Mediation led by the United States to resolve a dispute between Lebanon and Israel over their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) has reached a deadlock after a top U.S. official described it as “excellent” earlier this month.
U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein, who is mediating the talks between the two countries, confirmed that the dispute on oil block 9. The U.S. is holding on to a proposal to establish a “maritime Blue Line” that would help both countries control any violation of their territorial waters. The Israeli Globes said that the “border would be deemed temporary, until a permanent solution is found.” Lebanon had previously voiced consensus over the proposal.
Hochstein met earlier in April during a short visit to Lebanon with senior officials including President Michel Suleiman, PM Tammam Salam, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser Ali Hamdan, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc Fouad Saniora. [Link]
(Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan offered what the government said were unprecedented condolences on Wednesday to the grandchildren of Armenians killed in World War One by Ottoman soldiers. In a statement issued on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the deeply contested deaths, Erdogan unexpectedly described the events of 1915 as "inhumane", using more conciliatory language than has often been the case for Turkish leaders.
Turkish government officials said it was the first time a Turkish prime minister had offered such explicit condolences and described the statement as a historic step, but Erdogan's words were dismissed as "cold-hearted and cynical" by an influential U.S.-based Armenian advocacy group. The exact nature and scale of what happened during fighting that started in 1915 is highly contentious and continues to sour relations between Turkey and Armenia, a former Soviet republic. [Link]
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese parliamentarians failed to elect a new president in a first round of voting on Wednesday, with leading candidate Samir Geagea falling well short of the required two-thirds majority.
Geagea's shortfall had been widely expected and is likely to open up the race to other candidates in a process which politicians have warned could drag on for months.
The parliamentary session began at noon on Wednesday. No candidate succeeded in getting the minimum 86 votes, or a two-thirds majority, needed to win the presidency.
All the MPs filed out after the ballots were counted, preventing a quorum for a second round of voting. According to the Lebanese constitution, a candidate needs only 51 per cent of votes in the second round to win the presidency. The next session to elect a president will be held on April 30.
The election was the first opportunity to produce a president without the influence of Syrian authorities, since Syria ended its nearly 30-year military presence in Lebanon in 2005.
Christians and Muslims have equal representation in parliament, and a power-sharing agreement dictates that the president must be a Maronite Christian.
Parliament must choose a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose six-year term ends in late May. But deep political divisions within the country and over the war in neighboring Syria have hampered efforts to agree on a new president, who must be a Maronite Christian.
Geagea, supported by the March 14 political bloc which opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, won 48 votes in a session attended by 124 parliamentarians.
His total was eclipsed by 52 blank votes submitted by members of the March 8 coalition,
A second candidate, Henri Helou, who is backed by members of a small bloc of independents and centrists, won 16 votes.
One vote was submitted for former president Amine Gemayel, and seven votes were deemed void.
LF MP Strida Geagea criticized the blank ballots, saying she had hoped that a name of a strong candidate would have been put forward instead.
“It would have been better if a clear candidate was running against us ... they should have voted for a strong candidate,” Geagea told reporters following the session.
“A strong candidate would have been someone like [former] General Michel Aoun,” she added.
Geagea also commented on some of the ballots that included the names of figures killed during the war whose relatives accuse the LF leader of their murder, including Dany Chamoun and Rashid Karami.
“This is irresponsible behavior and political bankruptcy ... we know how they died and who was responsible for that,” said Geagea, who maintains her husband's innocence.
The void ballots carried the names of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami, who was killed in a car bomb in 1978, Dani Chamoun and his son, Tareq, who were both killed in 1990 when Tareq was just seven, Jihan Franjieh, the daughter of Tony Franjieh who was killed in 1978, and Elias Zayek who was slain in the 1980s.
Presidential hopeful Helou, Jumblatt’s nominee, also vowed to continue with the presidential campaign until the end, saying “the most important thing is to help safeguard the country through an all-inclusive dialogue.”
Since there is no formal process to declare someone a candidate, the ballot is essentially an open field. MPs can write down anyone's name, or even submit blank ballots. New candidates may also come forward between the first and second voting rounds.
