TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI: Preparations are almost finished for polls in war-torn Libya, the head of the electoral commission says, despite wrangling over voting laws and warnings the outcome could be contested.
“We are 80 or 90 percent ready” for the presidential and parliamentary votes in December and January, Imed Al-Sayeh, head of the country’s High National Election Commission, said.
“I think there will be very strong turnout for these elections, especially as there will be direct presidential polls for the first time since Libya’s independence” in 1951, he said at his office in Tripoli.
The polls are part of a UN-backed peace process that has seen a year of relative peace following a ceasefire between eastern and western camps in the North African country.
But disputes over the legal and constitutional basis of the ballots and who is eligible to stand raised doubts over the process.
Analysts warned of a return to conflict if the outcome is contested.
The presidential and parliamentary votes were initially set for the same day — Dec. 24 — but on Tuesday parliament announced that the legislative elections, the country’s first since 2014, would be postponed until January.
The HNEC said in August that more than 2.8 million Libyans had registered for the polls, out of a population of around 7 million.
Plan agreed to pull mercenaries out
Meanwhile, the eastern side in Libya’s conflict said on Friday it had agreed with its opponents on a plan for a phased withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, but gave no details or timeline for a move seen as crucial to cementing a year-old ceasefire.
Mercenaries brought by the foreign powers involved in Libya, including Russia and Turkey, remain entrenched on both sides despite the ceasefire and a parallel political process aimed at resolving the decade-long crisis through elections. Both those UN-backed efforts are seen as highly fragile, however, with a constant risk that the process could unravel.
An eastern military official said the joint committee meeting in Geneva had agreed on a “an action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces in a gradual, balanced and simultaneous way.”
The official added that international monitors and a monitoring mechanism were needed before any withdrawal could begin. Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said on Sunday that a very modest number of mercenaries had already left. The committee was formed through a UN-backed ceasefire agreed on last year that followed the collapse of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar’s 14-month offensive against Tripoli.
Libya has been ripped apart by violence since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, who had ruled the vast, oil-rich country with an iron fist since seizing power in a 1969 coup.
Last October’s ceasefire between rival eastern and western governments, after UN-hosted talks, led to a transitional government taking office in March to usher the country toward elections at the end of this year.
Sudan military chief announces ministerial appointments
Updated 5 sec ago
CAIRO: Sudan’s military chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan appointed 15 ministers in the government, a statement from the Sovereign Council said on Thursday.
Burhan’s appointments include Ali Sadek Ali for the foreign ministry and Mohammed Abdallah Mahmoud for the energy portfolio.
Earlier today, the council agreed with a US delegation on forming a national independent government of technocrats and launching a comprehensive national dialogue to resolve the current political crisis.
Egyptian, South Korean presidents talk joint economic, military and technological issues
Moon expressed Seoul’s interest in increasing its investments in development and infrastructure projects
The pair discussed cooperation in railway development, an important priority for the Egyptian state
Updated 20 January 2022
CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in discussed issues of mutual concern on Thursday during the first visit by a South Korean president to Cairo in nearly 16 years.
El-Sisi praised the depth of relations between the two countries, stressing the importance of working to activate the comprehensive cooperative partnership between them in a manner commensurate with their capabilities.
Moon expressed his happiness visiting Egypt for the first time, thanking El-Sisi for his warm reception and hospitality, and expressing keenness to continue coordination and consultation between in various fields, as well as looking forward to developing and strengthening South Korea’s relations with Egypt in light of its pivotal role providing stability and security in the Middle East and Africa.
He also expressed Seoul’s interest in increasing its investments in major development and infrastructure projects and elsewhere in Egypt.
The pair discussed cooperation in railway development, an important priority for the Egyptian state. They also discussed the localization of the electric car industry in Egypt and how South Korea could assist with the “Decent Life” initiative, launched by El-Sisi to develop poorer villages and governorates in Egypt, in addition to cooperation in energy production, in light of the two countries’ keenness to diversify and secure their energy sources.
Moon and El-Sisi also discussed ways to enhance military cooperation, especially with regard to joint manufacturing and the transfer and localization of technology, in light of Egypt’s strategic role in the region and South Korea’s advanced technological capabilities and military industries.
In a press conference, El-Sisi expressed Egypt’s desire to attract Korean companies and investments, with Cairo’s readiness to provide all the necessary facilities to create a promising environment, and to encourage an increase in Korean investments in major development and infrastructure projects, as well as in energy, mining, transportation, communications and information technology.
El-Sisi indicated that he agreed with Moon on the importance of strengthening joint cooperation to support the Egyptian vision of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, whether through the establishment of a branch of the Korean University of Advanced Science and Technology, or cooperation between the ministries of communications and information technology in using artificial intelligence.
