Top News: Rival Libyan Lawmakers Hold Talks and Agree to Ceasefire

Delegates to the Libya peace talks sponsored by the United Nations in Ghadames have reportedly agreed to a comprehensive ceasefire between all warring factions throughout the country and a second round of talks after Eid al-Adha, at which point they will address all outstanding differences between them.

UN Special Envoy Bernandino Leon described Monday’s round of talks as “historic” and said that the two parties were sitting together “in brotherly atmosphere” and engaging to “overcome their differences through a political dialogue.”




Parliamentary elections by end of year, says Egypt PM
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said Monday that parliamentary elections would take place as planned by the end of the year, state news agency MENA reported. In comments to Al-Youm television channel, Mahlab said the cabinet did not intend to delay the elections and that logistical preparations were underway. Mahlab also noted that there are currently no amendments planned to the protest law. “We are listening to all the opinions on the matter,” he stated, but so far, the topic of amending the law has not been broached the cabinet meetings. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 9/30/2014]

Egypt courts sentence ninety-one Morsi supporters; Minya death sentence upheld
Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Tuesday sixty-three pro-Morsi supporters to fifteen years in prison for charges related to protests on the 40th anniversary of the October 6 war. The court sentenced five others to ten years in prison on the same charges. The defendants were charged with murder, attempted murder, and rioting with the purpose of disrupting the rule of law. The Minya Criminal Court sentenced on Tuesday eighteen pro-Morsi supporters in absentia to eighteen years in prison on charges of blocking roads and disrupting the constitutional referendum that took place in January 2014. The court has ordered that the defendants pay a fine of EGP135,000. The court also sentenced five purported Muslim Brotherhood members to fifteen years in prison for violating the nationwide curfew imposed last August. The same court upheld its previous ruling that sentenced twenty members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death for killing a sheriff’s deputy and for storming the police station after the Raba’a protest dispersal. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Reuters, 9/30/2014]

Complaint filed against Bassem Youssef for insulting president
A complaint has been filed against satirist Bassem Youssef for insulting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a conversation with media personality Khaled Abu Bakr, which the latter then published on his Twitter account. The complaint, filed with the general prosecutor by lawyer Samir Sabry on Monday, demanded that Youssef be banned from travel until investigations are conducted with him and Abu Bakr. On September 27, Abu Bakr, host of al-Qahera al-Youm, posted on his Twitter account that he and Emad Eddin Hussein ran into Youssef at the airport in New York, where he “insulted Sisi and mocked him, and used indecent language against him.” [Mada Masr, 9/29/2014]

Egypt aims to pay $2-3 billion of debt to oil firms by end-2014
Egypt aims to pay back $2-$3 billion it owes to oil and gas companies by the end of the year, Oil Minister Sherif Ismail told a news conference in Cairo, as the government tries to spur new investment to boost supplies. Debt owed to energy companies in Egypt totaled $5.9 billion in May, the latest official figure available. [Reuters, 9/30/2014]


Rival Libyan lawmakers hold talks and agree to ceasefire
Delegates to the Libya peace talks sponsored by the United Nations in Ghadames have reportedly agreed to a comprehensive ceasefire between all warring factions throughout the country and a second round of talks after Eid al-Adha, at which point they will address all outstanding differences between them. UN Special Envoy Bernandino Leon described Monday’s round of talks as “historic” and said that the two parties were sitting together “in brotherly atmosphere” and engaging to “overcome their differences through a political dialogue.” [AP, Libya Herald, Reuters, 9/29/2014]

Libyans to be hit by new Tunisia exit tax
Tens of thousands of Libyans will be affected by a new departure tax of 30 Tunisian dinars ($17) for foreign nationals, due to be imposed by Tunisian authorities beginning October 1 in an effort to boost state finances. Libyans constitute the single largest nationality of foreign visitors to Tunisia, with an estimated 425,000 Libyan nationals passing through the Tunisian border during the first three months of 2014, according to Tunisian figures. The deteriorating situation in Libya has forced many Libyans to move and increased traffic at the Ras Jedir border crossing. Meanwhile, reports indicate that Algeria is considering erecting an electric fence along its border with Libya due to concerns about the movement of terrorists and arms. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/30/2014]

Oil official denies selling crude at below-market prices
An official at Libya’s oil and gas ministry has denied claims that Libyan crude oil is being sold internationally at below market prices. Samir Kamil, the manager of planning at the oil ministry, admitted, however, that due to instability in the country and the subsequent loss of many regular customers, the National Oil Corporation has been forced to sell crude on monthly as opposed to yearly contracts. Insurance premiums for tankers loading crude in Libya are also understood to have risen due to the instability in the country. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/29/2014]


Turkey seeks mandate for military action against ISIS inside Syria
The Turkish government is expected to submit motions to parliament Tuesday that if approved, would provide authorization to intervene in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Since the US launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq on August 8, Turkey has come under increasing Western pressure to provide more support to the air campaign but was hindered by the kidnappings of forty-six citizens by ISIS fighters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. On Monday, the Turkish military deployed tanks and armored vehicles to the town of Mursitpinar, across the border from Ayn al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish), after Turkish villages were hit by stray gunfire during fierce confrontations between ISIS militants and Syrian Kurdish militias across the border. [Reuters, The Washington Post, 9/30/2014]

US strikes ISIS as it closes in on Kurdish area of Syria
US-led strikes hit ISIS group fighters closing on a key town on Syria’s border with Turkey overnight as Ankara prepared to request parliamentary authorization Tuesday to join the coalition. In neighboring Iraq, Kurdish forces launched pre-dawn attacks against the jihadists on three fronts in a bid to recapture territory they lost to ISIS last month, entering a key town on the border with Syria, senior officers said. NATO member Turkey reinforced its side of the frontier on Monday as ISIS fighters penetrated within 5km of the border town of Ayn al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish). It was the closest the militants had come to the town since they began their advance nearly two weeks ago, sending tens of thousands of mostly Kurdish refugees across the border. The latest coalition strikes hit ISIS fighters in nearby villages east and west of the town, said the Syrian Observatory, the Britain-based monitoring group. [AP, AFP/Naharnet, 9/30/2014]

