"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

Lübnan Marunîleri / Yasin Atlıoğlu


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Geagea Slams Ruling on LBCI Ownership as 'Unjust, Political'- Naharnet

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday slammed a judge's ruling on the ownership of LBCI television as “unjust” and “political.”
Earlier in the day, Judge Fatima Jouni ruled in favor of LBCI and its chairman Pierre Daher in the lawsuit filed against them by the LF and Geagea.
In her ruling, Jouni said the TV network had been initially funded by a “disbanded militia” and consequently by “revenues and bank loans granted to a company whose stakes are largely owned by Pierre Daher.”
“It has not been proved that Dr. Geagea and the LF had contributed any of their money in the establishment of that firm, seeing as they are not the owners of the money of disbanded militias,” Jouni said, noting that Geagea and the LF also did not play a role in obtaining the license that the TV network was granted after civil war.
“Only the Lebanese state has the right to share Daher in his stakes,” Jouni added, arguing that the state is the owner of any funds belonging to civil war militias.

Israeli attack in Al-Quneitra killed 5 Iranian soldiers: SRG- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:50 P.M.) – The Israeli airstrikes that targeted the Al-Quneitra Governorate this month had killed several Iranian soldiers, a new report from the Syrian Republican Guard said this week.
According to the SRG report, at least five Iranian bodies were identified via DNA samples at one of the garrisons targeted by the Israeli military on February 5th.

Tensions to simmer at Cabinet session- Daily Star

BEIRUT: The Cabinet is set to meet Thursday amid tacit tensions over constitutional powers between the president and the prime minister in deciding Lebanon’s policies, as well as a wide anti-corruption campaign that appears to be targeting the Future Movement.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri is scheduled to chair the Cabinet session, the second since the new government gained an overwhelming vote of confidence from Parliament on Feb. 15, at 11:30 p.m. Thursday at the Grand Serail.
The agenda includes 52 items, most of them ordinary financial matters, including a request by the Finance Ministry to issue Treasury Eurobonds and a proposal by the Industry Ministry to protect national products. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rahi: To Separate Political Solution in Syria from Refugee Return- Naharnet

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Wednesday called the international community to dissociate the political solution in Syria from the repatriation of Syrian refugees present on the Lebanese soil, the National News Agency reported.
“The international community must not link the return of displaced Syrians to a political solution in Syria. There is a pressing necessity that they return to their country,” Rahi said, noting that “it is a duty to protect Lebanon from the dangers of this heavy presence.”
Rahi’s remarks came during a conference on social welfare and religion in the Middle East, held at the Lady of the Mount Monastery in Fatqa.

Netanyahu to Talk Iran with Putin in Moscow- Naharnet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday was set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss how to prevent Iran from "entrenching in Syria". 
"From our point-of-view, the focus of the talks will be preventing Iran from entrenching in Syria, the entrenchment of a country which explicitly says that its goal is to wipe us out," Netanyahu said before his trip, according to his press-service.
Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Netanyahu has stressed that he will not let Israel's arch-foe Iran use Syrian territory as a base for its military.
Accompanied by his national security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and head of military intelligence Tamir Heiman, Netanyahu is expected in the Kremlin on Wednesday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said talks with Putin will be "very important" to ensure Israel's freedom to act against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria while avoiding frictions with Russian forces.

Political solution in Syria and refugee returns separate issues: Rai- Daily Star

BEIRUT: The international community must distinguish between a political solution to the Syrian conflict and the need for refugees from the country to return from Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai told attendees of the Caritas regional conference Wednesday.
The refugees must return to their country to maintain their civil rights and culture and so that Lebanon is protected “from the dangers of this exhausting presence,” Rai added.
The presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and their impact on the country’s already ailing economy and frail infrastructure have continued to figure high on politicians’ agendas since Parliament gave the new Cabinet confidence earlier this month.

1,300 Syrian refugees set to return Thursday- Daily Star

BEIRUT: About 1,300 Syrian refugees are scheduled to return to their country from Lebanon Thursday in the latest voluntary trip organized by General Security, a statement from the agency announced Wednesday.
Those who have registered are expected to gather at 6 a.m. in Tripoli’s Maarad area and Shebaa's Bayader neighborhood, and at Nabatieh’s Kamel Jaber Cultural and Social Center, Sidon’s Municipal Stadium, Burj Hammoud’s Municipal Stadium and the Abboudieh, Masnaa and Al-Qaa border crossings.
The trip will be the second one organized by General Security this year; last month, close to 1,000 Syrian refugees made the return to their country in an organized return.