He explained that his talks with the South Korean president reviewed partnership opportunities between Egyptian companies operating in Africa and Korean companies, and promoted investment in Africa, highlighting the opportunities offered by the Continental Free Trade Area to increase investment and trade flows between African countries and the international community.
The Egyptian presidency said in a statement that the talks also witnessed a review of the developments of a number of regional and international issues of common interest, including the Libyan crisis. El-Sisi stressed that stability in Libya is a priority and that Egypt will continue its tireless efforts with Libyan parties to hold national elections. The president also affirmed Egypt’s permanent support for all mechanisms that guarantee the security and stability of the Korean Peninsula.
Moon praised Egyptian political efforts in maintaining security and stability in the Middle East and Africa, especially with regard to Egyptian moves to reach a political settlement of crises in the region, as well as its tireless efforts, led by El-Sisi, to combat terrorism and extremist ideology, as well as spread the values of coexistence and tolerance in the region, strengthening bridges of dialogue between African and Arab countries with the rest of the world.
The two presidents witnessed the signing ceremony of a number of memoranda of understanding between their countries in trade and economic partnership, development cooperation, and railways. The Korean president’s visit to Egypt concludes his tour of the region, which included visits to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Senior officials take stock of MENA progress in fight against climate change
Saudi Arabia and the UAE praised for pioneering green energy initiatives as part of accelerated climate actions
US climate envoy John Kerry sees the Middle East playing a big role in shift to clean, renewable power
Updated 20 January 2022
DUBAI: Efforts by governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to accelerate climate action were praised at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in the UAE capital.
Since its inauguration in 2008, ADSW has been bringing members of the global community together to accelerate sustainable development.
In keeping with this practice, this year’s events provided heads of state, policy makers, business leaders and technology pioneers with a platform to share knowledge, showcase innovation and outline strategies for delivering climate action.
Amid growing concerns over the impact of global warming, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in particular, were cited by ADSW participants as examples for the rest of the world on the strength of their pioneering “green energy” initiatives.
John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, detailed the significant progress made by countries throughout the MENA region.
The UAE is preparing to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in 2023, making it only the third Arab country to be given the honor. Egypt will be the host of COP27, to be held later this year, exactly 10 years after Qatar became the first Arab country to welcome COP delegates.
Held once a year, the conference brings together representatives of governments that signed the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change to discuss how to jointly address climate change.
The Paris Agreement, signed by almost all countries in the world at COP21 in 2015, aims, among other things, to keep the rise in the global average temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but ideally keep it to 1.5 degrees.
“The region is stepping up and it’s an extremely important message to the rest of the world, that (those) who are producers of the current source of our power, energy and heating, recognize that there will be a transition,” Kerry said.
“Clearly, we are moving toward clean, renewable power and sustainable structures, and the Middle East, together with the Horn of Africa, is going to play a huge role in that over the course of the next two years.”
Indeed, MENA oil and gas producers are increasingly being viewed as part of the solution, with the region boasting some of the lowest methane emissions in their production.
While carbon dioxide is widely identified as the chief culprit behind global warming, methane is second on the list of the worst greenhouse gas contributors to climate change.
Total indirect greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations today are around 5,200 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent. Methane is the largest single component of these indirect emissions.
Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years, methane is gone in about 10 to 15 years. But while it is in the atmosphere, methane has a detrimental effect up to 85 times worse than CO2 (over a 20-year period).
“That is a serious problem when we look at the fact that over the next 10 years. We have our greatest challenge of trying to reduce our emissions by at least 45 percent,” Kerry said. “So, to achieve that, methane has to be part of the solution and, for whatever reason, it has been the stepchild of the process and nobody has really focused in on it.”
This year, Biden and the EU announced an initiative to get 109 nations to sign the methane pledge and start working together to “plug the leaks.”
The collective hope is that global methane emissions will be reduced by 30 percent by 2030 — the equivalent of every automobile, truck, aircraft and ship going to zero emissions in that time. “That’s a gigantic gain for all of us,” Kerry said. “It saves about 0.2 degrees on the rise of temperature during those 10 years and that would be a remarkable gain right now.”
The path to sustainable economies and societies will have to overcome the existential threat that climate change poses, with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicting that every region in the world will experience concurrent and multiples changes in climate impact drivers, such as more frequent rainfall, droughts and wildfires.
“These pale in comparison to the upheaval projected in coming decades,” Halimah Yacob, the Singaporean president, told ADSW attendees.
“However, tackling climate change is an immensely complex challenge and must go far beyond annual conferences. It requires a global response through ambitious plans, concrete action and resolute commitment from all countries, big and small — this is the only way we can close the emissions gap and reach our collective goal of a net-zero planet.”
Today, renewable and clean sources of energy supply only 20 percent of global power, with current projections estimating that renewable energy sources will form only 40 percent of total global generation by 2040.
