Egypt discusses resuming oil exports with Libyan officials

Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar gives a televised speech, April 27, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 September 2020

Egypt discusses resuming oil exports with Libyan officials

  • Egyptian delegation calls for a return to political stability in Libya and an end to the crisis through a cease-fire

CAIRO: Libyan army chief Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has told an Egyptian delegation that “guarantees” are in place to stop oil imports falling into the hands of armed militias and mercenaries in the conflict-wracked country.

The Egyptian delegation raised the prospect of a resumption in oil exports during talks in Benghazi between Haftar and Ayman Badie, head of Egypt’s national committee concerned with Libyan affairs.

The meeting focused on common issues between the two countries, with the Egyptian delegation calling for a return to political stability and an end to the crisis through a cease-fire.

Recent meetings that Cairo hosted for a delegation representing the western region of Libya were also discussed.

According to sources, the Egyptian delegation briefed the Libyan army commander and Aguila Saleh, head of the Libyan parliament, of details of talks between Cairo and the Misrata delegation in recent days.

The delegation affirmed its support for a political solution and a cease-fire throughout Libya, saying that it is “ready to provide all means of support for the Libyan people to overcome the ordeal suffered by the citizens.”

The Egyptian delegation previously held a meeting with Saleh in his office in Al-Qubah, where they discussed the need for a rapid political solution to the crisis that has engulfed the country for almost a decade.

Libyan parliamentary spokesman Abdullah Blehaq said that the two parties discussed ways to end the Libyan crisis and speed up a political solution, calling on all concerned parties to “return to the political track and stabilizing the cease-fire.”

Saleh is holding talks to choose a prime minister following the resignation of interim leader Abdullah Al-Thani.

A source in the office of the Speaker of Parliament confirmed that Al-Thani had proposed a number of people to take over the formation of the new government, including Aref Ali Nayed, chair of the Ihya Libya (Libya Revival) bloc.

This was based on the Libyan House of Representatives’ decision in 2015, which included the nomination of Nayed among others to oversee the formation of the government in a session with a full quorum and in the presence of a large number of deputies.

The Egyptian administration, through the committee that brings together all Egyptian sovereign bodies, in addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeks to bridge the gap between Libyans and unify Libyan institutions.

Iranian asylum seeker stuck in limbo on divided Cyprus

Iranian singer Omid Tootian, 46, gestures during an interview at a coffee shop in the UN-controlled buffer zone in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, on September 23, 2020, where he's been stuck since mid-September. (AFP)
Updated 27 September 2020

Iranian asylum seeker stuck in limbo on divided Cyprus

  • Because his songs are very critical of the Iranian regime, Tootian fears that if he returns to the north of the island, he will first be sent back to Turkey and then to Iran

NICOSIA: Dissident Iranian singer Omid Tootian has for days been sleeping in a tent in the buffer zone of the world’s last divided capital, after being refused entry by the Republic of Cyprus.
“I can’t go to one side or the other,” the performer, in his mid-40s, whose songs speak out against Iranian authorities, told AFP. “I’m stuck living in the street.”
His tent is pitched between two checkpoints in western Nicosia, among the weeds outside an abandoned house in the quasi-“no man’s land” that separates the northern and southern parts of Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974.
In early September, he traveled to the north of the Mediterranean island, controlled by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
Two weeks later, Tootian, who had been living in Turkey for around three years, tried for the first time to seek asylum in the Republic of Cyprus, which controls the southern two-thirds of the island and is in the EU.  But once at the green line, the 180 -km buffer zone that traverses the island and is patrolled by UN peacekeepers, he was denied entry into the south.
Refusing to return to the TRNC, where he fears he would be in danger, Tootian found himself in limbo in the few hundred meters of land that divides the two territories.
“I don’t know why they haven’t approved my entry ... but I think it’s because of the coronavirus,” he said, speaking at the pro-unification Home for Cooperation community center in the buffer zone where he eats, grooms and spends most of his days.
“But I hope things will become clear because now I don’t know what will happen, and it’s a very difficult situation.”
Because his songs are very critical of the Iranian regime, Tootian fears that if he returns to the north of the island, he will first be sent back to Turkey and then to Iran.

Turkey is no longer a safe country for me because the Turkish regime is close to Iran.

Omid Tootian, Dissident Iranian singer

“Turkey is no longer a safe country for me because the Turkish regime is close to Iran,” he said, adding that he had for the past six months been receiving anonymous “threats” from unknown callers using private phone numbers.
In July, three Iranians were sentenced to death by the Islamic republic. Two of them had initially fled to Turkey and, according to the non-governmental group the Center for Human Rights in Iran, Turkish authorities cooperated with Tehran to repatriate them.
Since arriving at the checkpoint, Tootian has tried “four or five times” in a week to enter, without success, despite the help of a migrant rights advocacy group known as KISA and the UN mission in the buffer zone.
According to European and international regulations, Cyprus cannot expel an asylum seeker until the application has been considered and a final decision issued.
The police said “they have restrictions not to let anybody in,” KISA member Doros Polycarpou told AFP.
Cypriot police spokesman Christos Andreou said “it is not the responsibility of the police” to decide who can enter the Republic of Cyprus.
They “follow the instructions of the Ministry of Interior,” put in place “because of the pandemic,” he added.
According to the ministry, “all persons who are willing to cross from a legal entry point to the area controlled by the Republic must present a negative COVID-19 test carried out within the last 72 hours” — a requirement Tootian said he had fulfilled.
Polycarpou charges that the Cypriot “government has used the pandemic to restrict basic human rights.”
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Cyprus Emilia Strovolidou said “there are other means to protect asylum seekers and public health at the same time ... we can test people when they arrive or take quarantine measures.”
“We have someone who is seeking international protection, he should have access to the process,” she added.
Due to the closure of other migration routes to Europe, asylum applications have increased sixfold over the last five years in Cyprus — a country of fewer than 1 million inhabitants — from 2,265 in 2015 to 13,650 in 2019, according to Eurostat data.