EU inaugurates new headquarters in Beirut- Daily Star

BEIRUT: European and Lebanese officials filled the courtyard behind the European Union delegation’s new headquarters in Beirut’s Zoqaq al-Blat Wednesday, touting the new and larger building as a sign of the EU’s growing presence in Lebanon.
A choir sang the Lebanese and the European anthems as guests sipped on glasses of wine and juice under the EU member states’ flags.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hundreds More Leave Syria IS Holdout- Naharnet

Hundreds of suspected jihadists and their relatives exited the last Islamic State group holdout in eastern Syria aboard 11 trucks on Tuesday, an AFP reporter said.
The huge double-trailer trucks snaked towards a screening point manned by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces across the plain from Baghouz, the last hamlet still held by IS.
Women could be seen spilling out of the trucks as SDF fighters prepared to screen yet another batch of survivors from the last speck of the jihadist "caliphate".
On Monday alone, 46 such trucks left the IS pocket, bringing to around 50,000 the number of people who quit jihadist-held territory since December.

Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hiding in Baghuz? Where does ISIS go now?- South Front

President Donald Trump will not be able to declare victory over ISIS in the next days because there are still between 1000 to 1500 militants and Emirs in Baghuz, a city bordering the Euphrates river. It is obvious these militants are not ready to surrender but most likely will fight to death, unless a deal is made – as happened before in Jarablus, Raqqah and Dabiq – to transfer them to another location. There are strong indications suggesting the presence of top leadership individuals in Baghuz, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Syrian Air Force launches heavy airstrikes over southwest Idlib- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – For the third day in a row, the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) has launched several airstrikes over the Idlib Governorate.
Led by their L-39 Albatros, the Syrian Air Force targeted several areas controlled by the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in and around the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Jumblat Says Resigned Zarif ‘Victim' of Compromise Theory- Naharnet

Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat on Tuesday commented on the surprise resignation of Iran’s foreign minister saying "Iranian diplomacy will lose its most prominent symbols.”
“Iranian diplomacy is going to lose its most prominent symbols, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who was the lead negotiator of the (2015) nuclear agreement between Iran and the West,” said Jumblat on Twitter.
The PSP leader added that Zarif “is the victim of hardliners in the Islamic Republic who mainly oppose the principle of settlement and control decisions, and the hawks in the United States and Israel who reject the principle of settlement.”
On Monday, Zarif has abruptly tendered his resignation on Instagram, although there was no sign President Hassan Rouhani had yet accepted his decision.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Israel urges EU to follow Britain in full blacklisting of Hezbollah- Reuters

Israel lauded Britain’s decision on Monday to ban Hezbollah and urged the European Union likewise to class the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite militia and political movement in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

Macron: We'll Continue to Distinguish between Hizbullah's Wings- Naharnet

France will continue to distinguish between Hizbullah's military and political wings, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, after Britain said it will outlaw the political wing.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Saleh, Macron said Paris will still “communicate and exchange viewpoints with the political movement that is represented in parliament.”
“We will continue this differentiation,” the French president added, noting that “it is not up to France and other foreign forces to know which political forces represented in Lebanon's parliament will be good or not.”
“It is up to the Lebanese people to decide on this,” he said.

Hariri Meets Sisi, Says Held Positive Talks with Europeans- Naharnet

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Monday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of an Arab-European summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hariri said all the meetings he held with European leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh were “positive.”
“They stressed anew the importance of the CEDRE conference and their support for Lebanon and interest in developing the relations with it,” the premier added.
“Lebanon needs major reforms and I'm counting on all political parties to abide by the decisions that we endorsed and this challenge is not difficult,” Hariri went on to say.

Suriye savaşının başlangıcından beri ilk: Esad, İran'da Ruhani ile görüştü- Sputnik News

Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad’ın Tahran’a gerçekleştirdiği çalışma ziyareti kapsamında İran Cumhurbaşkanı Hasan Ruhani ile görüştüğü, liderlerin ikili ilişkileri ve Suriye’deki ateşkesin garantör ülkelerinin yaptıkları Soçi zirvesinden çıkan sonuçları ele aldıkları belirtildi.

