Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya

Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya
General view of participants attending the Peace summit on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin on Jan. 19, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2021

Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya

Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya
  • The meeting is held at the foreign ministry in Berlin
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that much has been achieved in the past two years

BERLIN: Germany and the United Nations are bringing together representatives of Libya with powers that have interests in the country at a conference Wednesday which aims for progress toward securing elections in the North African nation and the removal of foreign fighters.
The meeting at the foreign ministry in Berlin, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken among those expected to attend, follows up on a January 2020 conference where leaders agreed to respect an arms embargo and to push the country’s warring parties to reach a full cease-fire. Germany has tried to act as an intermediary.
Countries that have been involved in the process include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Italy, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Ahead of the conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that much has been achieved in the past two years. An October cease-fire agreement that included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to a deal on elections that are due to be held on Dec. 24 and a transitional government that took office in February.
But “many challenges still lie ahead of us,” said Maas, who met Libya’s transitional prime minister and foreign minister on Tuesday evening. “For the further stabilization of the country, it is crucial that elections take place as planned and that foreign fighters and mercenaries really do leave Libya.”
He added that Wednesday’s conference launches a new phase “in which we no longer only talk about Libya, but in which we are now speaking with Libyan men and women about the future of their country.”
Libya descended into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country was long divided between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. Haftar’s 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.


WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency
Updated 22 min 40 sec ago

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency
  • The Asian superpower recently announced it will allow foreign visitors to use digital yuan in the upcoming Winter Olympics

DUBAI: Digital currency is going to play a big role in the global economy, a World Economic Forum (WEF) committee leader said, and nations need to pay attention to its unprecedented progress.

“Somebody needs to be paying close attention to this space, and assessing on a weekly basis, what the national policy ought to be regarding digital currencies,” Sheila Warren, deputy head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) committee of WEF, told Arab News.

Digital currency will continue to evolve, she said, adding some nations have already started investigating its effect on their own economies.

“We’re going to see a variety of offerings in the digital currency space — central bank digital currency, stable coin issuances, and cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin,” Warren explained.

According to Atlantic Council, which tracks central banks’ participation in the space, 81 countries have already explored a digital currency with China leading the pack.

The Asian superpower recently announced it will allow foreign visitors to use digital yuan in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Other major central banks in the race are the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England.

In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the UAE previously said they were working jointly on a digital currency plan — they called the initiative “Project Aber.”

The two countries aim to develop a cross-border payment system that will reduce transfer times and costs between banks.

Although every nation doesn’t necessarily have to “immediately jump in,” Warren said it is important to watch the evolution of the industry.

“If you're not doing that, you're going to be stuck, I think, with whatever the world decides, the direction of travel is going to be, and not have enough opportunity to help shape that,” she explained.

On decentralized cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, Warren said it will continue to have a huge role in the global economy as well.

“We’re going to see an increase in market cap, an increase in market share of the suite of digital currencies,” she said.

The private sector will take advantage of this by developing some of a blockchain or distributed ledger, she added.


Tunisians hope for better times ahead

Tunisians hope for better times ahead
Updated 36 min 35 sec ago

Tunisians hope for better times ahead

Tunisians hope for better times ahead
  • The proceeds from selling the plastic, combined with limited financial assistance from the government

TUNIS: As day breaks over Tunis, Jamila Ghuili takes her two small children out into the streets to scavenge in waste bins for plastic bottles that she sells to buy food for her family.
Abandoned by her husband, the single mother lives in a poor part of Omrane Superieur, a neighborhood of the capital where Tunisia’s economic malaise is acutely felt.
“Everything has become expensive,” said Ghuili, as her children played next to her.
Exacerbated by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic grievances have fueled discontent in Tunisia, leading to protests that encouraged President Kais Saied to remove the prime minister and assume governing authority last month.
Ghuili, 55, gathers a few kilograms of dirt-covered plastic each day, foraged from heaps of garbage dumped at the roadside.
The proceeds from selling the plastic, combined with limited financial assistance from the government, amount to 190 Tunisian dinars ($69) a month, around half her monthly rent.
Hamza Ayari, who buys the bottles and re-sells them to factories, says many people are doing the same. “They don’t have any other job, they are poor people,” he said.
Desperate for better lives, some of Omrane Superieur’s residents are hopeful about Saied’s move.
“I salute the people who voted for him, he is a good person,” said Fakhreddine Wannas, 56, a resident. “I hope he can take us out of the dark and into the light.”
It echoes sentiment expressed by other Tunisians who are fed up with political bickering and want to see an improvement in the economy — which shrank by 8.8 percent last year — and more effective action against COVID-19.
Saied, who was elected in 2019, says he will not become a dictator and that the actions he took on July 25, including the 30-day suspension of parliament, were constitutional. He has yet to set out next steps.
Soumaya, who paints henna tattoos for a living, expressed relief about the situation, saying that for a long time Tunisians did not know where they were heading. “Now we are all happy,” said Soumaya, as she painted a child’s hand.


Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan
Updated 44 min 30 sec ago

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan
  • Binance has announced that it will discontinue its derivatives and futures products in Germany, Italy

DUBAI: Bitcoin traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 2.81 percent to $38,516.96 at 5:01 p.m. Riyadh time, while Ether was down 4.03 percent to $2,517.24, data from CoinDesk showed.

The decline comes amid reports of cryptocurrency organizations criticizing the US government’s plan to tax the industry.

The US Congress earlier said it has plans to tax various actors in the crypto financial system to help pay for infrastructure expenditures. It will do this by classifying these parties as intermediaries under the Internal Revenue Code.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has approved Australia’s Independent Reserve to operate digital payment services.

