UN envoy: ‘Spoilers’ are trying to obstruct Libyan elections

Jan Kubis, the UN Special Envoy to Libya. (Photo courtesy of UN Support Mission in Libya)
Jan Kubis, the UN Special Envoy to Libya. (Photo courtesy of UN Support Mission in Libya)
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Updated 17 July 2021

UN envoy: ‘Spoilers’ are trying to obstruct Libyan elections

UN envoy: ‘Spoilers’ are trying to obstruct Libyan elections
  • Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh reiterates the government’s commitment to the “historic” Dec. 24 elections

UNITED NATIONS: The UN special envoy for Libya accused “spoilers” on Thursday of trying to obstruct the holding of crucial elections in December to unify the divided North African nation, and the Security Council warned that any individual or group undermining the electoral process could face UN sanctions.
Jan Kubis told a ministerial meeting of the council that he spoke to many key players during his just-ended visit to Libya and all of them reiterated their commitment to presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, but “I am afraid many of them are not ready to walk the talk.”
He pointed to the failure of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body from all walks of life, to agree on a legal framework to hold elections earlier this month, putting a roadmap to end the decade-old conflict in the oil-rich nation in jeopardy. He also cited the failure of foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days as required under last October’s cease-fire, and the failure to reopen the coastal road linking the country’s east and west, another key cease-fire provision.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and split the oil-rich country 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, east-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. That led to the October cease-fire and roadmap to elections adopted in Tunis a month later which included a transitional government.
Kubis urged members of the Forum to put their difference aside and agree on a proposal for the constitutional basis of elections that the House of Representatives could immediately adopt.
“Interest groups, spoilers and armed actors must not be allowed to derail the process aimed at restoring the legitimacy, unity and sovereignty of the Libyan state and its institutions,” he stressed.

 

A presidential statement adopted by the Security Council echoed Kubis’ call for immediate action and legislation to allow the High National Election Commission “to have adequate time and resources” to prepare for elections.
Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh reiterated the government’s commitment to the “historic” Dec. 24 elections and said, “At the forefront of the tasks ahead is to achieve the constitutional basis and the necessary electoral law as soon as possible.”
The council stressed that individuals and entities can face financial freezes and travel bans if the Security Council committee monitoring implementation of UN sanctions determines that they are engaging in or supporting acts that threaten Libya’s peace, stability or security, or undermine its political transition, “and underlines that such acts could include obstructing or undermining those elections planned for” in the Forum roadmap.
The Security Council again strongly urged all countries, Libyan parties, and “relevant actors” to fully implement the cease-fire agreement, “including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay.”
Kubis warned that the continued presence of foreign forces and mercenaries is threatening the cease-fire.
“It is imperative that Libyan and international actors agree on a plan to commence and complete the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces,” he said. “Initial signals to this end are encouraging, but concrete steps and agreements are needed.”
France’s Foreign Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country holds the council presidency and chaired the meeting, said maintaining the Dec. 24 election date was “imperative” and called for a progressive timeframe for the departure of “foreign elements.”
France has proposed that Syrian mercenaries from two camps start the process by leaving “as soon as in the next few weeks,” he said.
Kubis said the Joint Military Commission, comprising five members from each party, is key to implementing the cease-fire and to political progress, and warned that its vital role “could unravel if the political process remains stalled.”
“Every effort must therefore be made to preserve its unity and to insulate its work from the detrimental effects of the political stalemate and the standoff between Libya’s main political actors,” he said.
Kubis cited standoffs between the transitional government and House of Representatives, the government and Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army, and those who want to respect the timeline for the Dec. 24 election “and those who would see the elections delayed.”
He said the ramifications of the political impasse “are already beginning to manifest themselves.”
The House of Representatives failed to adopt the budget submitted by the transitional government, Kubis said. Haftar’s Libyan National Army refused to allow the government to extend its authority to areas it controls, the government and Presidency Council failed to agree on minister of defense who is crucial for implementation of the cease-fire, and the Joint Military Commission postponed the reopening of the coastal road to protest the lack of action on elections and withdrawing mercenaries and foreign forces.
The Security Council meeting followed last month’s conference on Libya in Berlin where Germany and the United Nations brought together 17 countries and Libya’s transitional leadership to promote implementation of the cease-fire and roadmap to elections. Its presidential statement welcomed the conference conclusions.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the council that “during the past year, Libya has come a long way toward peace and unity.”
He urged the international community to “take a strong stance against those who favor postponing the elections for selfish political motives” and called on the council to reaffirm “that it will not tolerate any obstruction” — and that it will stay the course and make the progress in Libya “irreversible.”


Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
Updated 24 min 42 sec ago

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
  • UK inquest found Abbas Khan was unlawfully killed in regime prison
  • Karim Al-Jian: ‘Someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives’

LONDON: A newly qualified Syrian-born British doctor has had an emotional meeting with the siblings of the deceased British surgeon who inspired him to enter the field.
Karim Al-Jian, 24, who was born in Aleppo but raised in Britain, recently met with the brother and sister of Dr. Abbas Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from London who was killed in a Syrian prison after he left the safety of his home to care for victims in the war-torn nation.


Al-Jian posted a photo of himself with a portrait of Khan with the caption: “In 2012 British surgeon Abbas Khan went to Aleppo, Syria to treat wounded civilians. He was consequently tortured and murdered by the Syrian regime. His story touched many, including a … boy from Aleppo who wanted to be like Dr. Khan. Today that boy graduated a doctor.”

Khan’s sister Sara, 31, asked Twitter users to locate Al-Jian. “This is so touching it has brought tears to my eyes,” she wrote. “I would like to send him a message if possible.”

The BBC organized a meeting between the new medic and Khan’s family. Sara told Al-Jian: “It is inspiring the fact that you dedicated your medical career to Abbas. I cannot explain to you how touched my family and I are. It was so beautiful to read it.”

The deceased doctor’s brother Shah, who is also an orthopaedic surgeon, has said he will keep in touch with Al-Jian to give him advice about his career path. Al-Jian intends to share the same specialism as the Khan brothers.

Al-Jian said when he was a teenager, he saw the news of Khan’s sacrifice, which inspired him to turn to medical training.

On his graduation and eight years after the surgeon’s death, Al-Jian paid tribute to Khan on social media, posing with his portrait while donning his academic robes.
Khan traveled to Syria via Turkey to lend his expertise by assisting the victims of bombed hospitals, which were being regularly targeted by regime forces.
He was arrested and jailed for over a year in a regime-controlled prison. In December 2013, he was found hanging in his cell. He was 32. A British inquest in 2014 concluded that he had been unlawfully killed.
Al-Jian said Khan’s story had an enormous impact on him, and he shared in the pain and suffering that he saw.

“That someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives was astounding to me. He put the lives of others before himself,” said Al-Jian. “I really felt that his mother’s pain was the pain of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.”

Living in northern England at the time, Al-Jian was awarded a place to study on the country’s south coast at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. He graduated last month after five years. 


Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
Updated 03 August 2021

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
  • The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital
  • HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials

BEIRUT: A report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday concluded there was strong evidence to suggest some Lebanese officials knew about and tacitly accepted the lethal risks posed by ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut port before the fatal blast there on Aug. 4 last year.
The explosion, caused by the chemicals stored unsafely at the port for years, killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital.
The report by the international rights watchdog contained over 700 pages of findings and documents. Its investigation also concluded there was evidence that multiple Lebanese authorities were criminally negligent under Lebanese law.
HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials including the president, the caretaker prime minister and the head of the country’s state security.
The investigation trailed events from 2014 onwards after the shipment was brought to Beirut port and tracked repeated warnings of danger to various official bodies.
“Evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring,” the report said.
It called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to mandate an investigation into the blast and on foreign governments to impose human rights and corruption sanctions on officials.
A Lebanese investigation into the blast, led by Judge Tarek Bitar, has stalled. Politicians and senior security officials are yet to be questioned and requests to lift their immunity have been hindered.
The HRW report said President Michel Aoun, caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab, the director general of state security Tony Saliba and other former ministers wanted for questioning by judge Bitar, had failed to take action to protect the general public despite having been informed of the risks.
Reuters sought comment on the report’s findings from Aoun, Diab and Saliba. The presidential palace offered no comment. There was no immediate response from Diab and Saliba.
Aoun said on Friday he was ready to testify and that no one was above the law.
A document seen by Reuters that was sent just over two weeks before the blast showed the president and prime minister were warned about the security risk posed by the chemicals stored at the port and that they could destroy the capital.


