Senior Libyan official arrives in Moscow for talks

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg of Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived in Moscow for talks. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Senior Libyan official arrives in Moscow for talks

  • The UN said it expects things to get moving in the next few days following the agreement by Libya’s warring parties to resume cease-fire negotiations
  • Eastern-based forces under Hifter launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the turmoil in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervene

MOSCOW: Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg of Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived in Moscow for talks on Wednesday, the RIA news agency reported.
The United Nations said Tuesday it expected “things to get moving in the next few days” following the agreement by Libya’s warring parties to resume cease-fire negotiations following days of heavy fighting.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams and the UN mission remain in direct contact with the UN-supported government in the capital Tripoli and Khalifa Hifter’s east-based forces “to figure out the next steps and the logistics about the resumption of the talks.”
Dujarric said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres adds his voice in welcoming the agreement to resume negotiations and calls on the parties to engage constructively and in good faith.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups.
Eastern-based forces under Hifter launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the turmoil in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervene — despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.
Hifter’s offensive is supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries. The government in Tripoli is backed by Turkey, which deployed troops and mercenaries to help defend the capital in January, as well as by Italy and Qatar.
Mercenaries, mainly from the Syria battlefield, are now fighting on both sides and complicating the already complex proxy war, according to UN experts.
US and Libyan officials have accused Russia of deploying fighters from the Wagner Group in key battleground areas in Libya, and last month, in an unusually bold statement, the US military accused Russia of deploying 14 aircraft to eastern Libya to help Hifter’s forces, saying the move was part of 
The UN Mission in Libya announced the agreement on a new round of cease-fire talks late Monday, expressing hope they would “mark the beginning of calm on the ground" and allow the country’s war-scarred health system to cope with the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
COVID-19 has infected at least 168 people in Libya, but testing is extremely limited. The impact of a large outbreak would likely be severe given the continued fighting and the state of the country’s health system.
The UN Mission said delegates from the rival parties will conduct the cease-fire talks through video calls because of the pandemic.
The announcement came as the foreign-fueled proxy war teeters on the edge of a major escalation, and signaled that both sides, and their foreign backers, may prefer to pull back from the brink.
The battle for Tripoli has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled Gadhafi.
On Sunday, Hifter’s froces said they recaptured the strategic town of al-Asabaa, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, after launching airstrikes on militias in the area.
Control of the town gives Hifter’s forces better access to Tarhuna, their main western stronghold and supply line southeast of the capital.
Hifter’s gain more broadly reflects the seesawing nature of the war, which in recent weeks had turned dramatically in favor of rival Turkish-backed Tripoli militias that ousted Hifter’s forces from a key western airbase and several towns.
The Tripoli government had been struggling to fend off the year-long siege of the capital by Hifter’s forces when Turkey escalated its air support.


UAE to complete more than two million COVID-19 tests in two months

Updated 5 min 51 sec ago

UAE to complete more than two million COVID-19 tests in two months

  • The UAE has recorded 528 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing total infections to 52,068
  • An offficial said it was important to expand testing across the country for early detection and treatment

DUBAI: The UAE has announced its plan to conduct more than two million COVID-19 tests in the next to months, as part of the country’s extensive campaign to curb the spread of the virus.

Emirati spokesperson Dr. Amna Al-Dahhak Al-Shamsi said it was important to expand testing across the country for early detection and treatment.

Al-Shamsi said the government was working with all health institutions in the country to see the plan through, which includes mass testing of public-facing workers in both public and private sectors such as taxi drivers, hospitality workers, and those working in retail.

The UAE has recorded 528 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing total infections to 52,068.

The spokesperson noted the increase of cases during the last weekend, and said it was due to negligence of people. She said irresponsible behavior could lead to the undoing of the country’s successes in fighting the pandemic.

She urged the public to fully comply with instructions issued by relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai said the return of flights to the city’s airports was a necessary move to support the hard-hit aviation sector.

GDRFA’s Director-General Mohammed Ahmed Al-Marri said the decision to allow flights was going to “herald a new phase of supporting economic activities” in the country.

There has been an increase in the number of passengers visiting Dubai since the lockdown was lifted, Deputy Director-General of Airports Affairs Talal Ahmed Al-Shanqeeti said, adding it represented a positive boost in the tourism sector.