving the political process, encouraging consensus among the Sudanese parties, preserving the cohesion of the state and its institutions, and supporting Sudan in facing economic challenges.

Renaissance dam:

76. The Supreme Council reiterated that the water security of Sudan and Egypt is an integral part of Arab national security, and rejects any action or measure that would prejudice their rights in the Nile waters. The Council also affirmed the support of the GCC countries for all endeavors that would contribute to resolving the Renaissance Dam file in a manner that takes into account the interests of all parties, stressing the need to reach an agreement in this regard per the principles of international law and what was stipulated in the presidential statement of the Security Council issued on September 15, 2021.

Somalia:

77. The Supreme Council reiterated support for the Federal Republic of Somalia to consolidate the pillars of security and stability, strengthen the Somali national capabilities in combating terrorism, and respond to the challenges it faces at the current stage, especially as a result of the drought crisis affecting Somalia, and avoid its dangerous repercussions on food security in Somalia.

Afghanistan:

78. The Supreme Council emphasized the importance of restoring security and stability in Afghanistan and reaching a consensual political solution that takes into account the interests of all components of the Afghani people, in a way that achieves the aspirations of the Afghani people, and benefits regional and international peace and security, and calls on the de-facto authority to implement its obligations to ensure women’s right to education and work, to protect minorities, and to ensure that Afghani lands are not used by any terrorist groups, or exploited for the export of drugs.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis:

79. The Supreme Council reiterated that the stance of the GCC on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is based on the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, the preservation of the international order based on respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, and non-use or threat of force.

80. The Supreme Council affirmed its support for mediation efforts to resolve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, a cease-fire, a political solution to the crisis, giving priority to the language of dialogue, and settling the conflict through negotiations.

81. The Supreme Council praised the success of Saudi Arabia’s mediation in releasing a group of prisoners and detainees from both sides.

82. The Supreme Council commended the humanitarian and relief assistance provided by the GCC countries to Ukraine.

83. The Supreme Council stressed the importance of continuing the grain export agreement from Russia and Ukraine via the Black Sea and expressing support for all efforts to facilitate the export of grain and all food commodities and humanitarian supplies to contribute to providing food security for the affected countries.

The GCC Secretary General Position:

84. The Supreme Council approved the desire of Kuwait to retain the position of Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council for a second term, starting from the end of the current term of Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf on January 31, 2023, provided that the Ministerial Council follows up on Kuwait’s nomination for its new candidate to uphold the position as of February 1, 2023, and complete the relevant procedures, expressing its deep appreciation for the great, sincere and distinguished efforts made by Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose term of office will end at the end of January 2023, and his effective contributions to the joint action, during his term.

Presidency of the 44th session of the GCC:

85. The Supreme Council welcomed Qatar’s presidency of the Council’s upcoming 44th session. — SPA



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Romania blasts Austria for ‘inexplicable’ move to block access to EU’s passport-free zone


BUCHAREST — Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has blasted Austria for single-handedly blocking his country’s accession into the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area, calling the move “inexplicable,” “regrettable” and “unjustified”.

“A single member state chose to ignore these realities and block European unanimity, in an inexplicable way that is difficult to understand for the entire European Union,” Iohannis said in a reaction statement, a translated copy of which was shared with Euronews.

“The regrettable and unjustified attitude of Austria in (Thursday’s) meeting risks affecting European unity and cohesion, which we need so much, especially in the current geopolitical context,” he added, referring to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In a high-stakes meeting of interior ministers in Brussels, Austria was the only country that opposed Romania’s — and Bulgaria’s — admission into the Schengen Area, which has abolished border checks between the vast majority of EU member states.

The Netherlands endorsed Romania’s bid but was against Bulgaria’s over rule-of-law concerns.

Admitting new Schengen members requires a unanimous vote.

On the other hand, both Austria and the Netherlands approved Croatia’s candidacy, a country that entered the European Union six years after Romania.

Croatia will join Schengen as of January 2023.

Thursday’s negative outcome was a heavy political blow for Bucharest, which had gathered strong support from the European Commission, the European Parliament and most EU countries, including the bloc’s two heavyweights, Germany and France.

The Commission has repeatedly insisted Romania is ready to be part of Schengen after having fulfilled all technical and legal conditions, including border management and police cooperation.

“The citizens of Bulgaria and Romania deserve to be fully part of the Schengen area,” Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for home affairs, said on Thursday.

But none of this was enough to overcome Austria’s veto.

Vienna argues that a new influx of asylum-seekers through the Western Balkans route is a reason strong enough to postpone Schengen enlargement.

The country says it has received 75,000 unregistered migrants this year, a number that poses a “security issue that we cannot wipe away”, according to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

“The European asylum system has failed,” Nehammer said last month. “The Schengen expansion will not take place like this.”

In the days prior to the vote in Brussels, President Iohannis and other Romanian officials tried to counter Austria’s arguments, saying there was no “uncontrolled” flow of migrants passing through the country and that Romania was well prepared to defend Schengen’s external borders.

Iohannis and Nehammer, who belonged to the same political family, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), met as recently as Tuesday, during an EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana, Albania.

“(The) lack of consensus regarding Romania’s accession to Schengen, due to Austria’s opposition, is profoundly unfair for our country and for Romanian citizens,” Iohannis said on Thursday, after the negative outcome.

