Libya PM calls for ‘com­mon vi­sion’ ahead of cri­sis talks

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

TRIPOLI: The head of Libya’s U.N.-backed gov­ern­ment, Fayez alSar­raj, urged the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on to find a “com­mon vi­sion” for the chaos-hit North African coun­try, ahead of cri­sis talks in Si­cily next week.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with AFP at his unity gov­ern­ment’s head­quar­ters in Tripoli Thurs­day, Sar­raj hit out at “neg­a­tive in­ter­ven­tions by some coun­tries” in Libya, with­out nam­ing them.

Libya has been be­set by vi­o­lence since the dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed up­ris­ing in 2011, with ri­val groups vy­ing for ter­ri­tory and oil wealth.

Many Libyans put the coun­try’s cri­sis down to rivalries be­tween for­eign gov­ern­ments – West­ern as well as Arab – who they say pur­sue their own nar­row agen­das by sup­port­ing one group against an­other.

Sar­raj “saluted” France for or­ga­niz­ing a con­fer­ence in Paris in May that brought to­gether the four main pro­tag­o­nists in Libyan pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing him­self.

He said he re­gret­ted that de­ci­sions taken at the con­fer­ence, in­clud­ing a com­mit­ment to hold elec­tions on Dec. 10, had not been re­spected.

Sar­raj’s Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord was set up un­der a 2015 U.N.-bro­kered deal, but a ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tion that is based in the coun­try’s east re­fuses to rec­og­nize its au­thor­ity.

He crit­i­cized the ri­val Par­lia­ment based in the east, say­ing that it had failed to re­spect its com­mit­ment to carry out the prepa­ra­tions needed for elec­tions.

When asked about the tim­ing of elec­tions, Sar­raj said “any men­tion of a date … with­out putting in place a con­sti­tu­tional frame­work is a form of wish­ful think­ing.”

The timetable di­vides the ma­jor pow­ers. While France has pushed for the De­cem­ber date, Libya’s for­mer colo­nial ruler Italy, Rus­sia and the United States have all op­posed the date.

“It is nec­es­sary to unify the in­ter­na­tional po­si­tion with re­gard to Libya,” Sar­raj said, call­ing for a “com­mon vi­sion” for its fu­ture.

He said Italy and France should over­come their dif­fer­ences “so that there are no points of con­tention” be­tween them.

The pop­ulist gov­ern­ment that came to power in Rome in June has been openly crit­i­cal of the French role in Libya, say­ing it was at least partly to blame for the cur­rent chaos.

U.N. en­voy Ghas­san Salame set out a new elec­tions timetable in a video­con­fer­ence with the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil from Tripoli Thurs­day.

He said a na­tional con­fer­ence in the first weeks of 2019 would pave the way for the elec­toral process to be­gin in the spring.

Pro­pos­als for a plat­form for or­di­nary Libyans to chart out the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture, thereby short-cir­cuit­ing the coun­try’s bick­er­ing lead­ers, have been un­der dis­cus­sion since last year.

The pro­pos­als had been de­layed be­cause of re­peated flare-ups of fight­ing be­tween the coun­try’s ri­val armed groups.

‘It’s nec­es­sary to unify the in­ter­na­tional po­si­tion’ on Libya

Sar­raj’s big­gest chal­lenge has been tack­ling the in­se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly in the cap­i­tal, where mili­tias still hold sway more than seven years af­ter Gad­hafi’s over­throw.

Be­tween late Au­gust and late Septem­ber, fight­ing in and around Tripoli be­tween ri­val groups from the cap­i­tal and other part of west­ern Libya killed at least 117 peo­ple and wounded more than 400.

Un­der pres­sure from the U.N. mis­sion, the GNA an­nounced new “se­cu­rity ar­range­ments,” which have yet to come into place vis­i­bly.

“We are start­ing to im­ple­ment this plan, but it re­quires in­ter­na­tional sup­port and the en­gage­ment of all [Libyan] par­ties.”

The se­cu­rity plan aims to re­place the mili­tias with “reg­u­lar army and po­lice units,” Sar­raj told AFP.

But some mili­tias had “played a pos­i­tive role in con­tribut­ing to se­cur­ing the cap­i­tal and other ci­ties and in the fight against ter­ror­ism,” Sar­raj said.

“Putting all th­ese fac­tions in the same box” rep­re­sents an in­jus­tice to some young Libyans, who could in­te­grate suc­cess­fully into the se­cu­rity forces, he said. –

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