"Things could develop fairly quickly [today] to either bring certain names to the fore or distance certain names from running, and that needs to be closely watched," said Habib Malik, associate professor of history at the Lebanese American University. Lawmakers must pick a replacement for President Michel Sleiman before his term ends of May 25, but the political class remains deeply divided over the issue of Hezbollah's arsenal and the war in neighbouring Syria.
If parliament fails to elect a new president in the second session, politicians might look for consensus candidates such as current army chief General Jean Kahwaji or Central Bank governor Riad Salameh, though neither has declared their intention to run at this stage. Lebanon's political system divides up political power among its various religious communities, allocating the presidency to Maronite Christians. The prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi'te Muslim. (Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri casts his vote to elect the new Lebanese president in the parliament building in downtown Beirut April 23, 2014. Lebanese parliamentarians failed to elect a new president in a first round of voting on Wednesday, with leading candidate Samir Geagea falling well short of the required two-thirds majority. REUTERS/Joseph Eid/Pool
ebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam (C) casts his vote to elect the new Lebanese president in the parliament building in downtown Beirut April 23, 2014. Lebanese parliamentarians failed to elect a new president in a first round of voting on Wednesday, with leading candidate Samir Geagea falling well short of the required two-thirds majority. REUTERS/Joseph Eid/Pool (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Lebanese members of parliament parliament gather to elect the new president in downtown Beirut on Wednesday, April 23, 2014
بالأمس إحتفل مسيحيو لبنان بأحد القيامة في بلداتهم وقراهم. حتى في عاصمة الشمال طرابلس، الخارجة من جولة قتال دامية، أقيمت الزياحات والإحتفالات بالعيد، من دون أن يخرج الى العلن صوت تحريضي واحد ضد المسيحيين.
غير أن هذه البهجة بالعيد لم يشعر فيها مسيحيو بريح الذين لم يعودوا حتى اليوم الى بلدتهم التي هجروا منها خلال حرب الجبل في بداية الثمانينيات. صحيح أنهم إحتفلوا بالعيد في الدكوانه وعين الرمانه وفرن الشباك وغيرها من المناطق حيث يقطنون، غير أن فرحتهم لم تكن كاملة. فهم الوحيدون في لبنان المحرومون من العودة الى الجذور وإحياء مناسباتهم الدينية في بلدتهم، كل ذلك يعود الى عدم إنجاز عودتهم الى بريح عن طريق قرار سياسي حاسم يترافق مع تمويل يثبت هذه العودة من قبل وزارة المهجرين. لقد أصبحت قصتهم كقصة إبريق الزيت وبحسرة مؤثرة يسردون فصولها الأخيرة.
ففي بداية العام 2013، هدم بيت الضيعة في بريح (المبني على أراض للمسيحيين والذي كان يشكل العائق الأساس أمام عودة المهجرين) بأمر من رئيس الحزب التقدمي الإشتراكي النائب وليد جنبلاط، وذلك بعدما إنتهت أعمال البناء في البيت الجديد. وفي اليوم التالي للهدم، قصد جنبلاط بكركي لإهداء ما تحقق للبطريرك الماروني الكاردينال مار بشاره بطرس الراعي، معلناً أن "الصفحة الأخيرة من حرب الجبل طويت". بعدها أعلن وزير المهجرين في حينها علاء الدين ترو عن إحتفال قريب سيقام بالمناسبة لإفتتاح البيت الجديد المخصص للمناسبات الإجتماعية لدى طائفة الموحدين الدروز، ولتسليم المسيحيين أرضهم التي كان البيت القديم قائماً عليها بقوة الحرب والتهجير. مرت الأيام ولم توزع الدعوات الرسمية والشعبية لهذا الإحتفال، حتى جاء اليوم الذي فهم فيه مسيحيو بريح الرسالة جيداً، "يفضّل وليد جنبلاط تسليم الأرض المسيحية المغتصبة قبل الإنتخابات النيابية بأسابيع قليلة وذلك لإستثمار إعادة الحقوق لأصحابها في صناديق الإقتراع المسيحية في الشوف". مرت الأيام مجدداً وكان المريض الذي يدعى قانون إنتخاب ينتقل من غرفة عمليات الى أخرى من دون أن يلمس الأطباء المعاينون أي تقدم ملموس،
وفي كل تلك المرحلة كان الضباب سيد الموقف حيال مصير الإنتخابات، لينسحب أيضاً على مصير عودة مسيحيي بريح الى أرضهم مرفوعي الرؤوس بعد سنوات طويلة من التهجير.
