Lebanese Cabinet finally to meet after feuding Druze leaders reconcile

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, center, meets with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, left, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug 9, 2019. Hariri has announced that the Cabinet will finally convene after violence between two political rivals that brought the government to a standstill for weeks has been resolved. (AP)
Updated 10 August 2019

Lebanese Cabinet finally to meet after feuding Druze leaders reconcile

  • Cooperation agreement by Walid Jumblatt and Talal Arslan ends six-week political stalemate

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Cabinet will finally convene on Saturday. It follows a reconciliation meeting on Thursday during which two feuding Druze leaders in Mount Lebanon agreed to cooperate with each other to end a political crisis that paralyzed the nation’s government for more than a month.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said Lebanon’s dollar-dominated bonds and 2030 Eurobond rallied to their highest levels in a week after Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, and Talal Arslan, head of the Democratic Party, agreed to meet to settle their differences. Their meeting was held at Baabda Palace at the invitation of President Michel Aoun, who chaired the talks. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also attended.
In a televised address after the meeting, Hariri confirmed that the two men had reconciled and the Cabinet will convene on Saturday. He added: “From today, there will be a new page and we will all cooperate together in the interests of the country and in the interests of Lebanese citizens.”
The stand-off between Jumblatt and Arslan sparked a political crisis that lasted almost six weeks. It began on June 30 when two aides to government minister Saleh Al-Gharib, an ally of Arslan, were shot and killed in Kabreshmoun. Both sides blamed each other for the gunfire, and were at odds over who should investigate the incident. Hariri said that it was agreed during the reconciliation meeting that it will be investigated by a military court.
Berri described the outcome of the meeting as “an achievement.” Jumblatt nodded to show that he was content, while Arslan smiled.
The reconciliation meeting was preceded by a gathering of top officials to discuss the economy. Lebanon has public debt valued at about 150 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest levels in the world.
Before the meetings, Khalil had warned that “there will be no financial or economic stability without political stability” and predicted that “credit will be affected by the meetings.”
After the finance meeting, Riad Salamé, governor of Bank of Lebanon, said that the discussions were very good.
Hariri said: “The financial meeting stressed the necessity of committing to maintaining political stability, and the attendees reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound.
“The attendees agreed on steps to be implemented in the next phase to contribute to strengthening the economy and commencing with the McKinsey plan.” This was a reference to a 1,274-page plan to revamp the Lebanese economy, which was compiled by US consulting firm, McKinsey and Co.
Hariri continued: “The basic steps include approving the 2020 budget, implementing the 2019 budget, developing a detailed plan to launch investment projects amounting to $3.3 billion, implementing the Cedar projects, fully implementing the power plan, adopting reform laws — particularly those related to public tenders and tax and customs evasion, coordinating with the committee for modernization of laws, activating the ministerial work committees, completing judicial reform steps, strengthening the work of oversight bodies, curbing waste and corruption, and reviewing useless institutions.”
Reacting to the meetings, former MP Fares Souaid said: “Lebanon has succeeded in overcoming the rifts, and Walid Jumblatt succeeded in lifting the siege around him by mobilizing the majority of his community and the Sunni community, as well as winning Christian sympathies.
“The raised tone of Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the President of the Republic has diminished due to external pressure.
“I hope we will not return to clashes of a different kind and that all hearts will find peace. I also hope we reach a conclusion so that no one would dare harass anyone. What happened means that in Lebanon, no matter how glorious a sect or an armed party is, they cannot impose their views because the border of each sect ends where the borders of the other sects begin, and everyone realizes that we are all in the same boat.”

Bangladeshi migrants to be repatriated from Libya

Updated 14 November 2019

Bangladeshi migrants to be repatriated from Libya

DHAKA: One hundred and seventy-one Bangladeshi migrants are waiting to be repatriated from two detention centers in Libya after being rescued from the Mediterranean coast on Oct. 30 as they tried to make their way into Europe, officials told Arab News on Wednesday. 

In all, 200 migrants were rescued during the operation.

“The registration process of all the Bangladeshi migrants has been completed and we are expecting to start the repatriation by the end of November,” ASM Ashraful Islam, councilor at the Bangladesh embassy in Libya, said.

He added that, due to the ongoing war in Libya, airports in Tripoli remain non-operational. The Bangladeshi migrants will fly from Misrata airport, 300 kilometers away.

“There are frequent incidents of bombardment and long-range missile strikes (at Tripoli airport),” Islam explained. He said no international airline was currently willing to fly from Libya to Bangladesh, so the embassy intends to charter a flight to repatriate the migrants.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will bear the expenses for the rescued Bangladeshis, who are currently being held at detention centers in Zanzur and Abu Salim, he said, adding, “Bangladesh mission staffers in Tripoli are in constant touch with the returnees and providing necessary food and other assistance for them.”

In recent years, human traffickers have used Libya as a gateway through which to send illegal migrants to Italy and other European countries. According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency — Frontex — around 30,000 Bangladeshi migrants have been arrested while trying to enter Europe in the last decade. The organization said that, in recent years, Bangladesh is one of the countries from which the most illegal migrants have tried to enter Europe. The IOM has facilitated the repatriation of Bangladeshi citizens from Libya in the past — 924 in 2017, 307 in 2016, and 521 in 2015.

“Among unemployed Bangladeshi fortune seekers, there is a (desire) to migrate to Europe by any means, and human-trafficking syndicates at home and abroad (have grabbed) this opportunity,” Shariful Hasan, head of the migration program at the Bangladesh-based development organization BRAC, told Arab News. “There needs to be an integrated effort by all concerned countries, with the support of Interpol, to curb this human trafficking.”