Libya’s parliament speaker: Turkish troops unwanted and destabilizing

Aguila Saleh said in a joint statement with his Cypriot counterpart that Turkey’s actions are ratcheting up tensions and destabilizing the wider region. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 December 2019

Libya’s parliament speaker: Turkish troops unwanted and destabilizing

  • Saleh said Erdogan took advantage of the divisions within Libya, as well as Tripoli’s control by “terrorist groups” to get the agreements approved in order to intervene in Libya’s internal affairs
  • Earlier this week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that his county would evaluate sending soldiers to Libya if there is an invitation from Tripoli, where Al-Sarraj’s weak administration is based

NICOSIA: Turkey’s willingness to dispatch troops to Libya is “unacceptable” and such a move would constitute unwanted meddling in the affairs of a friendly country, the speaker of the north African country’s parliament said Saturday.
Aguila Saleh said in a joint statement with his Cypriot counterpart that Turkey’s actions are ratcheting up tensions and destabilizing the wider region.
Saleh and Cypriot parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris also reiterated their condemnation of a maritime border agreement that Turkey signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government — but which hasn’t been ratified, as necessary, by the Libyan parliament — as a “flagrant violation of international law that’s devoid of any legal basis.”
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Saleh said that Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj isn’t authorized to sign any agreements on his own because according to an agreement on how the Libyan government should function, any agreement needs to have the unanimous approval of the nine-member presidential council and also requires parliament’s approval.
Speaking through an interpreter, Saleh said Erdogan took advantage of the divisions within Libya, as well as Tripoli’s control by “terrorist groups” to get the agreements approved in order to intervene in Libya’s internal affairs.
Erdogan “sent in the past unmanned areal vehicles and armored vehicles, different types of weapons and has recently announced that he would send troops to fight in Libya,” Saleh said.
According to Saleh, Erdogan’s aim “is to provoke countries in the eastern Mediterranean and to interfere in their exclusive economic zones without taking account these countries’ sovereign rights at sea and in the air.”
On a surprise visit to Tunisia earlier this week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that his county would evaluate sending soldiers to Libya if there is an invitation from Tripoli, where Al-Sarraj’s weak administration is based.
Turkey has signed maritime and agreements with the Libyan government that controls the capital, Tripoli, and some of the country’s west.
The military deal allows Ankara to dispatch military experts and personnel, along with weapons, despite a UN arms embargo that has been violated by other international actors.
Turkey contends the maritime agreement gives it economic rights to a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean sea. Greece, Cyprus and Egypt have denounced the deal as legally invalid as it encroaches on their maritime borders.
In Rome, asked about a possible Turkish military action in Libya in support of Serraj’s forces, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said he had tried to discourage any attempt at a military solution for Libya.
Conte, who discussed Libya with Erdogan in a phone call last week, told reporters on Saturday that a “proxy war in Libya” would, “instead of stabilizing” the North African country across the Mediterranean from Italy, only aggravate the “incredible fragmentation” there.
“I implored Turkish President Erodogan” against military involvement, Conte said.
Any such intervention, Conte ventured, “would give way to an incredible military escalation, that would have so many civilian victims and be without a victory for anyone.”
Conte called for stepped-up diplomatic pressure to push for a political solution, and said Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio might soon return to Libya to push Italy’s determination to work for a “cessation of hostilities.”
“We can’t accept any military escalation,” the Italian premier said at a year-end news conference.
Conte also said the European Union is determined to play and important role and so EU countries should be united in its stand on Libya for a political solution.
Sarraj is battling an offensive launched in April by the rival government based in eastern Libya and forces loyal to commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is trying to take Tripoli.
The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violence rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”