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
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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.


Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.

(AFP)