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Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil prices were little changed on Friday, staying on track for weekly gains, but the markets remained jittery with tensions persisting in the Middle East after Israel rejected a ceasefire offer from Hamas, according to Reuters. Brent crude futures slipped 1 cent to $81.62 a barrel by 6:34 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 3 cents to $76.25 a barrel. Both benchmarks rose about 3 percent in the previous session as Israeli forces bombed the southern border city of Rafah on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal to end the war in the Palestinian enclave. The tensions have kept oil prices elevated, with Brent and WTI both set to gain more than 5 percent for the week. “The move yesterday seemed a bit excessive on the back of not very much at least in terms of fundamentals,” ING’s head of commodities research Warren Patterson said. “I still expect the rangebound trading that we have become accustomed to recently will continue given the comfortable oil balance.” US officials made their most pointed criticism so far of Israel’s civilian casualties in Gaza as it turned the focus of its offensive to Rafah. A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Thursday for ceasefire talks with mediators Egypt and Qatar. While the conflict has propped up prices, there has been no impact on oil production. Non-Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries output from Norway and Guyana is increasing while Russia is exporting more crude in February than it planned following a combination of drone attacks and technical outages at its refineries that could undermine its pledge to curb sales under a pact from OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+ Under the deal, Russia committed to capping crude output at 9.5 million barrels per day. It is also voluntarily cutting crude exports by 300,000 bpd and fuel exports by 200,000 bpd from the average May-June level.
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In Yemen the legitimate government announces appointment of a new prime minister whilst rebels continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

In Yemen the legitimate government announces appointment of a new prime minister whilst rebels continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

Yemen's legitimate government announced the appointment of new prime minister. The internationally recognized Presidential Leadership Council head announced that Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak will be the new prime minister. He succeeds Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, who was made an adviser to PLC president, Rashad Al-Alimi. In a post on X, the new prime minister promised to focus on improving living standards for Yemenis, reviving government institutions, and putting an end to the Houthi military seizure of power in Yemen. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi militia on Tuesday launched another wave of missiles toward ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as the group’s leader vowed to continue attacks until Israel lifted its blockade of Gaza. A cargo vessel sailing 57 nautical miles west of the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeidah sustained minor damage to its bridge after one of the weapons passed through its deck, according to British maritime agencies the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), and Ambrey. The UKMTO reported that a small boat had been spotted off the ship’s port side. Meanwhile, Ambrey officials said a British-owned and Barbados-flagged cargo ship had been damaged in a drone attack while navigating through the southeast Red Sea. On Tuesday, the UKMTO warned shipping companies operating in the Gulf of Aden to exercise caution after receiving reports of an explosion near to a commercial vessel 50 nautical miles south of the Yemeni city of Aden.
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Sharp drop in Suez Canal revenues adds to Egypt's woes

Sharp drop in Suez Canal revenues adds to Egypt's woes

Egypt's already considerable economic problems took a turn for the worse last month as revenues from transit of shipping through the Suez Canal dropped by half as a result of security problems in  the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial vessels forced major shipping companies to divert away from the key global trade artery. Income from the international strategic waterway last month dropped to $428 million, compared to $804 million in January 2023, Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in an interview with Egyptian television channel ON TV. The total number of ships through the Suez Canal last month fell to 1,362 vessels, down 36 per cent from the 2,155 vessels navigating the canal during January 2023, he said. Houthi militants in Yemen began attacking commercial vessels in October in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza war, and show no signs of retreating despite the US and Western allies attempting to deter the Iran-backed group with air strikes, which began on January 12.  Many shipping companies have rerouted their vessels away from the Red Sea to avoid the attacks, opting instead for the longer and more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. The Suez Canal is the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe. With about 12 per cent of the world's shipping traffic passing through it, the waterway is a major facilitator of global trade. The canal is also a crucial source of foreign currency for Egypt. The North African economy, already grappling with record inflation and a heavy debt burden was further impacted by the Israel-Gaza war, which has slowed tourism and decreased shipping through the Suez Canal. Egypt is "particularly exposed" to the Red Sea shipping crisis as the country generates about 2.2 per cent of its gross domestic product in annual balance-of-payment receipts and 1.2 per cent of GDP in fiscal revenue from Suez Canal dues, the International Monetary Fund said in its regional economic outlook in January.
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800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

The BBC is reporting that more than 800 serving officials in the US and Europe have signed a statement warning that their own governments' policies on the Israel-Gaza war could amount to "grave violations of international law". Many are describing the statement as an unprecedented move that reflects great concern in official circles in western countries about the the position of their governments on the situation in Gaza. The "transatlantic statement", a copy of which was passed to the BBC, says their administrations risk being complicit in "one of the worst human catastrophes of this century" but that their expert advice has been sidelined. It is the latest sign of significant levels of dissent within the governments of some of Israel's key Western allies. One signatory to the statement, a US government official with more than 25 years' national security experience, told the BBC of the "continued dismissal" of their concerns. "The voices of those who understand the region and the dynamics were not listened to," said the official. "What's really different here is we're not failing to prevent something, we're actively complicit. That is fundamentally different from any other situation I can recall," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The statement is signed by civil servants from the US, the EU and 11 European countries including the UK, France and Germany.
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Georgia's "supreme leader"

Georgia's "supreme leader"

An extraordinary congress of Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party on Thursday formally agreed the nomination of Irakli Kobakhidze to the post of prime minister. He is expected to be endorsed by parliament tomorrow. After the Party Congress, which lasted about 16 minutes, Kobakhidze told journalists that all ministers would remain in office except for Defense Minister Junasher Burchuladze who is to be replaced by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Irakli Chikovani.  Irakli Garibashvili, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, resigned from his post on January 29, and today replaced Kobakhidze as the Chairman of the “Georgian Dream".  The swap is seen as another expression of the power wielded by Bidzina Ivanishvili who just before new year made a dramatic return to front-line Georgian politics. In a commentary which was first published on the electronic newsletter, Caucasus Concise on 1 February, commonspace.eu research team discusses the role of Ivanishvili as the "supreme leader" of Georgia. They argue that  "in democracies political leaders are accountable not only to the voters in elections, but also subject to scrutiny by parliament, the media and civil society. Bidzina Ivanishvili needs to be accessible to all these parts of the Georgian body politics. He needs to be able to explain policies, answer questions and accept the responsibility for decisions taken not only by him but also by his subordinates, for the Georgian Dream's government is Ivanishvili's government, and there is little doubt left about that."