Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Migrant boats in Black Sea spark fears of new route

August 21, 2017


© AFP/File | A boat carrying Iraqis and Syrians, including 23 children, was intercepted late Sunday in the Black Sea in Romania’s southeastern Constanta region, officials said
BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romanian authorities said Monday that they had caught a fishing boat with 68 asylum seekers off Romania’s coast, the second such incident in a week, raising fears that a new migrant route to Europe is opening up.

The boat carrying Iraqis and Syrians, including 23 children, was intercepted late Sunday in the Black Sea in Romania’s southeastern Constanta region, officials said.

“They were accompanied by two Turkish traffickers,” Ionela Pasat, a spokeswoman for the Constanta coastguard, told AFP.

The group was brought to the port of Mangalia for medical examinations on Monday before being handed over to the immigration authorities, she said.

On August 13, coastguards discovered a boat with 69 Iraqi migrants in Romanian waters. One Bulgarian and one Cypriot were taken into custody on suspicion of human trafficking.

EU member Romania, which is not part of the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone, has largely been spared the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

But Bucharest worries that the Black Sea could become an alternative route to the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

More than 111,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far this year, most of them arriving in Italy from Libya, according to the most recent figures.

Over 2,300 have died attempting the crossing.

This month, NGO rescue ships were banned from patrolling waters off Libya where hundreds of thousands of people have been rescued in recent years and brought to Italy.

East Libya Elite Force of Khalifa Haftar Refuses International Criminal Court Order To Arrest Mahmoud al-Werfalli For Possible War Crimes

August 16, 2017

BENGHAZI, Libya — An elite forces unit linked to the army that controls much of eastern Libya has snubbed international efforts to bring to justice one of its senior officers for allegedly executing dozens of prisoners.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a commander in the Special Forces of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Image result for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, photos

Mahmoud al-Werfalli

The accusations against him relate to incidents in and near Benghazi in spring and early summer, towards the end of a three-year LNA campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Libya’s second city.

Videos circulated on social media appear to show Werfalli executing or overseeing the execution of masked and handcuffed prisoners

“The Special Forces strongly reject the arrest warrant,” spokesman Milad Al-Zwai said.

Zwai said the ICC should instead focus on arresting “those who killed and displaced men, women and children, and the people who meted out torture and killing and destruction.”

“We will continue our struggle against this oppressive faction,” he said without further explanation. His statement mentioned neither the videos nor the accusations against Werfalli.

In May, Werfalli announced his resignation from the Special Forces, but this was rejected by the unit’s top commander. The following month a U.N. panel of experts reported he was involved in running secret detention centers outside Benghazi.

The LNA has previously said it would investigate war crimes allegations in eastern Libya, where it is the main military force.

The Special Forces is an elite unit nominally under LNA control that joined the Benghazi campaign in its early stages.

Since announcing victory in the campaign in July, the LNA has extended its presence in the center and south of the divided country as it has vied for control with forces linked to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and other rivals.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and Haftar last month committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections next spring in talks brokered by France.

Several previous attempts at peace deals have been scuttled by internal divisions between the myriad of competing armed groups that have emerged in oil-producing Libya since rebels toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In July, the United Nations said it was deeply concerned that people detained by the LNA might be at risk of torture or summary execution.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she “will not hesitate to bring new cases” in Libya, where evidence dictates.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ahmed Elumami, additional reporting and editing by Aidan Lewis; editing by John Stonestreet)


Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Saudis contributed to July boost in oil output: OPEC

August 10, 2017


© AFP/File | OPEC increased output in July despite pledges to restrain production

PARIS (AFP) – Crude oil production by OPEC members increased slightly in July, including Saudi Arabia, which had championed efforts by the oil cartel and allies to extend an output freeze.Output from the 14 cartel members hit 32.87 million barrels per day (mbd) in July according to secondary sources, OPEC said in its monthly report on the oil market, up from 32.69 mbd in June.