Esad Tahran’da Haminei ve Ruhani ile Temaslarda bulundu- SANA

TAHRAN – Cumhurbaşkanı Beşşar el Esad bugün Tahran’da İran İslam Devrimi Yüksek Lideri Ayetullah Ali Haminei ve İran Cumhurbaşkanı Hasan Ruhani ile bir araya gelerek bölge ve uluslararası son durum ve gelişmeleri değerlendirdi.
Bölge Devletleri ve Hükümetleri Halklarının Çıkarlarını Savunmalılar
Suriye ve bölgedeki son durum ve gelişmelerin ele alındığı görüşmede Cumhurbaşkanı el Esad; bölge halklarının çıkarlarını koruyup kollamak için hükümetlerin özellikle ABD olmak üzere Batılı bazı ülkelerin sinsi planlarına uymamaları gerektiğini belirtti.
El Esad devletlerin egemenliğine saygı duyulması ve iç işlerine müdahale edilmemesine dayanan dengeli politikalar benimsenilmesi gerektiğini kaydetti. Hegemonyacı ve sömürücü devletlerin dayatmalarına boyun eğmenin tehlikeli sonuçlarına dikkat çeken el Esad; devletlerin kararlarında egemen olmalarının ve halklarının çıkarlarını savunmalarının öneminin altını çizdi.
Cumhurbaşkanı el Esad Haminei ve dost İran halkını son 40 yılda halkın çıkarlarını kollayan ve her türlü dış müdahaleye karşı bağışıklık kazandırıp güçlü bir devlet inşa etme modeli teşkil eden İran İslam Devriminin 40. yıl dönümünü kutladı.
Görüşmede iki ülke ve halkları arasındaki kardeşlik ilişkileri gözden pekiştirme olanakları gözden geçirildi. El Esad ve Haminei ikili ilişkilerin Suriye ve İran’ın zayıflatılmaları, istikrarlarının bozulması ve tüm bölgede kaosun yayılmasını amaçlayan düşman ülkelerin planlarına karşı mücadelelerinde temel etken olduğunu ifade ettiler.
Kendi yönünden Haminei Cumhurbaşkanı el Esad’ı, Suriye halkını, kahraman ordusu ve silahlı kuvvetlerini teröre karşı kazanılan zaferlerden dolayı tebrik etti. Bu zaferlerin bölgede ABD ve başta İsrail olmak üzere müttefiklerinin bölge ve halklarını hedef alan projelerine çok sert bir darbe indirdiğini ifade eden Haminei; bu süreçte daha fazla ihtiyatlı davranılması gerektiğine dikkat çekti. Haminei çünkü gelecek aşamada söz konusu devletlerin başarısızlıklarına tepki olarak sinsi planlar hazırlayabileceklerine işaret etti.
İran İslam Devrimi Yüksek Lideri Haminei ülkesinin  afiyetini kazanması ve terörü nihai bir şekilde bitirene kadar Suriye’nin yanında duracağını belirtirken Suriye ve İran arasındaki stratejik derinliğe vurgu yaptı.
Her iki taraf özellikle Suriye ve İran’a karşı olmak üzere Batılı bazı ülkelerin bölge ülkeleri ve halklarına karşı izledikleri tırmandırma ve kaosu yayma çabalarına karşı mücadelenin azim ve kararlılıkla devam edeceğinin altını çizdi. İki ülke ve halklarının çıkarlarını kollayıp savunma kararlılığından caymanın mümkün olmadığını ifade eden el Esad ve Haminei; bölge ve halklarının sorunlarını çözme ve haklı davalarını savunmaktan hiç bir koşul altında vazgeçmeyeceklerini vurguladı.
Ruhani: Suriye’nin Zaferi Tüm İslam Aleminin Zaferidir
Cumhurbaşkanı el Esad Tahran ziyaretinde İran İslam Devrimi Yüksek Lideri Haminei ile görüşmesinden sonra İran Cumhurbaşkanı Hasan Ruhani ile bir araya geldi. Görüşmede el Esad ve Ruhani her iki ülkenin muhtelif alanlarda ilişkilerde vardıkları stratejik düzeyden dolayı memnuniyetlerini ifade etti.

Assad meets Khamenei in first Iran visit since Syrian war began- Reuters

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al Assad made his first public visit to his closest regional ally Iran since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Monday and championing their alliance, state media reported.

Syrian and Iranian state television showed Assad and Khamenei smiling and embracing. Syrian television said the two leaders agreed “to continue cooperation at all levels for the interests of the two friendly nations”.

Khamenei was quoted as saying the two countries’ military victories in Syria had dealt “a harsh blow” to U.S plans in the region.

Assad regained the upper hand in Syria’s war with the help of Russian air power and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, retaking all main cities from rebels and militants backed variously by Western powers and Gulf Arabs.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rai calls for ministerial unity, commitment to Constitution

BEIRUT: Ministers must overcome their differences for the government to work for the interests of the Lebanese people, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said during his Sunday sermon.
“May the government tighten the ties of cooperation between its members and rise above differences and accusations,” he said, according to the state-run National News Agency.
The patriarch’s comments follow Cabinet’s first postconfidence session Thursday, when a debate on restoring ties with the Syrian government caused President Michel Aoun to abruptly end it, saying that he alone would decide the country’s higher interests.
Rai threw his weight behind Aoun’s stance during a meeting between the two Friday. “The president is the protector of the Constitution and the people, and his position in Cabinet yesterday was honorable,” Rai said at the time.
The Maronite leader echoed the sentiment during Sunday’s sermon, expressing hope that “the government ... will act in the spirit of the Constitution.”
At Thursday's Cabinet session, ministers from the Lebanese Forces criticized what they claimed were breaches of Lebanon’s policy of dissociation, represented by a recent visit to Damascus by the refugee affairs minister to discuss refugee returns as well as recent comments by Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab, who asserted that Lebanese ministers are free to visit Syria at will. Bou Saab, who belongs to Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, had also emphasized the need for direct communication between Beirut and Damascus over Syrian refugee returns.
Aoun, whose allies support normalized ties and coordination with Syria to ensure a safe return of refugees to their country, said that the dissociation policy concerned the conflict in Syria and not the 1.5 million refugees living in Lebanon, a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star at the time.

