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Several other countries, including Australia, had been in talks with the U.N.’s refugee agency to accept Alqunun, Surachate said earlier in the day.

“She chose Canada. It’s her personal decision,” he said.

Canada’s ambassador had seen her off at the airport, Surachate said, adding that she looked happy and healthy.

She thanked everyone for helping her, he said, and added that the first thing she would do upon arrival in Canada would be to start learning the language. She already speaks more than passable English, in addition to Arabic.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Canada’s decision.

“The quick actions over the past week of the government of Thailand in providing temporary refuge and facilitating refugee status determination by UNHCR, and of the government of Canada in offering emergency resettlement to Ms. Alqunun and arranging her travel were key to the successful resolution of this case,” the agency said in a statement.

It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted Alqunon to choose Canada over Australia. Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia because Canberra was taking too long to decide on her asylum.

UNHCR officials were not immediately available for comment. Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan said Saturday that Australia had moved quickly to process her case but Canada decided to take her in. He added that, ultimately, the outcome was a good one. “She’s going to be safe,” he said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun’s “courage and perseverance.”

“This is so much a victory for everyone who cares about respecting and promoting women’s rights, valuing the independence of youth to forge their own way, and demanding governments operate in the light and not darkness,” he said in a statement.

Alqunun was stopped Jan. 5 at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and took her plight onto social media. It got enough public and diplomatic support that Thai officials admitted her temporarily under the protection of U.N. officials, who granted her refugee status Wednesday.

Alqunun’s father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but his daughter refused to meet with him. Surachate said the father — whose name has not been released — denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight. He said Alqunun’s father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

“He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes,” Surachate said.

Canada’s decision to grant her asylum could further upset the country’s relations with Saudi Arabia.

In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s Foreign Ministry tweeted support for women’s right activists who had been arrested. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

No country, including the U.S., spoke out publicly in support of Canada in that spat with the Saudis.

On Friday, Trudeau avoided answering a question about what the case would mean for relations with the kingdom, but he said Canada will always unequivocally stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world.

Canadian officials were reluctant to comment further until she landed safely in Canada.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wanted to seek refuge in Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met Thursday with senior Thai officials in Bangkok. She later said Australia was assessing Alqunun’s resettlement request.

Payne said she also raised Australia’s concerns with Thai officials about Hakeem al-Araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured.

He was arrested while vacationing in Thailand in November due to an Interpol notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police station — a charge he denies. Bahrain is seeking his extradition.

Al-Araibi’s case is being considered by Thailand’s justice system, she said.

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ADNOC and OCI form regional and global fertilizer exporting powerhouse

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The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the Netherlands-based OCI, a producer and distributor of natural gas-based fertilizers and chemicals, are joining forces, the companies announced Monday.

The new joint venture will create the world’s largest exporter of nitrogen fertilizer, as well as the largest producer in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Abu Dhabi, OCI CEO and Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris pointed to consolidation as a key strategy for improving returns.

“This is an industry that is not very proud that we can’t achieve high single-digits return on capital employed. We have to do something to improve the returns and one is consolidate our various manufacturing platforms, pool them together and be able to serve our customers along multiple geographic regions,” he said.

The joint venture aims to expand the companies’ market share and the diversity of its Middle Eastern and African production channels.

“ADNOC is very well positioned to serve the Asian market, our assets in Egypt are well-positioned to serve East Africa as well as Eastern Europe, our assets in Algeria are incredibly close to the Western European markets as well as Latin America,” the CEO added. “So this platform will be unique in terms of its ability to deliver to our customers the products in a timely manner and in a cost-efficient way in terms of mitigating freight costs.”

Allan Baxter | The Image Bank | Getty Images

The entity will have a production capacity of 5 million tons of urea and 1.5 million tons of sellable ammonia, according to an ADNOC press release, which listed annual revenues for the combined entity at $1.74 billion, based on 2018 pro forma figures.

OCI and ADNOC will own a 58% and 42% stake in the venture, respectively, which will be based in Abu Dhabi and registered with Abu Dhabi Global Market.

The move is the latest step in ADNOC’s strategy to expand its downstream portfolio. The company has inked a number of new petrochemical partnerships this year, including with Austria’s OMV and Borealis in March. It’s also sold stakes of its refining units to international firms and signed pipeline infrastructure deals with institutional investors in the U.S.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, ADNOC group CEO and UAE minister of state, said in a statement: “Pooling our assets and capabilities is a value enhancing step for both companies, allowing us to leapfrog competitors to become the top nitrogen export platform globally. It will also enable us to access new markets, benefiting both existing and new customers.”