“Crude oil output increased mostly in Libya, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia,” said the report.

OPEC and a number of other producers including Russia agreed in May to extend production cuts, originally agreed last year, into 2018 to ease a global supply glut and support the price of crude.

But oil prices haven’t been able to push up durably from around $50 a barrel as some exporters have produced more oil than agreed under the November deal, raising doubts about OPEC’s ability to enforce it.

While both Libya and Nigeria were exempted from the production cuts, Saudi Arabia was the motor behind the effort in May to extend the limits and is OPEC’s largest producer by far.

Its output increased to 10.067 mbd in July from 10.035 mbd in June, according to secondary sources, which would put it just above its agreed output ceiling.

Saudi Arabia did not supply production figures directly to OPEC.

Technical experts from OPEC and its allies met in Abu Dhabi this week and the cartel said after the talks that they “remain steadfast in their commitment to fulfil” the November deal.

Decisions at the meeting, attended by Russia and Saudi Arabia, will “help facilitate full conformity” with production cuts, it said.

Last month, OPEC said there was “room for improvement” in implementing the deal and called on countries that signed the deal to “promptly reach full conformity”.

OPEC increased slightly its forecast for growth in global oil demand to an increase of 1.37 mbd this year, with overall demand at 96.49 mbd. It also rose its forecast for demand growth in 2018 to 1.28 mbd, with demand hitting 97.77 mbd.

Mediterranean Migrant Mess: Italy, Malta keep migrant vessel in limbo

August 8, 2017


© AFP | While a Spanish vessel with Libyan migrants aboard was denied entry to Italy or Malta, the C-Star chartered by far-right activists opposed to migrants was moored off Tunisia as fishermen and a powerful union prevented them from loading supplies

ROME (AFP) – A Spanish vessel with three Libyan migrants aboard was kept in international waters on Tuesday after Italy and Malta refused to let it to dock.

The three aboard the ship Golfo Azzurro, chartered by Spain’s Proactiva Open Arms NGO and rescued Sunday, were in limbo, illustrating policy confusion a week after Rome introduced a controversial code of conduct for charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.

A Proactiva spokesman said the vessel was some 100 nautical miles (180 kilometres) off the Libyan coast as the NGO attempted a rescue operation normally coordinated with the Italian coast guard.

When the Golfo Azzurro approached the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest to the Libyan coast, Italian authorities denied it passage.

Proactiva’s mission head Gerard Canals told AFP that Malta had said Italy was responsible for the rescue and should take the migrants.

“The rescue on Sunday happened under the coordination of the Italian MRCC (coastguards headquarters) in Rome but in the Maltese SAR (search and rescue zone).

“We asked to disembark in Lampedusa because it was closer but the Italian authorities told us to see with Malta.

“We cannot take them back to Libya because it’s against maritime law” with Libya not considered as a safe port “so we have to take them to a European port.”

Proactiva is one of four NGOs which have signed up to the code — the group formally did so Tuesday at the Italian interior ministry — whereas five counterparts operating search-and-rescue activities off Libya have rejected the new rules.

Having been denied entry to Italy and Malta to change crew and load supplies, the Golfo Azzurro was stuck between Malta and Sicily midday Tuesday.

Italian authorities last Saturday did allow 127 migrants to disembark on Lampedusa after their rescue by Prudence, a vessel chartered by Doctors without Borders (MSF), which has not signed up to the new code.

Also Tuesday, C-Star, a vessel chartered by a group of European far-right activists opposed to migrants, was still moored off the Tunisian coast as fishermen and a powerful union prevented them from loading supplies.

Two weeks ago, Turkish Cypriot authorities released the C-Star’s captain and crew after detaining them over accusations of using false documentation.

The activists’ “Defend Europe” scheme was launched by anti-immigration campaigners from France, Italy and Germany who raised 170,000 euros ($200,000) via crowd-funding to hire the vessel.

In a separate development, UN’s new envoy to Libya on Tuesday endorsed an Italy drive to strengthen the Libyan coastguard to ensure boatloads of migrants are intercepted before reaching international waters.

