The return of Syrian refugees key topic in Cavusoglu’s talks in Lebanon

Special The return of Syrian refugees key topic in Cavusoglu’s talks in Lebanon
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib hold a joint-press conference in Lebanon's capital Beirut, on November 16, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 November 2021

The return of Syrian refugees key topic in Cavusoglu’s talks in Lebanon

The return of Syrian refugees key topic in Cavusoglu’s talks in Lebanon
  • President Aoun calls for increasing the quantity of Lebanese products exported to Turkey

BEIRUT: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for support for the Lebanese government in overcoming the country’s crises and holding parliamentary elections at a press conference in Beirut on Tuesday.

Cavusoglu stressed that “the Lebanese people should not have to pay the price of regional bargains,” referring to the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Lebanon is waiting for urgent solutions to its problems.”

Cavusoglu was speaking alongside his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib, after holding talks with President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

He also devoted part of his visit to highlighting Turkey’s presence in Lebanon through several development projects funded by Ankara.

Cavusoglu was on his fourth visit to Lebanon since 2016. 

He said he was in Beirut to “stress Turkey’s support for Lebanon, as well as to invite (Prime Minister) Mikati to visit Turkey and make preliminary arrangements for the visit.

“We discussed how to develop tourism and energy fields, especially since the Lebanese people’s top destination is Turkey and the Turkish people are known for how much they love Lebanon.”

The minister added: “We discussed regional issues, since our countries are the most affected by the Syrian crisis; the brotherly Lebanese people should not have to pay the price of regional bargains.”

The Lebanese presidency’s media office noted that Aoun told the Turkish official that he welcomed “any assistance that Turkey can provide to ease the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, most of which have become safe, in terms of pressuring the international community to provide aid to refugees inside Syria, to encourage return.”

Aoun said he supported “coordinating regional efforts to that end with Turkey, Jordan and Iraq” and called for “increasing the share of Turkey’s imports of Lebanese products, especially since the trade balance is currently tilting in Turkey’s favor.”

The president also raised “a request to Turkey to help return the Maronite Cypriots to their villages in the northern part of Cyprus, after the delay that occurred for reasons related to logistics and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On the parliamentary elections scheduled for next March, Cavusoglu stressed the need to hold them on time.

“We have always given importance to the sovereignty, independence and security of Lebanon and provided the necessary support after the explosions in Beirut and Akkar,” Cavusoglu said. “We also support the army and security forces fighting for Lebanon’s stability and security.”

He added: “We renewed our support by extending (commitment to) the UN Interim Force in Lebanon for a year, and we have a unit working in this regard.”

Bou Habib stated he wished Turkey “to open its markets for the export of Lebanese products.”

The minister added that Lebanon “is keen on maintaining good relations with all countries and highly appreciates the Turkish support and aid, as well as its participation as a country within the UNIFIL.”

He said: “We, and the Turkish foreign minister, signed a cooperation agreement to enhance rapprochement between the two ministries and are working on a memorandum of understanding in other areas.”

Bou Habib noted that “Lebanon and Turkey are suffering from the burden of Syrian refugee issue.”

He called for “the necessity of unifying efforts to tackle the refugees’ issue and asking the international community to share the burden fairly among them or work on their return to their country.”


Egypt warns UK not to ‘backtrack’ on climate commitments ahead of COP27

Egypt warns UK not to ‘backtrack’ on climate commitments ahead of COP27
Updated 9 sec ago

Egypt warns UK not to ‘backtrack’ on climate commitments ahead of COP27

Egypt warns UK not to ‘backtrack’ on climate commitments ahead of COP27
  •  Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry also stressed the need for more money to tackle the climate crisis

LONDON: COP27 host Egypt has warned the UK against “backtracking” from its commitments to the global fight against climate change.

“The COP president designate is disappointed by these reports,” an Egyptian government spokesperson said. “The Egyptian presidency of the climate conference acknowledges the longstanding and strong commitment of His Majesty to the climate cause, and believes that his presence would have been of great added value to the visibility of climate action at this critical moment,” they added.

