Haftars’ forces threaten to attack Turkish interests in Libya

This picture taken on June 28, 2019 shows the husk of a destroyed tank found at a camp that was used by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in Gharyan, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 03 July 2019

Haftars’ forces threaten to attack Turkish interests in Libya

  • Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive to take the capital in early April
  • Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has threatened to attack Turkish interests and accused Ankara of backing his rivals after he suffered a major setback in his push to take the capital Tripoli.
Anti-Haftar forces that nominally back Libya’s internationally recognized government announced Wednesday they had retaken the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack, seizing Haftar’s main supply base for his months-long offensive.
Haftar on Saturday promised a “tough response” and accused militias backing the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord of executing his wounded troops at the town’s hospital — allegations refuted by both the GNA and authorities in Gharyan.
Dozens of pro-Haftar fighters were killed in the clashes some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, with at least 18 taken prisoner, a GNA spokesman said.
AFP correspondents who toured Gharyan were shown signs of a hasty retreat by Haftar’s forces, who left behind their wounded, a command post, arms, ammunition and even food burning on stoves.
“The speed (of the attack), the surprise element and the revolt (by the area’s residents) sowed fear” in the ranks of Haftar’s fighters, General Ahmad Bouchahma, a senior GNA officer, said during a tour of the area.
Among the weaponry the GNA says it seized were US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles packed in wooden crates marked “armed forces of the United Arab Emirates,” a major buyer of American weapons and one of Haftar’s main international backers.
The US State Department said Saturday it was looking into the missile find.
“We take all allegations of misuse of US origin defense articles very seriously,” a spokesperson said on condition of anonymity. “We are aware of these reports and are seeking additional information.”
In retaliation for the defeat, Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to target Turkish ships and companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in the country, his spokesman said.
General Ahmed Al-Mesmari accused Ankara of “directly” helping GNA forces “with its soldiers, planes and ships.”
He also accused Gharyan residents of “treason.”
The LNA, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country’s south, seized Gharyan two days before launching its offensive on Tripoli in early April.
Its initial lightning advance was quickly brought to a standstill in Tripoli’s southern outskirts as GNA-aligned militias rushed to defend the capital.

Both sides accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and receiving military support from external powers, despite a UN arms embargo in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.
Haftar has the backing of the UAE and Egypt and accuses Turkey and Qatar of supporting the GNA.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country backs the GNA and provides weapons to it under a “military cooperation agreement.”
He told reporters on June 19 that Turkish backing had allowed Tripoli to “rebalance” the fight against Haftar.
On Saturday, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan, Erdogan said he had no information on Haftar’s threat against Turkish assets.
“If there is an order like this from Haftar, my colleagues will study (it). We have already taken the necessary measures regarding this anyway, and after this, we will take much more different measures,” he said.
Since the fall of Gharyan, Haftar’s forces have carried out several air raids on Tripoli as GNA fighters push to keep up pressure on the LNA.
On Friday, GNA militias claimed they had launched another successful offensive, this time in Esbiaa, more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Tripoli.
But Mesmari said the attack was repulsed after a “very violent battle.”
Mesmari said orders had been given to the LNA’s air force “to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters.”
“Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces,” he added.
“All Turkish nationals on Libyan territory will be arrested (and) all flights to and from Turkey will be banned.”
Regular flights to Turkey operate from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport and a second airport in the western city of Misrata, held by pro-GNA forces.
Mesmari did not explain how the flight ban could apply to areas not under Haftar’s control.
 

 


Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

Updated 43 min 38 sec ago

Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

  • United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank
  • The absence of the Palestinians from Trump’s announcement is likely to fuel criticism that the plan tilts toward Israel

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing, in an effort to achieve a peace breakthrough in their decades of conflict with Israel.
Senior administration officials, briefing Reuters on the plan the president announced at the White House, said that under Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan the United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.