Hariri Meets May, World Leaders at Egypt Arab-European Summit- Naharnet

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Sunday with a number of world leaders after arriving in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh to take part in the first Arab-European Summit.
Hariri is accompanied by the ministers Jebran Bassil, Ali Hassan Khalil and Wael Abu Faour and ex-minister Ghattas Khoury.
A statement issued by his office said Hariri has met on the summit's sidelines with British Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union's president.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tehran: Israeli repeated attacks on Syria aim at backing terrorists- SANA

Tehran, SANA_ Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said that the repeated Israeli strikes on Syrian territory are meant to help the occupation entity’s agents of terrorists after the successive defeats they suffered.
” Iran is in Syria at the request of the Damascus government,” Shamakhani said in an interview with Iranian Tasnim News Agency,  indicating that Iran provides “advisory help” for Syria in the fight against terrorism at the request of its legitimate government .

Friday, February 22, 2019

Turkish Forces To Patrol Demilitarized Zone Around Syria’s Idlib Soon- South Front

Turkish forces will begin conducting patrols in the demilitarized zone around the northern Syrian governorate of Idlib in the upcoming two days, the Enab Baladi news outlet reported on February 22, citing local sources.

SDF Transports ISIS Militants By Trucks- Muraselon

Images have been released show the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in cooperation with the International Coalition to transport militants from the Islamic State group and their families from the last pocket of ISIS territory east of the Euphrates, against a backdrop of a secret agreement between the three parties.
The pictures showed ISIS militants inside the trucks leaving their last positions in al-Bagouz area east of the Euphrates, while the US-led Coalition and SDF fighters are combing the rest of the positions.
According to media, more than 40 trucks left out of ISIS last enclave east of the Euphrates, loaded with more than 1500 ISIS militants and their foreign families towards Omar oil field.

Syrian Army Assassinates Jaysh Al-Izza Field Commander In Northern Hama- South Front

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) assassinated a prominent field commander of Jaysh al-Izza in the opposition-held part of the northern Hama countryside on February 22.
Pro-government sources said that a special forces unit had targeted a vehicle that was carrying the commander, Hisham Abd al-Karim Mustafa, and other fighters of the group with an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) near the town of al-Lataminah.
Jaysh al-Izza acknowledged that Mustafa had been killed in northern Hama along with a fighter named Mohamad Munir Mahmoud. Three other fighters were reportedly in juried in the attack.

Rahi Applauds Aoun’s Syria Position at Cabinet- Naharnet

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi stressed on Friday that President Michel Aoun is the “guardian of the Constitution,” and described his stances during a heated Cabinet meeting on Thursday as “honorable.”
Rahi whose remarks came after meeting Aoun at the Presidential Palace said: “The President is the guardian of the Constitution and the guardian of the people. His stance at the Cabinet yesterday was honorable.”
“The Constitution is clear and Article 49 is also clear and the President has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, the sovereignty of the nation, the unity of the people and the affairs of the state. He does not infringe upon anyone, the country would collapse in the absence of the president," said Rahi.
On the file of Syrian refugees and Aoun’s adamant insistence to resolve the file without linking it to a political solution in Syria, Rahi said: “If we wait for a political solution for the Syrian crisis in order for the refugees to return home, we will get what happened to us in the Palestinian file.”
Aoun on Thursday ended the Cabinet's first session after a heated debate erupted over the thorny issue of relations with Syria.

Shaaban: Syrian people will not allow interference in their affairs- SANA

Moscow, SANA – Presidential Political and Media Adviser Bouthaina Shaaban reaffirmed that the Syrian people will not accept any interference in their affairs and that every inch of the Syrian territory will be restored to the Syrian sovereignty.
In an interview with al-Mayadeen TV on Thursday, Shaaban said the Syrian Arab people who made sacrifices will not allow anyone to interfere in their internal affairs or change its national identity.
She also stressed that the Syrian Arab army will work on restoring every inch of the Syrian territory to the Syrian sovereignty. 
In her comments on the situation in Idleb, Shaaban said terrorism cannot be tolerated in the province forever and should be brought to an end, stressing that the decision to liberate Idleb from terrorism has been taken by the Syrian leadership in coordination with the Russian ally.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Geagea Slams 'Big Deception Campaign' on Syrian Refugees- Naharnet

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Wednesday blasted State Minister for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib's visit to Syria as he lashed out at what he called a “big deception campaign.”
“The two discouraging signals represented in Minister Saleh al-Gharib's visit to Syria and Minister Elias Bou Saab's stance at the Munich conference can only spark concern over the future of the government's work,” Geagea said in an interview with the Central News Agency.
“There is a big deception campaign that is taking place at the expense of the Syrian refugees cause,” the LF leader added, wondering “how the head of a regime that has displaced its people and is pressing on with its punitive and intimidatory policies could secure the refugees' return.”
He added: “All signals clearly indicate that the refugees do not want to return due to Assad's presence at the head of the regime, so how can communication with him become a way to return the refugees? Such an approach cannot convince any reasonable person and is a mere attempt at deviating attention and a trick that can no longer deceive the Lebanese.”

