Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya

General view of participants attending the Peace summit on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin on Jan. 19, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2021

Germany hosts conference to push for progress in Libya

  • The meeting is held at the foreign ministry in Berlin
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that much has been achieved in the past two years

BERLIN: Germany and the United Nations are bringing together representatives of Libya with powers that have interests in the country at a conference Wednesday which aims for progress toward securing elections in the North African nation and the removal of foreign fighters.
The meeting at the foreign ministry in Berlin, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken among those expected to attend, follows up on a January 2020 conference where leaders agreed to respect an arms embargo and to push the country’s warring parties to reach a full cease-fire. Germany has tried to act as an intermediary.
Countries that have been involved in the process include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Italy, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Ahead of the conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that much has been achieved in the past two years. An October cease-fire agreement that included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to a deal on elections that are due to be held on Dec. 24 and a transitional government that took office in February.
But “many challenges still lie ahead of us,” said Maas, who met Libya’s transitional prime minister and foreign minister on Tuesday evening. “For the further stabilization of the country, it is crucial that elections take place as planned and that foreign fighters and mercenaries really do leave Libya.”
He added that Wednesday’s conference launches a new phase “in which we no longer only talk about Libya, but in which we are now speaking with Libyan men and women about the future of their country.”
Libya descended into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country was long divided between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. Haftar’s 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.


Mudslide at mine kills four in southwestern Pakistan

Updated 24 July 2021

Mudslide at mine kills four in southwestern Pakistan

  • Mudslide in Sharag area of Balochistan province occurred after torrential rains
  • The 200-foot-deep mine had partially collapsed and was closed after the accident

QUETTA: A mudslide at a mine in southwestern Pakistan killed four coal miners and injured two others on Saturday following heavy monsoon rains, officials said.

Local government administrator Amir Khan said that by the time rescuers reached the area hit by the torrent, the 200-foot-deep mine had partially collapsed.

He said the mine, located in the Sharag area of the Harnai district, Balochistan province was ordered closed following the incident.

Such accidents are common in Pakistan’s coal mines, where safety standards are not widely respected.


Pakistan, China to jointly oversee security of CPEC projects after Dasu blast

Updated 24 July 2021

Pakistan, China to jointly oversee security of CPEC projects after Dasu blast

  • FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi is in China on a two-day visit that started on Friday
  • Pakistan reiterates support for China's 'national interests' in Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and South China Sea

ISLAMABAD: The foreign ministers of Pakistan and China on Saturday vowed joint efforts for the security of Beijing-sponsored infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan, after nine Chinese workers were killed in the country's northwest last week.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, made the statement as the Pakistani foreign minister is in China on a two-day visit that started on Friday.

While the Pakistani foreign office said the visit is part of regular high-level exchanges between the longtime allies, it comes after the Chinese workers employed at the Dasu Hydropower Project were killed in a bus explosion in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Dasu project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $65 billion investment plan aiming to link Pakistan's southwestern deep-sea port of Gwadar with the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.

China had initially called it a bomb attack but backed away from the assertion after Pakistan stated it was an accident. Later Beijing sent a team to help investigate the matter jointly with Pakistani authorities.

"Both sides expressed their firm resolve to expose the culprits and their reprehensible designs through the ongoing joint investigation, give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure comprehensive safety and security of the Chinese projects, nationals and institutions, and prevent recurrence of such incidents," Qureshi and Yi said in a joint statement.

As the ministers reiterated their support for each other's "core national interests," they said "the two sides will continue to firmly advance the construction of CPEC."

Pakistan expressed its commitment to the "one China" policy of Beijing, which sees Taiwan as its province, and support to China over other disputed territories. 

"Pakistani side also expressed its firm support to China on core issues of its national interest, such as Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and South China Sea." the statement said.

This year, Pakistan and China are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with more than 100 celebratory events, which the ministers said are "demonstrating warmth and deep sentiments of their unshakable fraternal bonds."


Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 min 34 sec ago

Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

  • The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council
  • Al-Hajraf: Current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen represents direct threat to the security of region

LONDON: Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region and a matter of concern, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Saturday.
Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and its support for militias, must also be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and they should not be limited to reviving the nuclear deal, GCC Secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf said at a virtual Gulf Research Meeting.
Representatives of Iran and the five world powers still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been meeting in the Austrian capital since April, with US envoys participating indirectly. An agreement has yet to be reached.
Al-Hajraf added that the current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen represents a clear and direct threat to the security and stability of the Middle East.
The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council, as is strengthening the leading position of GCC countries in the region and the world.
He said Saudi Arabia holding the G20 presidency in 2020, the UAE hosting Expo 2020 from October, and Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are examples of this effort.
Al-Hajraf added that the national visions and development plans in GCC countries are creating the appropriate momentum to focus on the future and exploit opportunities.


Far-right and others march against French virus rules

Updated 24 July 2021

Far-right and others march against French virus rules

  • Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday
  • French government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals, and avoid new lockdowns

PARIS: Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement protested Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday, as virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew. The French government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals, and avoid new lockdowns.
Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures. But not everyone.
Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations Saturday around France. Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.
While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march. Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident.
Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is required to enter museums, movie theaters and tourist sites. The bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other venues. To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.
Lawmakers have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations.
Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as others angry at President Emmanuel Macron for various reasons.
Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are using the virus bill to try to rekindle its flame. The movement started in 2018 as a broad uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between demonstrators and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.


Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

Updated 24 July 2021

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

  • Jordanian children can be given Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary

BEIRUT: Jordan will start vaccinating children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19 from Sunday, the state news agency said on Saturday.
Children can be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary, the agency quoted the health ministry as saying.
The decision comes as Jordan lifted most restrictions at the start of July, reopening gyms, pools and night clubs at hotels after cases dropped from a peak in March when several thousands of new cases were recorded daily.
Total active cases reached 7,489 on Friday with 331 new cases and four deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic, Jordan has recorded a total of 763,437 cases and 9,933 deaths.
Several other countries in the region are vaccinating children, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.