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Read the full report here: Middle East peace plan

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In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.
“Today, Israel has taken a giant step toward peace,” Trump said as he announced the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, saying he also sent a letter about it to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said, comparing Trump’s peace plan to former President Harry Truman’s 1948 recognition of the state of Israel. “On this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage,” he added, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.
While Israeli leaders have welcomed Trump’s long-delayed plan, Palestinian leaders had rejected it even before its official release, saying his administration was biased toward Israel.
The absence of the Palestinians from Trump’s announcement is likely to fuel criticism that the plan tilts toward Israel’s needs rather than those of the Palestinians.


Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2014, and it was far from clear that the Trump plan will resuscitate them.
US officials said they were braced for initial Palestinian skepticism but hoped that over time they will agree to negotiate. The plan places high hurdles for the Palestinians to overcome to reach their long-sought goal of a state.
It remains to be seen also how Israel responds, given the pressures its right-wing prime minister, Netanyahu, faces going into his third attempt at re-election in less than a year.
The US plan represented the most dramatic and detailed attempt to break the historic deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians in several years, the result of a three-year effort by Trump senior advisers Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz and former adviser Jason Greenblatt.
Trump has endorsed a proposed map outlining the two states, the officials said. The Palestinian state would be double the size of land that Palestinians currently control and would be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels, the official said.
Trump briefed Netanyahu and his rival in Israel’s March 2 elections, Blue and White Party chief Benny Gantz, in talks on Monday.
Asked what Washington was prepared to do to advance negotiations, the officials said it was up to the Palestinians to come forward and to say they are prepared to negotiate.
They said both Netanyahu and Gantz had said they were willing to support the effort.
Israeli leaders have agreed to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan and agreed to the map, the officials said. Israel’s agreement on statehood for Palestinians is dependent on a security arrangement to protect Israelis, they said.
Israel will also take steps to ensure Muslim access to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and respect Jordan’s role regarding holy sites, the officials said.
Palestinian statehood would be dependent on Palestinians taking steps for self-government, such as respect for human rights, freedom of the press and having transparent and credible institutions, the officials said.
“In doing the map it’s incredibly difficult to try to create contiguity for a Palestinian state based on what’s happened over the past 25 years so if we don’t do this freeze now I think that their chance to ever have a state basically goes away,” said one official in reference to the growth of Jewish settlements.
“So what we’ve done is basically we’ve bought four more years for them to get their act together and try to negotiate a deal for them to become a state, and I think this is a huge opportunity for them,” the official said.
The official said the question for Palestinians is will they “come to the table and negotiate?“
If they agree to negotiate, there are some areas that can be compromised in the future, the official said without offering details.
Trump’s plan calls for Palestinians to be able to return to a future state of Palestine and creates a “generous compensation fund,” the official said.
About Israel retaining the settlements, a US official said: “The plan is based on a principle that people should not have to move to accomplish peace ... But it does stop future settlement expansion which we consider to be the most realistic approach.
“The notion that hundreds of thousands of people, or tens of thousands of people, are going to be removed either forcibly or not from their homes is just not worth entertaining,” the official said.
Before the Trump announcement, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza City and Israeli troops reinforced positions near a flashpoint site between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank.
A Netanyahu spokesman said the Israeli leader would fly to Moscow on Wednesday to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the proposals.
Palestinian leaders had said they were not invited to Washington, and that no plan could work without them.
On Monday Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he would not agree to any deal that did not secure a two-state solution. That formula, the basis for many years of frustrated international peace efforts, envisages Israel co-existing with a Palestinian state.
Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at such pro-Israeli policies as its moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whose eastern half the Palestinians seek for a future capital.
The Trump administration in November reversed decades of US policy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer regarded the settlements on West Bank land as a breach of international law. Palestinians and most countries view the settlements as illegal, which Israel disputes.
Both Trump and Netanyahu face political challenges at home. Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last month and is on trial in the Senate on abuse of power charges.
On Tuesday Netanyahu was formally indicted in court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Both men deny any wrongdoing.