Dispute over new Lebanese government escalates

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Dispute over new Lebanese government escalates

  • Discord shows that former allies of Hezbollah have become its opponent in government formation

BEIRUT: The dispute over who will be in charge of the Ministry of Finance in the Lebanese government escalated on Sunday with the end of the deadline to form a government of specialists separate from the parties in power.

The disagreement showed that those who were formerly allies of Hezbollah in power have now become its opponent in forming the government.

The Lebanese are waiting to see whether the prime minister-designate, Mustapha Adib, will go to the presidential palace on Monday to present a draft of his government formation, regardless of the disagreement — or to apologize for not completing the task he was assigned to do on Aug. 31.

In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai continued his criticism of the insistence of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah in holding on to the finance portfolio.

Rai asked: “In what capacity does a sect claim a certain ministry as if it were its own, and disrupt the formation of the government until it achieves its goal? It thus causes political paralysis and economic, financial and livelihood damage. What has become of the political forces’ agreement for reform: A miniature salvation government, independent specialists with political experience and portfolio rotation?”

Rai referred to the constitution, which stipulated that jobs be divided equally between Christians and Muslims. “Has the constitution been amended suddenly, or are matters imposed by some force or bullying? This is unacceptable.”

Rai called on the prime minister-designate Adib to “abide by the constitution, form a government and not be subject to conditions, nor to delay, or to apologize.”

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) attacked the conditions of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

FASTFACT

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai continued his criticism of the insistence of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah in holding on to the finance portfolio.

The FPM, which is Hezbollah’s ally in power, also rejected “that one party should dominate all the Lebanese, regardless of their strength.”

In a meeting on Saturday evening, former prime ministers urged Adib to “adhere to his full powers in terms of forming the government as soon as possible, in consultation with the president of the republic and under the ceiling of the rules stipulated in the constitution.”

The former prime ministers said that the French initiative “constitutes an important opportunity that must be exploited by expediting the formation of the government to keep Lebanon away from collapse, seditions and evils surrounding it.”

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on Lebanon on Sunday to “distance itself from regional conflicts and to accelerate the formation of a government on constitutional grounds.”

The spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Agnes von der Mol, regretted “the Lebanese politicians’ failure to abide by the pledges they made on the first of September, in accordance with the announced timeframe.” She urged “all the Lebanese forces to fulfil their responsibilities and agree without delay to the formation nominated by Mustapha Adib for a missionary government capable of implementing the reforms necessary to fulfill the aspirations of the Lebanese people.”

As politicians continued to wrangle over power, the Lebanese Army and Maritime Rescue Units in the Civil Defense recovered the bodies of Lebanese migrants who had died during a boat journey destined for Cyprus.

The boat set off on Sept. 7 from Burj Beach in northern Lebanon with 50 people on board, although it could only accommodate 30 people. The boat stopped hours after sailing and the passengers were told that the boat’s fuel had run out. They were abandoned and their food, drink and mobile phones were taken. The boat was cut off from the world for five days.

The body of a child, Mohammed Nazir Mohammed, who was 20 months old, was found on the beach of Batroun, and the child’s grandfather recognized the body of his grandson. His son had told him that he had shrouded his child in black jeans and a white belt before throwing him into the sea two days after his death.

The body of Mohammed Hassan Assaf was also found off the beach of Sarafand, and another body was recovered off the coast of Zouk. There are still nine people missing.

The Internal Security Forces in Tripoli subsequently arrested a man called Burhan Q. “for being one of those who took money as a mediator between migrants and smugglers on the death boat.”

 


Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 October 2020

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

  • The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of presidential elections, winning 51.7 percent of the vote, official results showed.
He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south of the divided island, leaving attempts to relaunch long-stalled UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.
Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering and Turkish flag-waving supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s head of state and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.
“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbors in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Greek Cypriot government or ruling party in the south of the island, which is a European Union member state, although opposition parties were quick to lament the outcome.
Erdogan was swift to celebrate the victory, which followed a high 67-percent turnout at the polls.
“I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president ... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” he wrote on Twitter.

HIGHLIGHT

Ersin Tatar edged out incumbent Mustafa Akinc, leaving attempts to relaunch UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.

In a telephone call the same night, Erdogan said he was confident the two leaders would maintain close cooperation in all areas, “starting with the hydrocarbon linked activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” his office said.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters.
The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.
The second-round ballot was triggered after Tatar won 32 percent of the vote on Oct. 11 ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 percent.
Akinci was tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat who came third last time around.
After his defeat, Akinci, who had accused Ankara of meddling in the polls, thanked his supporters and said: “You know what happened ... I am not going to do politics on this.”
The TRNC, with a population of about 300,000, was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.
Earlier in October, Turkish troops angered the Republic of Cyprus by reopening public access to the fenced-off seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.
The reopening was announced jointly by Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara just days before the first round of polling.
It drew EU and UN criticism and sparked demonstrations in the Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the island’s south, separated from the TRNC by a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
On the eve of Sunday’s vote, Greek Cypriot demonstrators massed at a checkpoint along the so-called “Green Line,” holding signs that read “Cyprus is Greek,” in protest at the reopening of nearby Varosha to the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey has repeatedly said it seeks to defend Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akinci’s relationship with Ankara had come under strain, especially after he described the prospect of the north’s annexation by Turkey as “horrible” in February.
When Akinci took office in 2015, he was hailed as the leader best placed to revive peace talks.
But hopes were dashed in July 2017 after UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland, notably over Greek Cypriot demands for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers still stationed in the TRNC.