Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Few at Libya meeting

There were few participants at Monday’s international meeting on Libya in Paris on Monday, amid objections to the appointment of military officers to Libyan local councils, writes Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

The international meeting on Libya in Paris on Monday was sparsely attended by participants invited by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in a bid to bring the Libyan rivals closer together.

Meanwhile, the first forum of elected local council leaders in the country, sponsored by the national consensus government in Tripoli, announced its opposition to a decision to replace elected local council chairmen with military officers, especially in eastern regions, on 2 October.

On the same day as the international conference in Paris, head of the Libyan Presidential Council Fayez Al-Sarraj arrived in Algeria on a two-day visit for consultations on developments in Libya, skipping the Paris meeting.

The French-sponsored gathering was attended by representatives from France, Britain, Italy, the US and the EU and UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler, along with participants from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey, all of which are involved in the Libyan crisis.

According to the Egyptian media, Egypt’s Ambassador to Libya Mohamed Abu Bakr headed his country’s delegation to the talks in order to support efforts to achieve stability and security across Libya and to guarantee its unity and integrity.

Egypt was focussing efforts on combatting terrorist groups that not only posed a threat to Libya but also to its neighbours in the north and south of the Mediterranean, the Egyptian media said.

Algeria, which hosted Al-Sarraj for two days of meetings, seemed irritated at the Paris meeting. Algerian reports said France was trying to find an alternative political track to the agreement signed in Skhirat in Morocco last October that Algeria wants to see remain the framework for a political settlement in Libya.

Algerian Minister for Maghreb Affairs, the African Union and the Arab League Abdel-Qader Mesahel told a joint press conference with his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Al-Taher Siyalah that the Paris gathering “is of no interest to us…we have heard there is a meeting in Paris, but what we are interested in is having our Libyan brothers here in Algeria.”

 “We oppose multiple tracks. Each party comes and declares it has an initiative, but there is only one track, that of the United Nations. The only initiative we will participate in is the Libyan initiative on dialogue and national reconciliation,” Mesahel said.

He voiced his country’s rejection of foreign intervention in Libya, adding that “Algeria’s position has been clear since the beginning. We oppose any foreign intervention in Libyan affairs, believing that Libyans are best suited to solve their own problems.”

Mesahel said the African Union would present an initiative on Libya by the end of October, in which a five-member commission would meet to follow up on developments in Libya and would be made up of representatives of neighbouring countries.

At the press conference Siyalah said that “foreign greed has delayed reconciliation and political dialogue in Libya. Algeria supports dialogue.”

Responding to a question about why Algeria had not been invited to the Paris meeting, he said “the question should be directed to France. We believe Algeria should have its say in any discussions on Libya.”

He said his country had sought Algeria’s advice on national reconciliation in order to benefit from its expertise. Tripoli wanted to learn from the Algerian experience of reconciliation and national accord, he said, adding that “we have asked for materials relating to this experience so that we can benefit from them.”

The Algerian meeting is a new development in the Libyan crisis and supports calls made by Al-Sarraj recently for an escalation of political and military operations on the ground.

At the time Al-Ahram Weekly went to press the French Foreign Ministry had not issued any comment on the Paris meeting.

Meanwhile, on 2 October the Libyan capital Tripoli hosted the first forum of the heads of the country’s local councils sponsored by the Ministry of Local Government and attended by the chair and members of the presidential council together with UN envoy Kobler.

The forum voiced its objections to measures taken by the military governor of the east of the country, Abdel-Razek Al-Nazuri, appointed by Parliamentary Speaker Aqila Saleh, who had replaced the elected heads of local councils with army officers.

Observers believe the step is an attempt to bolster the influence of the army in the region and is intended to pave the way to creating a military council to administer the east of the country should the political stalemate continue and a settlement not be reached.

In a comment on the measure, Al-Sarraj said he would not allow “the hijacking of local councils on any security or political pretext”. The councils were “directly elected by the people,” he said, and were “a safety valve for Libya”.

Al-Sarraj said he understood the difficulties facing the councils and was working to help resolve them. He urged the international community to do more to assist the country in resolving such problems to meet the needs of Libyan citizens.

He told the forum that the “local councils reached a consensus before the politicians,” in a reference to the process of national reconciliation. “I commend your brotherly and conciliatory spirit,” he added.

However, the representatives of the eastern councils, among them those whose heads had been replaced by officers, were absent from the Tripoli forum, leading to criticisms from Kobler.

In a speech at the forum, Kobler said the representation of the eastern councils, women and young people at the forum had been “unsatisfactory” and called for better representation at upcoming events.

He emphasised the key role the local councils had to play, adding that national reconciliation “cannot be imposed [on Libya], but must start at the level of the individual”.

Conditions in central and western Libya remain troubling in the light of the unclear situation in the east of the country. In Sirte, forces with Operation Solid Structure continue to battle Islamic State (IS) fighters in the eastern part of the city.

On Monday, US forces said their fighters had carried out 20 air strikes against IS locations in Sirte on Sunday, destroying the group’s command and control structure as well as 70 enemy targets.

These were the fiercest attacks since the launch of strikes in Sirte on 1 August, bringing US air strikes on the city to 201, according to the Website of US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Meanwhile in western Tripoli, Warashfanah tribes declared their support for General Omar Tantoush, a former ally of military leader Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country, indicating a growing chasm between Libya’s eastern and western regions.

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