“We hope that this doesn’t indicate that the UK is backtracking from the global climate agenda after presiding over COP26.

“His Majesty King Charles was invited as a very special guest to COP27. The invitation was extended to His Royal Highness as Prince of Wales, and renewed to His Majesty as King, and he will be most welcomed in Sharm El-Sheikh if he honors us with his presence.”

An Egyptian government spokesperson’s comments, which appear to be a response to concerns over British prime minister Liz Truss’ stance on net zero targets, also came as reports surfaced of Britain’s King Charles III being told not to attend the conference next month.

During pre-COP27 climate talks in Kinshasa on Monday, Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry also stressed the need for more money, noting an unfulfilled promise — dating back to COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 — to provide developing countries with $100 billion dollars a year to fight climate change.

“The picture is not reassuring,” he said.

Delegates from over 50 countries are attending the two-day informal talks in Kinshasa, including US climate envoy John Kerry. The event finishes on Wednesday with side discussions.

No formal announcements are expected in what is billed as a ground-clearing exercise ahead of the next month's conference, taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh from November 6-18. Egypt, as host of COP27, has made implementing the pledge to curb global heating the priority of the November summit.

Greater support from wealthier countries, historically the world's biggest carbon polluters, to their poorer counterparts is expected to dominate the talks. But post-pandemic economic strains and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have cast a pall over the money question.


Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce

Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce
Updated 3 min 54 sec ago

Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce

Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce
  • PM Saeed urges international community to abandon its soft policy on Iran-backed militia
  • ‘Appeasement … does not increase the likelihood of peace,’ he says

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy fighting between government troops and Iran-backed Houthis broke out across Yemen at the weekend after the militia refused to renew a UN-brokered truce that expired on Sunday, sources said.

The fiercest battles took place outside the central city of Marib and in Al-Fakher area of Dhale province, where the Houthis barraged government forces with mortar rounds, cannonballs, tanks and drones fitted with explosives, an army official told Arab News.

Just minutes after the truce expired on Sunday night, the Houthis began shelling government soldiers with heavy weapons and drones in the area of Al-Baleq mountain, south of Marib. After that, they advanced on the ground in an effort to take control of the hilly territory that overlooks the city.

At the same time, other Houthi fighters launched attacks on government forces in Al-Kasarah, Raghwan and Mas, west of Marib.

The attacks sparked fierce fighting with loyalists, who were able to push them back.

“They have been preparing for these engagements from the beginning of the truce,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous, adding that the Houthis incurred significant losses in the clashes and were unable to advance on the battlefield.

Heavy fighting also erupted in Al-Fakher in Dhale, where pro-independence southern troops said they had repelled Houthi attacks on their positions soon after the truce expired.

There were also sporadic exchanges of heavy machine-gun fire between government troops and the Houthis outside the besieged city of Taiz. The fighting erupted after UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg failed to persuade the Houthis to renew the ceasefire.

He said on Sunday that the UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and was renewed twice, would not be renewed a third time. He thanked the Yemeni government for “positively” cooperating with his proposals to end the war.

A few hours before the announcement, Grundberg told Rashad Al-Alimi, the president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, that the Houthis had rejected his latest proposal to extend the truce.

The failure to renew it sparked outrage and criticism, primarily directed at the Houthis, as the truce has significantly reduced violence in Yemen, allowed Sanaa airport to reopen and made it possible for dozens of fuel ships to dock at Hodeidah port.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed condemned the Houthis for failing to renew the truce and urged the international community to abandon its soft policy toward the Houthis and take aggressive measures to punish them for sabotaging peace efforts.

“Appeasement policy (from the international community) does not increase the likelihood of peace and instead encourages the Houthis to become more obstinate,” he was quoted as saying by official media, adding that the Houthis interpreted concessions and appeals to them as signs of weakness.

“Whenever an opportunity for peace arises, the Houthi militia, backed by the Iranian regime, chooses to squander it by choosing to go to war,” Saeed said.

