Libyan election hopefuls told they hold nation’s future in their hands

Stephanie Williams has been acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya for almost a year, since the resignation of Ghassan Salame. (AFP)
Stephanie Williams has been acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya for almost a year, since the resignation of Ghassan Salame. (AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2021

Libyan election hopefuls told they hold nation’s future in their hands

Libyan election hopefuls told they hold nation’s future in their hands
  • UN envoy salutes all Libyans “who have worked courageously and in good faith to plant the seeds of reconciliation”
  • Talks with 1,000 Libyans revealed they are keen to turn the page and reclaim sovereignty and ownership of their destiny

NEW YORK: “Libya’s future is in your hands.” That was the message to prospective election candidates from the UN’s envoy to the country, Stephanie Williams, ahead of her trip to Geneva for what she predicted will be “a decisive round of intra-Libyan talks.”
They are expected to lead to the creation of a new, temporary executive authority that will shepherd the nation toward elections scheduled for December.
Williams has been acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya for almost a year, since the resignation of Ghassan Salame. In her last briefing to the Security Council before Jan Kubis takes over, Williams reminded all prospective candidates who seek executive office of their responsibilities.
She also paid tribute to all the Libyans “who have worked courageously and in good faith to plant the seeds of reconciliation and fulfil the aspirations of their fellow citizens.” She urged the council to issue a resolution that officially backs the new unified Libyan government and calls for the dissolution of all other executive entities in the country.
Although peace talks in Berlin last year did not immediately end the Libyan conflict, or halt the “blatant foreign interference” in the country, Williams said the 55-point road map to peace that was adopted during the conference did achieve what was envisioned: “It created an international umbrella for the United Nations to work directly with the Libyan parties (and) to seek a Libyan-Libyan resolution.”
Progress can be seen on many fronts, she said, including: the ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva last October, which is still being observed; the roadmap adopted in Tunis the following month that set Dec. 24 this year as the date for national elections, and agreed to establish a unified temporary executive authority to guide the country toward them; and “long-overdue” economic and financial reforms that “are well under way.”
In the past month, the Central Bank of Libya’s board of directors was restored, the exchange rate unified, and the first comprehensive audit of the Libyan investment Authority launched.
“Steady progress has been made on the economic track, with significant economic reforms advanced over the period,” said Williams. “If these reforms are fully implemented they will smooth the way toward durable economic arrangements, including the transparent management of oil revenues.”
During a digital dialogue she took part in with 1,000 Libyans, living inside the country and abroad, Williams said the majority expressed a desire for national elections, an end to the years-long transitional period, and the UN to play a more proactive role in ending foreign interference in their country.
“Libyans are keen to turn the page, to reclaim Libyan sovereignty and ownership of their destiny as a people, after many years of relentless armed conflict, societal fragmentation, and crippling institutional division,” Williams said. She called on the council to sustain, harness and support this “rejuvenation of Libyan patriotism.”
Williams praised the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, which includes five representatives from each of the rival sides in the conflict, for its “professionalism and selfless commitment of its members.”
She highlighted the fact that ahead of the Jan. 23 deadline for foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya, which was set by the ceasefire agreement, the commission reiterated its call for the immediate repatriation of all such foreign combatants. Williams called on regional and international actors to assist Libya in this effort, and to honor the terms of the ceasefire agreement, the responsibility for the implementation of which, she said, rests not with the 5+5 but with military leaders on both sides.
After establishing an advisory committee to resolve differences over the selection mechanism for election candidates, the deliberations by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) continue. In Geneva next week, members will vote to elect three members of the presidency council. Meanwhile the LPDF legal committee has agreed to hold a constitutional referendum before the national elections in December.
While the guns have fallen silent thanks to the ceasefire, and thousands of internally displaced people have returned to their homes in the capital, Tripoli, Williams said Libyans continue to face the repercussions of war and violations of their human rights, as a proliferation of arms and explosives continues to threaten many people.
COVID-19 is making life even more difficult for the most vulnerable in Libya and food prices remain exceptionally high. An estimated 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, many migrants and refugees are still detained, and Williams called for their immediate release.


Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
Updated 26 January 2022

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
  • “We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” a military official said
  • This week, government forces seized control of most of Hareb district, inflicting major military blow to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthis were killed on Wednesday in the central province of Marib as government troops rolled into a new area in Abedia district for the first time in months, adding to the latest military gains in the province, a local military official told Arab News from Marib.

A day after seizing control of strategic mountainous locations in neighboring Hareb, Yemen’s army and the Giants Brigades seized control of Al-Jafara in the district of Abedia, south of Marib, and besieged Um Resh military base in Juba district, also south of Marib, after heavy fighting with the Houthis who are coming under attack from government troops and intense airstrikes from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

“We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” the military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Local media reports said that warplanes from the Coalition intensified airstrikes on Houthi targets in Abedia district, apparently to prepare the ground for government troops to advance into the strategic district.

This week, government forces seized control of most of the district of Hareb, including the town of Hareb, inflicting a major military blow to the Houthis who have suffered heavy defeats in Marib since the start of the year.

Military officials say that seizing control of Abedia and Juba would effectively mean protecting the central city of Marib from Houthi attacks from the south and it would also allow government troops to advance into the neighboring Al-Bayda province.

Last year, the Houthis besieged thousands of people in Abedia district and heavily shelled residential areas with missiles, mortar fire and explosive-rigged drones to force local army units and tribal fighters to surrender.

The Houthi siege had pushed thousands of people to the verge of mass famine and sparked local and international condemnation.

