UN urges Libyans to prioritize national interest in November talks

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi and Stephanie Williams, the deputy special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya, hold a press conference at Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts Tunis on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 14 October 2020

UN urges Libyans to prioritize national interest in November talks

  • Participants should take part on the condition ‘they remove themselves from consideration in high government positions’

CARTHAGE, Tunisia: The UN’s Libya envoy on Monday urged rival parties to place the national interest before political ambitions when they meet for talks next month aimed at ending a decade of bloodshed.

The North African country is dominated by armed groups, riven by local conflicts and divided between two bitterly opposed adminstrations: A United Nations-recognized unity government based in Tripoli and its eastern-based rival backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Neighbouring Tunisia is set to host talks in early November including representatives of civil society, tribesmen, political leaders, and members of bodies representing both administrations.

“What we want to see in terms of participation is people who are not there for their own political aspirations, but for their country,” said UN envoy Stephanie Williams on Monday, after meeting Tunisian President Kais Saied.

Asked whether Haftar or unity government chief Fayez Al-Sarraj would be present, she said participants would be able to take part on the condition “that they remove themselves from consideration in high government positions.”

This included membership of the key Presidential Council, the prime minister’s job and ministerial posts, she told AFP.

The talks are intended to prepare for national elections, she added.

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi called for “a dialogue between Libyans that could lead to a political solution to the crisis.”

Saied spoke on Monday with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who saluted the renewed dialogue and said that Algeria, another neighbor of Libya, was “always at Tunisia’s side.”

Tebboune also spoke of a visit to Tunisia after the Nov. 1 referendum on constitutional reform in Algeria.

The Algerian president’s office confirmed that the two men had spoken via telephone.

“The President of the Republic, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, received a telephone call on the part of his counterpart Kais Saied, and they reviewed bilateral relations and his planned visit to Tunisia,” it said in a statement.

Tebboune “welcomed Tunisia’s organization of inter-Libyan dialogue under the auspices of the UN,” the statement said.

A previous agreement between rival Libyan sides, signed in Morocco in 2015, created a unity government that was never recognized by Haftar.

In April 2019 he launched an offensive to seize Tripoli, but was pushed back after over a year of fighting.

Since his forces were driven from western Libya, the rival sides have resumed talks on specific themes: Institutions, military and political affairs.

The Tunis talks will begin on Oct. 26 by videoconference, before continuing face-to-face in early November.


Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

Updated 25 November 2020

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

  • The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz

CAIRO: The second Egyptian Aragouz Festival has opened on Nov. 24, at the ancient Bayt Al-Sinnari, in Cairo. The aragouz is a traditional puppet figure dressed in red invented by Egyptians to ridicule situations comically.

Khaled Bahgat, a professor of theater at Helwan University and the founder of the festival and the Wamda Troupe for Aragouz and Shadow Puppets, said the festival is part of the initiative to preserve the Egyptian aragouz, after it was recognized by UNESCO in 2018 as one of the most important Egyptian artistic elements. He said that he wants the Egyptian art of aragouz to reach the world because it is an ancient Egyptian art.

The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz.

The festival opened with a tribute to the great Egyptian creator Abu Al-Saud Al-Abyari in a reading of his story “Aragouz, Author and Idea,” which he published in 1953. Al-Aragouz was an important source of creativity for Al-Abyari.

The reading was followed by entries exploring how the art of aragouz shaped Egyptian comedy in the twentieth century.

The day closed with puppet performances of “The social media aragouz,” which reflected the impact of social media, directed by Ali Abu Zeid, and “The aragouz in the city,” directed by Nabil Bahgat.

On the second day, Reem Heggab will honor her father the late Egyptian poet Said Heggab, reciting one of his poems on the aragouz. This will be followed by two aragouz shows, “The Take Away,” directed by Mahmoud Sayed Hanafi, and “Aragouz, the Land of Myths.”

On Thursday, the theater department of the University of Alexandria will celebrate the aragouz with a lecture by Hany Abou El-Hassan, the head of the department, a workshop and a performance titled “Lorca and the aragouz,” directed by Nabil Bahgat and presented by the Wamda Troupe.

The performance honors the creativity of the Spanish poet and innovator Federico García Lorca, and will be held in the presence of the Spanish cultural attache.

The fourth day of the festival will honor the poet Fouad Haddad, whose son Amin Haddad will recite several poems from his father’s book of poetry entitiled Al-Aragouz. The poetry reading will be followed by a discussion.

Then there will be performances of “Aragouz Al Sima,” directed by Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, and “Al-Aragouz in Danger,” which deals with the greatest challenges facing the art of aragouz.

On the last day, the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University and the Department of Theater Sciences’ troupe will hold an open seminar with the department’s students to discuss ways to preserve the Egyptian aragouz.