Lebanese protesters vent anger at central bank, clash with security forces

An army armored personnel carrier removes a garbage container set on fire by anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. (AP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Lebanese protesters vent anger at central bank, clash with security forces

  • Groups of activists marched on the central bank and branches across Lebanon calling for the resignation of its governor

BEIRUT: Protests in Lebanon entered their 12th day as security forces clashed with demonstrators blocking main roads in Beirut and routes connecting the capital to other regions.

There were flashpoints across the city as authorities attempted to reopen key highways shut off by protesters in a bid to maintain pressure for political change.

Groups of activists marched on the central bank and branches across Lebanon calling for the resignation of its governor, Riad Salameh, who they hold responsible for the country’s financial woes.

The Lebanese banking association decided on Monday to stick with its decision to keep banks shut on Tuesday, marking the longest period of bank closures in the country’s financial history.

However, following an exceptional meeting, the association stressed its commitment to “pay out salaries for public sector workers, including security forces,” adding that the central bank was “working to secure necessary liquidity for this purpose.”

A group of lawyers, sympathetic to the protesters, staged a sit-in outside the Justice Palace in Beirut. MPs from the parliamentary bloc loyal to President Michel Aoun announced lifting bank secrecy on their accounts.  

Protesters have accused head of bloc and foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, of corruption and are demanding he stand down along with others.

Member of the Labanese Parliament, Eddy Maalouf, said: “The decision to lift bank secrecy will include ministers and MPs and the two female deputies of the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, by signing documents at the notary’s office, to lift bank secrecy on their accounts in Lebanon and abroad.

“This step marks the beginning of initiatives by the Free Patriotic Movement to reach the adoption of anti-corruption laws, to ensure the accountability of corrupt officials and unveil the truth before the people, instead of the prevailing wave of disinformation, slander and lies.”

In an attempt by the authority to prove its seriousness in the implementation of the reform package it had announced earlier, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday presided over a meeting of the ministerial council to study the draft general amnesty law.

Following a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a delegation from the Aounist parliamentary bloc reiterated “the need to adopt legislative proposals it had previously presented, related to anti-corruption, accountability and recovery of looted wealth.”  

The bloc’s secretary-general, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, said that Berri would “activate the work and ask the parliamentary committees to start studying all proposals and the 2020 draft budget, without any delay.”

Afifa Al-Sayed, veteran activist from the civil society, told Arab News: “The young men and women in the streets are tired, especially as they have not received any prompt response to their demands and that their movement is not organized.

“Security bodies on Monday opened the roads by force, in Sidon in particular. Protesters in the streets are starting to feel that the situation is cooling down. If we give up and leave the streets, they will work on further breaking us.

“This is the revolution and the cause of the youth, and they cannot be told what to do. They are even refusing to be told what to do next. If things stay this way, they might lead to chaos and this might be advantageous since it will make the authority feel uncertain,” she added.

“Meanwhile, some groups are building strategies and ideas for the revolution and are trying to contact other groups protesting on the ground to suggest names that can be trusted to speak in their names. But until then, it is the revolution of the youth, and they decide what they want.”




Lebanese anti-government protesters practice yoga on a blocked avenue in the center of the capital Beirut. (AFP)

Another activist, Randa Al-Yaseer, told Arab News: “More meetings are being organized to find new ways to protest, especially that people are starting to feel tired, therefore, protests in the streets might be transformed to other activities. 

“If I tell protesters something they do not like, they ask me to leave. They say even their parents cannot tell them what do. Some groups are communicating on social media outlets and refuse to reveal their identities. That is their right, since there are fears of getting arrested by the authority and security bodies, which can mean the end of the protests. 

“Even the protest squares are being attacked. Some people come at night and steal the chairs and tables we bought with our own money. Some women have been offering water bottles and sandwiches to people in the streets, to discover later that some people were selling the bottles and sandwiches for one dollar,” added Al-Yaseer.

“We cannot say that the movement is failing. People are surprising us. They are showing motivation, but only in the afternoon and at night.”


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”