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Virgin Atlantic chooses Airbus A330 to update fleet

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A Virgin Atlantic plane taxis past a Delta plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in N.Y.

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In its second major announcement at the Paris Air Show, Airbus has announced that Virgin Atlantic is to buy 14 A330-900 aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss said at a press conference Monday it was the airline’s “biggest ever fleet transformation,” and that by 2025 the Virgin fleet would have halved its average age.

The list price for the deal was $4.1 billion dollars, although it is expected that Virgin negotiated a much cheaper deal.The commitment from Virgin was for eight aircraft from Airbus and six additionally leased from Air Lease Corporation.

U.S. firm Delta Airlines owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic and Weiss said the firm had input into the purchase decision.

Weiss added that the order of the A330neo plane will replace Virgin’s A330ceos from 2021 and was part of a plan to double its fleet size flying out of Heathrow.

Earlier on Monday, Airbus announced the launch of a long-range, single-aisle airliner. The company also announcement that it agreed to sell 100 planes to the U.S. plane lessor Air Lease Corporation.

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Suspension of Hong Kong’s China extradition bill and what it means

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Demonstrators hold signs during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China June 9, 2019.

Thomas Peter | Reuters

After days of protests, the Hong Kong government suspended a proposed extradition bill on the weekend — a move that surprised some China watchers.

The proposed legislation would have allowed fugitives to be handed over to Beijing, fueling concerns that Hong Kong’s legal system may be compromised by closer judicial ties with China.

Despite the suspension, protesters turned up in force demanding the resignation of the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“This is a victory for the protesters, without question,” said Duncan Innes-Ker, Asia regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, after the proposal was put on hold indefinitely  — though not completely scrapped. 

“However, in broader terms, the (Chinese) central government is unlikely to back off from its ongoing efforts to tighten political controls over Hong Kong,” Innes-Ker added.

He questioned Lam’s future as the leader of the territory, and criticized her “poorly judged statements during the demonstrations” that “only served to inflame public anger.”

While Lam issued an apology through a government spokesperson on Sunday, organizers of the mass protests called said it was impersonal and a “total insult” to protesters.

China’s response

China has been on record as agreeing with the need for the legislation, but after Lam’s decision to suspend it, the central government on Saturday expressed its support, respect and understanding and said it “will continue its staunch support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam.”

“Anything regarding Hong Kong … is a domestic affair,” said Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson Lu Kang on Monday during a regular press conference. He said in Chinese that it was “not an issue to be responded by the foreign affairs ministry,” according to a CNBC translation.

In addition to that, Lu added that “the Chinese central government is very confident in Carrie Lam’s work, and the Chinese central government will continue to firmly support the chief executive as well as the special administrative region’s government policy.”

What it means for Carrie Lam

“Beijing will not want to send a message that political leaders can be pushed from office by people power,” the EIU’s Innes-Ker said, adding that he believes that Lam will see out the rest of her current term.

The protests have highlighted the weaknesses in Hong Kong’s political system, ” Innes-Kerr wrote in the report.

“Accountable to both Beijing and the people of Hong Kong, chief executives have prioritized the need to keep the central government happy, but this has stoked political instability in the territory. In the long term, that dynamic is likely to continue unless there is political liberalization on the mainland,” he added.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, speaks during a news conference at Central Government Complex on June 15, 2019 in Hong Kong China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

On the other hand, Steve Tsang, a London-based political scientist told Reuters that Lam had caused Chinese President  Xi Jinping “major embarrassment” ahead of a possible meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump at G-20 summit in late June.

“I think Carrie Lam’s days are numbered … Beijing cannot afford to sack her right away because that would be an indication of weakness. They would have to allow for a bit of decent interlude,” said Tsang.

What it means for Hong Kong

Some analysts have said the public outcry and demonstrations could affect the social cohesion in Hong Kong.

“Beyond the bill itself, it remains to be seen whether social divisions within Hong Kong will intensify, or if a greater consensus about its relationship with mainland China will emerge,” Mingda Qiu, research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in a note on Friday.

Beijing could “continue its current approach of gradual expansion of its influence in Hong Kong,” said Qiu. Alternatively, China might reconsider its approach and “do more to provide reassurance to Hong Kong residents and the international community,” he added.

Other China watchers appeared to be a little more optimistic with Hong Kong’s pursuit of democracy. 

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times even suggested that Hong Kong “is acting as a guardian of China’s memory and of the hope that a more liberal China could one day replace the current one-party state.”

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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