Libya to boycott Arab summit in Beirut

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj has boycott the summit. (AP
Updated 14 January 2019

Libya to boycott Arab summit in Beirut

  • Decision in response to ‘negative acts carried by host country’

BEIRUT: Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has said it will boycott this Sunday’s Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut. 

The boycott is in response to “negative acts carried out by the host country, Lebanon,” said Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.

The GNA “decided to boycott the summit after it was revealed that the host country did not provide the appropriate climate in accordance with the obligations, customs and traditions of such summits,” he added.

Supporters of the Lebanese Amal Movement tore down the Libyan flag from between the other flags raised on poles on the road to the airport to welcome the delegations participating in the summit. 

They replaced it with the Amal flag to protest the kidnapping in Libya of Imam Musa Al-Sadr, a Lebanese-Iranian philosopher and Shiite religious leader, and two companions in 1987. 

Photos of Amal members tearing down and replacing the Libyan flag went viral on social media. 

This prompted Libyan protesters to remove the sign of the Lebanese Embassy in the Libyan capital and raise their country’s flag at the embassy’s main iron gate, said Lebanon’s ambassador to Libya, Mohammad Sukaina.

“Lebanon is convinced that what happened in Beirut and Tripoli is neither directed against the people of Libya nor against the Lebanese people,” he told the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA).

“We believe that the right, fair, and perhaps the only approach to establishing a good relationship between the Lebanese and Libyan people is that the competent authorities in Libya help free Imam Musa Al-Sadr and his companions.”

Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil sent a letter to his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Siala, expressing his regret that Libya will not participate in the summit.

Bassil also expressed his rejection of “the actions taken in Lebanon against Libya and its participation in the Beirut summit,” saying they do not reflect his position or his country’s. 

Meanwhile, a debate in Lebanon over inviting Syria was settled by the supreme committee organizing the summit, which said: “Syria’s invitation is related to the decision of the Council of the Arab League and is not a Lebanese decision.”

In the halls of the summit’s venue, the flags of all Arab League member states were raised, including those of Syria and Libya, on Monday. 

“The countdown to the summit has started,” said the summit’s media spokesman Rafic Chlala.

“The reconstruction of Syria is not on the summit’s agenda, but at the meeting of Arab leaders there may be decisions in this regard,” he added. “So far, this topic will not be discussed.”

The head of the committee, Antoine Choucair, said 24 items are on the agenda, and Lebanon wants to hold the event under the title “Prosperity for Peace.”

He added that Lebanese President Michel Aoun is considering an initiative inspired by the title, and will launch it during the summit. 

The commander of the Lebanese Republican Guard, Brig. Gen. Salim Feghali, said it will be in charge of the summit’s security in cooperation with the rest of the security services.

He added that “500 officers and 7,000 soldiers will participate in securing the summit’s location as well as the road to the airport and the delegations’ accommodations.” 

Feghali told Arab News: “The security forces will address the protests scheduled for Sunday… in a manner that ensures the safety of the summit.” 

Brig. Gen. Joseph Al-Nahhas said: “The secure area will be closed starting Thursday midnight.”

He added: “The supreme committee has proposed to the caretaker prime minister, Saad Hariri, to make Friday a day off.” Al-Nahhas said Hariri had no objection to the proposal. 

Meanwhile, the Civil Society Organizations Forum, hosted by the UN headquarters in Beirut, produced recommendations that will be submitted to the summit. 

The forum’s organizers said the recommendations aim to “strengthen cooperation between governments and civil society, and provide an independent platform for civil society to allow experts to participate in and contribute to the development process.”

Manal Warde, Oxfam’s policy and campaigns manager for the Middle East and North Africa, said the forum aimed to influence the summit at a time when many Arab countries face public demands for democracy and economic reforms.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) said it expects the summit to “provide an opportunity to develop mechanisms for achieving the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”