UNSC buys time to reach lasting deal on Libya’s foreign forces

UNSC buys time to reach lasting deal on Libya’s foreign forces
The UN Security Council has agreed to extend the UN Support Mission in Libya. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 September 2021

UNSC buys time to reach lasting deal on Libya’s foreign forces

UNSC buys time to reach lasting deal on Libya’s foreign forces
  • Security Council unanimously agrees to extend UN support mission until end of September
  • ‘Situation in Libya continues to constitute threat to international peace, security’

NEW YORK: Members of the UN Security Council have unanimously agreed to extend the UN Support Mission in Libya until the end of the month, buying council members time to negotiate a longer-term solution to the presence of foreign forces in the country.

“The situation in Libya continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,” they said.

The first Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections since a peace agreement was struck between the country’s warring factions last year are scheduled for Dec. 24, 2021.

In a UNSC meeting on Wednesday, both the US and Russia voiced support for those elections and expressed their will to see them carried out peacefully and fairly.

But the two powers have clashed in the past over how to handle the presence of foreign forces in Libya.

Russia has said any withdrawal of foreign forces must not upset the balance of power between Khalifa Haftar’s east-based forces and the Tripoli-based coalition of Islamist and ethnic militias.

In Wednesday’s meeting, the US expressed regret over the UNSC’s failure to reach a lasting agreement on the presence of foreign mercenaries in Libya, and reiterated the Biden administration’s support for the UN’s role in facilitating free and fair elections.

“UNSMIL has a vitally important role in helping Libya achieve peace and stability, including by supporting preparations for national elections and the implementation of the ceasefire,” said the US representative at the UNSC.

Similarly, the Russian representative said: “Our main aim now is to help the Libyan people to stick to the established timetable for the 24th of December parliamentary and presidential elections, and all of our efforts should be aimed to that end. We hope that this is the goal that is shared by all members of the Security Council.”

There has also been debate among council members over the structure of the UN presence in Libya, with the US pushing for a UN representative to be permanently based in Tripoli.

The UN’s head of mission is currently based in Geneva, but the US argues that since the country has achieved peace, he should be moved to Libya to facilitate greater engagement with actors on the ground.

Libya was plunged into years of civil war after long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted by his people with the assistance of NATO jets.

Last year, Libya’s warring factions reached a fragile agreement to form a unity government, and the parties scheduled the first elections for the country’s post-war government in December.

But despite that progress, in a letter sent in August, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of “growing stalemate on the political, security and economic” negotiations between factions.

Since Gaddafi’s ouster, Libyan militias have been central to almost all political processes, and they have repeatedly been accused of destabilizing the country and committing acts of violence against civilians.

This situation, Guterres warned, could deteriorate as elections draw closer. “The security landscape across the country continues to be characterized by militia networks leveraging their capacity for violence to secure senior positions in sociopolitical hierarchies,” he said. 

“Violations of the arms embargo continue, along with armed mobilization, trends that are likely to continue given growing tensions around elections.”

Factions have formed a unity government and carried out elections in the past, but that government collapsed following disagreement over the role of Gaddafi-era officials and entities in post-Gaddafi Libya.


Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
Updated 23 September 2021

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
  • Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv
  • Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May

JERUSALEM: The bitter custody battle over a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy inched forward in Israel on Monday with a hearing in family court.
Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv, in a legal fight that spans both countries where his remaining relatives reside. Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May. The child’s survival sparked an immediate international dispute between his maternal and paternal families.
Members of both families met in family court in Tel Aviv on Monday, a next step in the dispute. Those present included Eitan’s aunt Aya Biran, who lives in Italy and has filed a formal request with the Italian court system seeking Eitan’s return to Italy. Also attending Monday’s hearing was the child’s grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, who spirited the boy away to Israel.
Eitan’s relatives in Italy say he was taken without their knowledge and are seeking his return. The child’s relatives in Israel have denied to local media that they abducted Eitan and insist they are acting in his interest.
Peleg has acknowledged driving the child from Italy into Switzerland before flying him back to Israel, telling Channel 12 that “we departed in a totally legal way.”
Peleg was questioned by Israeli police on kidnapping suspicions and placed under house arrest pending an ongoing investigation.
Italian authorities also have opened an investigation. Peleg told Israel’s Channel 12 that he had given up on contesting custody in the Italian court system and said he expected the boy to understand once he got older.
“I believe that one day Eitan will grow up and say grandfather, you did everything for me, you saved me,” he said, breaking into tears. “And my daughter, who one day will meet me in heaven, will be proud of me that I saved her son.”


Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
Updated 23 September 2021

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
  • The US State Department early this year lifted a terrorist designation against the Houthis

DUBAI: The Houthi militia must be re-designated as a terrorist organization to curb its violence-driven ambitions in Yemen and force it to talk peace in the war-torn country, a senior Yemeni official said.

The brief designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure was a positive step, Muammar Al-Eryani, the minister of information, was quoted by state news agency SABA as saying.

And he added that during the designation period, the Houthi’s efforts declined and its various military operations stopped.

In a virtual meeting with Peter Derrek Hof, the Dutch ambassador to Yemen, Al-Eryani called on the international community and the European Union to take serious steps to re-designate the Iran-backed group as a terrorist organization.

The US State Department earlier this year lifted the terrorist designation against the Houthis that the Trump administration issued during its final days on the grounds that it would cause more suffering to millions of Yemenis than the militia force.

Al-Eryani emphasized that the Yemeni government made concessions to various peace efforts to ‘reach peace and in order to end the war imposed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.’

Meanwhile, foreign affairs minister Ahmad Awadh bin Mubarak and his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meetings to discuss latest developments in Yemen.

The two discussed the Houthi militia’s military escalation in Marib and targeting populated areas, Iran’s role in destabilizing Yemen and the region, as well as how the UN Security Council could help achieve lasting peace in the country.


Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Updated 23 September 2021

Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
  • Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024

KHARTOUM: Sudanese military leaders said on Wednesday the civilian politicians they share power with had opened the door to a coup attempt by neglecting public welfare while they were consumed by internal squabbles.
A body known as the Sovereign Council has ruled Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Omar Bashir in 2019 but their relationship has remained fractious since then.
Military authorities said on Monday they had detained 21 officers who had attempted to take power in the early hours of the day. The threat appeared to have escalated the tensions between the partners.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia condemned the coup attempt Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Egypt also condemned the coup attempt and stressed its support for its neighbor’s transitional government.
In a statement on its official Facebook page, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry affirmed its support for efforts by Sudan’s government to meet the aspirations of its people at this important stage in the country’s history.
Cairo stressed its keenness to see stability and security in Sudan, and condemned any attempt to obstruct development efforts there.
Speaking at a military graduation in Omdurman, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, accused the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and forgetting the aims of the revolution.
“The politicians gave an opportunity for the coup because they neglected the citizen and his livelihood and basic services and were occupied with fighting over seats and divvying up positions,” Dagalo said, in unusually strong criticism of the civilian team.
After the coup attempt, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok reiterated calls to restructure the military and bring its business interests under civilian oversight, a key source of dispute, in a speech that did not emphasize military-civilian unity as he has done previously.
Political parties called on citizens to reject military rule and protect the revolution. Burhan called such statements “unacceptable.”
“Who should they rise to protect the revolution against? From us, the military? We are the ones who are protecting it from them, the ones who want to steal it.”
Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024.
“They are occupied with fighting and yelling and are directing all their arrows at us,” he said.
Both men said they felt their forces were unappreciated.
“The military is met with humiliation and insults day and night, so how can there not be coups,” said Dagalo.


EU says Tehran ready to resume nuclear talks at ‘early date’

Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2021

EU says Tehran ready to resume nuclear talks at ‘early date’

Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
  • 400 Iranian-American scholars urge Biden to call for Raisi to stand trial for his role in mass executions
  • Borrell ‘underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks’ at a meeting with Iran’s top diplomat

BRUSSELS: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday Iran’s top diplomat had assured him at their first meeting that Tehran was ready to restart talks on the nuclear deal soon.