Iran supreme leader endorses hard-line protégé as president

Iran supreme leader endorses hard-line protégé as president
Updated 03 August 2021

Iran supreme leader endorses hard-line protégé as president

Iran supreme leader endorses hard-line protégé as president
  • New Iran president Ebrahim Raisi: Government would try to improve living conditions which have suffered under the sanctions

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s supreme leader officially endorsed his hard-line protégé as the nation’s next president on Tuesday, just two days ahead of the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi. The new president’s ascension comes at a sensitive time for Iran and the wider Middle East.
Iran is reeling from crushing US sanctions that have devastated the economy, led to the crash of the Iranian riyal and hit ordinary Iranians hard.
In his speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advised Raisi, a former judiciary chief, to “empower the country’s poor people and improve the national currency.”
Doubts about an imminent return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal, which granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, have become a dark cloud dangling over the incoming hard-line administration.
The collapse of the nuclear agreement after former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord three years ago doomed the relatively moderate administration of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who has seen his popularity plummet. Rouhani sat stone-faced throughout the endorsement ceremony.
Last week, Khamenei delivered a harsh rebuke of the West, blaming the delay of the nuclear deal’s revival on America’s “stubborn” negotiating stance. While repeating his usual anti-West rhetoric on Tuesday about Iran’s “enemies” seeking to sway public opinion, Khamenei struck a milder tone during the endorsement. He focused on Iran’s mounting domestic issues, praising Raisi’s anti-corruption campaign and asking him to encourage local production.
“The nation needs competent, effective and brave management,” Khamenei said.
Without commenting on the stalled nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Raisi stressed he would “pursue the removal of oppressive sanctions” in order to salvage the crippled economy.
“We will not (tie) the people’s dining tables and the economy to the will of the foreigners,” he said. Raisi won a landslide victory in the June election, which saw the lowest in the Islamic Republic’s history. He will take the oath of office in an inauguration ceremony Thursday before parliament.
President Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the landmark nuclear accord and lift sanctions if Iran moves back into compliance with the agreement.
But escalating tensions in the Middle East now risk complicating the diplomatic choreography. The West has blamed Iran for a drone attack last week that struck an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman, killing two crew members. Iran has denied involvement in the incident, which marks the first-known fatal assault after a yearslong shadow war targeting commercial shipping in the region.


Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
Updated 03 August 2021

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
  • The Delta variant was responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases
  • The health ministry on Monday announced the start of a mobile vaccination campaign in several regions

TUNIS: Tunisia — which has seen the world’s worst Covid-19 death toll — may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations, the WHO said on Monday.
“The epidemiological data are going in the right direction,” World Health Organization representative in Tunisia Yves Souteyrand told a press conference.
“We have the feeling that the peak of the epidemic may have passed.”
But with vaccines in short supply, overwhelmed hospitals, shortages of oxygen and the highly contagious Delta variant rampaging through the country’s 12 million population mean the risk of a health disaster remains, the WHO warned.
The Delta variant was responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases, and the impact of family gatherings during a recent religious holiday was hard to evaluate but could set back progress made, Souteyrand said.
“The challenge is to speed up the vaccination campaign,” he said.
The country had “in 10 days received around seven million vaccine doses and will receive perhaps two or three million more” soon, he said.
The WHO has also provided 400 oxygen concentrators and four oxygen generators to Tunisia, where the government has been in crisis after President Kais Saied suspended parliament and took direct power — a move his critics said was a coup.
Since the shock move late last month, Saied has established a coronavirus crisis unit, supervised by a high-level military official, to help manage the country’s outbreak.
Souteyrand said that “relations between the WHO and the health ministry have not been affected by the political crisis.”
The health ministry on Monday announced the start of a mobile vaccination campaign in several regions.
Authorities have also announced a vaccination drive across the country on Sunday for Tunisians aged over 40.
Over the past seven days, the North African country has registered the worst official Covid-19 mortality rate in the world, with 10.64 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, an AFP tally based on officially reported data shows.
On the other hand, Tunisia shares its coronavirus data more transparently than many other countries, the WHO said.


Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
Updated 03 August 2021

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
  • By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said

DUBAI: Iraq called on Syria to increase water releases to compensate for the lack of rainfall and high temperatures that have caused a shortfall in revenues, Iraq’s state media reported on Monday.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said he “held a closed-circuit televised meeting with the Syrian Minister of Water Resources, Tammam Raad, to review the measures taken regarding the signed accord during Al-Hamdani's visit to Syria”

Last month, both countries signed a joint agreement to exchange data related to the imports of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers “periodically and in emergency situations."
The pact also includes the creation of technical committees and the unification of positions regarding the quantities of water received at the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Syria expressed willingness to attend joint meetings with Iraq and Turkey, Hamdani said, adding that the Syrian side's agreement is a development in the field of joint cooperation in the water file.”

By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said, adding that the meeting emphasized the need to continue coordination and joint cooperation with regard to training, studies and exchange of data.

Syria will participate in the research center to be established in Iraq, according to Hamdani.