Aoun Ends Cabinet's 1st Session after Heated Debate on Syria- Naharnet

President Michel Aoun on Thursday ended the Cabinet's first session after the ordinary agenda was discussed and after a heated debate erupted over the thorny issue of the relation with Syria.
“The President stressed the need for the return of Syrian refugees to their country without linking the issue to the political solution and we can only approach the issue in a serious manner,” Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said after the session.
State Minister for Administrative Development Affairs May Chidiac of the Lebanese Forces said “the President ended the session when a heated debate erupted without giving the ministers who requested to speak the permission to do so.”
“Everyone supports the return of the refugees, but does the Syrian regime really want them to return?” Chidiac asked.
“We are dismayed over the normalization of tied with Syria and Prime Minister Saad Hariri was also dismayed over everything, including the issue of the Tripoli parliamentary vote appeal,” the minister added.
State Minister for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib meanwhile said that he visited Syria to “serve the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese” and “with the knowledge of all the relevant parties.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Strong Lebanon Says Bou Saab, Gharib Have Not Breached Govt. 'Solidarity'- Naharnet

The Free Patriotic Movement-led Strong Lebanon bloc stressed Tuesday that the latest actions of the ministers Elias Bou Saab and Saleh al-Gharib have not violated the principle of “solidarity” among the government's members.
“All the talk about the violation of governmental solidarity is baseless and Minister Bou Saab's remarks at the Munich conference were based on the international law and Arab and international consensus,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc's weekly meeting.
“He was congratulated on his approach and we reassure that his remarks were not a violation of the ministerial Policy Statement,” Kanaan added.
Defense Minister Bou Saab had announced Friday at an international security conference in Munich that “any Turkish presence on Syrian territory without the Syrian state's approval is unwelcome, illegitimate and is considered an occupation.”
Turning to the Syria visit by Gharib, the new State Minister for Refugee Affairs, Kanaan said: “We are keen on governmental solidarity and everything that is happening is in the country's interest.”
“The issue of Syrian refugees should not be subject to polarization and President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri were put in the picture of Gharib's visit to Syria before and after it happened,” Kanaan added.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Assad adviser rejects idea of granting Syrian Kurds autonomy- Daily Star

MOSCOW: A senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday flatly rejected the idea of giving Syrian Kurds a measure of autonomy, saying such a move would open the door to the partition of the country.
The Kurdish-led authority that runs much of north and east Syria has presented a road map for a deal with Assad in recent meetings with his key ally Russia.
The Kurds want to safeguard their autonomous region inside a decentralized state when U.S. troops currently backing them pull out. They also hope a deal with Damascus would dissuade neighboring Turkey from attacking them.
But when asked Tuesday if Damascus was willing to do a deal that would hand the Kurds some measure of autonomy, Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Assad, flatly rejected the suggestion.
"Autonomy means the partition of Syria. We have no way to partition Syria," she told Reuters on the sidelines of a Middle East conference in Moscow organized by the Valdai Discussion Club.
"Syria is a country that is a melting pot for all people and all people are equal in front of Syrian law and in front of the Syrian constitution," she added, calling the Kurds "a precious and very important part of the Syrian people".

Khalil: Budget Process on Front Burner Without New Taxes- Naharnet

Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil affirmed on Tuesday that he will make intensive contacts with Lebanon’s political forces to finalize the budget process which does not include any new taxes or fees, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.
Khalil said the budget process has been put on the “front burner” and that “it is supposed to be addressed by the government in successive sessions. It will be referred to the Parliament within a period not exceeding the second half of next month.”

Hassan in hot water for civil marriage support- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Interior Minister Raya El Hassan drew fierce backlash in recent days over her support for establishing civil marriage in Lebanon, reigniting a yearslong debate among those for and against having one civil code to govern personal status matters.
In an interview with Euronews last week, Hassan had said, “I personally prefer if there was a framework for civil marriage, and this is something that ... I will try to open room for a serious and deep discussion on.”
“I know that this topic has a political and sectarian dimension to it, and I have to take this into consideration, but ... I will open this discussion with all religious figures.”
In Lebanon, no civil code exists to regulate personal status issues, such as marriage and divorce.
Rather, such matters are governed by 15 religious laws, overseen by associated courts depending on a person’s religious affiliation.
Many supporters of a civil personal status code have charged that the existence of so many disparate legislation in the current system is at its best complicated, and at its worst discriminatory.
For instance, many Lebanese people have traveled to Cyprus and Turkey to marry under civil laws there. According to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report, those choosing to marry abroad do so “either because they do not want to be subject to the laws of their religion or because they are from different religious backgrounds.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Gharib 'Pleased' after Syria Visit over Refugees- Naharnet

State Minister for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib visited Syria on Monday at an official invitation to discuss the refugee file.
Speaking after a meeting with Syria’s Local Administration and Environment Minister Hussein Makhlouf, Gharib said he was “pleased” by Damascus' viewpoint on the refugee file.
“They believe that the failure to return the displaced Syrians would be a blow to the victory of the Syrian state,” the minister said.
“The local administration and environment minister showed further cooperation to resolve this file,” Gharib added, noting that he is willing to “work with all the relevant parties to secure the return and guarantee the interest of the Lebanese state.”
The Syrian minister for his part said he is implementing “the instructions of President Bashar al-Assad” in this regard.
“As a government, we are working on securing the return means, seeing as we have taken all the necessary measures to facilitate the entry of Syrians into their country through easing the border measures in coordination between the relevant authorities from the two sides,” Makhlouf added.

İdlib'de bomba yüklü iki araçla intihar saldırısı: Çok sayıda ölü ve yaralı var- Sputnik News

Suriye'nin İdlib kentinde bomba yüklü iki araçla intihar saldırısı düzenlendi. Saldırı sonucu 11 kişi ölürken, 30 kişi ise yaralandı.
Bugün saat 15:30 sularında İdlib kent merkezinin işlek caddelerinden Kusur'da art arda iki bomba yüklü araç infilak ettirildi. Saldırı sonucu 11 kişi ölürken, 30 kişi ise yaralandı.
Yaralılar İdlib'deki hastanelere kaldırılırken, kente giriş ve çıkışlar kontrol altına alındı. Saldırının IŞİD'in uyuyan hücreleri tarafından yapıldığı belirtilirken, olayla ilgili soruşturma başlatıldı.

PSP Defends Civil Marriage as Jumblat Says 'Stop Using Religion to Divide'- Naharnet

The Progressive Socialist Party on Monday threw its support behind calls for legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon.
“The Progressive Youth Organization regrets that so far there is no national consensus on devising a clear mechanism and measures for holding and registering civil marriages in Lebanon,” the PYO -- the PSP's youth organization -- said in a statement.
The organization accordingly called on the relevant authorities to draft a “clear law,” noting that “the country has acknowledged its soundness and rightfulness.”
“Marriage is a basic right and the method in which couples choose to wed is a right guaranteed by the Lebanese constitution,” the organization stressed.
PSP leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat had earlier tweeted about the issue.
“Can we voice our opinion without being accused of apostasy? Yes, I'm a supporter of volitional civil marriage and I call for a civil personal status law. Enough with using religion to divide citizens,” Jumblat said.
MP Faisal al-Sayegh of the PSP meanwhile lauded Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan's call for launching a “serious debate” on the topic.
“We call for showing openness towards this proposal and discussing its aspects and conditions objectively, without overbidding and bigotry, seeing as we see in it a gateway for further positive interaction among the various components of the Lebanese society,” al-Sayegh tweeted.
In the first comment by a religious authority over the renewed controversy, Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon's highest Sunni Muslim authority, said its stance that “categorically rejects and opposes civil marriage in Lebanon has been well-known for years.”

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bassil Sources Say Coordination with Syria 'Inevitable'- Naharnet

Lebanon’s coordination with Damascus is inevitable, sources close to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil have said.
“It is inevitable in order to make the biggest number of gains for Lebanon’s interest, to end the refugee crisis and to take part in the process of rebuilding Syria,” the sources told al-Qabas newspaper in remarks published Sunday.
“Coordination with Syria is not a violation of the dissociation principle or alignment in a regional axis,” the sources stressed.

Brother of Slain PSP Supporter Injured in Fresh Choueifat Incident- Naharnet

Nizar Abu Faraj, a brother of slain Progressive Socialist Party supporter Alaa Abi Faraj, has been shot and wounded in Choueifat, the National News Agency said.
NNA said he came under gunfire as he was visiting his brother’s tomb to light candles.
“He was wounded in the shoulder and several gunshots penetrated his car as he filed a lawsuit against the attackers,” the agency added.
The Lebanese Democratic Party meanwhile issued a statement saying an “overnight clash” erupted after Abi Faraj harassed the tenants of the house of Amin al-Souqi, the fugitive accused of being behind the death of Alaa Abi Faraj.
The statement said Nizar Abi Faraj had harassed the tenants more than seven times over the past two months.
“He would carry out provocative act involving death and revenge threats,” the statement said.
The statement added that Abi Faraj would always approach the house while “drunk” and “after midnight.”

Syria’s constitution not a bargaining chip - Assad- TASS

"We will not allow the hostile states to achieve any of their objectives through their agents who hold the Syrian nationality," Syria’s SANA news agency said citing the president

TASS, February 17. Syria remains committed to dialogue to find a solution to the crisis, but will not allow its constitution to become a bargaining chip, Syrian President Bashar Assad said at a meeting with heads of local councils on Sunday.

"We will not allow the hostile states to achieve any of their objectives through their agents who hold the Syrian nationality," Syria’s SANA news agency said citing the president.

He has warned that "Turkish accomplices" got into the constitutional committee that is formed in accordance with the Syrian National Dialogue Congress’ decision (held on January 30-31, 2018).

"The Constitution, like the sovereignty of states, is a matter dealing with the destiny of the homeland and it should not be disregarded as otherwise we will have to pay far more than for war," Assad said.

U.S. cannot back Syrian forces who align with Assad: U.S. commander- Reuters

 The United States will have to sever its military assistance to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling Islamic State if the fighters partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or Russia, a senior U.S. general said on Sunday.

Esad: Muhalefet Suriye halkını değil Türkiye'yi temsil ediyor- Sputnik News

Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad, anayasa komisyonuna muhalefeti temsilen katılan heyetin Suriye halkının değil, Türkiye'nin görüşünü temsil ettiğini belirtti.

Ülke çapından yerel temsilcilerle bir araya geldiği toplantıda, komisyondaki hükümet heyetinin Suriye devletini ve halkın büyük kısmını temsil ettiğini söyleyen Esad, "Ama diğer taraf var ve bu tarafın mantık olarak Suriye halkının devletin görüşünü kabul etmeyen diğer kısmını temsil etmesi gerekiyor. Ama bildiğiniz gibi bu taraf ne Suriye halkını, ne de kendilerini temsil etmiyor Türk devletini temsil ediyorlar. Soru: bu komisyonda Suriye anayasasını mı, Türk anayasasını mı tartışıyoruz?" ifadelerini kullandı.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Molotov Cocktail Hurled at Kataeb Office Overnight- Naharnet

Unknown assailants hurled a petrol bomb overnight at the Kataeb party’s office in the vicinity of Mirna Chalouhi center in the neighborhood of Sin el-Fil, the National News Agency reported on Friday.
NNA said the explosion inflicted material damages and that no injuries were reported.
Investigations were opened into the incident.

Gemayel: Why Doesn’t Hizbullah Hand its Arms to Aoun if It Trusts Him?- Naharnet

Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel lashed out at Hizbullah’s "illegal" arms on Friday, and invited the party to hand its weapons to President Michel Aoun after Hizbullah’s remarks that it “got him to be President.”
“Hizbullah has always said it would hand its arms once they trust the State. You have a President whom you trust, a government that you architected, so why don’t you hand your arms to President Aoun if you trust him?” asked Gemayel in remarks at the Kataeb 31st Congress.
He was referring to Hizbullah MP Nawaf Moussawi’s Wednesday remarks in Parliament when he said that “Hizbullah was able to get Aoun to power by Hizbullah’s rifle.”
“Lebanon’s sovereignty is incomplete. Illegal arms is driving the country into conflicts, undermining stability, weakening the economy, stirring up enmity with other countries,” he added.

Sayyed Clashes with Hariri, Fatfat as Parliament Resumes Policy Statement Debate- Naharnet

MP Jamil al-Sayyed on Friday engaged in a verbal clash with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, MP Sami Fatfat and a number of Mustaqbal MPs and ministers, as the parliament resumed its debate of the new government's Policy Statement.
The heated exchange erupted when Fatfat hit back at remarks voiced by Sayyed on Tuesday.
“An apology should be addressed to every young man arrested between the years 1992 and 2005,” Fatfat said, accusing Sayyed without naming him of “fabricating cases.”
Sayyed hit back, blasting Fatfat as a “youngster” and a “chick.”
Hariri intervened at this point, telling Sayyed: “It would be better if you don't talk. Respect yourself!”
“This is someone who doesn't respect martyrs and you are letting him talk,” the PM added.
Sayyed snapped back saying, "You respect yourself!"

Government wins confidence by overwhelming margin- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri's third government won the confidence of Parliament by an overwhelming margin late Friday evening.
MPs voted 111-6 in favor of granting the new Cabinet full authorities after three days of speeches punctuated by sharp exchanges and jokes.
With the confidence of Parliament, the new government can begin its ambitious program, which includes several measures to ameliorate the economy, right the state's fiscal ship and fix abysmal public services. Key to the plan is enacting reforms to unlock $11 billion in international aid promised at the CEDRE conference in Paris last April.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Soçi’de üçlü zirve: Teröre karşı ortak mücadele vurgusu- Sputnik News