The reserve, which is one of Australia’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, said it was one of the first digital asset service providers to obtain initial approval for a license from a major payment institution in Singapore.

In South Korea, 11 cryptocurrency exchanges will be shut down by a top financial regulator, local media reported.

The regulator alleged their involvement in fraudulent bank accounts, and said they have yet to comply with state regulations.

Binance has announced that it will discontinue its derivatives and futures products in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands — a likely result of the regulatory crackdown government around the world imposed on the company, CoinDesk reported.


Egyptian president calls on religious scholars to confront platforms that broadcast false ideas about Islam

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (REUTERS)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (REUTERS)
Updated 53 min 51 sec ago

Egyptian president calls on religious scholars to confront platforms that broadcast false ideas about Islam

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (REUTERS)
  • Radi referred to the mission as a “fundamental task” that would necessitate the combined efforts of “all religious scholars, including muftis, imams and preachers”

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, on Tuesday, called on religious scholars in the country to confront electronic platforms spreading false ideas that distort the essence of Islam and exploit religion to achieve political goals through acts of terrorism.

Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said that El-Sisi met the delegation participating in the international conference “Fatwa Institutions in the Digital Age,” organized by the Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta.

The spokesman said that the president emphasized the need for the world’s fatwa institutions to keep pace with digital developments, especially regarding social media, and address electronic platforms that broadcast ideas that could “confuse the essence of the true Islamic religion.”

“The meeting stressed the importance of correcting religious discourse at the level of individuals, groups and countries,” he said. “El-Sisi reviewed the important role played by ancient religious institutions in Egypt, represented by the Dar Al-Ifta, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Ministry of Endowments.”

Radi referred to the mission as a “fundamental task” that would necessitate the combined efforts of “all religious scholars, including muftis, imams and preachers.”

At the opening of the conference, Shawki Allam, Egypt’s grand mufti, praised the “moderate national religious institutions in Egypt” for taking a strong stance and confronting the danger of extremism, which has “caused great harm to the world” and “worked to invade young minds.”

“Our jihad for the sake of God Almighty was to speak the truth,” he said, referencing the efforts to counter extremist ideology. “We have launched digital platforms and held continuous training programs.”


Yemen government troops make limited advances in Marib province

A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted weapon at a frontline position during fighting against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen March 9, 2021. (REUTERS)
A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted weapon at a frontline position during fighting against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen March 9, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 August 2021

Yemen government troops make limited advances in Marib province

A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted weapon at a frontline position during fighting against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen March 9, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • Strategic mountains secured by loyalist forces as sporadic fighting flares up in Hodeidah
  • Houthi landmines claim 18 civilian lives in recent months

ALEXANDRIA: Yemeni Army troops on Tuesday scored limited advances in the province of Marib as the president warned that the Iran-backed Houthis are destroying the country and threatening regional and international security.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said that its troops and allied tribesmen liberated a mountain in Al-Mushairef area, in the south of Marib province, after launching an attack on the Houthis.

At least 14 Houthis were killed and many others wounded during clashes on Al-Bayadh mountain. The rebels were forced to flee the battlefield, leaving behind the bodies of their dead comrades and weapons, the ministry added.

Warplanes from the Arab coalition carried out several sorties, targeting Houthi military reinforcements arriving from Al-Bayda province, killing many fighters and destroying military vehicles.

Forces from the internationally recognized government have recently purged the Houthis from another “strategic” mountain in southern Marib province. By seizing control of the two mountains, loyalists have further secured the region from Houthi attacks.

Despite their gains in the south, government troops have continued battling relentless attacks from the Houthis west of the city of Marib, with no confirmed gains for both sides.

Local media reports said the Arab coalition on Tuesday intensified air raids on Houthi targets in Al-Mashjah and Al-Kasara, both west of Marib, as the rebels pressed ahead with deadly attacks on government forces in an attempt to break months of stalemate.

Over the last six months, the Houthis have stepped up their attacks against government forces with the aim of seizing control of the strategic city of Marib, the Yemeni government’s last bastion in the northern half of the country.

Yemeni Army commanders said that thousands of Houthis have been killed or wounded in the fierce fighting, adding that loyalist forces halted their advance to Marib.

Government forces in the western province of Hodeidah on Tuesday shot down a Houthi explosive-rigged drone over Beit Al-Faqih district as other loyalist elements sporadically traded mortar fire with the Houthis in flashpoints in the province, the Giants Brigades media reported.

Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi warned that the Houthi “destructive and aggressive” policies — such as detonating opponents’ houses and attacks on civilians — are ruining the country and causing fractures in its social fabric. Hadi vows to defeat the rebels. During an “exceptional” meeting with his deputy, Ahmed Mohsen Al-Ahmer and Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed in Riyadh on Monday evening, Hadi said the Houthi planting of sea mines and their attacks on ships in the Red Sea show that they pose a threat to international maritime navigation. He also thanked the Arab coalition for military and humanitarian assistance to Yemenis.

The Yemeni Landmine Monitor said on Tuesday that landmines planted by the Houthis in various liberated areas had recently killed 18 civilians, including 10 children and five women. The blasts wounded 32 others, including seven children and two women, over April, May and June.

On Monday, a man was killed and two more wounded when his vehicle ran over an anti-tank mine planted by the Houthis in Al-Dhahyiah village in Hays district, south of Hodeidah province. Last week, another landmine planted by the Houthis killed three civilians and wounded 11 in Hodeidah’s Al-Durihimi district, the monitor said.