Merkel to push for single EU stance on Libya crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signs a document during a meeting with students at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on May 2, 2019, on the second day of her tour of the Sahel region. (AFP)
Updated 02 May 2019

Merkel to push for single EU stance on Libya crisis

OUAGADOUGOU: Europe must adopt a common position to resolve the Libyan crisis, which has boosted unrest in the Sahel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday in Burkina Faso, a country hard-hit by jihadist violence.
Her visit coincided with a summit of the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- the "G5 Sahel" group set up to manage a coordinated response to jihadist attacks.
"We must now work on a political solution for Libya... which will be important for the future of your region," Merkel told students at the University of Ouagadougou.
"What the presidents of the G5 Sahel explained to me once again yesterday, and they are right to say so, is that Europe must agree on the approach as there are still diverging perspectives within the European Union," said Merkel.
"I will do my best to ensure that the Italian position and the French position are consistent and that there are no different voices or positions in Europe."
The two neighbours have differences over how to respond to the Libya crisis. There is also anger in Rome at France's perceived lack of support for the influx of African migrants arriving from Italy's former colony.
Last month, Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord appealed for Europe's support against military strongman Khalifa Haftar, waging an offensive on Tripoli.
Libya has been in turmoil since NATO-backed forces overthrew former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
"As Europeans, we will not find a solution for Libya by ourselves, we will need the expertise of the African Union," Merkel told the students in a near-two-hour exchange.
The chancellor expressed concern over the security situation in Burkina Faso, and said "we try to build links, to assist Burkina Faso in the fight against terrorism, so that you can have opportunities in your own country, so that you can live in security, well-being, and better prosperity."
Merkel was due in Mali later Thursday, to meet hundreds of German soldiers deployed there as part of UN force MINUSMA, then to Libyan neighbour Niger.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.