The coalition’s deployment of hundreds of fighters from the Giants Brigades from the country’s west coast to the central province of Marib late last year helped government troops to reverse Houthi military gains south of Marib and in Shabwa province.

On Wednesday, the Coalition said it killed more than 160 Houthis in 31 airstrikes in Marib, Al-Bayda and Taiz.

The Coalition’s announcement about the latest Houthi casualties came less than a day after its warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, sparking thunderous explosions.

Residents reported seeing flames of fire and smoke billowing from military bases north, west and east of Sanaa on Tuesday night.

Videos circulated on social media showed missiles fired by the coalition’s warplanes exploding inside mountain military bases.

The Coalition has accused the Houthis of storing and assembling ballistic missiles and explosive-rigged drones that targeted Saudi Arabia inside military bases in Sanaa.


Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 January 2022

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived Wednesday on a state visit to Abu Dhabi  where he was welcomed by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed.

The Egyptian president later attended a meeting Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

Upon arrival, the Egyptian presidency said the president’s visit aims to bolster ties between the UAE and Egypt.

It also said the Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE.

Al-Sisi intended to “[consult] and [coordinate] on the latest regional developments, in light of what the current stage requires of concerted efforts to protect Arab national security and to counter attempts to destabilize the security and stability of Arab countries,” a statement from Egypt’s presidency read.


UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry announced Wednesday 2,369 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, marking a reduction in daily infection rates. 

The new figures bring the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 833,201.

The ministry briefing also announced four deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,228.
An additional 1,201 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 771,624.


UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
  • Violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine

DUBAI: The UAE will issue fines of no less than $27,225 to those who violate the recently introduced ban on flying drones in the country. 

According to the country’s public prosecution, violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine. 

The UAE Public Prosecution made the announcement on Twitter. 

The country’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) had previously announced on Saturday through its official Twitter account that it has stopped “all flying operations for owners and enthusiasts of drones.”

The decision, which was made in coordination with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), aims to ensure the safety of both people and properties from “bad practices.” 

“The decision came after the misuse spotted recently, not limiting the practice of these sports to the areas identified in the user permits and trespassing into areas where these types of activities are prohibited,” wrote the ministry in its announcement. 

The statement added that those requiring the use of drones or other flying objects for work, commercial, filming or advertising purposes must obtain a permit in order to carry out their work.


Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help
Updated 26 January 2022

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help
  • A tense stand-off has gripped the prison, with Kurdish forces and their Daesh rivals facing either a bloodbath or talks to end the fighting

HASAKAH, Syria: Kurdish forces advanced Wednesday inside a Syrian prison where Daesh group fighters have been holed up with minors for six days, amid pleas for international assistance to contain a jihadist resurgence.
More than 100 jihadists of the Daesh group last week attacked Ghwayran prison in the northeast Syrian city of Hasakah, held by a semi-autonomous Kurdish administration.
The brazen assault on the Kurdish-run facility involved a double suicide bombing and saw the jihadists free fellow Daesh members, seize weapons and take over a series of jail blocks.
It is considered the most sophisticated attack carried out by the group since it was territorially defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.
On Wednesday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied fighters “carried out search operations inside prison blocks” and in areas surrounding the facility, where intermittent clashes had broken out overnight, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
US-backed Kurdish forces were “advancing slowly” inside the jail where jihadists were still holed up, said the Britain-based monitor.
Fighting in and around the prison since Thursday has killed 181 people, including 124 Daesh jihadists, 50 Kurdish fighters and seven civilians, according to the Observatory.
With operations inside the facility underway, fears were raised over the fate of minors detained at Ghwayran, which held more than 700 boys among 3,500 Daesh suspects prior to the attack.
“They say they fear they’ll be shot down if they try to come out. They are begging for food, water, medicine,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, adding she had made contact with three inmates including one minor trapped inside the jail.
They are calling for the United Nations “or other international organization to negotiate their safe exit,” Tayler said.
A tense stand-off has gripped the prison, with Kurdish forces and their Daesh rivals facing either a bloodbath or talks to end the fighting.
“The most likely way this ends is with the total defeat of the Daesh fighters at the prison,” said Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Newlines Institute.
“But the nightmare scenario for the SDF and the US-led coalition is a drawn out standoff that kills hundreds, including many children prisoners.”
Kurdish forces since Monday have freed 32 prison staff, some of whom appeared in video footage that Daesh had shared on social media after launching the attack, the Observatory says.
Around 1,000 men, including rebelling inmates and Daesh jihadists, have so far surrendered to Kurdish forces, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Wednesday.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that a Syrian Daesh jihadist was negotiating with Kurdish forces to end the mutiny and secure medical care for wounded jihadists.
Farhad Shami of the SDF media office said the SDF had made calls for Daesh to surrender, but he refused to refer to them as formal negotiations.
Ghwayran is the prison with the largest number of suspected Daesh members in Syria, the Observatory says.
Kurdish authorities say more than 50 nationalities are represented in a number of Kurdish-run prisons, where over 12,000 Daesh suspects are being held.
The Kurdish administration has long warned it does not have the capacity to hold, let alone put on trial, the thousands of Daesh fighters captured in years of operations.
“This issue is an international problem,” Abdulkarim Omar, the administration’s top foreign policy official, told AFP on Wednesday.
“We cannot face it alone.”
He called on the international community to “support the autonomous administration to improve security and humanitarian conditions for inmates in detention centers and for those in overcrowded camps.”
The proto-state declared by Daesh in 2014 once straddled large parts of Iraq and Syria.
After five years of military operations conducted by local and international forces, its last rump was eventually flushed out on the banks of the Euphrates in eastern Syria in March 2019.