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Path to extremist Chaos? The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum: how to avoid failure and new escalation?

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The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) was launched in Tunisia on 9 November. It is organized by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) headed by American diplomat Stephanie Williams. The task of the Forum, as well as of all international events on Libya in recent years, is to end the civil war, restore the unity of the country and the structure of state power. In addition, the LPDF should choose a new government and a new prime minister, who are likely to replace the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli (pictured is GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj). This interim government will act until new elections are held in six months and the permanent government of Libya is approved.The overall objective of the LPDF will be to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to holding national elections in the shortest possible timeframe,“ the UN mission said in a statement.

The Italian journalist and specialist on Libya, Alessandro Sansoni, expressed on the news website “Il Talebano” which is close to “Lega” affiliated think tank his concerns about the outcome of the forum.

In Sansoni´s opinion this initiative is essentially doomed to fail. The problem is in the basic approach of the organizers. UNSMIL is trying to impose ready-made solutions on Libyans, instead of allowing them to decide their own destiny.

There are 75 participants, all of whom have been approved by UNSMIL, that means mainly Stephanie Williams. The former U.S. Charge d´Affaires in Libya was thus able to cut off candidates she did not like. Who are the 75 people, also the Italian Libya-expert asks? 13 appointed by the House of Representatives, which supports the Khalifa Haftar, and another 13 by the The High Council of State (GNA). But 49 people were chosen by Stephanie Williams herself. These are representatives of so-called “civil society”, including bloggers and journalists. They do not have real political influence in Libya. On the other hand, they give UNSMIL (or rather Williams and the United States) a control package of votes, allowing any convenient Washington decisions to be made through them.

Also, UNSMIL can remove anyone from the electoral process, even if they get the support they need, by declaring that they are not psychologically balanced or do not fit the right competencies. Finally, if the process of selecting ministers, the prime minister and Presidential council members is stalled, UNSMIL will determine for itself who takes up the contested position.

On November 10, 112 deputies of the House of Representatives of Libya made a joint statement in which they stated that they did not approve of the mechanism of selection of the dialogue participants. Of particular concern is the participation of people who do not represent the Libyan people or existing political forces and who have been appointed „in circumvention“ of the selected delegations of House of Representatives and High Council of State.

In addition, members of the Libyan Parliament stressed that UNSMIL should perform the functions that were defined at its establishment, not by changing the Constitutional Declaration or encroaching on the powers of the House of Representatives.

On 9 November, Tunisian lawyer Wafa Al-Hazami El-Shazly said that „foreign intelligence controls and conducts this dialogue, not from behind a curtain, but with rudeness.

Against this background, there is no agreement among the participants in the The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on who will take key positions in the new government of Libya.

Libya 24 reports that the list of candidates for the post of Chairman of the Presidential Council includes dozens of names, among them the chairman of the House of Representatives (Tobruk), Aguila Saleh and Interior Minister of the GNA Fathi Bashagha.

Also, Libyan and foreign media names the current head of the GNA Fayez Sarraj and deputy chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya Ahmed Maiteeq among persons who may remain in the key positions.

However, Libyan politicians claim that the disagreements at the Libyan political forum do not yet allow even a final list of candidates for the positions of members of the government and the Presidential Council of Libya.

The LPDF may not lead to any compromise, but the procedure developed by Stephanie Williams makes it possible to declare it and appoint de-facto unilaterally a new government, which will be considered „recognized by the UN“. In this regard, the names of the head of the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister are likely to be announced within the next ten days.

This prospect itself raises doubts that the leading domestic political players will agree with the directive imposition of the new leadership of Libya by the UN. Anyone who is de facto appointed by the UN and foreigners will be illegitimate in the eyes of most Libyans.

In addition, there is a danger of radicals coming to key positions.  The Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya has already expressed concern that the 45 participants of the Forum for Political Dialogue are connected with the radial organization „Muslim Brotherhood“.

A candidate from the „Muslim Brotherhood“, such as Khaled al-Mishri, head of the High Council of State, as the new head of government or member of the Presidential Council, will not be accepted in eastern Libya.

