Libya PM to meet east­ern strong­man near Paris

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Paris, France - Libya’s UNbacked Prime Min­is­ter Fayez al Sar­raj will hold talks near Paris on Tues­day with Khal­ifa Haf­tar, the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary com­man­der based in the coun­try’s east, the French pres­i­dency said.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron will host the meet­ing, the pres­i­dency said in a state­ment on Mon­day. ‘ France in­tends, through this ini­tia­tive, to fa­cil­i­tate a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment [be­tween the two ri­vals as the newly ap­pointed UN en­voy for Libya, Ghas­sam Salame, takes of­fice],’ the state­ment said.

Tues­day’s talks, which were first re­ported by France’s Jour­nal du Di­manche news­pa­per on Sun­day, would be the sec­ond be­tween Sar­raj and Haf­tar in the space of three months af­ter they met in Abu Dhabi in May.

Sar­raj this month laid out a new po­lit­i­cal roadmap for his vi­o­lence-wracked coun­try, in­clud­ing the sched­ul­ing of pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in March 2018.

Po­lit­i­cal ri­valry and fight­ing be­tween mili­tias have ham­pered Libya’s re­cov­ery from the chaos that fol­lowed the 2011 up­ris­ing that top­pled and long­time dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi, who was killed in the af­ter­math.

Sar­raj’s Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord has been strug­gling to as­sert its author­ity since it be­gan work in Tripoli in March 2016. Haf­tar’s ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tion based in the re­mote east has re­fused to recog­nise it.

Western in­tel­li­gence ser­vices fear that Is­lamic State mil­i­tants are cap­i­tal­is­ing on the chaos to set up bases in Libya as they are chased from their for­mer strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Libya has also be­come the main spring­board for mi­grants seek­ing to reach the Euro­pean Union by sail­ing to Italy in of­ten flimsy and over­loaded boats.

French For­eign Min­is­ter JeanYves Le Drian told news­pa­per Le Monde in June that Libya was ‘a pri­or­ity’ for Macron and said there was ‘a se­cu­rity risk be­cause of the traf­fick­ing of all kinds, in­clud­ing hu­mans’ from Libya.

‘In con­sul­ta­tion with all its part­ners, France in­tends to show its sup­port for the ef­forts to build a po­lit­i­cal compromise, un­der the aegis of the UN, which unites... all the dif­fer­ent Libyan ac­tors,’ Mon­day’s state­ment from the El­y­see Palace said.

‘The chal­lenge is to build a state ca­pa­ble of meet­ing the ba­sic needs of Libyans and en­dowed with a reg­u­lar uni­fied army un­der the author­ity of the civil power. It is nec­es­sary for the con­trol of Libyan ter­ri­tory and its borders, to fight ter­ror­ist groups and arms and mi­grant traf­fick­ers, but also with a view to a re­turn to a sta­ble in­sti­tu­tional life,’ it said.

(AFP)

Khal­ifa Haf­tar (left) and Fayez al Sar­raj

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