International aid organizations working in Yemen also expressed their dismay at the renewed fighting and its impact on civilians and humanitarian efforts in the country.

“We are deeply disappointed that the truce in #Yemen has not been restored,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Twitter.

“We call on parties to the conflict to reconsider, refrain from pulling the trigger and extend the arm of diplomacy as they have done for 6 months."

Fabrizio Carboni, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Near and Middle East director, also appealed for an end to the fighting, saying the truce had allowed Yemenis to live in peace.

“We regret that an agreement was not reached to extend a nationwide ceasefire in #Yemen. Over the past 6 months, the truce had given millions of people respite from fighting,” he tweeted on Monday.


Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees
Updated 9 min 17 sec ago

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees
  • The legal moves have continued as the government and various political forces in the country prepare for a wide-ranging national conversation on political, economic, and social issues

CAIRO: Egypt’s Presidential Pardon Committee has announced the release of 50 pretrial detainees.
The committee said that it had completed its procedures in coordination with the relevant agencies to release a new batch of detainees who are not involved in violence and do not belong to terrorist groups.
The committee confirmed in a statement the continuation of its work during the coming period in containing and integrating the released persons in accordance with the directives of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, which are implemented in coordination with state agencies and institutions.
The names of the list were announced on Twitter by MP Tarek El-Khouly, a member of the committee, which included 50 detainees who received a presidential pardon.
The committee also confirmed its aspiration for more releases.
Tariq Al-Awadi, a member of the committee, said: “We hope to speed up the pace of consideration of the remaining detainees, close this file permanently, and turn this page completely.”
Al-Awadi continued: “All that concerns me is the release of all those imprisoned in opinion cases, and I am not interested in who or what the reason for their release was.”
Last September, Egypt ordered the release of 39 pretrial detainees.
The legal moves have continued as the government and various political forces in the country prepare for a wide-ranging national conversation on political, economic, and social issues.
The committee was one of the outcomes of the first National Youth Conference in 2016, where Egyptian youth addressed government leaders with presidential engagement.
In April this year, El-Sisi said during his speech at the Egyptian Family Iftar that he would reactivate the work of the Presidential Pardon Committee that was formed as one of the outcomes of the conference.
Since the committee’s formation in 2016, a variety of political parties and organizations, including the National Council for Human Rights and parliament’s Human Rights Committee, have submitted the names of prisoners who are eligible for presidential pardon consideration.


Lebanon to submit final remarks over Israeli maritime border after US mediation

Lebanon to submit final remarks over Israeli maritime border after US mediation
Updated 03 October 2022

Lebanon to submit final remarks over Israeli maritime border after US mediation

Lebanon to submit final remarks over Israeli maritime border after US mediation
  • Specialists were assigned the task of translating the English proposal for the president

BEIRUT: Lebanese officials are presenting a united front in mediations with the US over the country’s maritime border with Israel, with President Michael Aoun saying on Monday that Lebanon would submit its final remarks within days.

However, in order to avoid fears of normalization with Israel, the PM said that Lebanon would avoid signing a direct deal with its neighbor.

Aoun added: “The postulates and things it (Lebanon) wants are complete in the proposal of the US mediator Amos Hochstein regarding the demarcation of the southern maritime borders,” adding: “Some remarks will be submitted to Hochstein.”

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said after meeting with Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday that he “had some remarks and the technical committee took them fully into consideration,” adding that “Lebanon will send its response to the US mediator tomorrow.”

Mikati said: “Things are on the right track in the file of the maritime border demarcation and Lebanon’s stance is unified.”

Aoun presided over a technical consultative meeting that examined Hochstein’s written proposal over the southern maritime border. He then held a meeting with Berri and Mikati, joined by the technical and consultative team.

Berri said: “The stance is unified and the result is more than satisfactory,” adding that the US proposal took Lebanon’s requests into consideration.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who has led negotiations with the US mediator since the beginning of talks, said: “Lebanon will submit its remarks to Hochstein tomorrow at the latest and work is under way speedily.”

