Turkey sends oil ship to eastern Med, approves Libya troop deployment

Turkey sends oil ship to eastern Med, approves Libya troop deployment
The survey vessel Oruc Reis will now continue searching for oil and gas in territorial waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 December 2020

Turkey sends oil ship to eastern Med, approves Libya troop deployment

Turkey sends oil ship to eastern Med, approves Libya troop deployment
  • Erdogan accused of raising tensions abroad to maintain influence inside Turkey
  • Survey vessel will continue searching for oil and gas in territorial waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus

ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorized controversial oil exploration by a survey vessel in the eastern Mediterranean for a further six months, until June next year.

The Turkish president has also obtained parliamentary approval for troop deployment in Libya for another 18 months, after his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies outvoted the opposition.

The survey vessel Oruc Reis will now continue searching for oil and gas in territorial waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus, in a move that will infuriate the EU.

Last month, EU leaders committed to limited sanctions on Turkish individuals but suspended more serious steps until March, while Greece has demanded an arms embargo on Turkey.

In Libya, after a pact on military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli in 2019, Turkey sent its troops thereon a year-long mandate in January. Turkey recently appointed Kenan Yilmaz, a bureaucrat who was involved in the Libyan talks from the outset, as the new ambassador to Tripoli.

“Turkey extended its deployment in Libya because the Turkish government knows there is rapidly increasing cooperation between Greece and regional allies such as Egypt and Israel, as well as the UAE and France,” said Evangelos D. Kokkinos, an geopolitical expert in Athens.

He told Arab News that Erdogan was trying to raise tensions abroad to maintain his influence inside Turkey. However, a full-scale war would come at a political cost to Erdogan, meaning a military standoff between Greece and Turkey was likely.

“Greece will keep on pressuring the EU for an arms embargo and sanctions against Turkey, and not just against Turkish individuals. A large force of the Greek Navy has been deployed across Greek borders and will defend Greek sovereignty, no matter the cost,” he said.

Greek defense agreements with the UAE and Egypt would deter military escalation in the region, he said.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, told Arab News that Ankara’s recent decisions about extension of deployment terms were unsurprising.

“Turkey intends to stay in Libya for the long term,” he said. “The goal of Ankara is to create facts on the ground in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Qatar, and other states to justify its involvement and keep up pressure on countries it views as enemies, such as Egypt.”

Frantzman said such a move gave Ankara leverage over the Mediterranean and the chance to continue to threaten to blackmail countries such as Greece, Egypt, and Israel every time it needed a distraction or some new chest-beating populist cause to claim it was challenging other countries.


Britain warns Iran it’s the “last chance” to sign up to nuclear deal

Updated 7 sec ago

Britain warns Iran it’s the “last chance” to sign up to nuclear deal

Britain warns Iran it’s the “last chance” to sign up to nuclear deal
LONDON: British foreign minister Liz Truss urged Iran on Wednesday to sign up to the 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was “the last chance” to do, just a day before talks were expected to resume.
“This is really the last chance for Iran to sign up and I strongly urge them to do that because we are determined to work with our allies to prevent Iran securing nuclear weapons,” she told the Chatham House think tank.
“So they do need to sign up to the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement, it’s in their interests to do so.”

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow
Updated 53 min 30 sec ago

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow

Libyan political body calls for election delay as disputes grow
  • The High State Council’s statement comes less than three weeks before the vote
  • The electoral commission has not yet announced a final list of candidates for the presidential race