Fathi Bashagha, the current interior minister is even more questionable. He is accused of torture and war crimes, having links to the “Muslim Brotherhood” and radical Salafists. The RADA group, which imposes a Salafist interpretation of Sharia in Tripoli, maintains an illegal Mitiga prison and is involved in human trafficking - his direct subordinates.

At the same time, Bashaga, as his opponents in Tripoli say, behaves not like a minister of the interior, but like a prime minister. This is also confirmed by his constant visits abroad.

Recently the so-called “Tripoli Protection Force” – a group of Tripoli militias affiliated to the Presidential Council of Libya and Fayez Sarraj j stated that „Fathi Bashaga, Minister of the Interior, and works as if he were the head of government or minister of foreign affairs. He moves from country to country, using his official position to get a „new post“.

Bashaga does not hide his power ambitions. He has a friendly relationship with Stephanie Williams, and he has called for an American base in Libya, clearly counting on U.S. support.

Even if Khalifa Haftar implements the ceasefire agreements and does not launch another offensive in Tripoli in the case of Bashagha coming to power in a transitional government, there is a strong possibility of conflict in western Libya.

Relations in Tripoli are now very tense and Bashagha's appointment will lead to an escalation of internal conflicts. Clashes between the Tripoli Interior Ministry and groups outside their control (The Tripoli Protection Force) or even between Interior Ministry units are highly likely. As a result, there will be a new military escalation. There are already demonstrations in Tripoli of militias dissatisfied with the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum

For the Italian specialist is clear: The only way to preserve the real, not declarative, political dialogue in Libya and prepare the ground for the elections and appointment of a permanent Libyan government is to abandon the dictate of one side (in this case, the U.S.), the imposition of a pro-American candidate (who likely to be Fathi Bashagha, disliked by Eastern Libya and Tripoli militias).

Both Libyans and foreign actors are interested in stopping American usurpation of power, first of all Italy, for which the main thing is to achieve stability in Libya.

For Libya, it is optimal that the positions of the head of government remain behind a compromise figure until the elections. It may be Fayez Sarraj or Ahmed Maiteeq - also a respected, neutral member of the GNA. Then the country can overcome a difficult transition period and finally elect a permanent government that represents all Libyans.

 

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Unlikely things that have happened in 2020

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2020 has been a challenging year. Several things have happened, and it seems like a never-ending dream. The year began on a good note, but a few weeks into it, everything changed. A pandemic like one not witnessed in decades hit the world. The odds of winning a lottery are higher than the ending of strange occurrences this year.

This year has been full of unprecedented times. The new normal, as everyone likes to call it, is full of unlikely things. The world has shifted to home, and it's a year full of challenges and unparalleled courage.

Here are some unlikely things that have changed the course of the world forever this year.

The odds of winning a lottery is higher than pandemic ending

A novel coronavirus pandemic took the world in its clutch. It spread out across continents like wildfire, and several nations have collapsed because of the chaos created by this virus.

We lost a significant part of their population in this pandemic, and several countries went into a complete lockdown where people work from home. There was a severe restriction on movement, and only essential activities were allowed. The entire globe right now is fighting with this deadly virus and mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Coronavirus infection started in Wuhan in China and reached all places across the world via humans. It has caused a challenge for medical workers, as several cases are being reported each day.

This virus causes-

  • Fever
  • Breathing problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Loss of smell
  • Dry cough and several other symptoms.

People with comorbid conditions have lost their life fighting with this virus. Truly said, the odds of winning a lottery are higher this year than the chances of this pandemic ending.

Australian wildfires

At the beginning of this year, there was an outbreak of wildfires in the Australian subcontinent. This was one of the worst fire seasons Australia has ever seen. The flames destroyed 47 million acres of land. Houses of people were displaced, and several reports have shown that at least 35 people lost their lives in these deadly wildfires.

Death of legends

The world mourned the death of several legends that have had a remarkable impact in several fields.

  • We lost Kobe Bryant in a  helicopter crash in California. He was regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
  • This year we also goodbye to Alex Trebek. She was regarded as the best game show host of all time. Alex passed away from pancreatic cancer.
  • The wonderful James bond actor Sean Connery was also another legend we lost this year.
  • The black panther, Hero Chad Boseman, lost his battle with colon cancer. It was a massive loss for the Marvel universe and for the community who he always inspired.
  • We lost several Bollywood celebrities that include Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, and Sushant Singh Rajput. It has been a tough year for Bollywood.