Bou Saab added: “We did not give any response, but remarks, and the underlying gaps are now minimal.”

He said: “Lebanon has obtained its full rights in the Qana field. The remarks that we made are legal and rational from a right holder’s point of view. If the remarks are taken into consideration as agreed, the deal will be signed in a matter of days. The disputed areas remain to be settled. We do not recognize the Israeli enemy and we will not co-sign any deal or convention. The US mediator was keen on respecting that and some arrangements were made for the signature.

“The Israeli enemy knows Lebanon’s strength. Talks between Lebanon and Israel are based on a balance stemming from ‘the army, the people and the resistance’ equation, in addition to the unified Lebanese stance.”

In its first response to the US proposal, Hezbollah, through parliamentary bloc chief Mohammed Raad, said that it “will not overlook Lebanon’s rights,” adding that “despite the border demarcation, the conflict with Israel will continue to exist.”

US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea handed the US mediator’s proposal to the Lebanese president, parliament speaker and prime minister last Saturday. The proposal was also presented to Israel, so that both parties can add remarks in preparation for the next stage of negotiations.

According to people familiar with the draft deal and the ongoing negotiations, the deal serves as a settlement between the Lebanese and Israeli parties. It implies sharing the disputed area based on Line 23 and postponing discussions over the land point from which the maritime border demarcation advances to the land border demarcation phase.

Specialists were assigned the task of translating the English proposal for the president, the parliament speaker and the prime minister, as well as thoroughly verifying its texts, figures and attached coordinates.

An official source familiar with the negotiations said: “Lebanon will not sign any direct deal with Israel concerning the settlement being agreed upon and the deal will not be submitted to the Parliament for codification, as it violates the normalization principle.”

The source added: “Moreover, the deal won’t be submitted to the Cabinet for approval. Instead, Lebanon will submit a letter issued by specific parties in the country to the UN including Lebanon’s approval on the maritime demarcation.

“This is what Israel should also do so it (the deal) can be adopted in international law.”

Two separate copies of the US proposal are expected to be signed at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura. One copy will be signed by Lebanon and another signed by Israel in order to avoid concerns over normalization.

Information was leaked from the US proposal as a result of sharp Israeli political divisions, with parliamentary elections in the country set for Nov. 1. The leak showed discussions over compensation and security safeguards in the event that new gas reserves are discovered in the Qana field.

An Israeli mini cabinet is set to hold a meeting next Thursday to approve the draft and respond to the US in light of the Lebanese stance.

The US State Department said that Hochstein “continues to be fully involved to finalize discussions.”

It added: “We presented a US proposal on a final agreement to demarcate the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel, and we welcome the consultative spirit between both parties to reach a solution.

“A permanent settlement is possible.”


UK summons Iran’s top diplomat in Britain over crackdown on protests

UK summons Iran’s top diplomat in Britain over crackdown on protests
Updated 03 October 2022

UK summons Iran’s top diplomat in Britain over crackdown on protests

UK summons Iran’s top diplomat in Britain over crackdown on protests
  • “The violence levelled at protesters in Iran by the security forces is truly shocking”: British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly
  •  The White House also denounced the crackdown by Iranian security forces against peaceful protests in Iran

LONDON: Britain’s foreign ministry on Monday said it had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires, Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain, over the crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.
“The violence levelled at protesters in Iran by the security forces is truly shocking,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
“Today we have made our view clear to the Iranian authorities – instead of blaming external actors for the unrest, they should take responsibility for their actions and listen to the concerns of their people.”

The White House on Monday denounced the crackdown by Iranian security forces against peaceful protests in Iran, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“We’re alarmed and appalled by reports of security authorities’ responding to university students’ peaceful protests with violence and mass arrests,” she told reporters traveling with President Joe Biden to Puerto Rico.

Jean-Pierre said university students in Iran are “rightly enraged” by her death and that the weekend crackdowns are the type of events that prompt young people in Iran to leave the country “and seek dignity and opportunity elsewhere.”