Palestinian reconciliation talks begin in Cairo

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh speak during an event in Gaza City. (File photo/AP)
Updated 21 November 2017

Palestinian reconciliation talks begin in Cairo

GAZA CITY: Two-day talks between Palestinian factions began on Tuesday in Cairo, complementing Egyptian efforts to achieve intra-Palestinian reconciliation and restore the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) control of the Gaza Strip.
Delegations from 13 factions from Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora arrived in Egypt on Monday.
Issues on the agenda include forming a new government, holding elections, reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and deploying PA security forces in Gaza.
Deputy chairman of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Fayez Abu Eita, said the dialogue will include enabling the Palestinian government to work freely in Gaza and unify its governance with that of the West Bank.
“There will be bilateral meetings sponsored by Egypt between Hamas and Fatah to complete the discussions,” he told Arab News.
“There’s a delay in the timetable for extending government control in Gaza. The timetable will certainly be amended.”
On Oct. 12, Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo to begin implementing Palestinian reconciliation according to a specific timetable.
As part of the deal, Hamas has handed over ministries and crossings in Gaza to the PA in Ramallah. But deployment of PA security forces at Gaza’s border crossings has yet to take place.
Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad told Arab News: “The discussions will focus on all the issues in accordance with the timetable set by the Egyptian leadership, which is sponsoring the reconciliation agreement.”
He added: “Issues of government empowerment will be discussed, along with other major issues, but it will take time to implement them.”
Political writer Hani Habib said he doubts the dialogue will achieve a breakthrough due to the factions’ different agendas and priorities.
“I think there will be strong Egyptian intervention in light of the apparent differences, in order to put forward a working paper that represents a compromise, and pressure on the Palestinian factions to agree to it, as happened at the Fatah and Hamas meeting in October,” he told Arab News.

Lebanon MPs call for extra security

Updated 24 January 2020

Lebanon MPs call for extra security

  • Violent protests and clashes greet Hassan Diab government as budget talks loom

BEIRUT: As Lebanon’s new government gets down to business, MPs’ biggest concern seems to be their own security.

In the wake of violent protests in the past week, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday asked Lebanese army chief, Gen. Joseph Aoun, to take “exceptional measures” to protect the parliament’s surroundings.

The plea to beef up security follows clashes outside the Lebanese parliament and the burning of a photograph of new Prime Minister Hassan Diab near the government’s headquarters.

Almost 500 people were injured in Beirut at the weekend after security personnel fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at demonstrators who threw stones, attempted to invade the Parliament building, and attacked bank offices and shops.

The formation of a new government ends months of political deadlock and economic decline following Saad Hariri’s resignation as prime minister in October in response to mass protests over corruption and mismanagement.

With the country facing growing unrest, the rising levels of violence represent a stern test for the new government as it completes a ministerial handover.

Parliamentary guards were busy this week erecting concrete walls on roads leading to the parliament.

One military official told Arab News that “safe passage” will be restricted to MPs to prevent a repetition of Nov. 19 clashes when protesters blocked access to the parliament.

Parliament is due to meet on Monday and Tuesday to approve a draft budget for 2020.

Shops and businesses facing the parliament’s entrance and access points have borne the brunt of violent protests in recent days.

A manager at a Rolex outlet said: “We haven’t decided to close the shop completely yet. We are living day by day. During the day, everything is normal, there’s traffic and people, but in the afternoon, protesters take over. We hide the merchandise in a safe place, close the shop, and leave. Today, we decided to cover the glass fronts with steel plates so that they won’t be destroyed by protesters.”

Protesters used petrol bombs as well as firecrackers for the first time on Wednesday night, according to security personnel.

Jan Kubis, the UN special coordinator in Lebanon, tweeted that some protesters were attempting to “provoke the security forces, undermine civil peace and fuel sectarian strife.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Lebanon will face a terrible financial crisis in the coming weeks. We are ready to intervene and provide support, but only to a government committed to reform.

“This is important to the US, but if you look at the protests taking place in Beirut and in cities outside Beirut, you can see, just like in Baghdad, they are not protesting against America, these are protests calling for sovereignty and freedom. The protests taking place in Lebanon today are to tell Hezbollah: Enough is enough.”

The EU described the formation of the Lebanese government as a “fundamental step toward ensuring the country’s ability to address the multiple crises affecting it.” It also urged the government to implement “structural reforms to answer the needs and the expectations of the Lebanese people. Adequate protection must be ensured for the most vulnerable groups in society.”

Ralph Tarraf, EU envoy to Lebanon, said: “We are ready to positively commit to assisting the government if it implements constructive reforms that can improve the government’s performance.”