What this signifies, according to Awaidha Murshed Ali Al-Marar, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, is that the world will still need to use fossil fuels for decades to come.
“Like with any serious disease, the treatment plan won’t be effective and long-lasting unless it incorporates essential lifestyle adjustments,” Al-Marar said in his remarks at ADSW. “It is critical that we form new regional and international partnerships.”
Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini king’s representative for humanitarian works and youth affairs and president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, said that with the deadline for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals just eight years away, young people should have a seat at the climate table to ensure a greener future.
The world’s 1.8 billion young citizens will be worst affected by the climate crisis, and they are considered the most committed to change, armed with innovative ideas for effecting positive change for tomorrow, Al-Khalifa told ADSW.
“Youth are passionate, energetic, curious, committed, connected, knowledgeable and technologically equipped,” Al-Khalifa said.
“Without support, they cannot leverage these unique attributes to be the real game changers in creating a net-zero future. We must trust youth in the power to lead meaningful change.”
Bahrain has set up several initiatives to involve its youth in the process, in line with its Economic Vision 2030, Al-Khalifa said.
He expressed great hope in young people, describing them as malleable, resilient and tech-savvy. He said that they are early adopters, innovators and trendsetters. “All this makes them primed and prepped for innovation, disruption and catalysts of new thought and creative solutions,” the sheikh added.
“We see this positive ethos and youth culture spread across different sectors and spheres. As we chart our pathways for a greener future, youth will remain the driving force for socio-economic and cultural transformation across our communities.”
Despite the enormous commitment made in Glasgow at last year’s COP26, Kerry said the challenge today is to work with the remaining 35 percent and bring them on board as rapidly as possible to meet that goal.
“We know that the warming is going on at accelerated rates, particularly in the Arctic, where ice is melting much more rapidly and several times faster than anywhere else on the planet,” he said.
“And as the ice melts, it opens up dark brackish ocean waters, which contain more heat and that accelerates warming. So, you have a negative feedback loop.”
With mudslides, storms and floods intensifying around the world, Kerry pointed out that when countries gather next year to assess their progress, thanks to the advantage of visibility through satellites, every country will be held accountable without the need to report.
“People are going to be able to measure what’s happening with deforestation and the carbon footprint of big corporations and countries,” he said. “We’ve made a big leap forward, but no one is moving fast enough. We are way behind in our retirement of coal power plants and in our efforts to stop leakage of methane and deploy renewable energy.”
In this race against time, however, the private sector will play a crucial role as Kerry believes no government can afford to accelerate such a transition on its own. Global efforts have identified over $100 trillion ready to be invested in new technologies related to clean energy, from battery storage, carbon capture, utilization and storage, smart grids and hydrogen.
“The reality is that it’s going to need a very significant amount of investment to effect this transition,” Kerry said. “Energy produces revenue, so we have to be creative about how we deploy that money.
“It is better to be investing in a big solar field or a new energy product that will produce revenue, rather than to leave your money sitting in a bank somewhere with net negative interests.”
Among the ADSW participants was Alok Sharma, the British minister and president of COP26, who arrived in the UAE from Egypt, where he met a wide range of government ministers, including Egypt’s COP president-designate, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Together they issued a UK-Egypt statement which affirmed their joint commitment to accelerating the fight against climate change during this decade.
Sharma’s first visits following COP26 will culminate in a meeting between Egypt, the UAE and Britain in Abu Dhabi, the first of a series of engagements between the countries in the lead-up to COP27 and COP28.
Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported collapse of EastMed pipeline
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: This project cannot happen. They (the US) carried out all the analyses, and they recognized that it had no positive sides
Experts say changing regional dynamics may open window of opportunity for Turkey to boost Israel energy ties
Updated 20 January 2022
ANKARA: Amid reports that the US has withdrawn its support for the EastMed pipeline due to economic and environmental concerns, Ankara is poised to bring alternative energy sources to the table.
The EastMed project, which was expected to be completed by 2025, aimed at diminishing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas by annually carrying 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Israeli and Cypriot waters into the European gas network through the 1,900-km-long pipeline
Turkey has long rejected the EastMed project, which has the support of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The Trump administration also backed the pipeline.
During a visit to Albania on Jan. 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the project “cannot work without Turkey.”
“This project cannot happen. They (the US) carried out all the analyses, and they recognized that it had no positive sides. In other words, the cost calculations didn’t add up, so it pulled its support.”
Amid discussions of a possible official visit from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey and Israel had previously tried to cooperate on energy resources but that relevant negotiations had been never pushed far.
“The US’s loss of interest in the EastMed pipeline is grounded principally on its shift of energy policy focus and secondarily on the multiple economic, geopolitical, technical and environmental challenges faced by the pipeline,” Madalina Sisu Vicari, an energy expert from the Eurasian Energy Chamber in Washington, told Arab News.
