Tunisia’s president says PM should quit if crisis continues

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed shakes hands with the European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Johannes Hahn, left, on Thursday in Tunis. AFP
Updated 17 July 2018
0

Tunisia’s president says PM should quit if crisis continues

  • Tunisia has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011
  • Turmoil and militant attacks have deterred investors and tourists, eroding living standards of ordinary people

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president called on Sunday for Prime Minister Youssef Chahed to step down or seek a confidence quote if the country’s political and economic crisis continues, withdrawing his support for the premier, who has clashed with the president’s son.
President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is leader of the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, called last May for Chahed’s dismissal because of his government’s failure to revive the economy. His call was supported by the powerful UGTT union, which rejected economic reforms proposed by the prime minister.
“There is a difference between the parties and national organizations about the government, between government and key players like UGTT and some parties,” Essebsi said in an interview broadcast by local Nesma TV.
“If this situation continues, the prime minister must resign or go to the parliament to ask for confidence,” he said.
Chahed, who was appointed by Essebsi in 2016, has accused the president’s son of destroying the Nidaa Tounes party, and said the crisis in the party has affected state institutions.
The moderate Islamist party Ennahda has said the exit of the prime minister would hit stability at a time when the country needed economic reforms.
Tunisia has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering violent upheaval, as happened in Syria and Libya.
But since then nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems including high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which have kept the country afloat.
Seven prime ministers have failed to fix a sluggish economy. Turmoil and militant attacks have deterred investors and tourists, eroding living standards of ordinary people and causing an increase in unemployment.
Annual inflation hit a record high of 7.8 percent in June as the dinar currency tanked, making food imports more expensive.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
0

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.