Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting
Othman Jerandi described the situation in Tunisia before Saied stepped in as “dangerous” and a “threat” to the country’s future.
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Updated 28 September 2021

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting
  • Parliamentary suspension essential to counter growing threats to the country, minister explains

WASHINGTON: Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi said on Monday that his country is determined to continue on the path to “genuine democracy” and live up to the expectations of its people.

Speaking at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Jerandi said that President Kais Saied’s recent suspension of the parliament, dismissal of the prime minister and shutdown of political processes in Tunisia were intended “to put the country back on the right path toward democracy.”

Explaining the political crisis in the country, Jerandi said that Saied had been forced to take the measures because of political infighting between rival parties and economic turmoil that had plagued Tunisia for years.

He described the situation in Tunisia before Saied stepped in as “dangerous” and a “threat” to the country’s future.

Jerandi highlighted what he described as “deeply rooted political polarization, and a socioeconomic and health crisis,” saying that Saied had taken a “series of exceptional resolutions and measures based on the constitution.”

However, the government’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law remains, the foreign minister said.

“Democracy in Tunisia is an irreversible option,” he added.

Saied ordered the dissolution of the government last July, triggering both supporters and opponents of his measures to take to the streets.

Supporters of Ennahda, the Islamist party that holds a parliamentary majority, condemned the president’s intervention as a “coup,” while Saied’s supporters called it a necessary step to end the country’s political impasse.

Jerandi said that rooting out corruption that has strangled Tunisia in the past is a prerequisite to building a democratic system.

He urged the UN to develop a stronger and more effective multilateral system for international diplomacy and cooperation for the betterment of the younger generation and the youth.

The foreign minister said that his country will always be a positive force for peace and security in the international community.

Tunisia will play an “influential role” in helping neighboring Libya to restore its security and stability, he added.

Speaking about instability in the Arab world, and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, Jerandi said that the international community must use its weight and influence to push for compromise and bring an end to the civil wars in both countries.

He also said international cooperation is needed to combat terrorism and extremism as well as illegal migration.


Syrians abandon Lebanon as new migrant route to Europe beckons

Syrians abandon Lebanon as new migrant route to Europe beckons
Updated 15 sec ago

Syrians abandon Lebanon as new migrant route to Europe beckons

Syrians abandon Lebanon as new migrant route to Europe beckons
  • Thousands seek “tourist visas” after Belarus accused of helping asylum-seekers across its border
  • In the past two months alone, more than 16,000 undocumented migrants are believed to have entered the EU from Belarus

BEIRUT: Struggling to cope with soaring living costs and low wages, desperate Syrian refugees and workers are abandoning Lebanon and turning to a new migration route into Europe, via Belarus, with many risking their lives and family savings in the process.

An illegal Syrian worker who arrived in Beirut four years ago and lives with his 20-year-old sister in the capital told Arab News that “working in Lebanon no longer makes sense.”

“I work all day long delivering goods to be paid 50,000 Lebanese pounds (equivalent to $2.50 on the black market),” Ahmed said. “That is not nearly enough because of the rising costs.”

In the past two months alone, more than 16,000 undocumented migrants are believed to have entered the EU from Belarus after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko responded to Brussels-imposed sanctions by saying he will no longer stop asylum-seekers from crossing into neighboring Poland.

Belarus has been accused of offering migrants tourist visas and helping them across its border — a move that appears to have made the previous migrant route through Turkey and on to the Greek islands a thing of the past.

Arab and foreign airlines arranging trips to Belarus through Lebanon have seen demand surge since September, while Syrians have been queuing outside the General Directorate of Public Security’s offices in Beirut for hours to have their passports returned or to pay residency fees.

Lebanese citizens can obtain a visa for Belarus once they arrive at Minsk airport. However, Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians are required to get a tourist visa in advance.

Ahmed told Arab News that he found a video on TikTok of Syrians talking about their trip to Belarus, then Poland and finally to Germany, and claiming that the journey is less risky than traveling by sea.

“I am now getting my documents ready to leave before the end of October, because things will not get easier after that because of the conditions in winter,” he said.