Syrian FM welcomes US and Arab airstrikes inside Syria
In a statement delivered at the United Nations, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem announced his country’s approval of US and Arab air strikes in Syria targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The foreign minister urged world leaders to pool all their efforts against ISIS and Nusra Front militants but also emphasized the need to cut off their flow of funds, weapons, fighters, and training. The Syrian foreign minister, however, made clear his government’s opposition to the Syrian National Coalition and Free Syrian Army, indicating that Damascus was unwilling to reach a political solution with the Western-backed Syrian opposition. [Reuters, 9/30/2014]


ISIE defends efforts to improve female representation
The Secretary for State for Women and Family Affairs, Neli Chaabane announced Monday that 47 percent of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections are women, but only 12 percent of women lead their respective party’s lists. The President of the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) Chafik Sarsar however defended the electoral authority’s efforts to improve gender parity in legislative elections by adopting an aggressive strategy to improve female representation in the parliamentary elections. [TAP, 9/30/2014]

Tunisia’s Islamists urge US help to support democracy
Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda appealed Monday for US support as the country heads into vital elections, warning democracy remains fragile in the nation that triggered the Arab Spring. Party leader Rachid al-Ghannouchi said, “By the end of this year we can guarantee that Tunisia will be the first Arab democracy… But we need the support of the United States for this experience, which can be considered as the alternative of extremism and terrorism and war.” [Naharnet, 9/29/2014]

HRW releases new human rights agenda, urges reform
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Tuesday its 2014 agenda for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Eric Goldstein, the deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa urged the candidates to push forward an aggressive reform agenda as part of the new government’s commitment to curbing the rights abuses that have plagued Tunisia for decades. [All Africa, 9/30/2014]


Houthi groups prevent children from entering schools in Sana’a
A Yemeni organization reported that Houthi militants prevented students from entering schools in Sana’a controlled by Houthi forces on Monday. According to the National Organization of Human Rights, militants have been using five schools in Sana’a to house fighters, park armored vehicles, and store weapons and ammunition. Teachers, students, and school administrators were barred from entering schools, leading the organization to call for the militants’ immediate withdrawal and for the education ministry to suspend school reopenings in Sana’a by a week. School was suspended following the initial violent clashes between the Houthis and security forces in the capital. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/29/2014]

Southern movement leaders struggle to present unified front
Sources within the Herak movement report that disagreements among the movement’s senior leadership have hindered the group’s ability to present a unified political front over a week after negotiations to form a new government began. The formation of a southern military council was announced a week ago in Aden, but this council was not accepted across the southern political spectrum; sources say that recent plans to form a southern political council have also encountered the roadblock of political disunity. [Aden al-Ghad, 9/30/2014]

Roadside bomb in Shabwa injures four soldiers
Four soldiers were injured Tuesday afternoon after a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Shabwa province near the city of Azen. The soldiers were taken to a government hospital in Azen. Responsibility for the attack has not yet been claimed. Local reports indicated that a soldier was killed in a related attack as his vehicle was fired upon, though this is unconfirmed. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 9/30/2014]

UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns of food situation in Yemen
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the escalation of political turmoil in Yemen could upset the country’s already dire food security situation. One in four Yemenis is undernourished and over half of the country’s twenty-five million people are what the FAO calls “food insecure.” About 90 percent of Yemen’s water resources are devoted to agriculture, much of which goes toward the cultivation of the narcotic qat leaf. Consequently, the government imports 90 percent of the country’s wheat and 100 percent of its rice. Heavy reliance on global food markets and dwindling foreign exchange resulting from slumping oil exports are aggravating Yemen’s food vulnerability, the FAO said. The FAO has also had difficulty transporting basic materials to farmers in rural areas because of the violence and damage to infrastructure. [Reuters, Marib Press (Arabic), 9/29/2014]


Qatari mediators meet with militants over Lebanese hostages
Qatari mediators arrived in Arsal Tuesday, to begin negotiations with Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants that have held at least twenty-one security personnel hostage since last month. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said that the cabinet supports negotiations through intermediaries, clarifying that negotiations are currently being held through Qatari and Turkish officials as well as Lebanese intermediaries. In a gesture of commitment to the process, the Lebanese army released several Syrian refugees last week after clashes led to several fatalities in Arsal. [The Daily Star, 9/30/2014]

Tehran promises military assistance to Lebanon
The head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani confirmed the donation of military equipment to the Lebanese Army on Tuesday after talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. The official explained that Iran was committed to strengthening bilateral relations with the Lebanese government and bolstering the military’s ability to confront rising security threats. The Lebanese Army has been battling Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Nusra Front militants since clashes erupted in the northeastern town of Arsal last month. [The Daily Star, Naharnet, 9/30/2014]

Kurdish troops blunt ISIS advance in northern Iraq
Iraqi Kurdish forces captured a strategic border crossing and several villages from Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters in northern Iraq on Tuesday, scoring gains as the militants were pounded by heavy US-led air strikes and the Iraqi army advancing from the south. A senior source in the peshmerga said Kurdish troops had seized the Rabia crossing with Syria after taking al-Saudiya and Mahmudiya, two key towns near Mosul. The official also credited US-led airstrikes with helping peshmerga forces take two key villages as they advance towards Kirkuk. [The Daily Star, Naharnet, 9/30/2014]