Agreement to unblock Ukrainian grain exports
Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations on Wednesday in Istanbul reached the initial elements of an agreement to lift Russia’s Black Sea blockade and release millions of tons of grain trapped in war-ravaged Ukraine. The Turkish Defence Ministry, which is hosting the talks, said in a statement that the delegations reached agreement on basic technical points to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports and that Russia and Ukraine will meet again next week in Turkey to review what has been discussed and sign an accord. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in New York shortly after the Turkish announcement that the progress achieved on Wednesday was “a critical step forward” to help ease the global food crisis
EU plans to lower thermostats by one degree
A draft EU European Gas Plan enviasages that between October and March, large savings can be achieved by using alternative sources for heating, as well as through “gas saving campaigns aimed at households by lowering the thermostat by one degree”. The document, entitled “Saving gas for a safe winter”, also provides for “the reduction of heating of public buildings, offices, commercial buildings (especially large buildings) to 19 degrees, where technically feasible and applicable. The draft gas plan, which the European Commission will present on July 20,takes into account the simulations carried out by the European Association of Gas Operators, according to which “the shortage of gas, in the event of a total interruption from Russia starting from July, would lead to a stock replenishment rate probably lower than the 80% target set for November by the new EU regulation on storage”. The data, continues the text, indicate “that storage could be between 65 and 71%”.
Gazprom cannot guarantee Nord Stream operation
Russian gas giant Gazprom cannot guarantee the proper functioning of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. It said it is not in possession of any document indicating that Siemens is able to take the gas turbine for the Portovaya compressor station out of Canada, where it is undergoing repair. Germany and Europe fear that the reduction could be prolonged due to a political choice by the Kremlin. The Russian gas giant has previously cut its supplies by complaining about the turbine problem. ‘The Globe and Mail’newspaper wrote that one of the turbines is on its way to Europe, while the other five will be delivered within two years. The EU has specified that technologies related to gas transport are not subject to sanctions, despite the objections of Ukraine.
USA calls on Russia to stop deportations of Ukrainians
US secretary of state Antony Blinken has called on Russia to “immediately stop forced deportations to Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine”. Between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians, including 260,000 children, were deported to Russia. The US said “the illegal transfer and expulsion of persons constitutes a serious violation of the Geneva Convention and a war crime”. Earlier, addressing the “Asian Leadership” conference in Seoul, President Zelensky denounced the deportations, saying the victims’ documents were stolen and they were intimidated.
EU cuts growth estimates
The EU Commission is preparing to once again revise downward the estimates of the Eurozone’s GDP for 2022 and 2023. In the summer economic forecasts, which will be presented today by Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, growth should be reduced by a few decimal points compared to the 2.7% estimated in May. The outlook for 2023 is gloomy: in the euro area growth should be cut by around one percentage point from 2.3% in May. The war in Ukraine and the gas crisis weigh heavily.
US inflation gallops to 9.1% in June
New flare-up of inflation in the United States in June. Consumer prices rose 9.1% on an annual basis, above the expectations of analysts who bet on + 8.8%. On a monthly basis, the increase was 1.3%. Since November 1981 there has not been such a significant leap; 9.1% was the maximum of the last 40 years.
Biden to meet with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem
US President Joe Biden will hold bilateral talks Thursday with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, where the two allies are expected to declare a “united stand” on common foe Iran. Biden touched down in Tel Aviv on Wednesday for the first Middle East tour of his presidency, which will see him meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders before flying onwards to Saudi Arabia. Tehran will top the agenda of talks slated for Thursday, according to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, while a senior official said the two leaders were due to sign a joint declaration. The document “is going to be a living testimony to the unique quality, health, scope, depth and intimacy of the US-Israel relationship”, the Israeli official said. On arrival, Biden told Israeli TV the United States would be willing to use force against Iran in order to prevent the development of nuclear weapons but that would be “the last resort”. He also said “the two-state solution remained the best to ensure peace and stability for Israelis and Palestinians.”
UK: Mordaunt ‘rattles rivals’
Many of Thursday’s London newspapers lead with the growing support for Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt in the race to be the next Tory leader and prime minister. The first round of voting in the contest saw Rishi Sunak emerge on top with 88 votes but Mordaunt place second with 67. The papersagree the surge has “rattled” the other contenders and left Mordaunt as Sunak’s leading rival. There are now six survivors left in the running to succeed Boris Johnson, after Nadihm Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt were eliminated.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister asks speaker to nominate new PM
Sri Lanka’s acting president and prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Wednesday asked parliament’s speaker to nominate a new prime minister after the country’s president fled abroad, plunging a nation already reeling from economic chaos into more political turmoil. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was due to head to Singapore after fleeing to the Maldives in the early hours of Wednesday, as protests continued in Colombo. Rajapaksa faced protests in Maldives hours after landing with demonstrators urging the Maldives government not to provide him safe heaven.
39 die in Afghan floods
In Afghanistan, unseasonal heavy rains resulted in flooding that killed at least 39 people, including nine children, the United Nations reported. Fourteen other people were injured. The rains also caused landslides, exposing unexploded bombs from four decades of wars and conflicts.
Modigliani’s sketches found under one of his exhibits
Curators of the Hecht Museum of the University of Haifa have discovered three hitherto unknown sketches by celebrated 20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani, hidden beneath the surface of one of his paintings belonging to the Israeli institution’s collection. The unfinished works of Modigliani, an artist of Italian origin who worked in Paris before dying in 1920, came to light after the “Nude with hat” canvas (which has the “Portrait of Maud Abrantès” on the reverse) was analyzed by X-ray as part of a large forensic study of his works in view of an upcoming exhibition in Philadelphia. Inna Berkowits, Hecht’s art historian, said it was a “truly surprising discovery”.
Euro 2022: Netherlands, Sweden survive scares
Holders the Netherlands held off a stirring fightback by Portugal to close in on a place in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals with a 3-2 win, while Sweden struck late to beat Switzerland 2-1 on Wednesday.Victory takes the Netherlands top of Group C, level on four points with the Swedes, with both sides just needing a point from their final group game to progress. Ranked second in the world, Sweden were among the pre-tournament favourites but have so far struggled to hit top gear. Switzerland and Portugal now need to win in the final games of Group C on Sunday to have any chance of progessing to the last eight. Tonight’s matches: Group D: Italy v. Iceland and France v. Belgium.