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.


Palestinians: Israeli settlers torch cars in West Bank

Updated 54 min 13 sec ago

Palestinians: Israeli settlers torch cars in West Bank

  • Hard-line settlers have been known to carry out “price tag” attacks in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion
  • The Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of their future state

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Israeli settlers attacked five villages in the occupied West Bank overnight, torching vehicles and olive trees, and leaving graffiti on the walls of homes, Palestinian officials said Friday.
Ghassan Daghlas, a spokesman for the Nablus governorate, said the Jewish settlers set fire to five cars and spray-painted graffiti on more than 20 others. Villagers circulated photos of the damage on social media.
Israeli police say they are investigating the reports and that police and military units will visit the area.
Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast War. The Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of their future state.
Hard-line settlers have been known to carry out “price tag” attacks in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion. It was unclear what sparked the latest attack.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Palestinian health authorities said a man died of wounds he sustained in an Israeli airstrike earlier this month that killed eight members of his family. The Gaza Health Ministry identified the man as 40-year-old Mohammed Abu Malhous.
Those killed in the airstrike included two women and five children under the age of 13.
Israel’s military said it was targeting “Islamic Jihad military infrastructure” and did not expect civilians to be present. It said an investigation is underway.
The airstrike came during two days of fighting ignited by Israel’s targeted killing of a commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group. The fighting killed 35 Palestinians and more than 450 rockets were fired into Israel.