Oil prices reached a negative

For the first time in several years, oil prices reached a negative. This has been the highest fall of predicted crude oil prices. The coronavirus pandemic changed several world economies, and the low demand seriously impacted the oil sector, which was always in high demand.

The stock market crash of 2020

The stock market crashed like never before. The pandemic caused a global recession in all economies around the globe. The single point drop was the worst the world has ever seen, and several major businesses and economies close down because of the never-ending pandemic.

Massive black lives matter protest

The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States triggered a series of protests. The protests aimed to fight racial injustice and to promote the end of police brutality.

Central Beirut explosion

Hundreds of people died in an explosion in Lebanon. Beirut saw a heartbreaking blast that left the entire city in rubble. The blast was heard miles away from the side, and it destroyed the whole town in its wake.

Cancellation of 2020 Olympics

The 2020 Olympic games were cancelled for the coronavirus pandemic. Tokyo was all set to host this year's Olympic Games, but the rising number of cases caused the Olympic games' shift to the summer of 2021.

Locust attacks

An invasion of crop-destroying locusts was seen in the South Asian subcontinent, predominantly in India and Pakistan. Enormous, aggressive swarms of insects invaded extensive farmlands and destroyed crops.

Conclusion

The world has seen several bizarre events in 2020. It is a year that has tested our resilience and given us a long time of suffering. We hope that the world sees collective peace and recovers from 2020.

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All you need to know before travelling to Azerbaijan

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Are you thinking of an attractive tourist destination? Azerbaijan is absolutely far from the first destination that will come to your mind. Surprisingly it is an excellent tourist destination rich in cultural and geographical gems. This country is located between the great former empires and the old silk road, and it has advanced rapidly in recent years due to its oil supply, writes Abhirup Banerjee.

Popularly known as the "land of fire," this country, the former Soviet republic, is a study in contrasts. Its capital, Baku, is reinvigorate modern, and it is filled with modern architecture, dreamy Caspian Sea landscapes, and ski resorts.

Language

Since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union, its official language is Azerbaijani, mostly known as Azeri-Turkic. It is part of the southwestern Turkic languages. Besides, the Latin alphabet is also used in Azerbaijan. While some people use Russia in Baku, English is mostly spoken by younger people, especially in places frequently visited by western tourists.

When to travel

The ideal time to travel to Azerbaijan depends on the region you want to explore because the climatic conditions vary with the country's various locations. You should visit the lowland areas near the Caspian Sea with clear skies and greenery abounding every day.

The wintertime is pretty mild, while the summer is scorching and wet. The hottest period is between July and August. It is an ideal time for you to head to the Mountains, which are often relatively accessible. The best month to travel to Baku is October. You should visit Azerbaijan in January and February if you are a ski fanatic.

Visa requirements

Tourist from the eligible countries should complete their Azerbaijan online visa application before departing for Azerbaijan. Only a few states can get a Visa on arrival, and even travelers from these countries are encouraged to submit their online applications to avoid waiting in line at the airport.

Unlike the traditional visa application method, evisa applicants are not required to go to a diplomatic mission to present their documents and again collect the approved visa. Instead, the process is online, and you can complete them from any place 24 hours a day.

Accommodations

It is easy to get a big chain hotel in big cities, and the standards are relatively high. It may also be challenging to get cheaper accommodation, and the youth hotels as these are relatively rare.

The currency

The official currency here is Manat. You can use credit cards at large hotels, restaurants, and banks in Baku, which cater to travelers though cash payment is always the preferred method. Ensure that you only use notes that are in good condition as others may be rejected. There are no problems with ATMs, and various international cards are accepted here, although it is still recommended that you carry US dollar notes or Euros with you to exchange as you need to.

Food and drinks

Snacks are very significant in the local culture, and they are influenced by many places like Georgia, Turkey, Iran, and many more. Many dishes are grown at home due to the varied climates, such as spices and vegetables. The seafood snacks are prevalent near the Caspian Sea, and the yogurt makes a frequent appearance in soups. Most dishes are paired with a piece of baklava or black tea.

Safety

Azerbaijan is considered a safe country to travel with deficient levels of crime. You should still exercise your average degree of common sense and caution, especially during late night. Refer to your country's travel and safety advice recommendations.

