Six killed in intensified Tripoli bombing as UN talks cease-fire

Libyan National Army (LNA) is stuck in the city’s southern outskirts. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019

Six killed in intensified Tripoli bombing as UN talks cease-fire

  • Diplomats complain that Libyan peace efforts have been stymied by major powers

TRIPOLI: Rocket fire on the Libyan capital Tripoli, which the UN-recognized government blamed on military commander Khalifa Haftar, killed six people ahead of a Security Council meeting on Wednesday over a cease-fire.

Diplomats have long complained that Libyan peace efforts have been stymied by major powers backing the rival sides, with Haftar ally Russia quibbling over the proposed wording of the cease-fire demand even as the bombardment of Tripoli intensifies.

Three of the six killed in the rocket fire on the south Tripoli neighborhoods of Abu Salim and Al-Antisar late on Tuesday were women, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.

Abu Salim Mayor Abdelrahman Al-Hamdi confirmed the death toll and said 35 other people were wounded.

AFP journalists heard seven loud explosions as rockets also hit the city center, the first since Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) militia launched an offensive on April 4 to capture the capital from the government and its militia allies.

The LNA blamed the rocket fire on the “terrorist militias” whose grip on the capital it says it is fighting to end.

The bombardment came as diplomats at the UN Security Council began negotiations on a British-drafted resolution that would demand an immediate cease-fire in Libya.

The proposed text seen by AFP warns that the offensive by LNA “threatens the stability of Libya and prospects for a United Nations-facilitated political dialogue and a comprehensive political solution to the crisis.”

After Britain circulated the text late Monday, a first round of negotiations was held during which Russia raised objections to references criticizing Haftar, diplomats said.

“They were very clear. No reference anywhere,” a council diplomat said. During a tour of the Tripoli neighborhoods worst hit by the rocket fire on Tuesday night, unity government head Fayez Al-Serraj said the Security Council must hold Haftar to account.

At least 189 people have been killed, 816 wounded and more than 18,000 displaced since Haftar ordered his forces to march on Tripoli, according to the World Health Organization.

Britain was hoping to bring the cease-fire resolution to a vote at the Security Council before Friday, but diplomats pointed to Russia’s objections as a hurdle.

The proposed measure echoed a call by UN chief Antonio Guterres, who was in Libya to advance prospects for a political solution.

The draft resolution calls on all sides in Libya “immediately to recommit” to UN peace efforts and urges all member states “to use their influence over the parties” to see that the resolution is respected.

Diplomats have long complained that foreign powers backing rival sides in Libya threatened to turn the conflict into a proxy war.

Resolutions adopted by the council are legally binding.

Russia and France, two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have praised Haftar’s battlefield successes in defeating Libyan militias aligned with the Daesh group in the south of the country.

Haftar’s offensive on the capital forced the United Nations to postpone a national conference that was to draw up a roadmap to elections, meant to turn the page on years of chaos since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.

Guterres has said serious negotiations on Libya’s future cannot resume without a cease-fire.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.