Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said that during a Wednesday telephone call President Trump welcomed Cairo's ceasefire proposal for Libya. Unveiled last Saturday, the proposal called for a ceasefire starting Monday to be followed by the replacement of the rival regimes in Tripoli and Tobruk with a transitional unity government representing Libya's three regions until elections are held. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Wednesday pithily rejected Sisi's initiative, telling Hurriyet newspaper, "The ceasefire call to save Haftar does not seem sincere or believable to us." Despite Government of National Accord (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha on Monday and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday asserting that they will only entertain a ceasefire after the GNA captures Sirte, Russia informed the GNA that Sirte is a "red line" and GNA forces must withdraw to Bouirat al-Hassoun. Russian MiG-29s that arrived in Libya last month joined the battle for Sirte, enabling Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) to launch successful counteroffensives that over the last couple days retook the Jarif Valley, al-Qubayah village, and a number of points around Sirte's western axis. Egypt is allegedly sending tanks to reequip the LNA while Turkey dispatched four submarines ostensibly to obstruct efforts to resupply the LNA by sea. Ankara expects a large economic and strategic dividend from its involvement in Libya's civil war. In addition to preferential access to Libya's offshore oil, Ankara reportedly signed an agreement with the GNA to build a Turkish airbase in al-Watiya.
The Lebanese pound hit a record low against the dollar on the black market Wednesday, dealers selling dollars for an average of 4,500 pounds. On June 3 Lebanon's Syndicate of Money Changers negotiated an end to a month-long strike prompted by the arrest of dealers ignoring the central bank's mandatory exchange rate. One stipulation of the deal was achieving a 3,200 pound/dollar exchange rate. In a desperate bid to sustain the official exchange rate, the central bank will launch on June 23 a new electronic foreign exchange trading platform. Currency dealers will have to enter the details of transactions and adhere to a buying and selling range set each morning by the central bank and subject to change throughout the day. With the Lebanese pound losing 60 percent of its value since October and the country facing a balance of payments crisis, Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government is negotiating with the IMF to secure a $10 billion loan. On Monday, the Association of Banks in Lebanon issued a press release protesting the financial sector's exclusion from talks with the IMF in which they accuse the government of providing false numbers. Lebanese banks oppose many aspects of the Diab government's reform program for the financial sector, which is suffering in part from the government defaulting on sovereign debt held by banks. The government proposes siphoning off money from large deposits and Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni wants to reduce the number of banks in Lebanon by half, causing some to fear that a policy of forced mergers and acquisitions would make the banking sector subservient to the country's political parties.
After three days of anti-regime protests in the Druze city of Sweida over deteriorating living conditions, the government organized a pro-Assad rally there Wednesday. Persecuted by ISIS, the Druze, like other religious minorities, have remained largely loyal to the regime.
A day after President Erdogan accused the Syrian regime of increasing provocations in Idlib province and warned Turkey would not allow it to become a conflict zone again, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar struck a more conciliatory tone. Akar told broadcaster A Haber, "There are some radical groups, some unknown groups with their own agenda there that have attempted to disrupt the ceasefire and are violating it, but we are discussing it with our Russian counterparts and the March 5 agreement still stands."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Israel Wednesday to reiterate Berlin's view that "annexation would not be compatible with international law," but did not endorse sanctions when a journalist raised the possibility. However, the prospect of Israel extending sovereignty over any part of the West Bank looks increasingly remote, Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi saying Wednesday that Jerusalem should implement the Trump peace plan "in full coordination with the United States, while maintaining Israel's peace agreements and strategic interests." With numerous countries weighing imposing sanctions on Israel and recognizing a Palestinian state should Netanyahu's government pursue unilateral annexation, Blue and White will almost certainly block such a course on the grounds that it threatens Israel's strategic interests. Naftali Bennett, chairman of the pro-settler Yamina party, has concluded as much, stating Wednesday, "When I see Netanyahu talking about this so often, I'm convinced more and more that he's not going to do it."
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced that the PA will not pay its employees' salaries this month due to Israel withholding tax revenue collected on Ramallah's behalf until the PA agrees to resume security cooperation suspended after prime Minister Netanyahu forged a coalition agreement that could result in Israel annexing parts of the West Bank. The PA's decision affects 200,000 workers.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation
An OIC meeting of its member states' foreign ministers adopted a resolution Wednesday that "warns against the dangerous intention of Israel, the occupying power, to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory" because it would represent "a serious escalation of its colonial policies and measures, a flagrant aggression on the historical, legal and political rights of the Palestinian people, and a blatant violation of the principles and standards of international law, the UN Charter and relevant UN resolutions." The resolution also threatened to take "all the possible political, legal and diplomatic actions and measures, including through initiating actions with the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the UNHRC, international courts, and other international organizations and bodies." Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said at the meeting that Netanyahu's plan to annex the settlements on July 1 would constitute "a dangerous escalation that threatens the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region."
The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner replaced its Yemen chief, Elobaid Ahmed Elobaid, with his deputy, Abeer al-Khraisha. The Houthis banned Elobaid from their territory last year after he published a report detailing the human rights violations committed by all parties during Yemen's civil war. President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government described the UN's move as "succumbing to the militias' blackmailing."
The International Criminal Court announced Tuesday that Ali Kushayb, who was wanted since April 2007 for atrocities committed in Darfur by the pro-government Popular Defense Forces under his command, voluntarily surrendered himself in the Central African Republic.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum