Top News: UN Proposes National Unity Government for Libya

After months of protracted negotiations, the United Nations proposed a national unity government to Libya on Thursday, but any deal must pass a vote in both the House of Representatives (HOR) and General National Congress (GNC) parliaments to succeed. UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon told a news conference late Thursday that the names of candidates for the national unity government have been decided. Both the HOR and the GNC in Tripoli are expected to vote on the proposal. Fayez Seraj, a Tripoli representative in the Tobruk-based HOR, would be prime minister with three deputy prime ministers. Leon named Ahmed Maitiq, Fathi Majberi, and Musa al-Koni as deputy prime ministers, Omar Aswad and Mohamed Ammar have been nominated as two senior ministers. Misratan politician Abdurrahman Swehli is reported to have rejected the offer by UN Special Envoy to head the Libya Dialogue’s proposed State Council. He was quoted on Al-Nabaa and other TV channels last night, saying he did not want the post, considered largely powerless. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the announcement from Libya, and pledged some 100 million euros ($110 million) in support for the new government. [Reuters, APLibya HeraldAFP, 10/8/2015]



Egyptian expats to vote at 136 embassies abroad in parliamentary elections
A total of 136 Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world will host expat voting in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Spokesperson for the High Elections Committee Omar Marwan said Friday. Each embassy will include subcommittees in which Egyptian expatriates will cast their votes, either by presenting their national ID cards or passports that include the national ID number and home address in Egypt, in addition to filling a form attesting to residence abroad attached with his address. While no observers will monitor the voting process abroad, a local operations room administrated by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and 136 organizations will follow up on Egyptian expatriates’ complaints during the elections. [Cairo Post, 10/9/2015]

Court accepts prosecution appeal against Islamist figures’ release
An Egyptian criminal court ordered the renewed detention of several leading Islamists for another forty-five days after accepting an appeal by Egypt’s High State Security Prosecution against a previous court order that ordered their release. The High State Security Prosecution had appealed a criminal court’s decision to release controversial preacher Mahmoud Shaaban and ten other defendants under investigation in what is known as the Salafi Front case. The specialized prosecution service also appealed the release of the head of the Independence Party, Magdi Hussein, and four other leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood-led National Alliance to Support Legitimacy. [Ahram Online, 10/9/2015]

Interior Ministry claims jailed former Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Haddad in cell
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Thursday that the Muslim Brotherhood’s former spokesman Gehad Haddad was transferred to a prison hospital yesterday for a regular checkup and then moved back to his cell upon his own request. On October 4, Haddad’s family said they had not been allowed to visit him or receive any information about him since he was taken to Tora Prison Hospital on Sunday. At the time, his brother Abdullah wrote on Twitter, “The family [has been] given no information or visitation rights to see if [he is] alive or dead.” [Aswat Masriya, 10/8/2015]

Egypt’s army begins second stage of operation ‘Martyr’s Right’ in North Sinai
The Egyptian Armed Forces Spokesman announced in a statement the beginning of the second phase of the Martyr’s Right operation in the North Sinai cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and al-Arish. The first phase of the operation, which resulted in the death of over 500 militants in North Sinai and the “achievement of its primary objectives,” concluded on September 22. The second stage, deliberately coinciding with the 42nd anniversary of Egypt’s victory in the October 6 War, will include the commencement of numerous development projects and reconstruction in North Sinai. The armed forces also announced the dispatch of a convoy loaded with medical supplies, construction materials, and food for Sinai residents. The project will include the construction of the new town of Rafah, 1,200 housing units, and a number of hospitals and schools. It also includes plans to build twenty-seven water desalination plants, water tanks, and new roads. Phase two will “pave the road for creating suitable conditions to start development projects in Sinai,” the statement said. [Ahram Online, 10/8/2015]

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Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia
The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a civil society group comprising the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT); the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” The Quartet was instrumental to the success of the 2013 National Dialogue, which resulted in a new constitution and a peaceful transfer of power to a technocratic government. Kaci Kullman Five, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the committee had no illusion over the many challenges Tunisia is facing, but hoped the North African country could serve as a role model. Tunisia’s university presidents collectively nominated the UGTT for the peace prize in 2014. The nomination later expanded to include the entire quartet, according to the UGTT. [NYT, WSJ, Reuters, AP, AFP, Al Arabiya, 10/9/2015]

