Archive for August 26, 2014

August 21, 2014

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s ruling party has picked Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to replace president-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan as its new chairman and prime minister.

Erdogan announced Davutoglu’s nomination on Thursday following a meeting of the senior leaders of his ruling Justice and Development Party. Davutoglu, a loyal party official, was long reported to be Erdogan’s top choice to replace him. Erdogan has indicated he intends to keep his grip on government by making use of the largely ceremonial presidency’s seldom-used powers such as calling and presiding over Cabinet meetings.

Davutoglu, 55, has steered Turkey’s foreign policy as foreign minister since 2009 and as Erdogan’s adviser before that.


DIYARBAKIR – A newly unveiled statue of a militant commander who planned the first attacks of the Kurdistan Workers Party’s 30-year insurgency against the Turkish authorities is to be demolished, a court ruled on Monday.

The monument to Mahsum Korkmaz, a PKK commander killed in 1986, was just unveiled on Saturday in the village of Yolacti in the majority Kurdish Diyarbakir province in southeast Turkey.

But the move sparked outrage among nationalists who denounced it as the unwanted result of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy of granting greater rights to Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

A court in Lice ordered that the statue be demolished after the Diyarbakir governor’s office launched a legal complaint on Sunday, the Dogan news agency reported.

Preparations are already under way to pull down the statue, according to a reporter at the scene.

The monument — which shows Korkmaz standing on a high triangular plinth dressed for battle and with a rifle by his side — was placed in a new cemetery for slain PKK fighters.

It had been unveiled on the 30th anniversary of the first attacks by the PKK in the southeastern towns of Eruh and Semdinli on August 15, 1984.

The head of Turkey’s ultra-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli called the statue a “very clear and dirty challenge to our moral and historic rights.”

Turkey is seeking to restart stalled peace talks with the PKK — which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies — to end a conflict that claimed an estimated 40,000 lives.

The jailed head of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, said in a statement Saturday that the 30-year conflict was “coming to an end”.

Source: Middle East Online.



ISTANBUL – Turkey’s outgoing President Abdullah Gul is not being considered as a possible successor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister, a senior ruling party official said Sunday.

Erdogan is set to be sworn in as president on August 28 after his first-round election victory, and some observers had seen his longtime ally Gul as a possible replacement as prime minister.

But amid speculation of a growing rift between Gul and Erdogan, the deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mehmet Ali Sahin, said the outgoing president had no chance of becoming premier.

“After his term expires Abdullah Bey will not be able to become prime minister… because he is not a member of parliament,” Sahin said, using a traditional Turkish form of address.

Reports on Saturday said the AKP strongly favoured Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, an Erdogan loyalist, becoming the new prime minister.

But Sahin said in televised comments there was “no resentment” within the party about the exclusion of Gul, given that the reasons for his ineligibility were clear.

Some analysts have argued that the whole succession process has been set up with the specific aim of making sure Gul cannot become premier and party leader.

The AKP executive committee is due to meet this Thursday to agree on who will simultaneously hold both the posts of premier and party leader.

Sahin was equivocal about what role Gul could play in the future as Turkey prepares for 2015 legislative elections.

“Time will tell which duties fall on who,” he said.

Gul co-founded the AKP with Erdogan but in recent years has taken a more conciliatory approach than the combative premier, particularly after the anti-government protests of 2013.

His exclusion will disappoint those — particularly in financial markets — who hoped that Gul would play a moderating influence in an Erdogan presidency.

The Milliyet daily on Sunday reaffirmed Davutoglu was the frontrunner to become prime minister in a government that appears set to be filled with Erdogan loyalists.

The head of Turkey’s secret service, Hakan Fidan, was a likely choice to replace Davutoglu as foreign minister, although Europe Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also under consideration, it said.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, the government’s economic pointman who is highly respected by markets, could leave the government and be replaced by top party official Numan Kurtulmus.

Source: Middle East Online.


17 August 2014 Sunday

Turkey has raised 45 million Turkish liras ($20.8 million) to help Gazans in need, an official said Sunday.

The Gaza Strip has reeled under an Israeli offensive that has killed at least 1,980 Palestinians – most of them civilians – and injured more than 10,000 since July 7.

An aid campaign initiated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the money, Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah Isler said in a written statement.

“Turkey’s international development agency (TIKA) has provided 15,000 families with food through its permanent office in Gaza under the ongoing heavy Israeli attacks,” Isler said. “TIKA also has provided more than 350,000 Palestinians with daily food since the beginning of Ramadan.”

Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, began on June 28 this year.

Palestinians and Israelis are now observing a five-day ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, which came into effect early Thursday.

Tension remains high in the West Bank, as well, as Israeli forces clash with Palestinians protesting in solidarity with those in the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Energy Authority was provided with desperately-needed fuel,” Isler said. “The Turkish Red Crescent has delivered aid basically consisting of medicine. Gaza and other municipalities’ immediate needs, like generators, were also delivered.”

He said some injured Gazans are being treated in Turkish hospitals.

On Wednesday, a Turkish Armed Forces plane airlifted 18 injured Gazans, including a pregnant woman and five children, to Ankara, the Turkish capital, for medical treatment.

Source: World Bulletin.



Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Wednesday (August 20th) named his new prime minister, AFP reported. Yahya Ould Hademine had served as transport minister.

Outgoing Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf had earlier submitted his resignation.

Source: Magharebia.


August 26, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s past, Islamist-dominated parliament reconvened Monday and voted to disband the country’s current interim government, defying voters who elected its opponents to take over amid ceaseless fighting by rival militias.

The power grab highlights the lawlessness that has swept Libya since rebels overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and later formed powerful militias that successive governments have been unable to tame. It also leaves troubled Libya with two governments and two parliaments, deepening divisions and escalating the political struggle that’s torn the country apart.

Islamist militias have attempted to cement their power in the capital after claiming its airport and forcing rival militias to withdraw. The fighting began after Islamist candidates lost parliament in June elections and a renegade general began a military campaign against Islamist-allied militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

The Islamist-led past parliament voted unanimously to appoint a new “national salvation government” headed by Omar al-Hassi, a university professor. That happened as Islamist-militias said in a statement that their forces had “liberated” all facilities and barracks in Tripoli, inviting the United Nations and foreign diplomats to return.

Libya’s newly elected parliament meanwhile continues to meet in the far eastern city of Tobruk far from the militia violence. Those lawmakers have branded Islamist militias as terrorists, sacked the country’s chief of staff over his alleged links to Islamists and named a new one who vowed Monday to wage war against “terrorists.”

Libya’s interim government is also unable to return to the capital and has been holding its meetings in the eastern city of Bayda. It sent its foreign minister to Egypt to meet officials from neighboring countries to discuss ways to stop the spiraling violence.

The meeting ended with calls for disarming the militias and opposition to outside military intervention in Libya’s affairs. That appears to be an attempt to mute accusations that Libya’s neighbors, including Egypt, played a role in recent unclaimed airstrikes that have targeted Islamist militias’ positions in Tripoli.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri warned the gathering that the situation in Libya threatens the entire region and other parts of the world. “The developments in Libya have left an impact we have felt on the security of neighboring countries, with the presence and movement of extremist and terrorist groups whose activists are not only limited to the Libyan territories but also spill over to neighboring countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement to “strongly condemn the escalation of fighting and violence” and urged “all parties in Libya (to) accept an immediate ceasefire and engage constructively in the democratic process, abstaining from confrontational initiatives that risk undermining it.”

Also on Monday, retaliatory attacks swept Tripoli, targeting houses and buildings of Islamist rivals, including Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. He accused Islamists of attacking his house in Tripoli, then torching and looting it.

“It is impossible that you can impose anything on Libyans using force,” al-Thinni warned. “It will be like a devil who wants to enter heaven.” Libya’s divisions are rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional allegiances between groups who quickly filled the power vacuum after Gadhafi’s fall. Successive transitional governments have failed to control them.

The formation of a new government by the Islamist-dominated outgoing parliament came on the grounds that handover of authority earlier this month was improperly handled. However, Libya’s court system and laws remain in disarray, meaning whomever has the guns has the power.

The political rivalry has been coupled with militia infighting that has scarred the capital and driven out thousands of its residents. It has also turned Benghazi into a battlefield between Islamist militias and fighters loyal to a renegade army general who vowed to weed them out.

August 24, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s Islamist militias said Sunday they have consolidated their hold on Tripoli and its international airport, driving out rival militias to the outskirts of the capital following a weekslong battle for control of the strategic hub.

The umbrella group for Islamist militias calling itself Dawn of Libya said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital controlled by the rival militias, drawing to a close one chapter in a prolonged confrontation between the Islamist-allied militia, largely from the city of Misrata, and the powerful militia from the western mountains of Zintan.

