The Muslim World
The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says that without a new injection of funding, it is “likely or highly likely” that the agency will not be able to deliver some services or pay salaries by the fall. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said at a press conference in Beirut that the agency responsible for services to Palestinian refugees has been facing a shortfall of $150 to $200 million annually in recent years. Donors at a conference earlier this month pledged $115.2 million, of which only $13.2 million were new funds — significantly less than the $300 million the agency had called for to keep its programs running through the end of the year.
The president of the United Arab Emirates has met with Iran’s visiting foreign minister in the latest sign of improving relations between Arab Gulf countries and the Islamic Republic. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have long harbored suspicions about Iran because of its nuclear program and support for militant groups across the region. They have cultivated close defense ties with the U.S. in response. But in recent months they have charted a more independent path, reaching out to U.S. adversaries as Washington increasingly focuses on Russia and China. The UAE, home to the futuristic cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, was the driving force behind the Abraham Accords, in which four Arab countries forged ties with Israel.
Iraq’s president has approved a record $152 billion budget that the parliament voted on earlier this month and which adds about half a million public sector jobs. Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid on Wednesday ratified the budget, which has a projected deficit of $48 billion. Parliament last week voted on the draft, six months into the fiscal year and after months of negotiations. The budget’s rosy revenue projections and the large number of new positions in the public sector have drawn criticism, including from the International Monetary Fund, which in a recent report warned against “fiscal loosening” and a heavy reliance on oil revenues . The IMNF also urged the government to implement a stricter fiscal policy.
Saudi Arabia has ambitous plans to welcome millions more pilgrims to Islam’s holiest sites. But as climate change heats up an already scorching region, the annual Hajj pilgrimage could prove even more daunting. It's one of the largest religious gatherings on earth, and much of it takes place outdoors in the desert. The increased number of pilgrims, along with a surge in international air travel and the expansion of infrastructure, also raises sustainability concerns. Later this month, Saudi Arabia will host the first Hajj pilgrimage without any coronavirus restrictions. Around 2.5 million people took part in the pilgrimage in 2019, and some 2 million are expected this year.
Turkey's central bank has delivered a large interest rate increase, signaling a shift toward more conventional economic policies to counter sky-high inflation. The bank raised its key rate by 6.5 percentage points, boosting it to 15%. The increase is the first since March 2021 but lower than market expectations. It came at the bank’s closely watched first interest rate-setting meeting since Erdogan appointed two internationally respected officials to lead the bank and the finance ministry. The rate hike is an indication that the country is moving away from Erdogan’s unorthodox belief that lowering interest rates fights inflation. The bank said rates would be hiked further “as much as needed” in a “gradual manner.”
The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo made no breakthrough in emergency talks aimed at defusing tensions around their border. But European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic agree on the need for early elections. Tensions flared in northern Kosovo last month after local police seized control of municipal buildings in a region where Serbs are in the majority. The aim was to install ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in local polls that Kosovo Serbs boycotted. Violent clashes followed. The two leaders refused to meet face-to-face in Brussels on Thursday but held separate talks with Borrell.