Lebanon ‘going to hell’ if fails to form government, says president

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A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 21, 2020, shows President Michel Aoun talking to the press at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital, regarding ongoing consultations to form a new cabinet. (AFP)
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Michel Aoun said he proposed canceling Lebanon’s sectarian quotas for sovereign ministries. (File/AFP)
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Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib called for cooperation from all sides. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Lebanon ‘going to hell’ if fails to form government, says president

  • Disputes over who should hold key posts
  • Adib said he would spare no effort ‘to achieve this goal in cooperation with the president’

BEIRUT: Lebanon is “going to hell” if it fails to form a government, the president warned on Monday.

A huge explosion on Aug. 4 at the Port of Beirut led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his administration.

Mustapha Adib, the country’s 48-year old ambassador to Germany, was named as his replacement and tasked with assembling a new government.

However his mission has stalled, not least because of a dispute over who will lead the Ministry of Finance.

Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement want Shiite ministers in the cabinet, including the finance minister. The Free Patriotic Movement has objected to their demand and proposed naming ministers from small sects to assume key portfolios.

Lebanon “is going to hell if the situation remains as it is,” President Michel Aoun said. “Neither bullying one another will benefit, nor channeling foreign powers will help. Only understanding each other based on the constitution and balance will take us to stability and recovery. The rigidity of positions will not lead us to any result except for more aggravation, while what Lebanon needs most in light of all its successive crises is some resolution and solidarity so that it can rise and confront its problems.”

An initiative from France stipulates that the government comprise specialists who are separate from the parties in power, that portfolios should be rotated, that the government be small, its work team homogeneous and that it carry out a specific reform mission.

This mission, based on its implementation, would lead to crucial international aid that would bail Lebanon out of its economic and financial misery.

President Emmanuel Macron gave parties a deadline to form a government. It was missed, however, and has been extended until Tuesday.

Aoun proposed cancelling the sectarian distribution of key ministries, not allocating them to specific sects but making them available to all sects, and making the ability to accomplish and not sectarian affiliation as the criterion for choosing ministers.

Activists criticized Aoun’s statement on social media. Majd Harb, the son of former MP Boutros Harb, said Lebanon had been “in hell” since Oct. 31, 2016, the date of Aoun’s election as president.

Adib went to the presidential palace on Monday. He said in a statement: “Lebanon does not have the luxury of wasting time amid the unprecedented financial, monetary, economic, social and health crises it is going through.”

He reminded all political parties of their pledge “to support the government, which has a definite program,” and urged everyone “to work for the success of the French initiative immediately and without delay, which clears the way to rescue Lebanon and stop the rapid deterioration.”

Lebanon is facing a shortage of foreign currency reserves that threatens to stop the subsidy of basic materials in the country, such as fuel, wheat and medicine, within two months.

The devastating August explosion exacerbated the country’s many crises, including the coronavirus outbreak.

The total number of people infected since the detection of the disease in Lebanon on Feb. 21 is around 30,000. The death toll is around 300.

The government committee tasked with managing the pandemic and putting preventive measures in place met on Monday following the increase in infections.

It recommended the closure of towns with a spike in cases and the “strictness in punishing individuals who do not wear masks and institutions that do not comply with the preventive conditions imposed.”

The health minister’s proposal to lock down Lebanon for two weeks faced objections from the caretaker government, trade unions and stakeholders.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, an infectious disease specialist and member of the emergency committee on coronavirus, said that the virus would remain “for no less than a year, and our life cannot be postponed for a year, and we must coexist with it.”


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.


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.