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US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken to visit Algeria, Morocco over ‘wheat matters’, others

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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.

Musings From Abroad

Italian firm, Eni signs $8 billion Libya gas deal as PM Meloni visits Tripoli

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With the aim of boosting energy supplies and other markets, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed an $8 billion gas production deal with Italian energy company Eni.

The deal, which comes despite the insecurity and political chaos in the North African country was signed during a visit to Tripoli by Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, aims to increase gas output for the Libyan domestic market as well as exports, through the development of two offshore gas fields.

Meloni met Libya’s Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the internationally recognised Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli for talks that also focused on migration across the Mediterranean.

At a joint news conference with Descalzi, the NOC chief, Farhat Bengdara, said the gas deal had a duration of 25 years and called it the most important new investment in Libya’s energy sector for a quarter of a century.

According to a statement by Eni’s chief executive, Claudio Descalzi, the output will begin in 2026 and reach a plateau of 750 million cubic feet per day.

“This agreement will enable important investments in Libya’s energy sector, contributing to local development and job creation while strengthening Eni’s role as a leading operator in the country.”

Since the beginning of the current Russia/Ukraine war, European countries have sought alternate gas sources outside Russia. Italy on its part has already taken a lead in sourcing gas from Algeria, building a new strategic partnership there that includes investment to help state energy company Sonatrach reverse years of declining output.

Libya is the fourth natural gas producer on the African continent, and oil and gas resources largely contribute to Libya’s export trade. The country developed a strong oil sector after major oil discoveries in the late 1950s.

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Musings From Abroad

EU chief, Josep Borrell, wants South Africa to influence ceasefire with Ukraine

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The regional bloc,  European Union wants South Africa to influence Russia to stop its ongoing war with Ukraine.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday raised expectations that the African country will use its good relations with Russia to convince it to stop the war in Ukraine.

Borrell, while speaking alongside South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor in the capital Pretoria, said “The EU isn’t asking South Africa to choose sides, just asking countries across the world to stand with the UN Charter.”

The EU considers South Africa an important partner in the rules-based international order, he added.

Pandor said: “It is not just South Africa and other African countries that must play a role in seeking peace.”

Full diplomatic relations between South Africa and Russia were established in 1942 as the Soviet Union. Russia has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate-general in Cape Town. South Africa has an embassy in Moscow.

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