Iraq’s Trade Ministry said on Sunday it was negotiating direct contracts for the import of rice and wheat after multiple failures to secure them through international tenders. Iraq had been struggling to import the grains for its food subsidy programme after introducing new payment and quality terms that kept traders away from its international tenders. The ministry said in a statement its Central Contracts Committee was about to sign a deal for jasmine rice from the Iraqi Vietnamese Company, but it did not mention the quantities agreed upon.It said it was negotiating to import wheat from several origins for its food rationing programme. “The Central Committee, after a failure of several tenders as a result of the new mechanisms for contracts, has begun to negotiate with large international companies to contract wheat”, the ministry said. Major global wheat and rice buyer Iraq had told suppliers earlier this year it would pay for its grains in instalments. Traders said they were informed by Iraq’s Grain Board that low oil prices and other financial factors were forcing the country to stagger payments. Iraq created a rationing program for flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar and baby milk formula in 1991 to combat U.N. economic sanctions.
Palestinians on Monday welcomed a French plan to hold an international conference on the two-state solution in Paris at the end of December. In Jerusalem PM Netanyahu called on Abbas to immediately hold direct negotiations with him. Abbas has persistently rejected such calls, stating that Israel must halt all settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem before such talks could be held. Israel on Monday warned France that their plan only emboldens Abbas to continue to refuse to negotiate. Israel is committed to the peace process, but believe that a final status agreement with the Palestinians can only be reached through direct talks.