Human rights campaigners fear the approach could place thousands of people with a right to asylum at serious risk.

But Ghassam Salame, a former Lebanese culture minister appointed in June to head UN operations in Libya, described the cooperation between Tripoli and Rome as a “very constructive” way of dealing with an acute problem.

“It would be absolutely unrealistic to ignore the seriousness of the challenge of irregular migration,” Salame said after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Angelo Alfano in Rome.

“There are hundreds of millions of them across the world. This is very serious problem.”

Qatar tactics seen as failure as crisis enters third month

August 6, 2017

Instead of addressing Quartet concerns, Doha chose instead to protest against the boycott at international organisations

Image Credit: REUTERS
A man walks on the corniche in Doha, Qatar.
Published: 17:23 August 6, 2017Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Qatari crisis has entered its third month, but the boycott of Doha imposed by the Arab quartet is set to continue because the Qatari regime fails to comply with their 13 demands and broader UN principles to combat terrorism and stop interference in other countries’ affairs, analysts say.

Although they are ready for talks with Doha, the Arab quartet is fully prepared to confront Qatari intrasigience for the long haul. The situation seems to be heading for a protracted crisis.

The four countries have expressed they are ready for dialogue with Qatar if it declares its “sincere willingness” to stop funding terrorism and extremism, halt interference in other countries’ foreign affairs, and respond to the 13 demands.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed their airspace and ports to Qatar-registered planes and ships over accusations it was supporting terrorist and extremist groups.

Instead of seriously addressing concerns of the Arab quartet and thus returning to the GCC fold, Doha opted to manoeuvre by protesting against the boycott at international organisations.

First by claiming the quartet’s move was a “blockade”. But the Arab quartet refuted Doha’s claims that a “blockade” has been imposed on Qatar by GCC countries, arguing that it was a boycott in keeping with international laws and motivated by the need to protect their national security.

Following the Manama meeting, Shaikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said all measures taken by four states were within the jurisdiction of international law and “essential to deter the scourge of terrorism which affected stability of other countries.”

Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said in Washington after a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson there is no blockade of Qatar.

“The ports are open, the airports are open … What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right. The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatar Airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else … Qatar’s seaports were open,” Al Jubeir said.

In another failed attempt to politicise the Haj pilgrimage, Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of stopping its citizens from attending the Haj, a false claim that Riyadh called a “declaration of war”.

Qatar took its complaint to the UN special rapporteur, prompting an angry response from the Saudi Foreign Minister.

Despite the deepening row, Saudi Arabia says Qataris are welcome to attend the Haj, which is due to begin this month.

Qatar has also claimed the boycotting countries were in violation of the air travel treaty because they blocked Qatari flights from their airspace, a charge negated by the UN’s aviation authority, the International Civil Aviation Authority.

Saudi Arabia has also provided emergency corridors for Qatar through their airspace.

Desperate to lift the boycott, Qatar also launched a legal process at the World Trade Organisation, requesting consultations with the three Gulf countries and triggering a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

The wide-ranging legal complaint at the Geneva-based body is set to fail as the economic sanctions imposed on Qatar by the three fellow Gulf states do not violate WTO agreements, the Quartet has said.

Qatar has also accused Egypt of misusing its position on the UN Security Council, but Cairo denied the allegation in a letter to the council on Thursday, and accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups financially and ideologically in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Dr. Ayman Salama, a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and professor of international law at Cairo University, believes the boycott and the economic sanctions by the Arab quartet is completely legal that cannot be challenged, especially as Qatar has repeatedly undermined their national security.

“The measures taken by the Arab quartet are sovereign steps to protect the security and the safety of their countries,” Dr Salama told Gulf News.

Qatar’s public relations campaigns have also been dismal failures in making the right impression among Americans, as the Arab News/YouGov poll shows.

Half of respondents said they do not know enough about the Gulf state to pass judgement.

