Hariri hopes Lebanon will ‘turn a new page’ in 2019

Saad Al-Hariri. (Reuters)
Updated 31 December 2018

Hariri hopes Lebanon will ‘turn a new page’ in 2019

  • Saad Hariri, hoped a new government would be formed in 2019

BEIRUT: Thousands of troops were on Lebanon’s streets Monday as the country prepared to ring in 2019.

A huge party was held in central Beirut for the second consecutive year, attracting people from the city’s neighborhoods and surrounding districts, and there were tough security measures in place from the military.

The Defense Ministry suspended issuing permits for carrying firearms on all Lebanese territory, and 13,000 military personnel were deployed to protect tourists, places of worship and commercial facilities, as well as manage traffic congestion.

Security forces reiterated their call for people to refrain from the deadly tradition of celebratory gunfire, saying that those carrying out this act would face prosecution.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, speaking at an event in the capital, said he hoped a new government would be formed in 2019.

The elections were in May 2018.

“I want the Lebanese to rejoice so that we turn a new page and think of the country and the people,” he said. “I hope the celebration meets the aspirations of the Lebanese people, and especially the people of Beirut.”

Economic bodies stressed the need to form a government at the beginning of 2019 and expressed their regret for the current turmoil, amid calls from social media users for a general strike. 

The country’s finance minister had earlier warned that Lebanon was entering a financial crisis.

“The repercussions and consequences of the economic crisis today are at their highest. “The crisis today has started to transform into a financial crisis from an economic crisis,” said Ali Hassan Khalil late on Saturday, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency.

“We hope it will not become a monetary crisis,” he said.

Grocery shops in Beirut were packed, a sign that some families were preparing to spend New Year’s Eve at home, with prices for festivities skyrocketing to as much as $1,500 per person.

Jordan to host Yemen talks on prisoner exchange

Updated 16 January 2019

Jordan to host Yemen talks on prisoner exchange

  • A follow-up committee will discuss implementing the deal agreed in UN-brokered peace talks last month in Sweden

AMMAN: The next stage of the fragile Yemen peace process will take place in Jordan.

The government in Amman agreed on Tuesday to a UN request to host a meeting between the Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthi militias to discuss a prisoner swap deal that would allow thousands of families to be reunited.

A follow-up committee will discuss implementing the deal agreed in UN-brokered peace talks last month in Sweden. 

The agreement to free prisoners simultaneously was part of confidence-building measures that included a plan to withdraw from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

The two sides exchanged lists of about 15,000 prisoners for a swap agreed at the start of the Sweden talks and delegates said it would be conducted via the Houthi-held Sanaa airport in north Yemen and the government-held Sayun airport in the south.

The process would be overseen by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The operation will require the Saudi-led military coalition to guarantee that air space is secure for flights, the ICRC said.

The warring parties in Yemen have so far refused to talk face-to-face during two meetings to discuss the redeployment of forces from Hodeidah, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, the head of the monitoring team, had to shuttle between government and Houthi representatives in different rooms.

Dujarric said Cammaert was trying to find “a mutually acceptable way forward” to redeploy forces from Hodeidah and the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Isa.

“Recent discussions have been constructive” and Cammaert “continues to encourage the parties to resume the joint meetings in order to finalize a mutually agreed redeployment plan,” Dujarric said.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths said last week there would be a new round of talks in January but diplomats said he was now looking to February.