EU-mediated negotiations began in Vienna in April aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers — an accord left hanging by a thread after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and ramped up sanctions.
The discussions, which involve the remaining parties seeking to persuade Washington to rejoin the deal and Iran to return to its nuclear commitments, have been stalled since June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi was elected as Iran’s president.
An EU statement said Borrell “underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks” at a meeting on Tuesday with Iran’s new top diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“The Iranian Foreign Minister assured of the willingness to resume negotiations at an early date,” the statement said.
Raisi voiced support on Tuesday in his international debut for reviving the nuclear accord, even as he berated the US.
“The Islamic Republic considers useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions,” Raisi said in a recorded speech to the UN.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he expected a resumption of the talks “in the coming weeks,” without giving an exact date.
The 2015 nuclear agreement offered Iran a reduction of UN sanctions in return for strict limits on its nuclear program, but Tehran has progressively stepped away from its commitments in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal and imposition of sanctions.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to return to the deal, which was negotiated when he was Barack Obama’s vice president and under Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
In a letter to President Biden, ahead of his speech at the UN General Assembly, more than 400 Iranian-American scholars urged the president to call for Raisi to stand trial before an international tribunal for his role in the 1988 mass execution of dissidents. Dissidents have zeroed in on his role in a “death commission” that ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
Iran’s new president slammed US sanctions imposed on his nation as a mechanism of war, using his first UN address since his swearing-in to forcefully call out Washington’s policies in the region and the growing political schism within America.
President Ebrahim Raisi delivered a far more critical and blunt take on American foreign policy than his moderate predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, had done in previous speeches to the UN General Assembly.
“Sanctions are the US’ new way of war with the nations of the world,” Raisi said, adding that such economic punishment during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic amounts to “crimes against humanity.”
In taking aim at the US, Raisi also referenced the shocking Jan. 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, and the horrific scenes at Kabul airport last month as desperate Afghans plunged to their deaths after clinging to a US aircraft evacuating people.
“From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: The US’ hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” Raisi said.
He said “the project of imposing Westernized identity” had failed, and added erroneously that “today, the US does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled.”


Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
  • Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

AL-TUHAYTA, Yemen: Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi gives a science lesson to children sprawled across the ground at her home in a remote village in the southern province of Hodeidah.
For these boys and girls, learning at Mahdi’s sun-scorched compound is their only opportunity for an education in the small rural area of Muhib in the Al-Tuhayta district.
She had already been teaching children to read and write before the outbreak of the impoverished country’s devastating war in 2014.
“What pushed me toward teaching was the high rate of ignorance in the village and that children were deprived of an education,” Mahdi told AFP.
With dozens of children to tend to, Mahdi has divided them into three groups based on age, teaching each class for two hours a day.
Other than learning how to read and write, the children also get lessons in maths and science.
But Mahdi said her house, with hundreds of books piled on a single shelf, is not really equipped for teaching. “There is lots of damage from the sun and heat,” she said, wearing an all-black niqab.
Yemen’s war pits the government against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 2,500 schools in the country are unfit for use, with some destroyed and others turned into refugee camps or military facilities.
UNICEF has estimated that 2 million children were without school even before the coronavirus pandemic, a further systemic shock which it warns has likely propelled the number even higher.
“We wouldn’t have been able to read, write or learn if it weren’t for Miss Amina,” one of the pupils, Ibrahim Mohib, told AFP.
His father, Mohammed, said he had no regrets sending his three children to learn at Mahdi’s home.
“They were taught there from the first until the fourth grades, and thank God for (Mahdi) striving to teach them,” he said.
Mahdi said she hopes to get some form of help to teach the children.
“I ask all those who are charitable to bring joy to these children ... and offer aid to establish a real school,” she said. “My small home is not good enough, and it has become a public place where I am no longer comfortable.”