Rusya lideri Vladimir Putin, Türkiye Cumhurbaşkanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ve İranlı mevkidaşları Hasan Ruhani, Suriye'deki çatışmaları sona erdirecek çözüm arayışları kapsamında Soçi'de masaya oturdu. Soçi'deki zirve, Astana üçlüsünün liderlerinin bu seneki ilk görüşmesi.
Bugünkü zirve, Rusya ve Türkiye arasında geçen yıl yine Soçi'de bir mutabakata varılmasına karşın, İdlib'e silahsızlandırılmış ve terörist gruplardan arındırılmış bir tampon bölgenin hala oluşturulamamış olduğu bir döneme denk geliyor.
Soçi Mutabakatı ile üzerine aldığı taahhütleri Türkiye, sürenin dolmasına rağmen yerine getirememiş olsa da Rusya hep sabırlı davrandı ve anlaşmanın sahada uygulanmasının kolay bir iş olmadığı vurgusunu yaptı. Fakat Rus Dışişleri'nden, teröristlerin İdlib'deki varlığına sonsuza kadar tahammül edilmeyeceğine ilişkin gelen açıklamalar sıklaşmaya başladı.
Nitekim Rusya Dışişleri Bakanı Sergey Lavrov, hiçbir mutabakat kapsamında terörist grupların İdlib'deki varlığının korunmasına izin verilemeyeceğini vurgularken Kremlin Sözcüsü Dmitriy Peskov da üçlü zirveden görüşmeden hemen önce yaptığı açıklamada, terörist grupların İdlib'deki devam eden varlığının ve Soçi mutabakatına tamamen uyulmasının bugünkü üçlü zirvede tartışılacak başlıca konulardan biri olduğunu kaydetti.

Saudi Envoy Continues His Visit, Meets Jumblat- Naharnet

Saudi royal envoy Nizar al-Aloula continued his official visit to Lebanon on Thursday by meeting Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat in Clemenceau.
He was accompanied by Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari and the meeting was held in the presence of the ministers Wael Abu Faour and Akram Shehayyeb and the MPs Marwan Hamadeh and Taymour Jumblat.
Any of the conferees did not make a statement as Jumblat threw a lunch banquet in honor of his guest.
Al-Aloula had held talks with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday. He also hosted a dinner for a number of political guests including Jumblat and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in the evening.

Hariri says will not allow 'attempts to hinder work of govt'- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday said he will not allow "attempts to hinder the work of the new government," in remarks made at an event commemorating the death of his father, late premier Rafik Hariri.
Hariri stressed his commitment to work with other parties in the new government for Lebanon’s benefit, in a televised speech during the event, held at Seaside Arena, marking the 14th anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
“President Michel Aoun and Speaker [Nabih] Berri and I have decided to [work together in] Cabinet and Parliament. This is a chance that cannot be wasted,” the premier said.
Hariri addressed the CEDRE conference, held in Paris in April, where the international community pledged over $11 billion in soft loans and investments for Lebanon.
The premier said the international and Arab communities had decided to stand by Lebanon’s side, and so the country must enact reforms and transparent laws to implement CEDRE projects.
“Some are saying the country will fall into more debt. This is all just a hindrance, and personally, I will not remain silent in the face of any attempt to hinder the work of the government,” Hariri added.
During his speech, the prime minister emphasized the Taif Accord, which ended the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), Syrian refugee returns and the policy of disassociation from regional conflicts.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and al-Qaeda: Affiliates or Foes? (Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi- Fanack)

Much debate about the Syrian insurgent group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the West revolves around the nature of its relations with al-Qaeda (AQ). Conventionally, HTS is classed as an AQ affiliate, based on the fact that HTS’ core constituents evolved out of Jabhat al-Nusra, which was AQ’s official affiliate in Syria. Critics, however, point to extensive disagreements between HTS and AQ that have emerged on social media. The question then arises as to the nature of these disagreements and why, despite them, the classification of HTS as an AQ affiliate remains.
The driving force behind the formation of HTS was the long-standing ideal of ‘unity’ among the Syrian insurgency: something perceived as all the more necessary in light of the serious losses the insurgency has suffered, as the Syrian government has asserted control over all the country’s main cities. In the language of HTS’ leaders, striving for unity through a single entity by breaking ties with AQ was in the ‘interests of the jihad’.
In practice, this supposed ‘unity’ has not meant the merging of all the factions in the field, but rather one group (i.e. HTS) asserting dominance with a single military force embodied in its own fighters alongside a single governing system (in this case, the HTS-backed ‘Salvation Government’). Even so, HTS leaders argue that since Ayman al-Zawahiri himself once said that unity of the ‘mujahideen’ should come above organizational ties, there was nothing illegitimate about the formation of HTS and its break from AQ.
Conversely, AQ supporters assert that HTS’ leaders disobeyed Zawahiri and undertook steps without appropriate consultation. For example, prior to the formation of HTS in January 2017, Jabhat al-Nusra had rebranded itself as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in July 2016, which was presented to the media as some kind of breaks with AQ. To Zawahiri, however, it was presented as a shift from a public to secret allegiance to AQ. Zawahiri rejected this move. Sami al-Oraidi, a Jordanian and former high-ranking official in Jabhat al-Nusra, claims that after Zawahiri indicated his rejection of the rebranding, Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani (then leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and now leader of HTS) pledged not to take any steps to break ties without consulting Zawahiri and obtaining his consent.
Alongside the dispute over whether the formation of HTS was legitimate is a disagreement over strategy on the ground. For example, in Zawahiri’s view, the jihad in Syria should not focus at pre-sent on controlling and administering territory but rather guerrilla warfare in order to bleed the enemy over the long term. In this regard, AQ supporters reject the Salvation Government linked to HTS.