Hundreds flee Turkish advance on Afrin city — monitor

Syrian Kurds take part in a protest in the northeastern city of Qamishli against the Turkish assault on the Syrian border enclave of Afrin on March 11, 2018. (AFP / Delil Souleiman)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Hundreds flee Turkish advance on Afrin city — monitor

BEIRUT: Hundreds of civilians fled a Turkish-led advance on Syria’s Kurdish-majority city of Afrin on Monday, a monitor said.
Turkey-led rebels have advanced to the outskirts of Afrin city since launching an assault on the wider Kurdish enclave of the same name on January 20.
“More than 2,000 civilians have arrived in the area of Nubul” controlled by pro-regime forces after fleeing the enclave, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Several hundred more are still on the roads” heading out of the region, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Turkish forces and their allies on Saturday arrived within less than two kilometers (one mile) of the city, sparking fears it could become besieged.
Afrin city — the main urban center in the enclave on the Turkish border — is home to around 350,000 people, the Observatory says.
A journalist contributing to AFP saw dozens of cars and buses loaded with civilians and their belongings queuing as they waited to exit the enclave.
Turkey accuses the People’s Protection Units (YPG) controlling Afrin of being “terrorists.”
The Observatory says pro-Ankara forces have captured around 60 percent of the Afrin enclave since January 20.
The YPG led a US-backed alliance that succeeded in expelling the Daesh group from much of Syria.
Hundreds of Kurdish and Arab forces from the anti-IS alliance have left the fight against the jihadists to head to Afrin to help.
And after a call for help from Damascus, pro-regime fighters have also been deployed on several fronts.
The Observatory says more than 200 civilians have been killed since the Afrin battle began, but Turkey denies the reports and says it takes the “utmost care” to avoid civilian casualties.


Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

Updated 14 min 54 sec ago
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Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

  • Hariri expresses regret over Libya’s absence and confirms that fraternal relations remain stronger than ever
  • Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri expressed deep regret for the absence of a Libyan delegation at an Arab Economic Summit taking place in Lebanon later this week.

Hariri was speaking at the Union of Arab Chambers (UAC) headquarters in Beirut on Wednesday.

“Good ties with brothers must prevail,” he said. “We are hoping for this summit to result in practical recommendations for promoting and raising living standards among all Arabs. What makes the summit on Sunday very important is that it will be the first to be held after the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.”

Libya boycotted the summit after it said members of the Amal militia had disrespected the Libyan flag.

Addressing representatives from several Arab countries, Hariri called for updating decades-old local laws and enabling citizens to travel freely between Arab countries.

He also shed light on the importance of women taking part in politics and national economic development, “as they are capable of mitigating political conflicts.”

Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes. 

Among the talking points of this year’s summit was poverty.

“The summit is being held amid an atmosphere of change, shifting alliances, a worrying global economic scene and tough local economic conditions,” said Mohammed Choucair, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

He called for “immunizing the Arab economy through implementing signed projects, facilitating trade and investment among Arab countries and encouraging creative initiatives.” Many, however, feel the country is not in any position to be funding nor hosting such an event.

“It has been eight months almost and still we have no government,” said Omar Itani, a small corner shop owner feeling the pinch as a result of the economic downturn plaguing the country.

“They spend all this money on hosting a summit, while our homes are getting flooded and roads being pulled apart by these storms. Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to help us citizens?”

Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury called on enhancing private sector participation and growth rates.

“The public sector must involve companies from the private sector, as well as banks and funds, in the financing process to help raise growth rates, which slowed considerably in the wake of the Syrian refugee influx,” he said.

Kamal Hassan Ali, assistant secretary-general at the Arab League, and Mohammed Abdo, UAC president, also spoke at the event.

Delegations of Arab ambassadors and delegates had begun arriving into the capital ahead of the weekend summit, including a Saudi delegation headed by Hussein Al-Shawish, economic adviser at the Finance Ministry, a Kuwaiti delegation and a Moroccan delegation, headed by the Moroccan Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Al-Tazi, who said that Morocco would be represented by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Lebanon hosted two Arab League summits in 1956 and 2002. Economic and social development summits previously took place in Kuwait in 2009, Sharm El-Sheikh in 2011 and Riyadh in 2013. The 2015 summit, which was scheduled to take place in Tunis, was canceled amid security concerns.

Early in the third quarter of 2018, there were reports that Lebanon was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Economists said the catalyst was the failure to form a government.

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the country would launch an electronic platform to enhance share and goods trading, “thus promoting the market to attract liquidity from Lebanon and abroad.”

He said: “We will continue supporting the digital economy, for it is an important sector with a bright future and it highly benefits Lebanon. In 2018, our studies showed that the economic growth was between 1 and 1.5 percent, while in the region, it was at 2 percent. We would have been able to reach the 2-percent rate if the government had been formed on time.”