“Romania deserved to receive a favorable vote.”

In his reaction statement, Iohannis thanked all the member states who backed his country’s long-stalled Schengen bid and vowed to act “responsibly” to strengthen the EU’s internal security.

“Dear Romanians, Romania does not stop here!” the president wrote. “Schengen accession is our strategic objective and we will not stop until we achieve it.”

It’s unclear when a new vote on Schengen will take place, as Austria’s concerns touch upon a broader issue of shortcomings and failures within the area rather than upon Romania’s and Bulgaria’s own readiness.

Sweden will replace the Czech Republic at the helm of the EU Council’s rotating presidency in early January and will be tasked with setting the agenda of ministerial meetings.

Schengen enables cross-border travel without the need to carry a passport or pass through border controls. It currently encompasses 26 countries, including 22 EU member states, and almost 420 million citizens.

Joining Schengen is a legal obligation for every EU country.

Only Ireland, which negotiated an opt-out clause decades ago, and Cyprus, which remains split between north and south, have not applied to enter the passport-free area. — Euronews



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SpaceX moon flight to include DJ, YouTuber and K-pop rapper


TOKYO — A commercial DJ, K-pop rapper, and a space YouTuber are to go on a trip around the Moon, after they were picked by a Japanese billionaire for a private SpaceX flight.

Businessman Yusaku Maezawa revealed his crew on Friday after a global search for creative individuals last year.

American DJ Steve Aoki and Korean star TOP are the most high-profile picks.

The flight, scheduled for next year, could be the first lunar journey by humans since 1972.

The proposed fly-by would see a spacecraft circle the moon, coming within 200km (124 miles) of the surface. The trip would take eight days from launch to return.

However, US regulators are yet to give permission for the Starship rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company that the crew is supposed to travel on.

The ship has not even been approved for an orbital journey around the Earth and has been grounded for the past 18 months in Texas, after it completed a test launch in May 2021.

But Maezawa made no mention of this delay in his video announcing the crew for the mission he’s dubbed dearMoon.

The opening scene shows Maezawa in a Japanese garden looking up at the moon. It then cuts to show the first crew member – DJ Aoki – at one of his shows.

“I can’t miss this opportunity. My soul is begging for this,” the Billboard-charting artist says in the video.

The next passenger revealed is Youtuber Tim Dodd – also known as the Everyday Astronaut- who has 1.4 million followers online for his educational videos on spaceflight and astrophysics.

In his own video released on Friday the vlogger said he couldn’t believe he’d been selected. He added that SpaceX’s announcement in 2017 that it would send a civilian to the moon was “ironically, or poetically… actually what got me started making videos on Youtube.”

The other announced dearMoon mission members are:

TOP (Choi Seung hyun), a K-pop rapper and former lead of boyband Big Bang (South Korea)

Dancer and choreographer Yemi A.D. (Czech Republic)

Photographer Rhiannon Adam (Ireland)

Wildlife photographer Karim Iliya (UK)

Filmmaker Brendan Hall (US)

Actor Dev Joshi (India)

US Olympic snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington and Japanese dancer Miyu were named as back-ups.

“I hope each and every one will recognise the responsibility that comes with leaving the Earth, travelling to the moon and back,” Mr Maezawa said.

“They will gain a lot from this experience and I hope they will use that to contribute to the planet, to humanity.”

Maezawa, who made his fortune in online fashion retailer Zozo, has become prominently involved in commercial space travel. Last year he went to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket for 12 days.

In 2018, he was named as the first private passenger due to be flown around the moon by SpaceX and said he would sponsor the cost of eight other passengers on board.

The price Maezawa agreed to pay for his ticket to space has not been disclosed, but according to Musk it was “a lot of money”.

In 2020, he also launched a documentary search for a new girlfriend to join him on his moon voyage, before canceling due to “mixed feelings”. — BBC



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Mumbai AQI: Air in India’s financial capital getting worse than smog-filled Delhi


MUMBAI — India’s financial capital Mumbai has been witnessing “very poor” air quality in recent days.

It’s capital Delhi that usually makes headlines for having dangerous levels of air pollution during the winter months.

But Mumbai, which has a vast coastline and is considered to have better air quality, overtook Delhi’s pollution levels several times this week.

Mumbai has joined a growing list of Indian cities that have bad air.

Experts say rapid construction, adverse weather conditions and increasing pollution from vehicle emissions are some of the factors responsible for the deteriorating air quality.

The level of PM 2.5 – fine particulate matter that can clog lungs and cause a host of diseases – was 308 in the city on Friday morning at 8.30am [local time], compared to Delhi’s reading of 259, according to government data.

Levels between 200 to 300 are considered poor and any reading between 300 to 400 is categorized as very poor. Many Indian cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Kanpur and Patna, often report PM 2.5 levels well above the safe limit.

A figure between zero and 50 is considered “good”, and between 51 and 100 is “satisfactory”, according to the air quality index or AQI.

Meanwhile, local hospitals in Mumbai have reported an increase in the number of people coming in with breathing difficulties and other ailments related to poor air quality.

Doctors have advised people to wear masks and avoid going out when not necessary. Mumbai’s civic officials say they are taking urgent steps to improve the air quality.

Bad air quality in Indian cities is causing serious health issues to people. A Lancet study reported that pollution led to more than 2.3 million premature deaths in India in 2019. — BBC



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