“When it comes the East Mediterranean region’s energy, the US’s interest is now primarily on electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources, such as the EuroAsia interconnector linking the Israeli, Cypriot and European electricity grids, and the EuroAfrica subsea electricity interconnector linking Egypt to Crete and Greece,” she added.
According to Sisu Vicari, other players from the East Mediterranean region have begun fostering energy opportunities and projects beyond the field of natural gas, and these efforts could re-shape the region’s geopolitical environment.
“For instance, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus signed, in last October, two memoranda of cooperation on the interconnection for the transmission of electric power — one aiming to connect their electricity grids, another to link their power systems to Egypt’s via a subsea cable,” she said.
“The latter interconnector will transmit power produced by renewables in North Africa to Europe, the first such infrastructure in the East Mediterranean,” she said.
Sisu Vicari also noted that Washington’s shift of position on the EastMed pipeline might also determine mood swings from Israel, as the project is not compatible with the environmental goals declared by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has pledged zero emissions by 2050.
Experts note that changing regional dynamics may open a window of opportunity for Turkey to boost energy cooperation with Israel.
As part of its efforts to mend ties with its former foes, Turkey has already signaled that it is prepared to carry the Israeli gas to Europe via its territories.
“We can sit down and discuss terms,” Erdogan said recently, adding that Turkey may use energy “as a tool for peace” if possible.
Sisu Vicari noted that whether such an energy deal would aim solely for the transportation of gas or encompass further areas of energy cooperation remains to be seen.
“But an energy agreement would have important geopolitical implications not only for the bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel, but for the whole East Mediterranean region as well,” she said.
Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based energy expert, said it would not be feasible to launch a new pipeline if the authorities ever decide to initiate a joint project to carry gas to Europe through Turkish territories.
“An Arab gas pipeline, a trans-regional gas pipeline meant to transfer natural gas, is already there. That pipeline, which will carry Egyptian natural gas to Europe by passing through Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, is expected to be connected to Turkey when the Syrian grid is fully constructed and when the Homs-Aleppo segment is completed,” he told Arab News.
The first segment of the Syria-Turkey connection of the Arab Gas Pipeline between Aleppo and the Turkish border town of Kilis has been already constructed.
But on the other hand, Turkish and Israeli energy ministers held intense negotiations in 2017 when the construction of a proposed pipeline between Turkey and Israel was on the table.
“It was expected to be a 500-km-long pipeline and would pass through maritime zones of Cyprus or Syria or both for carrying gas from Leviathan to Europe via Turkish territories,” Sezer said.
“Beyond its international maritime law aspects, Turkish companies found this project too costly and not financially feasible.
“But the northern flank of Egypt hosts significant gas reserves, which should encourage Turkey to focus on that area rather than building new lines,” Sezer said.
According to Sezer, any new gas project with Israel could further harm fragile regional relations, and could be used by Tehran as a pretext to halt gas flow to Turkey, especially under harsh winter conditions.
Iran cut gas flows to Turkey on Wednesday, allegedly due to a technical failure, prompting several experts to question whether it was a reaction by Tehran against Herzog’s anticipated visit to Turkey.
Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources
Kabul's international airport is landlocked Afghanistan's main air link to the world
Sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission
Updated 20 January 2022
ANKARA: Turkey and Qatar have reached agreement on ensuring security at Kabul’s main airport should they be awarded the mission amid ongoing talks with the Taliban government, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
Kabul’s international airport is landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link to the world. Following the August takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban, Turkey has said it would be open to operating it with Qatar but only if its security demands are met.
Reuters has reported that the United Arab Emirates also held talks with the Taliban to keep the airport operational.
The sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission, but added talks continued on other aspects such as financing.
“It is expected for the Taliban to ensure security outside, and for whoever runs the airport to ensure it inside,” one of the sources said. “The process is continuing constructively,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
They added that a delegation of Turkish and Qatari officials were holding talks on the issue in Kabul this week.
Qatar’s state news agency said the Taliban government will be in Doha next week to complete discussions with Qatar and Turkey over the operation and management of the airport.
It added that delegations from Qatar and Turkey have held two days of “intense negotiations” in Kabul this week over control of the airport.
Qatar — which helped run the airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August — say that Ankara, Doha, and the Taliban have agreed that discussions are going to be completed next week.
Qatar’s role at the Kabul airport has ensured that flights have operated between Doha and Kabul since September, allowing Qatar to become a hub for countries to maintain links to Afghanistan and to meet the Taliban government. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and several other countries have moved their Afghanistan embassies to Qatar.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was sending 700 tons of emergency aid and supplies to Afghanistan, without providing a date.