Transportation

Bus: There is a well-designed road network in the country with many mini-buses and buses traveling between Baku and other areas. They're relatively affordable. You must pay the driver in cash, and no schedule is followed.

Metro: There is a metro system that works smoothly and cost-effective method of transportation. You can catch a train every few minutes or the day except 1-6h.

Train: The rail network in this country is quite extensive. The trains are relatively slow, and it is recommended that you stick to road travel.

Taxis: taxis in this country are purple, and they must have a meter installed. Ensure that you agree on the price before to avoid scammers. The taxis are available in and out of the capital, but we are relatively more expensive outside the city.

You will enjoy your trip to Azerbaijan.  This country may not be the most conventional destination, but it has human, geographical, and cultural surprises around every corner.

Author Bbio

Abhirup Banerjee is an experienced content writer. He is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where he shares his valuable travel tips with the audience.

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How Brexit will affect online gambling and casinos

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that the United Kingdom’s population voted in a referendum in 2016 to leave the European Union. Many gamblers and punters have been worried about the potential consequences of this for their gambling, especially considering the importance of Gibraltar for regulation and licensing. In this article, we will take a look at how Brexit will affect online gambling and casinos.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar is the location for many gambling companies’ head offices. The decision to make Gibraltar the head office location is straightforward for any company that can afford to have it there.

Firstly, there is a considerable amount of people who work in the gambling industry. This means that there is a solid number of workers who are specifically qualified to work at gambling companies.

The other reason and the most attractive is the taxation rate. Gambling companies are taxed a lot less in Gibraltar and it is their technique to avoid paying too much.

Gibraltar is still a part of the United Kingdom and the population of Gibraltar continues to vote heavily in favour of staying a part of the United Kingdom, so it is unlikely that this will change any time soon. However, Brexit could lead to several issues.

The Spanish government could choose to end the free movement between Spain and the little rock. The importance of this can not be understated: more than half of gambling company employees in Gibraltar commute from Spain every day. This could easily lead to bookmakers being forced to change location for their headquarters. Many of the best online casino options in Ireland are operated by companies based in Gibraltar; Betvictor, Bet365, Boylesports etc and these companies could seek to move location elsewhere.

Whether the taxation rate stays the same is very difficult to predict. Depending on Spain’s position, there could be reason to increase the taxation rate or even possibly decrease it.

If gambling companies are forced to relocate, then the two effects that gamblers are likely to experience are a small number of gambling companies declaring bankruptcy and potentially less profitable offers as companies will be less likely to offer them. Equally, gambling companies could potentially move to another tax haven.

Regulation and licensing

Luckily for British gamblers, the UK has always been separated from the rest of the EU for everything related to regulation and licensing, whether it be sports betting, online casinos or anything else. For example, in the UK, you can sign up to an online casino with just proof of address and a photo of legal identification, but in several EU countries like France, you need a letter to be sent to your home to start your account.

In this respect, very little is likely to change when it comes to the regulation and licensing that gambling companies must respect. If anything, it is probable that the British and the European companies will continue to differ more and more, and then almost any interaction between UK gambling companies and EU gambling companies will become impossible.

This is unlikely to impact any gamblers in a way that they will notice. If the European Union becomes stricter about gambling and the US keeps the position on gambling they currently have, the UK could become one of the best places for all forms of gambling in the world.

Potential other exits

One possible consequence of Brexit could be that it becomes an example to other countries. If a country with the influence and the economy of the UK can leave the EU and do well, then other countries are likely to follow suit.

If this does happen, then each country is likely to have their own legislation and licensing for gambling. This should not have a massive effect on British punters; however, it makes any coordination between gambling companies of different countries to be a lot trickier. It also means that only national gambling companies will be available, but the UK does already have a decent amount of companies operating already.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to say with any kind of certainty what will happen to the gambling industry after Brexit. Gibraltar will be probably the most affected, and it could potentially lose many companies who would leave as Gibraltar would no longer be such an effective region to run a gambling company from.

For the average gambler, not much will change in the short term as licensing has always been particular to the UK, which is an advantage. In the long term, there could be reduced competitivity as well as a decrease in promotions, but this is still to be seen.

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