Gulf nationals exit Lebanon

A Saudia jet takes off from Beirut airport on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Gulf nationals exit Lebanon

BEIRUT: There has been an exodus of Gulf nationals from Lebanon. A Kuwaiti airliner arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut late Friday night in order to bring Kuwaiti citizens who are in Lebanon home to Kuwait.
The permanent representative of the National News Agency (NNA) in Lebanon told Arab News that Beirut airport had witnessed on Thursday night the departure of Saudi citizens on regularly scheduled Beirut-Riyadh flights.
She also noted that the airlines at the airport had reported many booking cancelations from passengers who had booked their flights to come to Lebanon during the coming holiday season.
The exodus comes in response to the call from the foreign ministries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE to their respective citizens who are in Lebanon to return to their countries and to avoid travel to Lebanon.
Lebanon is still experiencing the fallout from the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, announced from Riyadh about a week ago.
Al-Hariri blamed Iran and Hezbollah for his resignation and noted, “We live in an atmosphere similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of (his father) Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun continued his consultations on Friday with Arab and foreign ambassadors in the Presidential Palace. Aoun expressed concern over “the circumstances surrounding the situation of Hariri after announcing his resignation from abroad” and he pointed to the necessity of its unraveling, according to a statement from the Presidential Palace.
The statement added that President Aoun had held meetings with Arab ambassadors in Lebanon, in the presence of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. The spokesman at the Palace stated that Aoun told the Saudi Charge d’Affaires Walid Al-Bukhari that the circumstances of Al-Hariri’s resignation were “unacceptable,” and he demanded the return of the Lebanese prime minister to Beirut.
Arab diplomatic sources told Arab News that the Saudi charge d’affaires “assured Aoun the commitment of Saudi Arabia to the safety and security of Lebanon, and when Aoun raised, in the presence of Bassil, the ambiguity surrounding the situation of Al-Hariri, Al-Bukhari replied that it was possible to communicate with Al-Hariri directly or to send the foreign minister to the Kingdom to meet him.”
The sources told Arab News: “Prime Minister Hariri announced his position, and according to their information, we need to look into the problem and tackle it, and then Al-Hariri would return to Lebanon. But if he returned now, who would guarantee his safety? Taking into consideration the fact that the Kingdom did not dictate an option forcing him to stay in the Kingdom or leave it, he is free in his movements.”
The sources added that “questioning the situation of Al-Hariri and focusing on protocol issues is not right. Are we in Tora Bora? What’s the logic?”
After visiting Aoun, the ambassadors of the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon stressed in a statement read by UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Philippe Lazzarini the importance of “keeping Lebanon protected from tensions in the region,” and the importance of “restoring the vital balance of Lebanon’s state institutions, which are essential to the country’s stability.” They welcomed the “steps taken to contain the political crisis and protect the country, its stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” The ambassadors reiterated their “commitment to support the country, its leadership, and its people during this difficult time.”
On the international front, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a statement on Friday, warned other countries against using Lebanon for “proxy conflicts.” Tillerson also called Al-Hariri a “strong partner” of the US.
“The US cautions against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country,” Tillerson said.
France’s Foreign Ministry on Friday noted comments made earlier by the French minister, suggesting that Al-Hariri may not be free and urging that he continue to play his rightful role in the country, according to Reuters.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 Radio that as far as France was aware, Al-Hariri “was free in his movements” and that it was “important he made his own choices.”
From the UN, AP reported that the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was essential that peace be preserved in Lebanon, warning that a new conflict could have “devastating consequences” in the region.
In Germany, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his concerns to his Saudi counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir, about the possibility of the destabilization of Lebanon.
A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry said in a press conference on Friday that Gabriel told Al-Jubeir in a phone call that he believed the “progressive steps achieved under the leadership of Al-Hariri should not be endangered.”
However, the spokeswoman added, “Berlin has no evidence that Al-Hariri has been detained against his will.”
She added: “Germany shares the Saudi concerns about Iranian meddling in Yemen and the support of Tehran for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah.”


30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces stiff opposition for presidential and legislative polls on June 24. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

  • Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority
  • If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is quoted as saying that 30,000 Syrians who acquired Turkish nationality are eligible to vote in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Hurriyet newspaper and other media said Yildirim made the comments Tuesday in the city of Izmir.
Turkey, which is hosting 3.5 million Syrian refugees, announced in 2016 that it would begin granting citizenship to Syrians.

Another election?
In another development, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) party leader said Turkey could stage another election if the alliance between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the MHP could not form a majority in Parliament after Sunday’s vote.
Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority, while the presidential vote may also go to a second round run-off.
MHP chairman Devlet Bahceli who backed Erdogan in the referendum, said another set of early elections could be on the agenda if the presidency and Parliament struggle to work together after Sunday’s vote.
Speaking in an interview on private news channel NTV late on Monday, Bahceli said that the referendum granted either the president or Parliament the authority to call for snap elections when there was a “blockage” — for example if Erdogan won the presidency but his party fell short of a parliamentary majority.
“When the presidency and Parliament come to the point where they can’t work in unison, there are ways out of this under the constitutional changes and they are carried out. For example, an ... early election could be considered,” he said.
Bahceli played a pivotal role in moving Sunday’s elections forward more than a year when he called on the government to declare snap elections in April. Erdogan set the election date for the June 24 votes after a meeting with Bahceli.
Under the constitutional changes, which will go into effect following the elections, the number of lawmakers in Parliament will increase to 600 from 550. Officials from the AK Party, which has enjoyed a parliamentary majority until now, have said they aim to receive at least 300 seats in the assembly.
Throughout his election campaign, Erdogan has stressed the importance of a “strong Parliament,” saying the decision to support him for the presidency but not the AK Party was a “disturbing attempt.”
The composition of the assembly could depend on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition, which has significant backing in the country’s largely Kurdish southeast.
If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament. If it fails, the seats will go to the second most popular party in the region, almost certainly guaranteeing a majority for the AKP.
Meanwhile, voting at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad for expatriate Turks ends Tuesday, with orange sealed bags carrying votes already arriving in Turkey. Voting at border gates and airports will continue until all polls close Sunday afternoon.
The country’s official Anadolu news agency said 41 percent of the more than 3 million registered expatriate voters have cast their ballots so far.