TRIPOLI: A Libyan political body on Wednesday called for a Dec. 24 presidential election to be delayed to February amid growing jostling over the rules and legal basis of a vote aimed at ending a decade of instability.
The statement by the High State Council (HSC), an advisory body installed through a 2015 peace agreement but not recognized by all other Libyan political entities, comes less than three weeks before the vote.
In Libya’s complex, fractured political environment the extent of the HSC’s powers is debated, but its statement adds to the doubts surrounding the election.
The electoral commission has not yet announced a final list of candidates for the presidential race following a fractious process of court appeals over the eligibility of the 98 who registered to run.
The arguments over some highly divisive candidates, including major figures from Libya’s conflict, have already threatened to torpedo the contest.
Those disputes revealed deeper disagreements over the basis for a voting process that has already diverged from both the UN-backed roadmap that set the vote and a controversial election law issued in September by the parliament speaker.
The roadmap envisaged the election as a way to end disputes over the legitimacy of Libya’s rival political bodies, which were formed during earlier transitional periods following the 2011 revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
The HSC was drawn from members of a national assembly elected in 2012 who rejected the results of a 2014 election that created the current parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR).
Despite the 2015 political agreement that enshrined a legislative role for the HoR and an advisory role for the HSC, they do not formally recognize each other, though they have held sporadic peace negotiations in Morocco.
Some Libyans fear the disputes over the current election process could trigger a similar crisis to that surrounding the 2014 vote, when Libya split between warring eastern and western factions with parallel administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The HSC statement on Wednesday said the presidential and parliamentary elections should both take place on the same day, as was originally demanded by the UN roadmap.
Laws issued in September and October by HoR speaker Aguila Saleh, a presidential candidate, set a first round presidential vote for Dec. 24 but delayed the parliamentary vote.
Saleh’s critics accuse him of issuing the laws without a quorum or a proper vote in parliament and after intimidation against some members. Saleh and his allies deny wrongdoing and say the laws were passed properly.


French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations
Updated 08 December 2021

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations

French top diplomat visits Algeria to mend relations
  • Le Drian's trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a "working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship"

ALGIERS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks in Algeria Wednesday in a bid to heal the latest rift between the North African country and its former colonial ruler.
Le Drian’s trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a “working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship” and he is set to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a French foreign ministry source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Algeria’s APS state news outlet confirmed that the French diplomat had met his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra during “a working visit and evaluation of bilateral relations.”
Relations between Algiers and Paris have been strained for much of the six decades since the former French colony won its independence after a 130-year occupation.
President Emmanuel Macron has gone further than his predecessors in owning up to French abuses during the colonial era.
But ties collapsed in October after Macron accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting history and fomenting “hatred toward France.”
In remarks to descendants of independence fighters, reported by Le Monde, Macron also questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.
Coming a month after Paris decided to sharply reduce visa quotas for citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, those comments sparked a fierce reaction from Algeria.
The country withdrew its ambassador and banned French military planes from its airspace, which they regularly use to carry out operations against jihadist groups in West Africa and the Sahel region.
The comments also prompted Tebboune to boycott a major November summit in Paris on Algeria’s war-torn neighbor Libya, vowing that Algeria would “not take the first step” to repair ties.
The dispute prompted a rare expression of contrition from the French presidency, which said it “regretted” the misunderstandings caused by the remarks.
An aide from Macron’s office said the French leader “has the greatest respect for the Algerian nation and its history and for Algeria’s sovereignty.”
Algerian Foreign Minister Lamamra welcomed that statement and, in the end, represented Algeria at the Libya conference.
Le Drian’s visit comes as Algeria prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence in March.
Macron, France’s first leader born after the colonial era, has made a priority of historical reconciliation and forging a modern relationship with former colonies.
Earlier this year, he recognized that French officers tortured and killed Algerian lawyer Ali Boumendjel in 1957.
Macron also in October condemned “inexcusable crimes” during a 1961 crackdown against Algerian pro-independence protesters in Paris, during which French police led by a former Nazi collaborator killed dozens of demonstrators and threw their bodies into the river Seine.
A report commissioned by the president from historian Benjamin Stora earlier this year urged a truth commission over the Algerian war but Macron ruled out issuing any official apology.
And as he seeks re-election next year, he is wary of providing ammunition to far-right nationalist opponents Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.


Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan
Updated 08 December 2021

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Cairo: Egypt’s military announced that under the directives of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, tons of medical and pharmaceutical aid have been sent to South Sudan.

The aid, transported by a military plane, was provided by the Ministry of Health and Population.

Officials in South Sudan expressed their appreciation for Egypt’s support, which they said strengthens bilateral relations.

During floods that swept South Sudan earlier this year, Egypt sent aid such as food and medical supplies.


Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022
Updated 08 December 2021

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

CAIRO: The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has announced the selection of Cairo as next year’s culture capital of the Muslim world.

Egypt’s Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem told a press conference that this choice reflects Cairo’s position as a meeting place for different cultures, a creative hub and a center for thought and art.

She praised ISESCO’s efforts to celebrate the capitals of Islamic countries and promote relationships between them.