Lebanon on borrowed time not addressing Hezbollah’s weapons

Lebanon on borrowed time not addressing Hezbollah’s weapons
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A Lebanese protester waves the national flag during a recent demonstration in Beirut. (AFP)
Lebanon on borrowed time not addressing Hezbollah’s weapons
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In this photo released by the Lebanese Parliament Media Office, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, speaks after he was re-elected, at the parliament building, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (AP)
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Updated 24 November 2020

Lebanon on borrowed time not addressing Hezbollah’s weapons

Lebanon on borrowed time not addressing Hezbollah’s weapons
  • While Venezuela continues to hold the top spot in my world inflation table, Lebanon has finally passed Zimbabwe for 2nd place. It’s rather shocking to watch Lebanon’s politicians fiddle, while Beirut burns

BEIRUT: A Lebanese academic has warned politicians that the country is at risk from the group Hezbollah, despite various factions coming together to try to launch a rescue initiative, as it struggles to resolve a myriad of crises currently affecting the eastern Mediterranean state.

There has been no progress yet on the formation of a new government since the collapse of the previous administration in August, and consequently, no negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a bailout.

American economist Steve Hanke said in a tweet on Monday: “While Venezuela continues to hold the top spot in my world inflation table, Lebanon has finally passed Zimbabwe for 2nd place. It’s rather shocking to watch Lebanon’s politicians fiddle, while Beirut burns.”

The inflation rate in Lebanon has now reached around 365 percent.

In light of this stalemate, during a press conference at the Palace of Justice in Beirut on Monday, trade unions, universities, economic organizations, labor bodies and civil society forces launched a national rescue initiative under the slogan “Recovering the State,” while joint parliamentary committees will meet on Wednesday to discuss a new electoral law.

The head of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, said in the press conference: “We want to restore the state by reconfiguring the authority to rebuild the country.”

Khalaf added: “The initiative is easy to implement and relates to the size of people’s pain, and is open to constructive discussion in a way that reassures all concerns.”

The head of the North Bar Association, Mohammed Al-Murad, explained the details of the rescue initiative.

He said that the initiative “includes the necessity to form an effective, purposeful, fair and reliable government of independent specialists with specific and limited legislative powers within a specific time frame.”

He added: “Government priorities should an endorsement approving the start of implementing a financial, economic and social rescue plan, achieving full justice for the explosion at the Beirut Port and the implementation of a national plan to combat the coronavirus disease pandemic and limit its spread.”

Murad said that the initiative was based on “launching the path of immediate reforms to combat all forms of corruption, auditing all independent institutions and state administrations,” as well as the creation of a Senate and adopting a new electoral law to move the country away from sectarianism.

Parliament, meanwhile, is expected to hold a session of the joint parliamentary committees to discuss a controversial electoral bill.

Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc is pressing for the approval of a bill it presented, based on proportional representation, and which treats Lebanon as one constituency.

This issue raised concerns from Christian MPs, especially those affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.

Eddy Abi Lamaa, Deputy of the Strong Republic bloc, said: “Today, the country does not need such a controversial suggestion.”

He spoke of coordination between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement to “reject the proportional representation bill and treating Lebanon as one constituency.”

Mario Aoun, a Free Patriotic Movement MP, stressed his refusal “to make Lebanon one electoral constituency, although we are in favor of amending the loopholes in the current electoral law based on which the last elections were held and proved its usefulness.”

Lebanon’s Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli, who will chair the joint committee session, said: “The committees have several electoral bills, and the debate is not limited to one formula. It is better to have a law agreed upon early so that we do not reach the due date without a law.”

However, Dr. Mona Fayad, member of the Lebanese Association of Women Researchers, said that the rescue initiative “does not address the issue of illegal weapons outside the constitution, that is, Hezbollah’s weapons.”

Fayad told Arab News: “We are a country with its own borders and army. Since 2006, Hezbollah has not fired a single bullet from the south at Israel. Are we supposed to keep its shop open so that it can use it to fight here and there and not close it? Then Hezbollah comes to rule us in the name of the resistance, how can that be possible?”

Dr. Fayad added: “How could the rescue initiative ask Parliament to implement the constitution by electing a Senate? Isn’t the current Parliament inherently against the constitution and illegal? And how can elections be held under (the threat of) weapons?

“I fear that what is happening now is a mutual collusion process between Parliament and these civilian forces.”

 


EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
Updated 18 min 55 sec ago

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
  • Turkey faces threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara’s human rights record.
Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.
“We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for talks, describing 2020 as complicated.
“Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions,” Borrell said.
The improved tone follows a video conference between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Jan. 9 in which both stressed the importance of the bilateral relationship.
Cavusoglu said he hoped von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council which represents the 27 EU member states, would visit Turkey after an invitation from Erdogan.
“It is of course important for there to be a positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties, but in order for this to be sustainable, we must take concrete steps,” Cavusoglu added.
2020 proved particularly difficult for relations between Turkey and the EU, especially France, with Erdogan expressing publicly his hope that protests in French cities would topple President Emmanuel Macron.
Greece and Cyprus, strongly backed by France, want to punish Turkey for what they see as provocative oil and gas exploration by Turkish vessels in disputed waters, but Germany and Italy are reluctant to go ahead with any sanctions on Ankara.
Turkey has now withdrawn the vessels and is set to restart talks with Greece, although the EU has accused Ankara of playing “cat and mouse” in a pattern of provocation and reconciliation.
EU leaders will decide in March whether to impose sanctions.
Brussels also accuses Erdogan of undermining the economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts and media, leaving Turkey’s bid to join the EU further away than ever.
“We remain concerned about the (human rights) situation in Turkey,” Borrell said on Thursday.
The European Parliament is expected on Thursday to back a resolution calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtas, a leading Kurdish politician jailed in 20216 on terrorism-related charges.
But Turkey remains a big destination for EU trade and investment and also hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees. The EU aims to agree fresh funds for the refugees from 2022 to discourage them from coming into the bloc.
Ankara wants progress on Turks’ right to visa-free travel to the EU, an upgrade of its trade agreement with Europe and recognition of its claims to hydrocarbons off its maritime shelf.