Hariri stops for talks with El-Sisi on his way back to Lebanon

Egyptian PresidentAbdel Fattah El-Sisireceives outgoingLebanese Premier SaadHariri in Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Hariri stops for talks with El-Sisi on his way back to Lebanon

BEIRUT/CAIRO: Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks in Cairo on Tuesday with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during a stopover on his way from Paris to Beirut.
Hariri’s resignation on Nov. 4 triggered a political crisis in the power-sharing government. In brief remarks after Tuesday’s meeting, he thanked El-Sisi for his support and said he would be in Lebanon on Wednesday for Independence Day celebrations.
Minutes after Hariri landed in Cairo, small groups of supporters took to the streets of central Beirut in noisy convoys, honking, cheering and waving flags with the colors of his Future Movement political bloc. Hariri had been in Paris since Saturday when he met French President Emmanuel Macron.
Hariri arrived at Cairo International Airport, where he was received by Egypt’s health minister, the Lebanese ambassador to Cairo and Egypt’s ambassador to Beirut. He went immediately to the Heliopolis Palace, where he was warmly greeted by El-Sisi. Their meeting was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy and El-Sisi’s chief of staff, Abbas Kamel. The meeting was followed by a dinner in Hariri’s honor.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun also spoke by phone with El-Sisi. The two men “underscored the importance of preserving Lebanon’s stability as well as upholding Lebanon’s national interest,” El-Sisi’s office said.
Also on Tuesday, France repeated its call to Hezbollah to “lay down its arms and act as a party that respects Lebanon's sovereignty and commits to the Security Council’s resolutions on this matter.”
“Lebanon’s stability requires that Hezbollah does not get involved in the region’s conflicts, and therefore we consider its intervention in Syria dangerous,” said the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Agnès Romatet-Espagne.
She also reminded Hezbollah how important the security of the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel was to France.
“Given the delicate circumstances, Paris will continue its dialogue with all Lebanese parties and urge them to reach an understanding on the proper functioning of state institutions,” she said.
President Aoun received messages on Tuesday from King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulating him on Lebanon’s Independence Day on Wednesday.
The two Saudi leaders wished Aoun good health and happiness, and the people of Lebanon progress and prosperity.
Aoun and Lebanon’s parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, also received a congratulatory message from US President Donald Trump. “The United States greatly values the established cultural, family, political and economic ties between the two countries and their people,” said Trump. “Lebanon has always been a strong partner in facing terrorism and radical extremism. We stand firmly with Lebanon and we will continue to support the efforts of your country to protect Lebanon’s stability, independence and sovereignty.”


UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

Kurd demonstrators stage a protest rally in Syria’s western Afrin region bordering Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

  • Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’
  • Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists

The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.

“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva.

Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.

While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.

He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.

“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. 

“We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now.

“The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”

Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement.  

It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. 

He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.

“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.