Migrants undertaking the journey face hazardous conditions, with freezing overnight temperatures and the risk of getting lost in dense forests along the 500 km frontier. They must also deal with people smugglers of different nationalities who demand thousands of dollars in advance payments.

Social media posts offer details about the journey and the sums migrants can expect to pay. Those who reach their final destination reassure their families that they have arrived at “the camp” — an expression refugees use to describe salvation, as they pursue a “better life.”

Ali, 35, who has worked as a janitor in Beirut’s suburbs for more than 10 years, said that friends who completed the migration route called him via WhatsApp and “seemed very happy.”

However, Ali said that he would not consider making the trip. “Migrants must be young. There is no place for families on such an arduous journey.”

Belarus’ announcement at the end of May that it would not stop migrants from entering Europe came in response to a series of EU sanctions imposed after Belarusian authorities forced a passenger plane to land in Minsk and seized opposition journalist Roman Protasevich who was on board.

Following the incident, the EU banned Belarusian carriers from using its airspace and airports.

A Syrian worker, who declined to be named, said: “Syrians in Syria and Lebanon have heard stories about migration to Belarus, then on to Europe, since August, but they remained skeptical about this route until September.”

He added: “Those who work legally in Lebanon have the right to travel from Beirut International Airport and the right to return to Lebanon as long as their residency permits are valid, but if a refugee wishes to leave Lebanon and go to Belarus, they are required to sign a document stating they will never come back.”

The website of the Belarusian Consulate in Lebanon provides instructions on obtaining an entry visa for Belarus, with a list of required documents and visa fees. Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians need a tourist visa to enter the country, and must provide the name of the airline, a passport valid for at least six months, and an insurance policy that costs €12 ($14). A single-entry visa costs €25.

The embassy’s website has been overwhelmed with questions from Syrians seeking a “tourist visa for one week.”

Three airlines, Syrian Air, Emirates and Turkish, fly to Minsk from Lebanon. According to Syrians, the flights “are fully booked by tourists.”

Ahmed said: “The tourism office asked me to pay $4,000 for the visa, a one-week hotel reservation and a ticket. When I get to Belarus, I will have to wait with a group of 10 or 15 people for someone who will get us a mobile phone with Internet access and a pinned location on the Belarusian-Polish border that we are supposed to reach by foot, crossing through a forest on the frontier.”

He said that the journey might take hours. “When we reach the location, a car will be waiting for us on the Polish side of the border to get us into Germany. There, we will turn ourselves in and ask for asylum. To get from Belarus to Poland, my family must transfer $3,000 to an account in Turkey, whose owners will handle the cost of the next phase, from Poland to Germany.”

Crossing from Belarus into Poland is getting increasingly difficult.

Ali was told by his friends that “the Belarusian police turn a blind eye to those walking in the jungle, but the Polish security authorities have very strict measures. If they catch people trying to cross the borders illegally, they send them back to Belarus. However, asylum-seekers do not give up. They keep trying. Those who fail to reach the location, return to their hotels and try again the next day.”

He said that “those who handle the smuggling operation are from different nationalities, and might be Belarusian, Iraqi or Syrian.”

Ali also said that his relative “got lucky while crossing the jungle, as he fell and injured his leg, but there was a Syrian doctor in the group, who is also an asylum-seeker.”

Poland said that its border patrols have detained hundreds of migrants since August. Groups of migrants include Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian refugees, as well those from Turkey and Jordan.

According to press reports, several asylum-seekers have died of exhaustion as temperatures in the forests on the Belarusian-Polish border plummet.

The Polish Press Agency reported that the body of a 19-year-old Syrian man who drowned in the Bug River on the border was found on Wednesday.


Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests
Updated 46 sec ago

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests
  • Israeli, Russian and Iranian networks reportedly broken up after work by Turkish law enforcement
  • On Thursday, six suspects, including Russians, Ukrainians and Uzbeks, were jailed pending trial over an alleged plot against Chechen dissidents in Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey has arrested a number of individuals believed to be involved in espionage activities on behalf of other nations, it has been revealed.

