Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar has backed a ceasefire in Libya to take effect from Monday, Egypt’s president announced after talks in Cairo.
The development follows a series of military victories of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against Haftar’s forces.
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“This initiative calls for respecting all international efforts and initiatives by declaring a ceasefire from 6pm [16:00 GMT] Monday, June 8, 2020,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told a news conference on Saturday.
He was speaking alongside Haftar and his ally, eastern parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
El-Sisi urged international support for the initiative and called on the United Nations to invite Libya’s rival administrations for talks.
The initiative, called the “Cairo declaration”, urged the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries from all Libyan territory”, he said.
El-Sisi added that the declaration also called for “dismantling militias and handing over their weaponry so that Libyan National Army [led by Haftar] would be able to carry out its military and security responsibilities and duties”.
The Egyptian president also said the initiative paves the way for forming an elected presidential council in Libya.
He added that it prevents “extremist militias” from gaining control over the country’s resources.
Later on Saturday, Russia announced its support for the ceasefire announced in Egypt
“We read the content of the Egyptian President’s offer, of course, we support all kinds of offers to stop the conflicts in Libya as soon as possible,” said Mikhail Bogdanov, the special representative of Russia to the Middle East and African countries, according to the Ria News Agency.
Meanwhile, forces loyal to Libya’s UN-recognised government said they launched an offensive on Saturday to seize the strategic city of Sirte.
“The air force has carried out five strikes in the outskirts of Sirte,” slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s hometown and the last major settlement before the traditional boundary between Libya’s west and east, GNA spokesman Mohamad Gnounou said.
“Orders have been given to our forces to begin their advance and to systematically attack all rebel positions,” he added.
Sirte was taken by Haftar’s forces virtually without a fight in January after one of Libya’s myriad local fighters switched sides.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when an uprising toppled and later killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
It is split between two rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by opposing fighters struggling for power.
Haftar has since last year sought to regain control over the west, fighting the GNA in an abortive attempt to seize the capital Tripoli.
His LNA forces have in recent weeks lost crucial ground to GNA forces, which are backed by Turkey.
The GNA recaptured the strategic town of Bani Walid in the country’s northwest from the LNA earlier on Saturday.
The latest development comes a day after the GNA seized the city of Tarhuna, Haftar’s last stronghold in northwestern Libya, which was used as the main launchpad against Tripoli.
Friday’s defeat inflicts serious blows to Haftar’s 14-month offensive to capture Tripoli.
Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia.
Egypt’s prisons under ‘strict information lockdown’: HRW |NationalTribune.com
Rights groups and the UN have made numerous calls since the coronavirus outbreak for Egypt to improve conditions for prisoners, but the country has done little to address the crisis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says. At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died in Egypt, most likely from COVID-19 complications in 10 detention facilities as of…
Rights groups and the UN have made numerous calls since the coronavirus outbreak for Egypt to improve conditions for prisoners, but the country has done little to address the crisis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died in Egypt, most likely from COVID-19 complications in 10 detention facilities as of July 15, according to HRW’s latest report published on Monday.
Prisoners have shown COVID-19 symptoms, but have had insufficient medical care and no access to testing. Authorities have done little to isolate prisoners who show symptoms and have further imposed a strict information blackout amid the pandemic, the New York-based rights group said.
Last week, Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir, 65, died after contracting the coronavirus during the two weeks he spent in pretrial detention at Cairo’s notorious Tora prison.
The veteran journalist was arrested in June on charges of joining “a terrorist group”, spreading false news, and misusing social media after appearing on Al Jazeera Media Network, which is banned by Egypt.
Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has spent more than 1,307 days in prison without trial.
An Egyptian national, Hussein was arrested in December 2016 on “dubious charges”, according to HRW, shortly after his arrival in Egypt on a personal visit.
Last year, an Egyptian court rejected an order by the state prosecutor to release him. He remains detained in Tora Tahqiq prison, one of Egypt’s most infamous facilities, under inhumane conditions.
Amr Magdi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera that, so far, three inmates have died of COVID-19 in Tora Tahqiq prison, as well as a prison employee.
“This is very concerning,” Magdi said. “We still call for [Hussein’s] immediate release, and it is extremely outrageous that he has even exceeded the two-year limit for pretrial detention in Egyptian law, which is already abusive.
“Egyptian authorities don’t just disrespect international norms, they even [violate] their own abusive laws,” Magdi said.
According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice, there are 149 suspected cases of coronavirus in Egyptian prisons and detention facilities.
In May, the World Health Organization released a joint statement with UN agencies stating the “health response to COVID-19 in closed settings alone is insufficient” and urged governments to consider prisoner releases.
A month prior, the UN urged Egypt to release prisoners “convicted of non-violent offences and those who are in pretrial detention who make up just below one-third of those in jail”.
It noted Egypt’s detention facilities are often overcrowded, unhygienic and lack resources.
Official records show Egyptian authorities have released about 13,000 prisoners since late February, but that number is not enough to ease overcrowding, according to HRW.
Among the prisoners freed, some include those convicted of murder and other serious crimes.
“They have released several thousand prisoners, but these tend to be people who have a short time left to serve in their sentences,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, told Al Jazeera.
“What is most notable is that these releases did not include any of the people arrested on political grounds and who are particularly the ones who have not been tried. We know people who have been … in custody under so-called investigation for months and months.
“They haven’t been accused of anything, haven’t been charged with anything, they’ve had no trial. Notably, none of them, or very few of them, have been released,” Stark said.
“Clearly, [the Egyptian authorities] are not listening.”
‘Strict information lockdown’
According to international human rights law, prisoners should receive the same standard of healthcare that is available in the community.
Egyptian prison laws also state that prison doctors must protect inmates from “epidemic diseases”, including providing medical quarantine and to immediately inform a prisoner’s family in case of serious illness.
But a prisoner at the Tora Tahqiq prison told HRW the protection measures taken by authorities were merely “decorative”.
In March, the prison administration offered PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests for two inmates only, and no other tests were provided even though several prisoners developed a respiratory illness.
Since a ban on prison visits was implemented on March 10, thousands of inmates have been kept in incommunicado detention with little if any communication with lawyers and family members, as part of an “information blackout”, according to the report by HRW.
“There are some notable cases of brothers and sisters going to get news of the health of their loved one in prison and not being able to get any information,” Stark said.
“There’s a very strict information lockdown … Egyptian authorities have been behaving very badly.”
Over the years, Egypt has developed a track record for its lack of judicial or independent oversight.
HRW noted since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2013 in a coup, most likely hundreds of prisoners have died in detention, many following torture or inadequate care.
But despite the warnings issued by the UN and rights groups, countries worldwide have done little to apply pressure on Egypt to comply with international law.
“We haven’t seen too much interest on the part of other countries – the US, Italy, Germany, France, UK – countries that have big arms deals with the Egyptian military,” Stark said.
“So far, I’m not aware of them making any efforts in this area.”
Egypt’s el-Sisi orders army to be ready for missions abroad |NationalTribune.com
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey’s intervention in neighbouring Libya.He also warned forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli not to cross the current…
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey’s intervention in neighbouring Libya.He also warned forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli not to cross the current front line with renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
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Turkey supports the GNA, which, with Turkish support, has reversed a 14-month assault on the capital by the LNA.
The LNA is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
El-Sisi on Saturday toured an airbase near Egypt’s 1,200km-long (746 miles) western border with Libya, where state television showed him watching fighter jets and helicopters taking off.
“Be prepared to carry out any mission, here inside our borders – or if necessary, outside our borders,” he told air force pilots and special forces personnel at the base.
He said the Egyptian army was “one of the strongest in the region”, adding: “It is a rational army; an army that protects and does not threaten … this is our strategy, our beliefs and our principles that we will never change.”
He also said Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya and generally favoured a political solution, but added that “the situation now is different”.
“If some people think that they can cross the Sirte-Jufra front line, this is a red line for us,” he said before an audience that included some Libyan tribal leaders.
“If the Libyan people moved through you and asked us to intervene, this would be a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya are one country, one interest,” he added.
Fighters loyal to the GNA have recently reversed Haftar’s advance on the capital, Tripoli [File: EPA]
Turkey urges Haftar withdrawal
Meanwhile, Turkey said on Saturday that Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya needed to withdraw from the strategic city of Sirte for a lasting ceasefire.
Ibrahim Kalin, the presidential spokesman, told the AFP news agency that Sirte and Al-Jufra should be evacuated by Haftar’s forces for a “sustainable ceasefire”.
Kalin said a ceasefire in Libya would be possible if everybody went back to their positions in 2015, referring to an agreement reached that year.
He warned against a rushed truce, saying: “A rushed, premature ceasefire will not lead to what we want to achieve for all Libyans there.”
Earlier this month, Egypt called for a ceasefire in Libya as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for the country.
The United States, Russia and the UAE welcomed the plan. Germany said United Nations-backed talks were key to the peace process.
However, Turkey dismissed the proposal as an attempt to save Haftar following a string of losses on the battlefield.
Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed 2011 uprising toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi only to leave rival militias fighting for control of the country’s oil wealth and drawing in international powers as the conflict has ebbed and flowed.
Egypt’s one-day coronavirus infections at new high: Live updates |NationalTribune.com
Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February. African leaders say China will ensure the supply of 30 million testing kits and 10,000 ventilators each month for the African continent as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates…
Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February.
African leaders say China will ensure the supply of 30 million testing kits and 10,000 ventilators each month for the African continent as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates there.
Brazil became the country with the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world with 42,720 fatalities, surpassing the death toll of the United Kingdom and second only to the United States.
More than 7.75 million people have now been confirmed to have the coronavirus, and at least 429,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Here are the latest updates:
Sunday, June 14
00:05 GMT – Ukraine records highest daily count for third day in a row
Ukraine has recorded its highest daily count of new coronavirus infections for the third day in a row, more than double the count earlier in the month.
The health ministry on Saturday reported 753 new cases, compared with 683 the previous day.
In early June, Ukraine was recording fewer than 350 new cases a day. Overall, Ukraine counts 30,506 confirmed infection cases and 880 deaths.
00:01 GMT – Egypt’s one-day coronavirus infections at new high
Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February, according to The Associated Press news agency.
The ministry also reported 62 deaths from COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.
The figures raise Egypt’s coronavirus totals to 1,484 deaths and 42,980 confirmed cases. The ministry says 11,529 patients have been discharged from quarantine after their recovery.
Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country, and it has the highest death rate from COVID-19 among Arab nations. It ranks third in the Middle East after Iran and Turkey.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
You can find all the developments from yesterday, June 13, here.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
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