Doha, Qatar (AFP) – The Ukrainian president made a surprise video appearance on Saturday at the Qatar-based Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich country and others to boost production to counter the loss of Russian energy supplies.
Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United Nations and world powers to help him, as he has done in a series of other speeches he has given around the world since the start of the war on February 24. He likened Russia’s destruction of the port of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction inflicted on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war.
“They are destroying our ports,” Zelensky said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries around the world.”
The loss of Ukrainian wheat has alarmed Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, which depend on those exports.
Zelensky called on countries to increase their energy exports – which is especially important because Qatar is a world leader in exporting natural gas. Western sanctions have curtailed Russian exports, which are critical to European countries.
Also in attendance was Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the top diplomat of the world’s largest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia has so far said it will stick to the OPEC+ production schedule that the organization has concluded with Russia and other producers. The kingdom also said it would not be responsible for the price hikes as it deals with attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen amid its years-long war in the Arab world’s poorest country..
Zelensky criticized Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons, raising the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield.
“Russia deliberately boasts that it can destroy with nuclear weapons not only a specific country but the entire planet,” Zelensky said.
He also indicated that Muslims in Ukraine will have to fight during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.
“We must ensure that the misery of the people of Ukraine does not overshadow the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s ruling emir has criticized Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians over the past 70 years, urging the world to stand against increasing global militarism that has come to a head in Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani sought to draw a line between anti-Semitism and the ability to criticize Israel for its occupation of the lands Palestinians hope for their state. Sheikh Tamim’s statements come at a time when Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in 2020 arranged diplomatic relations with Israel.
At the beginning of the forum, Sheikh Tamim said, “It is noted here that the accusation of anti-Semitism is now used wrongly against everyone who criticizes Israel’s policies, and this affects the struggle against racism and actual anti-Semitism.”
He added, “While emphasizing solidarity, in this context, I would like to remind the millions of Palestinians who have been suffering from Israeli occupation and international neglect for more than seven decades.” “Likewise, there are a lot of other people, like the Syrian people and the Afghan people, for whom the international community has failed to deliver.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was Saturday, the Jewish day of rest, when government offices were closed.
However, Israel and Qatar discussed reducing tensions in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Qatar, which supports Islamist groups across the region, stepped in to provide humanitarian aid, including bags full of cash Shipped to Gaza with permission from Israel.
Qatar’s support for the Islamists saw it become the target of a years-long boycott by four Arab countries – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – during President Donald Trump’s rule. That boycott ended before President Joe Biden took office in 2021.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, hailed the event for bringing top diplomats from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the podium as a sign that “the embargo is over.”
But he referred to what he described as the Saudi and Emirati reluctance to condemn Russia for its war on Ukraine. He hoped that the Russian people would revolt against Vladimir Putin and that there would be “regime change” because “their future is very dead” with the way things are now.
“What you’ve seen on your television sets, like all of us, are war crimes on an industrial scale,” Graham said. “The question for the world is: Can this be forgiven? Can we be the world we want to be and let Putin get away with this? The answer to me is no.”
Associated Press writer John Gambrill in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.
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