UN Security Council to vote Friday on EU migrant mission off Libya
The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Friday on whether to approve European naval operations aimed at seizing and disposing of vessels operated by human traffickers in the high seas off Libya, diplomats said. Russia, which has Security Council veto power, had indicated it supported the draft resolution. But it was unclear how Moscow would vote, said diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity. Libya initially objected to the draft UN resolution on the high seas mission, but Libya’s UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi wrote to the Security Council on Tuesday that the country’s concerns had been allayed and it agreed to the final draft text. [Reuters, NYT, Libya Herald, 10/8/2015]

Libya authorities detain 300 African migrants
A Libyan official with the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli says they have detained 300 African migrants captured while boarding boats headed to Europe. Military spokesman Mohamed al-Shamy said Friday that the migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, were captured Tuesday on a beach east of Tripoli. The International Organization for Migration says that more than 2,600 migrants have died in 2015 so far on the Central Mediterranean route that includes Libya. Smugglers have exploited Libya’s internal turmoil to ship thousands of desperate migrants across the Mediterranean. [AP, 10/9/2015]


Obama administration ends Pentagon program to train Syrian rebels
The Obama administration has ended the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels, administration officials said on Friday, in an acknowledgment that the program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on ISIS in Syria. Pentagon officials are expected to announce the termination of the program officially today. US officials said new efforts would focus on embedding recruits with established Kurdish and Arab units rather than sending them directly into front-line combat. [NYT, AP, 10/9/2015]

Gulf States to increase arms supplies to Syrian rebels
Saudi Arabia and its allies are reportedly increasing up their supply of weapons to Syrian opposition groups in response to Russia’s increasing military support of President Bashar al-Assad. The Gulf countries will increase military aid to groups who are not affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), including the Free Syrian Army and Jaysh al-Fatah (which has ties to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front). The Russian intervention appears to have frozen what some analysts saw as a rapprochement between Moscow and Saudi Arabia over the Syria conflict. [Al Jazeera, 10/9/2015]

ISIS kills three Assyrian Christian captives
ISIS militants have killed three Assyrian Christian captives who were among nearly 200 Christians abducted earlier this year in northeastern Syria. The three men were killed late last month but the news emerged this week when a video showing their deaths was released, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. One of the men says in the video that ISIS will begin executing other prisoners if the militants’ demands are not met. The militants have also destroyed numerous churches and Christian shrines in their campaigns. [Reuters, The Guardian, 10/9/2015]

ISIS advances on Syria’s Aleppo
ISIS advanced to the closest it has ever been to the Syrian city of Aleppo at dawn on Friday. “Dozens of combatants were killed on both sides,” SOHR said. In a surprise advance marking ISIS’ biggest gain in months, jihadists routed Syrian rebels from at least five villages and threatened the outskirts of Aleppo city, Syria’s second-largest city, activists said. The seizure of these positions brought the jihadists to about 12 miles from the front line where regime forces are positioned. [Washington Post, AFP, 10/9/2015]

France strikes ISIS in Syria
France said Friday it had carried out a second wave of strikes overnight on ISIS targets in Syria and accused Russia of failing to target the group. “Two Rafale jets dropped bombs on an IS training camp. The objectives were accomplished,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, adding that more attacks would follow. As with a first wave of strikes on September 27, the attacks focused on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria. “We know that in Syria, in particular around Raqqa, there are training camps for foreign combatants whose mission is not to go fight for [ISIS] in the Levant but to come to France, to Europe, to carry out attacks,” said Le Drian. He said France’s air strikes were complicated by the fact that ISIS uses human shields. [AFP, 10/9/2015]

Turkey dismisses PKK ceasefire announcement
Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan dismissed reports that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was preparing to announce a unilateral ceasefire that would last until Turkey’s November 1 elections on Friday. Yalcin said Turkey would maintain its battle against the PKK until it gets “results.” [AP, 10/9/2015]


President Hadi calls Houthi concession a “maneuver”
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi has called the Houthi rebels’ acceptance of resolution 2216 and the Yemen UN peace plan a “maneuver,” doubting their true commitment to withdraw from their controlled territorials, including the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. The Houthis agreed to the UN resolution on Wednesday, which requires them to withdraw from all areas seized during the latest conflict, relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions cease all actions falling exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Yemeni government and fully implement previous UN Security Council resolutions. President Hadi’s Press Secretary Mokhtar Rahbi has expressed concern that the Houthis will try to alter the resolution, saying that peace talks would only happen if the resolution were fully implemented without change. Meanwhile, Arab Coalition spokesman General Ahmad Asiri said the Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni government had not been offered any formal pledges for a ceasefire from Houthi militias and plan to continue military operations as usual. [Al Masdar (Arabic), UN News Center, Riyadh Vision, 10/9/2015]

Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni government forces close in on Taiz
The Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni government forces achieved another victory on Thursday in their war against the Houthi rebels and the allied forces of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh by retaking a new district, Dhubab, on the Red Sea, and forcing the Houthis to retreat to the city of Taiz. The conflict between the rebels and Arab coalition has left Taiz residents without water, food and medical supplies, as witnesses and residents have said that the Houthi rebels have imposed a blockade on the city. Backed by the Saudi-led coalition, the Yemeni government forces made a breakthrough last Thursday when they took control of the strategic Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the remote Perim island. [Gulf News, Mareb Press, 10/9/2015]

Saudi Arabia under pressure to defend Syria rebels from Russia
Sunni clerics are increasingly calling for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to take action on behalf of Syrian rebel groups targeted by Russian air strikes. While the government has provided more weapons this week to Syrian rebels, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood and a group of fifty-five Saudi clerics called for jihad against the Russians in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Religious Scholars, has accused Moscow, along with Iran and Hezbollah, of aiding the Assad regime “in the killing of the Syrian people and the destruction of their country.” The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has committed a number of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia including, three mosque bombings since May. The government is cracking down on those travelling abroad in an effort to crush the group’s cells in the country. [Financial Times, CNN, BBC, 10/8/2015]


World Bank increases Middle East program to $3.7 billion
The World Bank has increased funding for its Middle East program to $3.7 billion in 2016/17 from $3.5 billion in 2015/16 and mobilized extensive resources to support countries neighboring Syria, according to Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Thursday. “The migration of Syrian and Libyan refugees to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, reflected negatively on the local economies there, which exacerbated crises of poverty and unemployment while adding pressure on these countries’ budgets,” he said. However, he noted that “an influx of working age refugees or migrants into a country with an aging population can ultimately reap benefits for everyone.” Meanwhile, European Investment Bank (EIB) President Werner Hoyer called for increased investment in economic and social transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. He outlined a number of ways which international financial institutions, including the EIB, could increase investment. [Ahram Online, 10/8/2015]

Word Bank says Turkey needs to enhance performance of energy efficiency programs
Although the Turkish government has designated energy efficiency a key component of its energy strategy, critical institutional and functional gaps remain that prevent Turkey from realizing its stated energy efficiency goals, according to a World Bank report. “Energy efficiency is among the least expensive and cleanest energy resources and Turkey needs to do more to exploit this critical and abundant resource,” said World Bank Senior Energy Specialist Jas Singh, the primary author of the report. He said, “[Energy efficiency could allow Turkey to] enhance its energy security, sustain economic growth, and help protect the environment. … There is need to shift from free-standing, one-off, pilot investments to national level programs with strong institutions, dedicated, sustainable financing mechanisms and an able private sector.” [Hurriyet, 10/8/2015]

Egyptian Finance Minister attends IMF, World Bank annual meeting in Peru
Egyptian Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian is attending the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Lima, Peru. Dimian will attend a number of meetings, including a meeting of the Deauville Partnership Initiative, an international effort launched by the G8 to support transitioning countries in the Arab world. Dimian will also attend meetings with high-level officials in international financial institutions and credit ranking institutions, including Standards and Poor’s and Moody’s. Dimian is also expected to attend a number of closed meetings with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and other finance ministers from the region. Finally, Dimian will hold meetings with a number of international investment banks, including HSBC, Bank of America, and PNB Paribas. He will present his ministry’s regulation plans, Egypt’s subsidy amendment plan, and the planned value added tax. [DNE, 10/8/2015]

Essid says TND 10 billion worth of infrastructure projects blocked
Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Thursday that about TND 10 billion worth of infrastructure projects, including are blocked in the district of Greater Tunis. Following a visit to check on projects in the governorates in Tunis and Ariana, Essid emphasized that the implementation of these projects will help to revitalize economic and trade activities. He added that these blocked projects, some of which have stalled since 2012 or 2013, are a priority for the government. Essid called for project implementation to be sped up, some of which are funded by the European Investment Bank, noting that new infrastructure projects cannot be scheduled while these projects remain blocked. Also on Thursday, Minister of Equipment, Housing, and Territory Development Mohamed Salah Arfaoui said that eighty infrastructure projects worth TND 2.5 billion had been allowed to proceed. [TAP, 10/8/2015]