The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, will stop by in Algeria and Morocco today, Monday 28 March, after a “historic” meeting with Arab countries in Israel on Sunday.
US officials say two key issues two issues are on the agenda for the trip: quelling the Jewish state’s worries about a looming nuclear deal with Iran, and discussing the potential global wheat shortage caused by the Ukraine war that could deal a heavy blow to the import-dependent Middle East.
“We know this pain is keenly felt in the Middle East and North Africa, where most countries import at least half of their wheat,” much of it from Ukraine, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Yael Lempert said ahead of the trip.
The war “will only continue to increase the price of basic staples like bread in the region, taking money from the pockets of the hardest working and most vulnerable families,” she said.
The Russia/Ukraine war has contributed to global food shortage with the two countries accounting for a significant amount of certain food supply globally, especially wheat. The effect of the situation has made Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly announce that the country will diversify its sources of wheat to avoid relying on what he described as “specific sources” for this product.
The Washington official’s visit to Morocco will involve talks over the disputed Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony that the Trump administration formally recognized as part of Morocco in exchange for Rabat normalizing relations with Israel in December 2020, as part of the ground-breaking Abraham Accords.
In Algeria, Blinken will see President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.
Algeria is a leading supplier of natural gas to Europe, playing a crucial role after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month halted the opening of a new large natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
WHO ‘very worried’ over spread of Mpox varieties in Congo DR
A senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO), Rosamund Lewis, has said that the body is “very worried” about the spread of a variety of Mpox that has killed nearly 600 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.
This year alone, Congo DR has reported 13,000 cases, which is more than twice as many as during the last peak in 2020, with the disease occurring in almost every province. The WHO is working with the authorities on the response and a risk assessment.
The dangerous clade mpox outbreak was the subject of a warning released by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.
“The virus variant is known to be more virulent. If it adapts better to human-to-human transmission, that presents a risk,” Lewis, WHO’s mpox lead, told journalists.
WHO in May announced that the disease was no longer a global health emergency after which its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the end of the emergency status for the disease.
Most reported cases of the disease were identified through sexual health or other health services in primary or secondary healthcare facilities, and involved mainly, but not exclusively, men who have sex with men.
A less severe form known as clade II started to spread around the world last year, mostly through male-to-male sexual contact, prompting WHO to declare a public health emergency.
Lewis expressed concern over new evidence suggesting that clade I can also spread through sexual contact. According to her, mumps can also infect humans through contaminated animals or family members living together in a home. Children and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable; in up to 10% of cases of clade I, illness results in death.
“We have very little information of who is dying of mpox [in DRC] other than age,” said Lewis, adding more data was needed.
The viral infection known as mpox spreads by intimate contact and results in lesions filled with pus and flu-like symptoms. Although most cases are mild and can be fatal.
Sudan Conflict: US insists all warring parties guilty of war crimes
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has maintained that neither party in the ongoing conflict in Sudan can be exonerated from war crimes.
The position was made known on Wednesday as the US continues pressure on the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to end fighting that has caused a humanitarian crisis. The US also insisted that the RSF and allied militias committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
“The expansion of the needless conflict between the RSF and the SAF has caused grievous human suffering,” Blinken said, referring to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). In West Darfur, the RSF has also been charged with spearheading an ethnic massacre; in the capital city of Khartoum, locals have accused the paramilitary group of raping, stealing, and detaining civilians.
“Masalit civilians have been hunted down and left for dead in the streets, their homes set on fire, and told that there is no place in Sudan for them,” Blinken said. The Masalit are a non-Arab tribe.
“Detainees have been abused, and some have been killed at SAF and RSF detention sites,” Blinken added.
A war broke out in mid-April between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the military, four years after longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown in an uprising.
Blinken, however, maintained that the position did not rule out the possibility of other determinations in the future as more information became available.
“The United States is committed to building on this determination and using available tools to end this conflict and cease committing the atrocities and other abuses that are depriving the Sudanese people of freedom, peace, and justice,” Blinken said.
Over 6 million people have fled their homes as a result of the conflict, and about 1.2 million of them have entered neighbouring countries, severely straining the resources of Sudan and its neighbours.
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