The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee. The violence in Libya is rooted in the empowerment of militias after successive transitional governments since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi depended on them to maintain order in the absence of a strong police force or a unified military.

It also comes as part of a backlash by Islamist factions after losing their power in parliament following June elections and in the face of a campaign by a renegade military general against extremist Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

But this has been the worst bout of violence in the battle over turf and influence since 2011. Mysterious airstrikes have struck the positions of Islamist militias, sparking accusations by the groups that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who oppose Islamists in the region, were behind it.

A field commander of the Dawn of Libya militia said Sunday his forces are in control of Tripoli and adjacent cities, pushing back the rival Zintan forces some 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital. It was not immediately possible to reach members of the Zintan militias.

The commander spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. The fighting on the ground has mirrored a political standoff between Islamists and the outgoing parliament they controlled, and anti-Islamist groups who control the newly elected parliament. Each considers the other illegitimate.

After claiming control over the airport, Dawn of Libya called on the outgoing parliament to convene in the capital to take “the necessary measures to protect state sovereignty.” On Sunday, the speaker of the outgoing parliament, Omar Hmeidan, said the body will convene until it hands over power to the newly elected deputies.

Further inflaming the situation, the newly elected parliament described the Dawn of Libya militias as “outlawed” and “terrorist groups” who fight to undermine the legitimacy of the state. The newly elected parliament has been convening in Tobruk because of security concerns amid a growing lawlessness in the capital and Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi.

Fresh clashes Saturday in Benghazi pitting forces loyal to renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter against a group of Islamist militias called The Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council left eight troops killed and 35 wounded, a health official said. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the militias.

Islamist militias also controlled an air defense base near the city’s international airport, a security official said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Expanding the tension to neighboring Egypt, the Dawn of Libya militia accused Cairo and United Arab Emirates of being behind mysterious airstrikes on its posts in Tripoli, a claim that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi rebuffed Sunday.

El-Sissi said his armed forces have not carried out any military operations outside Egypt “so far.” Egypt is hosting a conference with Libya’s neighbors Monday.

By Aya Elbrqawi in Benghazi for Magharebia


The Libyan interim government shut down both state TV channels on Tuesday (August 19th).

Egyptian satellite company Nilesat took Al-Wataniya and Al-Rasmiya off the air after receiving an official request from the acting Libyan media minister.

The TV stations had been under the control of anti-government forces and backed the Islamists fighting for control of Tripoli international airport.

Al-Rasmiya chief Nadhim Tayari slammed the move, calling it “a political decision and a desperate attempt by the House of Representatives and the interim government to suppress the voice of the revolution of February 17th”.

“We will call on all international organizations for freedom of speech to denounce this act and work to correct it,” he said.

Tarek Al-Houni, head of Al-Wataniya, has stepped down of his role as director of Channel 3 earlier this month, saying: “The reason for my resignation is because of the extremist groups who took over the channel and prevented it from exerting its role impartially.”

Libyans interviewed by Magharebia praised the decision to crack down on the militia-controlled television stations.

“It is a daring and brilliant move to shut down these channels that promoted the corrupt groups and their agendas at the expense of the Libyan people,” commented Samar Barqaoui, a 34-year-old bank employee. “From now on, the state channels will not promote the Egyptian supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor will it promote Hassan al-Banna or al-Zawahiri. It will promote a free civil state.”

Barqaoui added: “Let them go to Qatar, their masters, so that they will open up channels for them at their own expense.”

“The first positive move made by the House of Representatives was to shut down the channels of strife that incite killing and support Libya Dawn that seeks to destroy the capital,” remarked Amal Bsikri, a 41-year-old human rights activist. “Al-Wataniya belonged to the previous government, and Al-Rasmiya also belonged to the previous National Congress, and since they were taken over by the terrorists from Misrata they immediately began inciting violence and war.”

She added: “The terrorists are trying to use other frequencies to broadcast these two channels.”

“There is news confirming the closure of the Misrata channel,” journalist Fariha Mansouri said. “It spreads more strife and lies, because it calls for overthrowing the new parliament and the re-election of a new one, where the head of state would be from Misrata.”

“The city of Misrata is the cause of Libya’s problems. It was Misrata that carried out the Libya Dawn operation, which destroyed the Tripoli airport, bombed warehouses, and expelled families from their homes,” Mansouri added.

Source: Magharebia.