UN condemns clashes in Libyan capital, urges security reforms

Libya’s eastern government foreign minister, AbdulHadi Al-Hawaij, left, visits Al-Sidra oil port in the east, as the country is torn between the rival powers. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2020

UN condemns clashes in Libyan capital, urges security reforms

  • Russia, China block release of UN report on Libya that accuses warring parties of violating arms embargo

TRIPOLI, NEW YORK: The UN has condemned clashes between two armed groups in a residential suburb of the Libyan capital and the use of heavy weapons.

UNSMIL, the world body’s support mission in Libya, in a statement late Friday expressed “great concern” over the fighting in the eastern suburb of Tajoura.
“Heavy weapons” were used in a “civilian-populated neighborhood,” in clashes that caused “damage to private properties and put civilians in harm’s way,” it said.
UNSMIL said it “reminds all parties of their obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law” and called for urgent reforms to boost security.
The clashes broke out late Thursday between two militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), but the cause remains unclear.
At least three people were killed and several wounded in the two camps, according to unconfirmed local reports. Residents said the clashes ended at midday on Friday.
UN report
Russia and China meanwhile blocked the official release of a report by UN experts on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers — including Russia — of violating a UN arms embargo on the conflict-wracked country, UN diplomats said on Friday.
Germany’s deputy UN ambassador, Günter Sautter, said he brought the issue to the Security Council after the two countries blocked the report’s release by the committee monitoring sanctions on Libya, which Germany heads.

I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.

Günter Sautter, Deputy UN ambassador

When asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again, Sautter said: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”

“Many delegations have asked for the publication of the panel of experts’ interim report,” he said. “This would create much needed transparency. It would contribute to naming and shaming those who continue to blatantly violate the arms embargo in spite of agreements that have been made.”
But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Friday’s council consultations were closed, said Russia and close ally China again blocked the report’s publication.
Sautter said before the meeting, when asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”
The report, seen by The Associated Press earlier this month, said the arms embargo was being violated by Libya’s UN-supported government in the west, which is backed by Turkey and Qatar, and by rival east-based forces under commander Khalifa Haftar, backed by Russia. The panel said the embargo remains “totally ineffective.”
The experts said 11 companies also violated the arms embargo, including the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company that the panel said in May provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to Haftar.
In addition, the experts said the warring parties and their international backers failed to inspect aircraft or vessels if they have reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains military weapons and ammunition, as required by a 2015 Security Council resolution.
In the years after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has sunk further into turmoil and is now divided between two rival administrations based in the country’s east and west, with an array of fighters and militias backed by various foreign powers allied with each side.
The Security Council adopted a resolution on Sept. 15 demanding that all countries enforce the widely violated UN arms embargo on Libya and withdraw all mercenaries from the North African nation. It also extended the UN political mission in Libya and called for political talks and a cease-fire in the war, which the UN has been pursuing.
One glaring gap for the UN has been the failure to replace its former top envoy, Ghassan Salame, who resigned in March, mainly as the result of a US demand to split his job in two. The resolution adopted last week did split it, putting a special envoy in charge of the UN mission to focus on mediating with Libyan and international parties to end the conflict and providing for a coordinator to be in charge of day-to-day operations.
But finding a replacement acceptable to all Security Council diplomats has proven exceedingly difficult.
One possibility is the UN’s current top Mideast envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, a former Bulgarian foreign minister, UN diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private. But the diplomats said the three African members of the council — South Arica, Niger and Tunisia — oppose him because they want an African in the job.
Germany’s Sautter said the Security Council has agreed that there will be a special envoy “and we need an agreement urgently on who that is going to be.”


Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

Updated 26 November 2020

Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

  • Without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs
  • Vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied

AMMAN: An Israeli court has forced state authorities to reveal the criteria that need to be met for Palestinian Jerusalem youth to become citizens of Israel.

The judicial order will mean that approximately 20,000 Palestinians aged between 18 and 21 living in East Jerusalem will now know the requirements when petitioning for Israeli citizenship, which is not automatically granted to them as residents of the city.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied, nor have the desire, to become Israelis. But the court decision should in future make the application process easier for those interested in carrying an Israeli passport and having the protection of the Israeli government regarding their legal status.

Jerusalem attorney, Mohammed Dahdal, who has practiced civil and human rights law for more than 30 years, noted that without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs, among other things.

However, they did pay taxes to Israel and received social benefits such as national insurance, unemployment payments, and healthcare coverage.

Dahdal told Arab News that after 1988, when Jordan disengaged from the West Bank, which included East Jerusalem, Jerusalemites became stateless citizens. He said the ruling had come about after a Palestinian from Jerusalem had appealed to the court after revealing a loophole in the law.

He noted that the court decision, published by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, made four conditions to ensure receipt of an Israeli passport. “That the applicant has no other citizenship, that they were born in Israel (for Israel, East and West Jerusalem are both parts of Israel), that the applicant is between 18 and 21 years old, and has lived continuously in Israel during the five years preceding applying for citizenship.”

The lawyer added that the Israeli government had fought in court to have the criteria for citizenship kept under wraps.

Former Jordanian member of parliament, Audeh Kawwas, who was on Wednesday appointed as a member of the Jordanian Senate, told Arab News: “If the aim is to solve the statelessness issue of Jerusalemites, I am for it and I have spoken about it (as a committee member) in the World Council of Churches.

“However, if this is an attempt to disenfranchise Palestinians and to make the city more Israeli, then I am totally opposed.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a community activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that many young Palestinian Jerusalemites were in a desperate situation, as no government or institution was taking care of them and their needs.

He said: “They are living under occupation with daily harassment from the police and Israeli intelligence and face all kinds of racism and enmity.

“Israeli citizenship helps them get high-skilled jobs and it is a prerequisite for many jobs. It helps them travel for tourism or work to Europe and the US without the cumbersome, complicated procedures of getting visas, that is if they get it at all.

“Finally, Israeli citizenship makes the youth feel safe not to lose their residency in Jerusalem and movement and work in Israel,” he added.

Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf and an observer of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that he was doubtful that Israel would speed up the process for granting Israeli citizenship. “They have made this move to show their newly established Arab friends that they are acting democratically.”

Hijazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem Merchants’ committee, told Arab News that the Israelis were looking for ways to turn the city into a Jewish one. By giving citizenship to youth between the ages of 18 and 21, Israel was aiming to deter them from carrying out hostile acts against Israel and keep them away from the Palestinian National Authority and its security forces, he said.

Jerusalem-based human rights activist, Rifaat Kassis, said: “The idea that Jerusalem is Arab has become an empty slogan. Meanwhile, Israeli racism has become the overriding power that forces Jerusalemites trying to have a dignified life with their families to live under difficult conditions.”