New revelations show how close Libya came to peaceful transition

New revelations show how close Libya came to peaceful transition
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in his Bedouin tent, January 12, 1986. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 March 2021

New revelations show how close Libya came to peaceful transition

New revelations show how close Libya came to peaceful transition
  • Norwegian diplomacy led to Gaddafi agreeing to step down, but the deal feel through at the last minute
  • He refused to leave the country, and the UK and France had reservations

LONDON: The late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to step down and leave politics in 2011, in a deal that could have avoided a decade of crisis and bloodshed — but it fell through at the last minute, The Independent reported on Thursday. 

Former Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Store told the British newspaper that a draft text was agreed between Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam and senior opposition figure Aly Zeidan, who would later become prime minister of Libya’s National Transitional Council.

Norwegian diplomats hammered out a transition plan, the first line of which stated: “Colonel Gaddafi has decided to leave power and step aside and to end the first phase of the revolution.”

But the fate of the country’s erratic leader, who had been in power for 42 years, remained a sticking point. Specifically, he refused to leave the country after stepping down.

“People very close to Gaddafi, people in the legal apparatus, in his family, supported what was on the table,” said Staale Wiig, a Norwegian biographer of Store who first uncovered the existence of the negotiations years after the war.

“But the final mile was for Gaddafi to say ‘I agree to move into exile’ or where he would live.”

Store said the Libyan leadership was not the only roadblock to a peaceful transition. According to him, the US was keen on the deal but Britain and France had reservations.

“I felt that the mindset in London and Paris didn’t have openings for really reflecting on the diplomatic option. Were (France and Britain) willing to look at something beyond military solutions? The jury is still out,” Store said.

“Had there been in the international community a willingness to pursue this track with some authority and dedication, I believe there could have been an opening to achieve a less dramatic outcome and avoid the collapse of the Libyan state. Had there been a will to do it ... one could have imagined some kind of ceasefire in the military campaign to allow diplomats to move in,” he added.

“But the military operation had already lasted for eight weeks, the dynamic on the ground was changing, and frankly speaking the will to rally behind such a process was not there.”

Libya has been in a state of perpetual conflict since Gaddafi violently suppressed a popular uprising in 2011.

At the time, he pledged to crush the “rats on the streets,” and his threats eventually prompted a UN-backed intervention to prevent him from murdering his own citizens.

The intervention — led by the US, the UK and France — saw 7,000 bombs dropped on Gaddafi’s forces over seven months, and eventually led to his overthrow and death.

Since then, Libya has suffered from incursions from Daesh-affiliated militants, a civil war that has seen extensive involvement from outside powers, and the death of thousands of civilians and combatants.

Earlier this month, a peace deal was agreed between the country’s two warring sides — based in Benghazi and Tripoli — but observers have said Libya remains on the brink of a resumption of conflict.


Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House

Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House
Updated 50 min 19 sec ago

Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House

Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House
  • Rivlin will visit shortly before he is due to end his seven-year term in July

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden plans to host Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on June 28, the White House said on Saturday.
“President Rivlin’s visit will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel and the deep ties between our governments and our people,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Rivlin will visit shortly before he is due to end his seven-year term in July.
Isaac Herzog was elected the country’s new president this month in elections that marked the end of the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu era in Israel.
The role of president is largely ceremonial but also meant to promote unity among ethnic and religious groups.
The government changed after last month’s fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza also touched off rare mob violence among the Jewish majority and Arab minority within Israeli cities.
“President Rivlin approaches the end of his term, this visit will honor the dedication he has shown to strengthening the friendship between the two countries over the course of many years,” Psaki said.


Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program

Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program
Updated 10 min ago

Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program

Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program
  • Foreign minister Yair Lapid calls Iran's new president the 'butcher of Tehran'
  • Says Ebrahim Raisi is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror

JERUSALEM: Israel on Saturday condemned Iran’s newly-elected president Ebrahim Raisi, saying he was its most extreme president yet and committed to quickly advancing Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Iran’s new president, known as the Butcher of Tehran, is an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians. He is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Twitter.
A separate statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Raisi’s election should “prompt grave concern among the international community.”
Israel’s new government, sworn in on Sunday, has said it would object to the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and its arch-foe, Iran.
Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Toeing the policy line set by the administration of Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the foreign ministry said: “More than ever, Iran’s nuclear program must be halted immediately, rolled back entirely and stopped indefinitely.”
“Iran’s ballistic missile program must be dismantled and its global terror campaign vigorously countered by a broad international coalition.”
Raisi, a hard-line judge who is under US sanctions for human rights abuses, secured victory as expected on Saturday in Iran’s presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.