Yet, the next highest response rate — at some 34 per cent — reflects those whom associate Qatar with terror financing.

The poll also shows that most Americans, at 63 per cent, recognise Al Jazeera as a news source, but they do not believe that the network reflects professional journalism standards, which means many Americans do not trust Al Jazeera’s reporting.

‘Secularism’ of the Arab Gulf countries — Qatar will not surrender its Islamic identity and Islamic teachings

August 3, 2017

03 Aug 2017 – 5:47

Dr. Khalid Al-Shafi | Editor-in-Chief

Image may contain: text

As masks are dropped, secrets exposed and the public has become well aware of the hidden objectives and suspicious ambitions of one of the GCC countries, it is not a surprise to see all attacks being launched against Qatar.

Yes, it is not a surprise to see all these offences and pre-planned and multi-faceted fabrications against Qatar being employed to insult it because of the reputation it has gained in international fora and efforts it has made to get its name engraved in corridors of global policies.

Perhaps envy has made the vision of the leaders of this certain country but it is extraordinarily unusual to see such level of controversy, leveling of allegations and twisting of ground realities and established facts.

Openly speaking about plans to introduce secularism in the Arab Gulf countries in the coming years is a naked interference and aggression on other countries affairs. It is political arrogance which will once turn over to its planners.

The incessant interventions of this country in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Mali and other places have made it feel as if it is a super power to whom the whole region should obey and listen to its dictations.

Statements and leaked correspondences of one of its diplomats have also revealed that a new Middle East led by this country is being designed in dreams.

Aspirations towards the future and assuring the advance of states in the field of science and technology should be the target of the policy-makers of the region instead of adopting immature polices and trying to violate other states’ sovereignty to determine their future as it will be political suicide.

Statements welcoming secularism have been repeatedly made by officials of this country including one of its media officials who said people have to choose between ISIS (Daesh) or secularism as if Arab Gulf countries have to choose one of two alternatives; terrorism or to coming out of Islam.

Is there anyone who could ask these officials in which direction they are heading? This is a very dangerous statement which must be strongly opposed and strictly rejected specially in the Gulf region which is being governed by Shariah law.

There is a saying that egotism makes one blind, and I say arrogant people dig a grave for themselves. What is the position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the carrier of the banner of Islam about all these statements? Where are Saudi scholars who were speaking a lot about politics and obedience to leadership?

Till we see the suitable reactions to these statements and ideas, I would like to say that Qatar will not change unless it is convinced by its own specially on religious matters. Qatar is a state which believes in freedom of people but at the same time it sticks to its Islamic identity and Islamic teachings.

Italy impounds German NGO migrant rescue boat

August 2, 2017


© AFP/File | Some 600,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya since the start of 2014, putting the country’s reception facilities under strain and the centre-left government under pressure over the crisis

ROME (AFP) – Italian authorities on Wednesday impounded a German NGO’s migrant rescue boat on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration, police said.The Iuventa, operated by the Jugend Rettet organisation, was “preventatively” impounded on the Italian island of Lampedusa on the orders of a prosecutor based in Trapani, Sicily, the state police force said in a statement.

“Enquiries begun in October 2016, and conducted with the use of sophisticated techniques and investigative technology, have produced circumstantial evidence of the motorboat Iuventa being used for activities facilitating illegal immigration,” the statement said.

More details were to be provided at a 1530 GMT press conference.

The impounding of the Iuventa came as Italy began enforcing a controversial code of conduct for charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.

Jugend Rette was among six of nine NGO’s operating search-and-rescue activities in waters off Libya to reject the new rules. Italian authorities say they are necessary to ensure the boats are not effectively encouraging migrants to embark on the perilous crossing.

The NGOs have particularly objected to a requirement to allow an Italian police official to travel on each boat and a ban on moving rescued migrants from one aid vessel to another while still at sea, which they say could result in avoidable deaths.

Some 600,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya since the start of 2014, putting the country’s reception facilities under strain and the centre-left government under pressure over the crisis.

