UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

Fighters loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) open fire from their position in the Al-Sawani area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
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Updated 03 April 2020

UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the health system in Libya was already on the verge of collapse
  • Several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed

TRIPOLI: The United Nations warned Friday that health services in conflict-plagued Libya were already fragile as the North African country recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus.
Health authorities said an 85-year-old woman was confirmed to have had COVID-19 on examination after her death, without giving further details.
The UN-recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls the west of the country, has officially recorded 10 cases of the virus in Libya.
No cases have been declared in the south and east, which are largely under the control of a rival administration supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday that the health system in Libya, the scene of a year of fighting for control of Tripoli, was already on the verge of collapse.
“The ongoing conflict has severely impacted the country’s health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.
He told a press briefing in Geneva that several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed.
Baloch called for the release of hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees held by Libyan authorities in detention centers.
They are “particularly vulnerable and exposed, given often poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions,” the UNHCR spokesman said.
Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by NATO.
Its rival administrations have launched preventive measures against COVID-19, including night-time curfews and the closure of restaurants, cafes and non-essential services.


Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
Updated 18 min 13 sec ago

Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

  • Row follows launch of two major military operations against PKK last month in northern Iraq

ISTANBUL: A map posted by the official Twitter account of the Turkish Presidency drew an angry reaction from Baghdad because it showed a divided Iraq.

The map, which was deleted after criticism, was intended to illustrate the locations of Turkish troops that have crossed the border and advanced up to 40 kilometers in 38 areas of Northern Iraq. However, it highlighted the northern part of the country in yellow and the rest in green. It also revealed that Turkish forces were deployed in the cities of Erbil, Soran, Duhok and Zakho.

“If you share such maps, you will then legitimize other official sources who share maps of a divided Turkey,” said Aytun Ciray, a Turkish opposition politician from the IYI Party, emphasizing the need for respecting neighboring Iraq’s territorial unity.

The row over the map follows the launch of two major operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in mid-June in northern Iraq, dubbed Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle, which were criticized by Iraqi authorities. A fifth Turkish soldier has been killed during the ground offensive, Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday night.

The PKK is listed as a terror group by Ankara, Brussels and Washington. The group allegedly uses about 81 locations in northern Iraq as bases from which to launch attacks in Turkey.

Baghdad considers the presence of Turkish troops a “blatant breach of the UN charter” and said it is concerned about the safety of “unarmed civilians” during Turkish operations. Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Al-Sahaf said on July 3 that the country might file an official complaint with the UN Security Council (UNSC) if Turkey does not halt its military activity in the north.

He added: “We reject any unilateral action that would harm our sovereignty. We started with a statement of condemnation and may resort to gathering support from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and could file a complaint to the UNSC.”

Ryan Bohl, a regional analyst with the Stratfor geopolitical consultancy, suggested that the release of the contentious map was an attempt by Ankara to signal to Iraq, as well as the PKK and the international community, that it intends to maintain its current level of operations for some time.

“That in and of itself is a strain with Baghdad, since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi can’t necessarily count on the operation winding down and going back to a status quo,” he said.

However, Bohl added that the withdrawal of the map shows that Ankara does not want to be viewed as a permanent occupying force by Iraq or its allies.

“(Turkey) wants northern Iraq to be seen as different than its spheres of influence in Syria, which are signaled to be much longer term,” he said. “So Ankara is trying to walk a fine line between showing that this operation will be more significant than previous ones against the PKK, but trying not to make it appear like it will be an occupying or permanent force in northern Iraq.”