Lebanese banks, schools shut as protesters push on

Protesters gather outside the central bank of Lebanon to rally against the financial measures adopted by the Banque du Liban. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Lebanese banks, schools shut as protesters push on

  • Top UN official calls for ‘urgent formation’ of a new government made up of people known for their competence
  • Banks in Lebanon have been imposing restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad

BEIRUT: School and university students joined street protests in Beirut and other Lebanese cities as widespread civil disruption in support of a “national salvation government” entered its 27th day.
Protesters blocked the entrance to the Palace of Justice in the capital on Tuesday, waving banners and chanting demands for “a fair judiciary that prosecutes corrupt people.” Clashes between lawyers and protesters erupted after access to the building was halted.
A group of women carrying posters calling for “old-age security” and “fighting poverty and the rule of the bank” staged a silent rally under the Musharrafieh bridge in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
With a date yet to be set for parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, consultations between President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri have failed to find a formula to establish the next government.
Earlier, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) announced through its parliamentary bloc that it approved a “government of technocrats.” But on Monday the FPM, Hezbollah and Amal appeared to be unanimous in agreeing to include state ministers in the government. Meanwhile, Hariri has insisted on an independent technocratic government that does not include politicians or parties.
Aoun briefed foreign and Arab envoys in two meetings on “the ongoing contacts to form a new government that achieves the reform paper adopted by the outgoing government.” Later the Lebanese president called on Arab countries to “help boost Lebanon’s economy.”
The presidential media office said that “the ambassadors expressed the support of their countries to Lebanon in these circumstances, stressing the importance of forming a new government to cope with the developments.”
A top UN official in Lebanon on Tuesday called for the urgent formation of a new government made up of people known for their competence, according to Reuters.
However, Walid Fakhreddin, a public affairs expert and activist, told Arab News that “what the authority is discussing is far from the demands of the movement in the street.”
“Pressure in the street resulted in the disruption of a parliamentary legislative session that would have passed a general amnesty law preventing the prosecution of corrupt individuals,” he said.
“What government officials are doing now with their debates is a waste of time. No one expects this authority to seriously deal with our demands.”
Fakhreddin said that “Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah told us yesterday that reforms can be carried out without a government. This means that things are going in the direction of more complexity. There is no acceptable approach to the demands of the street.
“The bodies involved in the civil movement have agreed on a single agenda, which is the demand for an independent transitional government to hold parliamentary elections,” he said.
The movement had refused to meet with French envoy Christophe Farno, who arrived in Beirut and is scheduled to meet Lebanese officials on Wednesday. “These forces will not participate in a meeting with the authority or with any external envoy,” Fakhreddin said.
Meanwhile, bank employees went on strike on Tuesday to protest against abuse directed at them by depositors and dealers because of banks’ refusal to hand over large amounts of money to depositors or to issue cash in dollars.

Turkey ‘sends Libya maritime accord’ to UN for approval

Updated 12 December 2019

Turkey ‘sends Libya maritime accord’ to UN for approval

  • Turkey says the accord aims to protect its rights and is in line with international law
  • The European Union has readied sanctions against Turkey in response to its actions around Cyprus
ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday sent its accord with Libya on a maritime boundary between the two countries to the United Nations for approval, a Turkish diplomatic source said, despite objections from Greece that the agreement violates international law.

Two weeks ago, Libya’s internationally recognized government and Turkey signed the maritime delimitation agreement, in a move that escalated disputes over potential offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey says the accord aims to protect its rights and is in line with international law. President Tayyip Erdogan said that the accord will allow Turkey and Libya to hold joint exploration operations in the region.

Infuriated by the pact, Greece accused Libya’s government of deception and expelled the Libyan ambassador to Athens. It also said it had lodged objections with the United Nations, saying the accord violated international law.

Tensions were already running high between Greece and Turkey because of Turkish gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus. The NATO members are also at odds over mineral rights in the Aegean Sea.

The European Union has readied sanctions against Turkey in response to its actions around Cyprus, which was split in a 1974 Turkish invasion following a Greek-inspired coup. Peace talks on the island have been in limbo since UN-led efforts collapsed in 2017.