UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy
The UN Security Council members must acknowledge their role in the developments in Libya over the past years, the country’s envoy says. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy
  • Ambassador Taher Elsonni warns freeze on Libya’s assets is being ‘politicized,’ and accuses Belgium of embezzlement over funds seizure
  • Council members call on Libyan authorities to support December election process, and address inhumane treatment of migrants in detention centers

NEW YORK: Libya’s UN envoy has told the Security Council it has a “moral responsibility” to correct past mistakes against the Libyan people and called for an end to foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

Speaking ahead of Libya’s landmark presidential and national elections in December, Ambassador Taher Elsonni said that Security Council members must acknowledge their role in “the developments in my country over the past years.”

He told the Security Council meeting on Wednesday that “the Libyan people will recover from this crisis,” and added: “We will become stronger.”

Discussing the situation in Libya, council members voiced hopes that the elections will be held in a free and fair atmosphere, and called on all parties to resolve disputes through legitimate means and refrain from disrupting the political process.

Although they welcomed a recent agreement on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, council members also called on Libya to do more to address its humanitarian challenges amid increasing reports of inhumane treatment of migrants in detention centers in the country.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, senior adviser for special political affairs at the US Mission, welcomed the “unambiguous demonstration of international support for Libya” at the Paris conference this month, but reminded “those who would interfere with Libya’s elections or stoke violence that the Security Council may impose sanctions on anyone — Libyan or otherwise — who obstructs or undermines the elections..”

He said the council “must target election spoilers to promote accountability if need be.”

Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy highlighted Moscow’s support for the repatriation of foreign mercenaries in order to avoid “the risk of damaging the existing cease-fire” and urged all groups to “work constructively with one another.”

Russia’s support for the Libyan National Army includes mercenaries from the Russian private security company Wagner Group.

However, Elsonni cautioned the envoys against “belittling Libyan citizens, especially the youth, who are now more aware of the history of their country in the past 10 years of conflict.”

Libyans “have uncovered everything that happened and all the conspiracies against them,” he added.

“You have seen genuine national reconciliation and synergy. We are turning the page on a painful chapter in the history of Libya.”

Elsonni reassured the council that “the Libyan people will recover from the crisis and will become stronger.”

He added: “We are only asking those who are interfering in our internal affairs to stop, and, as we say in Libya, ‘just leave us alone.’ Despite all challenges, we remain steadfast, one and united: This is the secret of our strength, no matter what.”

Libya “appreciates” international initiatives in pursuit of a peaceful solution, but the process must be owned and led by Libyans, who “must lead and not be led,” Elsonni said.

The present authorities in Libya are committed to a roadmap that stipulates the holding of elections on time and ensuring their success, he said.

 “The sovereign demands of the Libyan people to end any form of foreign presence in Libyan territory, regardless of labels or categories, must be honored.”

Turning to his country’s frozen assets, Elsonni said that this was no longer an attempt to protect Libyan money but “a politicized mechanism aimed at allowing some to usurp the treasures of the Libyan people.”

Last week, AFP reported that Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh has accused Belgium of seeking to seize $15 billion in Libyan assets frozen by the UN since the beginning of the Libyan conflict in 2011.

“It is regrettable to inform you that we are being embezzled again,” Elsonni told the Security Council, warning against this “dangerous precedent.”

Libya’s assets in Belgium are the subject of a decade-old dispute after the Global Sustainable Development Trust, a charity owned by Belgian Prince Laurent, invested millions of euros in a reforestation scheme during Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, a project that was never completed due to the toppling of the dictator. The prince has been seeking compensation ever since.

“Any conflict or dispute must be solved between governments, and it should not come as a threat to citizens” Elsonni said as he called on Brussels to refrain from “provocative” actions and work with the Libyan government toward a diplomatic solution to the issue.

The Libyan envoy asked the Security Council and sanctions committee to honor commitments to protect Tripoli’s assets, and urged all countries “not to prejudice this money or seize it under any pretext in a clear violation of the council’s resolution.”

Elsonni reiterated that specialized Libyan institutions are conducting investigations into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Libyan conflict.

“Those have no statute of limitations,” he said, adding that the discovery of mass graves in Libya “will always be a dark spot in our history.”

The meeting on Wednesday was also the last at which UN Libya peace envoy Jan Kubis briefed the council following his resignation this week, citing personal reasons.

Elsonni said that he regretted Kubis’ resignation “at this critical time,” and called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to clarify UN plans for the support mission’s leadership.


Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits
Updated 29 November 2021

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits
  • The announcement followed weeks driven by music, sporting stars and high numbers of visitors showing interest in the November Weekday Pass
  • Expo 2020 Dubai runs until Mar. 31 next year, with Christmas festivities and a performance by Alicia Keys lined up for December

Dubai: Expo 2020 Dubai announced that visit figures reached more than 4.8 million since its launch. 

According to the figures released by Expo 2020, numbers show an increase to 4,766,419. 

The announcement followed weeks driven by music, sporting stars and high numbers of visitors showing interest in the November Weekday Pass.