A wide-ranging operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization recently detained at least 15 people linked with Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, for allegedly carrying out activities on Turkish soil against Israeli dissidents and Palestinian students.

As part of an investigation by the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office, according to pro-government newspaper Sabah, interrogation of the detainees is underway after they were taken to a prison in Istanbul. 

Conviction for espionage in Turkey carries a prison term of 15 to 20 years.

Around 200 people took part in the operation to apprehend the 15 detainees, surveilling them for over a year in secret, in what appears to have been one of the largest intelligence operations in Turkish history. 

The 15 were discovered after Turkish counterterrorism forces held separate operations in four provinces; the spy network is thought to have had five separate cells of three people each spread across Turkey. 

Members were allegedly in close contact with Mossad field officers, relaying information and documents through face-to-face meetings abroad, in Croatia, Romania, Kenya, and Switzerland. 

The cells, supposedly paid tens of thousands of dollars and euros for their work, conducted research into various associations and companies in Turkey, as well as Palestinian students enrolled in Turkish universities on courses that could have practical use in relation to defense or terrorist activities, and sent this information back to Mossad. 

Turkish intelligence believes several Palestinians reported missing since last month were part of the ring. A number of Syrians are also thought to have been involved.

Neither the Israeli or Turkish governments have commented on the reports.

Although ties between the two countries have been fragile over the years, with Turkish links to Hamas a particular sticking point, both countries’ presidents agreed on the need to improve bilateral ties after a phone call in July. 

“Until some details of that operation were disclosed, Turkey was blamed for the … Palestinian people who went missing in the country. There were even some reports claiming that Turkey was handing over some Hamas members to improve ties with Israel. But, if these latest allegations prove true, it seems that some Palestinian people in Turkey were secretly working for the Mossad in its own operations,” one expert, who requested anonymity, told Arab News. 

The Mossad ring was not the only espionage-related incident to occupy Turkish headlines in recent weeks.

On Thursday, six suspects, including Russians, Ukrainians and Uzbeks, were jailed pending trial over an alleged plot against Chechen dissidents in Turkey, held on charges of espionage and preparing armed actions targeting opposition figures in the country. 

After being initially detained in the southern resort province of Antalya, they were transferred to Maltepe prison in Istanbul, a city home to several thousand Chechens. 

Turkey also recently detained eight people, including two Iranian spies and six locals, over a plot to kidnap a former Iranian military official in the eastern province of Van, some 100 km from the border with Iran. 

The operation to apprehend the eight came after Turkey briefly detained a member of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul in February, in connection with a probe into the assassination of an Iranian dissident in Turkey two years ago. 


Arab coalition: Over 90 Houthis killed, 16 military vehicles destroyed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasara

Arab coalition: Over 90 Houthis killed, 16 military vehicles destroyed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasara
Updated 27 min 30 sec ago

Arab coalition: Over 90 Houthis killed, 16 military vehicles destroyed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasara

Arab coalition: Over 90 Houthis killed, 16 military vehicles destroyed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasara
  • The coalition said it had carried out 31 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah over the past 24 hours
  • On Thursday, the Arab coalition carried out a series of airstrikes against military sites in Houthi-controlled Sanaa

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Friday it had killed 92 Houthis and destroyed 16 military vehicles in air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.

The coalition said it had carried out 31 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah over the past 24 hours.

Al-Kasarah is northwest of Marib whilst Juba is situated south of the city.

On Thursday, the Arab coalition carried out a series of airstrikes against military sites in Houthi-controlled Sanaa.

Coalition spokesperson Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition launched airstrikes on a number of military locations in Sanaa believed to host explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles.


