Libyan PM appeals for ‘common vision’ ahead of crisis talks

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj’s biggest challenge has been tackling the insecurity, particularly in Tripoli. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 November 2018

Libyan PM appeals for ‘common vision’ ahead of crisis talks

  • Al-Sarraj hits out at ‘negative interventions by some countries’
  • Libya has been beset by violence since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in an uprising in 2011

TRIPOLI: The head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez Al-Sarraj, has urged the international community to find a “common vision” for the chaos-hit North African nation, ahead of crisis talks in Sicily next week.

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

Libya has been beset by violence since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in an 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.

Al-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.

Al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) was set up under a 2015 UN-brokered deal, but a rival administration based in the country’s east refuses to recognize its authority.

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

When asked about the timing of elections, Al-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, as well as Russia and the US, have all opposed this.

“It is necessary to unify the international position with regard to Libya,” Al-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.


Bickering leaders

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.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame set out a new election timetable in a videoconference with the Security Council from Tripoli on 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 the political future, short-circuiting the country’s bickering leaders, have been under discussion since last year.

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

  • Saudi Arabia started warning its citizens of the instability in Lebanon in 2011
  • Lebanese PM Al-Hariri hopes for a series of agreements with Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: More people have visited Lebanon since Saudi Arabia lifted its travel warning in February, pointing to a “promising summer” ahead, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said on Wednesday.
A fall in visitors from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies has hit Lebanon’s tourism industry, once a mainstay of a now-battered economy that Hariri’s new government has pledged to revive.
Saudi Arabia was once a major supporter both of its political allies in Beirut, chiefly Hariri, and of the Lebanese state. However, mindful of its overarching rivalry with Iran, Riyadh stepped back as Iran’s Lebanese ally, the political and military Hezbollah movement, grew in strength.
Saudi Arabia had been advising its citizens since 2011 to avoid Lebanon, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria.
“Without doubt the Saudi leadership’s decision ... had the most impact in increasing the number of visitors to Lebanon recently, which gives the best proof of a promising summer,” Hariri said at a Beirut conference attended by the head of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman humanitarian center.
Hariri also said he hoped that a pledge from Riyadh to help Lebanese families in need would spark a series of agreements between the two countries.
With pillars of the economy such as tourism and real estate in the doldrums, Lebanon has suffered years of low economic growth, and run up one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
Saudi ties with Lebanon hit a low in November 2017, when Hariri was held against his will in Riyadh, announcing his resignation in a TV statement.
After French intervention, Hariri returned to Lebanon and withdrew the resignation, resolving the crisis. Though Hariri has always denied having been held in Saudi Arabia, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly confirmed it last year.