US envoy says ‘page turned’ after meeting Lebanese FM

US envoy says ‘page turned’  after meeting Lebanese FM
Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, left, discusses current developments and bilateral relations between the two countries with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, in Beirut on Monday. (AP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

US envoy says ‘page turned’ after meeting Lebanese FM

US envoy says ‘page turned’  after meeting Lebanese FM
  • US ambassador says meeting a positive development following ‘unfortunate’ judicial decision

BEIRUT: The summoning of US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea by Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti on Monday turned into a protocol meeting.
The foreign minister, who summoned Shea after she criticized Hezbollah, noted “the freedom of the media and the right of expression, which are sacred rights.”
A statement issued by the two parties said: “We have openly discussed the current developments on the local scene. We touched on the bilateral relations that bring together the two countries and the Lebanese and American people, and we stressed the importance of cooperation between the two governments in all fields, in support of Lebanon to get out of the economic crisis that it is suffering from.”
After the meeting, Ambassador Shea said: “My meeting with the (foreign) minister was positive, and I agreed with him to turn the page after the unfortunate judicial decision that came to deflect attention from the economic crisis. The United States is ready and will continue to assist Lebanon as long as the government takes the necessary steps to address the causes of the crisis.”
She noted that her country “appreciates cooperation to advance our many common interests and our mutual goals in these particularly difficult times. I affirm that our bilateral relationship is strong and we will continue to provide everything that benefits the people of our two countries.”
Ambassador Shea said during an interview with Al-Hadath TV on Friday that “Hezbollah built a state within the state that drained Lebanon, and cost the Lebanese state billions of dollars that went to Hezbollah’s mini-state instead of the government treasury.”
The meeting between Hitti and Shea was accompanied by a small group protesting against American interference in Lebanese affairs. The US envoy entered through a back door amid tight security measures taken by the Internal Security Forces in the vicinity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut.
Judge Mazeh’s decision caused great discontent in the media and political circles, while it was welcomed by Hezbollah supporters. The Supreme Judicial Council has summoned Judge Mazeh to appear on Tuesday. Mazeh anticipated any possibility of being summoned by announcing that he would apply to formally end his services in the judiciary on Tuesday.
The Chinese Embassy in Lebanon also replied to the American ambassador, who talked about China’s cooperation with other countries during her TV interview with Al-Hadath.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The US is ready and will continue to assist Lebanon as long as the government takes the necessary steps to address the causes of the crisis.

• Hezbollah built a state within the state that drained Lebanon, and cost the Lebanese state billions of dollars.

The Chinese Embassy said in a statement that “China has been carrying out cooperation with developing countries under the principle of respect for State sovereignty and international rules, as well as enhancing international anti-corruption cooperation. The relevant Chinese loans have no political strings.”
The Chinese Embassy hoped that “the United States can view China’s cooperation with other countries in a correct and objective way. The US side should at least stop impeding others from assisting these developing countries, whereas serving its own political needs at the cost of the developing countries’ benefit.”
The summons of the US ambassador to the Foreign Ministry coincided with a visit by Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari to former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. The media office at the Saudi Embassy said that “during the meeting, all current political developments on the Lebanese and regional arenas were discussed in addition to issues of common concern.”
Suleiman said after the meeting: “By chance, Ambassador Bukhari visited me after the decision to prevent the American ambassador from speaking. Apart from the Vienna Agreement and the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in dealing with ambassadors, is it permissible for us to deprive the media of their freedom? This matter must be corrected and the government’s position must be clarified to preserve Lebanon’s reputation as the country of liberties.”
Suleiman stressed “the necessity of preserving the best relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf states, because their permanent standing alongside Lebanon stems from the love of the brothers and without any political conditions, but in return, there is a necessity that requires all Lebanese not to attack those who always stand at their side.”
Suleiman said: “Whenever the economic crisis intensifies, we say that the relationship with the Kingdom must be corrected. It (the Kingdom) is ready and was preparing 22 agreements for the economy of Lebanon before the recent changes (government change).”
Suleiman stressed that Saudi Arabia “never asked us to fulfill its demands, but rather asked for a good relationship with Lebanon, not to attack it, and not to accept attacks on the Kingdom.”
Suleiman condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.