127 Gambians fly home in first Libya evacuation in months

127 Gambians fly home in first Libya evacuation in months
Updated 22 October 2021

127 Gambians fly home in first Libya evacuation in months

127 Gambians fly home in first Libya evacuation in months
  • 127 Gambian migrants were assisted to voluntarily return to The Gambia yesterday
  • Libya has become a key conduit for migrants, mainly from African countries south of the Sahara, seeking to reach Europe by sea

TRIPOLI: A group of Gambian migrants stranded in Libya have been repatriated, the United Nations’ migration agency said Friday, the first such evacuation flight in months.
“127 Gambian migrants were assisted to voluntarily return to The Gambia yesterday after IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return program received clearance to resume humanitarian flights from #Libya,” the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet.
Rocked by a decade of lawlessness and war, Libya has become a key conduit for migrants, mainly from African countries south of the Sahara, seeking to reach Europe by sea.
But many end up becoming stranded in Libya, where they face grave abuses, according to international rights groups and UN agencies.
The resumption of humanitarian flights came as Tripoli hosted an international conference to seek support for stability in Libya.
The UN’s vice-head for political affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, used the conference to urge authorities to speed up repatriations and release migrants in detention.
Libyan authorities faced international outcry earlier this month after carrying out sweeping raids described by Doctors without Borders as “violent mass arrests” that left at least one person dead.
Days later, guards had shot dead six migrants at the Al-Mabani detention facility in Tripoli, while at least 24 others were wounded, the IOM said.
Some 2,000 migrants escaped in the chaos.
The Libyan interior ministry said a “stampede” had left an “irregular migrant” dead and wounded others as well as several police officers.
The United Nations has in the past offered flights for migrants voluntarily seeking repatriation.
Its refugee agency, the UNHCR, organized one such flight to Rwanda in July with 133 asylum seekers on board — the only one authorized by Libyan authorities this year.
The UNHCR on Friday welcomed the resumption of humanitarian evacuation flights but warned that “it is not enough.”
“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart,” its regional envoy Vincent Cochetel said in a statement.
“But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”
The UNHCR urged the Libyan government to “immediately address the dire situation of asylum seekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner.”
More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers are currently prioritized for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption, it said.


In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’
Updated 22 October 2021

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’
  • This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan
  • The UN says the flooding has affected almost a half-million people across South Sudan since May

MALUALKON, South Sudan: He feels like a man who has drowned.
The worst flooding that parts of South Sudan have seen in 60 years now surrounds his home of mud and grass. His field of sorghum, which fed his family, is under water. Surrounding mud dykes have collapsed.
Other people have fled. Only Yel Aguer Deng’s family and a few neighbors remain.
This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan, further imperiling livelihoods of many of the 11 million people in the world’s youngest country. A five-year civil war, hunger and corruption have all challenged the nation. Now climate change, which the United Nations has blamed on the flooding, is impossible to ignore.
As he empties a fishing net, Daniel Deng, a 50-year-old father of seven, recalls a life of being forced to flee again and again because of insecurity. “But this one event (the flood) is too much,” he said. “It is the worst thing that happened in my lifetime.”
The UN says the flooding has affected almost a half-million people across South Sudan since May. Here in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, the Lol river has burst its banks.
This state is usually spared from extreme flooding that plagues the South Sudan states of Jonglei and Unity that border the White Nile and the Sudd marshlands. But now, houses and crops have been swamped.
A new report this week coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization warned of increasing such climate shocks to come across much of Africa, the continent that contributes the least to global warming but will suffer from it most.
In these rural South Sudan communities, shelters of braided grass put up a fragile resistance in a land of seemingly endless water.
In Langic village, Ajou Bol Yel’s family of seven hosted nine neighbors who had lost their homes. The elders sleep outside on beds protected by mosquito nets, while the children share the floor.
In Majak Awar, some 100 families have been displaced twice, in June when homes were flooded and again in August when their shelters were ruined, too.
“I want to leave for Sudan,” whispered Nyibol Arop, a 27-year-old mother of five, as she boiled her morning tea just steps away from the stagnant water that threatens her current shelter.
It is hard to see a stable future when constantly on the move, a lesson learned during the civil war that displaced millions of people before a peace agreement in 2018.
“Floods are not constant. Some people will stay, and some will go,” said Thomas Mapol, a 45-year-old father of nine, as he showed off the destroyed houses of his village near Majak Awar. “But me, I cannot move anywhere. There is no other place that I know.”