The Jubilee stage hosted an array of performances, including Kuwaiti singer Abdullah Al-Ruwaished and Egyptian artist Mohamed Hamaki. 

The Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre saw artists from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala while Ireland’s Grammy Award-winning Riverdance ended its toe-tapping run with a series of performances.

Other activities included the FIDE World Chess Championship, which was launched on Nov. 24, gaining the interest of both players and fans. The tournament, which runs until Dec. 16, will award the overall winner with $2.25m in prize money. 

Expo 2020 Dubai runs until Mar. 31 next year, with Christmas festivities and a performance by 15-time Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys lined up for December.


UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
Updated 29 November 2021

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
  • 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine
  • UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant

DUBAI: The UAE announced on Sunday that booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for all adults aged 18 and above. 

According to UAE health sector spokesman Farida Al Hosani, people in the country can and should take the additional shot six months after their second dose of the vaccine. 

The announcement, made during the latest government media briefing, replaces a previous directive which allowed only some at-risk residents to receive the booster jabs. 

Al Hosani also highlighted that 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. She clarified that this does not mean that everyone is vaccinated since the country’s population keeps changing, many students are still waiting to receive their shots and certain individuals cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons. 

The official spokesperson of the UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant, and will take appropriate action when necessary.

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) said there were major genetic mutations that may affect the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus, allowing it to spread at a faster pace than previous mutations. 

Much the world, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the US, have implemented travel restrictions and suspended flights to and from several southern African countries in response to warnings over the transmissibility of omicron. 

Meanwhile, Israel and Japan barred all new foreign arrivals by shutting their borders completely.

Related


UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons
Updated 29 November 2021

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear program, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, according to the Telegraph.
The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defenses as countries around the world face increased threats.


Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2021

Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
  • Demonstrators blame authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province

TEHRAN: Iranian riot police on Sunday patrolled a dried-out riverbed in the central city of Isfahan where protests against a water shortage led to violent clashes two days earlier.

Drought and water diversions have been blamed for drying up the Zayandeh-Rood waterway that runs from the Zagros mountains and through the city known for its iconic river bridges.
Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.
Calm has returned and it held on Sunday, a local photographer said by phone from Isfahan, the country’s third-largest city 340 km south of Tehran.
“In the morning, the city was calm and traffic was normal,” the photographer said.
“I saw riot police patrolling the riverbed between the historic bridges, but their numbers were lower than on Saturday.”
The protesters blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province, which is also desperately short of water.
Authorities Saturday announced 67 arrests of the “main perpetrators and troublemakers” in the rally that had drawn “2,000 to 3,000 rioters.”
The arrests were made by the police, intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards.

BACKGROUND

Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.

Police had on Friday fired tear gas at the protesters, who threw stones, smashed the windows of an ambulance and set a police motorbike ablaze, according to the Fars news agency.
Nourodin Soltanian, a spokesman for Isfahan University Hospital, said a number of protesters were wounded, including “two in serious condition.”
Isfahan police chief Mohammed-Reza Mirheidari called the protesters “opportunists and counter-revolutionaries,” and the ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan accused “mercenary thugs” of being behind the “riots.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters.”
He added on Twitter that “the people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.”
The Kayhan daily meanwhile also linked Friday’s protests to the scheduled resumption of nuclear talks on Monday in Vienna between Iran and a group of major powers.
Friday’s events “testify to the infiltration of a US fifth column, in the run-up to the Vienna talks, to provoke a riot and push for (new) US sanctions” against Iran, it said.
The Zayandeh-Rood river that runs through Isfahan has been dry since 2000, except for a few brief periods.
Iran has endured repeated droughts over the past decade, but also regular floods, a phenomenon that can intensify when torrential rains fall on sun-baked earth.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and that their intensity and frequency in turn threaten food security.


Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
Updated 28 November 2021

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
  • Diplomats: Tehran simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how

PARIS: World powers and Iran return to Vienna on Monday in a last ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but few expect a breakthrough as Tehran’s atomic activities rumble on in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
The US will also send a delegation, headed by Washington’s Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, to participate in the talks indirectly.
Israel worries Iran will secure sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers, but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb making potential, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his Cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the JCPOA, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.
The latest round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran’s negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic.
Two European diplomats said it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.
Western diplomats say they will head to Monday’s talks on the premise that they resume where they left off in June, and have warned that if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, then they will review their options.
Iran’s top negotiator and foreign minister both repeated on Friday that the full lifting of sanctions would be the only thing on the table in Vienna.
“If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don’t see a negotiated solution,” said one European diplomat.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to re-install monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“They are doing enough technically so they can change their basic relationship with the West to be able to have a more equal dialogue in the future,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.
Several diplomats said Iran was now between four to six weeks away from the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, although they cautioned it was still about two years from being able to weaponize it.
Should the talks collapse, the likelihood is the US and its allies will initially confront Iran at the IAEA next month by calling for an emergency meeting.