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Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU
Updated 19 June 2021

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU
  • The meeting comes amid the sixth round of indirect talks between Washington and Tehran
  • These formal meetings are usually an indication that the latest round will be adjourned

PARIS: Parties negotiating a revival of the Iran nuclear deal will hold a formal meeting in Vienna on Sunday, the European Union said on Saturday.
Iran and six world powers have been negotiating in Vienna since April to work out steps for Washington and Tehran to take. The United States withdrew in 2018 from the pact, under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
Sunday's formal meeting comes more than a week after this round of talks resumed and is an indication that the talks are likely to be adjourned.
Officials over the week have indicated that differences remain on key issues.
"The Joint Commission of #JCPOA will meet on Sunday, June 20," Mikhail Ulyanov Russia's envoy to the talks said on Twitter.
"It will decide on the way ahead at the #ViennaTalks. An agreement on restoration of the nuclear deal is within reach but is not finalised yet."
The remaining parties to the deal - Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union - meet in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings, leaving the other delegations and EU to work as go-betweens.
Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran has embarked on counter measures, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear bombs.


Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day
Updated 19 June 2021

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day
  • Turkey provides refugees with education and health care facilities
  • The country is home to 4 million refugees, including about 3.7 million Syrians

ANKARA: Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population, will mark UN World Refugee Day on June 20 with a focus on integration under the motto “Together we heal, learn and shine.”

The country is home to 4 million refugees, including about 3.7 million Syrians. 

Omar Kadkoy, a migration policy analyst at the Ankara-based think tank the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, is a Syrian refugee whose success story is a source of inspiration for many in Turkey.  

Kadkoy moved from Damascus to the Turkish capital in 2014. He began learning Turkish, which is now his second foreign language. 

The policy analyst is now viewed as one of the key experts on integration issues in Turkey, is also a student at Ankara’s prestigious Middle East Technical University and is writing his master’s thesis on the naturalization of Syrian students in Turkey’s tertiary education system.

He is looking forward to beginning his Ph.D. studies once he graduates. 

Kadkoy is proud of his professional, academic and linguistic efforts. 

“Achieving is limitless. In terms of integration, I find myself on a journey of a thousand miles. I began with the necessary steps, but there is much more to explore, learn and contribute,” he told Arab News.

Turkey is both a reception and transit country for refugees. About half of the Syrian refugees in the country are children. 

As part of its social cohesion and integration policies, Turkey provides refugees with education and health care facilities, and helps them find employment opportunities. 

However, with more than 4 million refugees in the country, Turks are growing less willing to accept new arrivals. 

According to the latest Ipsos survey, 75 percent of Turkish respondents support closing borders to refugees entirely, while 60 percent believe that government spending on refugees should be decreased, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A 2020 survey by Bilgi University and the German Marshall Fund of the United States revealed that 86 percent of Turks support the repatriation of Syrians. Meanwhile, other surveys show that 90 percent of Syrians do not want to return to their homeland now.

Philippe Leclerc, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, recently said that Turkey should be given more support by the international community to handle the refugee issue. 

The EU has been supporting Turkey, with €6 billion ($7.1 billion) committed to helping refugees and hosting communities in key areas such as education, health, socio-economic development and basic needs.

Cash assistance provided by the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net helps Syrian refugee households cover some of their debts and daily living costs.  

According to Kadkoy, providing access to health care and education, and building the vocational and language skills of refugees does not necessarily result in integration. 

“There are many ways to look at integration. For example, are refugee students integrating well into schools? The answer would be by looking at the performance of refugee students in Turkey’s national education system and comparing it with that of the citizens,” he said. “Differences would tell us what is and isn’t working and allow us to revamp what didn’t work.”

He added: “When similar and other pointers are absent, it is difficult to talk about integration collectively. Instead, we end up with ad hoc celebrations of individual stories.”

Kadkoy said that the post-pandemic era could be a time to readdress the issue in Turkey, especially the discriminatory practices refugees face in the labor market. 

“Most of the 3.7 million Syrians seem to consider Turkey as a permanent destination. In Turkey, Syrians under the Temporary Protection rule enjoy access to public education. Around 650,000 Syrian students attend Turkish schools, access to free public health services, and there are roughly 820,000 Syrians in the labor market as either wage-workers or business owners,” he said. 

According to last year’s official statistics, there were 9,041 firms with Syrian owners in Turkey. 

The Turkish government cooperates with the international community, especially with the UN, to provide vocational training to Syrian refugees.

The education ministry recently announced that Syrian students can attend vocational training centers once a week. Students will be supported with one-third of the minimum wage during their four-year education while they receive skills training in business on other days.

World Refugee Day was established by the UN to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  


UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia
Updated 19 June 2021

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

CAIRO: The United Arab Emirates will suspend travelers from entering the country from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Namibia on national and foreign flights from Monday, June 21, Emirates News Agency (WAM) said on Saturday.
WAM said the restrictions would also include transit passengers, with the exception of transit flights traveling to the UAE and bound for those countries.