Lebanon's capital, Beirut, was once the centre-point of the country's civil war. But it has since shed its deadly past to become one of the Middle East's most hip and fashionable party destinations.
Lebanon's capital, Beirut, was once the centre-point of the country's civil war. But it has since shed its deadly past to become one of the Middle East's most hip and fashionable party destinations. And that's often quite a surprise for foreign visitors. It's 10.30pm on Saturday in Beirut and the streets are packed with bar-hoppers. For two decades, Lebanon was a dangerous war zone in the middle of a bitter civil war. But despite its dark past, Beirut has gained a reputation for being one of the best party cities in the Middle East. Every year, nightclubs in Beirut attract tens of thousands of partygoers from around the world
O1ne is one of Beirut's biggest nightclubs. Its owner - businessman Cheikh Chafic El Khazen - owns several other famous nightclubs in the capital.
He has invested millions of dollars in this enormous new venue, which can host up to 1,500 people. He said: "Initially, the investment was way less and through the process of the development, I was dragged into something that I was dreaming of for quite a while, and I ended up investing millions of dollars. "If it's a bit more to the extreme in Lebanon, it's definitely because we definitely don't know what's gonna to happen the next day."
At St. Elie Armenian Catholic Church in downtown Beirut, Zarmig Hovsepian lit three candles and slowly mouthed silent prayers before Easter Mass. After reciting "Our Father," she added a prayer of her own: "For peace, for Lebanon and the region," she said, underscoring the deep sense of apprehension beneath the surface of otherwise festive Easter celebrations.
Next door in Syria, violence recently displaced thousands from the historic Armenian town of Kessab, which rests in northwestern Syria, along the Turkish border. Groups of Syrian rebels, including some with ties to al-Qaida, swept into the Latakia province last month, seizing a number of towns in the strategically important mountains.
The violence and mass displacement in Syria opened old wounds for Armenians across the region, stirring up memories of the massacre and deportation of ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I. Syria, once a refuge from that violence, is home to nearly 100,00 Armenians, but now the community feels under threat again.
That's making Armenians in Lebanon nervous.
"The future is not clear for the whole Christian community in the Middle East, not just the Armenians," says Shahan Kandaharian, the executive editor of an Armenian daily newspaper. He blames the rise of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East.
Defense lawyers for Assad Sabra, a member of Hezbollah allegedly involved in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, have complained that Lebanon is withholding crucial information that could exonerate their client, a step that could lead to Lebanon’s referral to the U.N. Security Council.
“The failure of the Lebanese government to genuinely cooperate and to assist the defense ... is gravely undermining the defense’s ability to prepare,” lawyers David Young and Guénaël Mettraux said in a filing to the trial chamber published on the court’s website this week. “This is entirely inadequate and incapable of guaranteeing a fair and informed search for the truth.” The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is tasked with investigating the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and plunged Lebanon into political turmoil. [Link]
Thousands of Christians have gathered in Jerusalem to light torches and candles from a holy flame that 'miraculously' emerged from the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the eve of Orthodox Easter.
The Holy Fire ignites, apparently of its own accord, from the tomb of Jesus Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It has been descending on the church for more than 1,500 years and it is believed that the year in which it doesn’t light will be the last year in the history of man.
The fire descends on Jerusalem during a prayer by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, who then passes the flame to pilgrims. The pilgrims light 33 candles –that have all been tied together - from the fire to symbolize every year of Christ’s life. As the fire doesn’t burn during the first moments after its appearance, pilgrims wash their faces and heads in it, apparently suffering no injury. [Link]