Just over a third of those rescued this year have been saved by NGO boats, up from around a quarter last year.


Italy enforces NGO boat crackdown as fewer migrants decide to cross Med

August 2, 2017


© AFP | New figures have revealed a sharp drop in the number of Migrants arriving in Italy from Libya

ROME (AFP) – Italy on Wednesday began enforcing a controversial code of conduct for charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean as new figures revealed a sharp drop in the numbers of people arriving from Libya.

A boat operated by Germany’s Jugend Rettet, one of several NGO’s which have refused to sign the code, was intercepted off Lampedusa and escorted to the outlying Italian island for “routine checks”, a coastguard spokesman told AFP.

The organisation said its boat, the Iuventa, had not been impounded and the crew had not been arrested, but could not immediately provide further details of the coastguard operation.

Only three of the nine NGO’s operating search-and-rescue activities in waters off Libya have accepted the new rules, which Italian authorities say are necessary to ensure the boats are not effectively encouraging migrants to embark on the perilous crossing.

The NGOs have particularly objected to a requirement to allow an Italian police official to travel on each boat and a ban on moving rescued migrants from one aid vessel to another while still at sea, which they say could result in avoidable deaths.

Some 600,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya since the start of 2014, putting the country’s reception facilities under strain and the centre-left government under pressure over the crisis.

For most of this year the numbers of new arrivals have pointed to 2017 breaking all previous records.

But July, normally a busy month, saw the trend reversed, suggesting various efforts to close down the Libya-Italy route to Europe could be having an impact.

The Interior Ministry said 11,193 people had been registered at Italian ports in July, compared with 23,552 in July 2016.

Arrivals for the first seven months of this year were 95,214, up 0.78 percent on the same period last year.

Italy has been working with the Libyan authorities to strengthen the north African state’s coastguard with training and new equipment in the hope of making it more effective in policing traffickers and intercepting migrant boats before they reach international waters.

The Italian parliament was Wednesday discussing further support for Libya in the form of a naval mission comprised of a logistics ship and patrol boat dedicated to supporting Libyan coastguard activities.

Officials believe boats being sent back to Libyan ports will have a powerful deterrent effect on would-be migrants considering paying traffickers for passage to Europe.

But the approach has been criticised by international rights groups who say people returned to troubled Libya face detention in squalid camps and abuse at the hands of traffickers.

Jordan scraps controversial rape law — allowed the rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim

August 1, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File | Activists applauded the Jordanian parliament’s abolition of a controversial law allowing a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim

AMMAN (AFP) – Jordan’s parliament on Tuesday scrapped a controversial article in the penal code that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim.

Activists had campaigned for years to abolish Article 308, which allowed rape charges to be dropped if the rapist married his victim and did not divorce her for five years.

The article was scrapped as parliament passed amendments to the penal law, the official Petra news agency reported.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hani Mulqi threw his weight behind the move.

“The government is committed to eliminating Article 308 to reinforce the protection of the Jordanian family,” he said.

Human rights activists applauded parliament’s action.

“The removal of this article is a victory for all victims of rape,” said Eva Abu Halaweh, a lawyer and the head of law group Mizan.

It comes “after years of huge effort from civil society organisations”, she said.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, also welcomed the vote.

“BRAVO #JORDAN for repealing heinous article 308 absolving rapists who marry their victims. Urge #Arab states to follow. Women NOT property,” she tweeted.

Whitson earlier urged lawmakers to repeal the article, saying it had been “a blight on Jordan’s human rights record for decades”.

“The mere existence of article 308 puts pressure on women and girls to marry those who assault them, including teenage victims of rape,” she said.

Jordan registered more than 160 rape cases last year, according to official figures.

Last week, Tunisia also scrapped an article allowing rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victim when it passed a new law to end violence against women.

According to Human Rights Watch, countries in the region that retain similar provisions in their laws include Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Syria, as well as the Palestinian territories.