Libya unity govt set for key vote as Britain’s Hammond visits

April 18, 2016 3:18 pm
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British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond visits Tripoli Libya's internationally recognised parliament is due to hold a crucial vote of confidence/AFP
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond visits Tripoli Libya’s internationally recognised parliament is due to hold a crucial vote of confidence/AFP

, TRIPOLI, Libya, Apr 18 – Libya’s parliament was set Monday for a crucial confidence vote on a new unity government, as Britain’s Philip Hammond became the latest top diplomat to land in Tripoli in support of the UN-backed administration.

Hammond flew into Tripoli on a surprise trip, hot on the heels of visits last week by the foreign ministers of Italy, France and Germany in support of the unity government.

Overview
  • The international community has been keen to support Libya's Government of National Accord as the best hope for resolving years of chaos.
  • The turmoil in oil-rich Libya since the 2011 ouster and killing of Moamer Kadhafi has sparked widespread alarm in the West.
  • The expansion of the Islamic State group in Libya, where the jihadists have set up a bastion just 300km away from Italy across the Mediterranean, has been a major cause of concern.

The international community has been keen to support Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) as the best hope for resolving years of chaos, and European Union ministers were Monday to discuss economic and security projects to back it.

The turmoil in oil-rich Libya since the 2011 ouster and killing of Moamer Kadhafi has sparked widespread alarm in the West.

The expansion of the Islamic State group in Libya, where the jihadists have set up a bastion just 300 kilometres (185 miles) away from Italy across the Mediterranean, has been a major cause of concern.

Another has been the increased flow of illegal migrants from Libya into Europe, as people smugglers feed on the country’s chaos.

The GNA, led by prime minister-designate Fayez Sarraj, has been working to assert its authority after landing in Tripoli earlier this month.

The unity government, formed under a power-sharing deal agreed by some Libyan lawmakers in December, is to take power from rival administrations that have been vying for control of the country.

Govt to take over ministries

Libya’s internationally recognised parliament, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, was to hold a confidence vote in the government later on Monday a crucial step in cementing its authority.

Lawmaker Mohammad al-Raeed told AFP that by midday 160 of the legislature’s 198 deputies had arrived in Tobruk for a session that was to begin around 1130 GMT.

The UN’s Libya envoy Martin Kobler was in Tobruk for the vote and said in a tweet he was “encouraged” by the presence of “many” deputies.

Ahead of the vote, officials said Hammond had arrived for talks with Sarraj and would later hold a news conference.

A picture posted on Sarraj’s official Facebook page showed him smiling and shaking hands with Hammond, with British and Libyan flags in the background.

Kobler hailed Hammond’s visit as a sign of the international community’s “unwavering support” for Libya’s stability and unity.

The GNA was expected to further assert its authority in the war-torn North African nation by taking control of three ministries later Monday.

Deputy premier Ahmed Maiteeq has said the government would begin running the ministries of social affairs, youth and sports, and housing and public works, regardless of the results of the confidence vote.

At Monday’s session, which is to be broadcast live, deputies are also expected to vote on an amended constitution.

EU vows ‘concrete’ help

Libya has had two rival administrations since a militia alliance took over Tripoli in mid-2014, setting up its own authority and forcing the elected parliament to flee to Tobruk.

The head of the Tripoli administration, Khalifa Ghweil, has refused to recognise the authority of the Sarraj government which he deems illegal.

Sarraj arrived in Tripoli on March 30 under naval escort and has set up his government in a naval base.

Since then he was won the trust of local officials, including mayors of cities ruled by the Tripoli administration, while key state institutions have also pledged allegiance to the GNA.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that European foreign and defence ministers meeting in Luxembourg will hold talks via video link with Sarraj from 1700 GMT Monday on how best to shore up his government.

They will work “to identify concrete projects in different fields that are the priorities of the Libyan people and of the Libyan government… on the economic and political and security side,” she said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who visited Libya on Saturday with German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told reporters in Luxembourg that Libyan and international support was “indispensible” to restore stability.

He said the EU ministers would discuss steps to stop migrant smuggling and arms trafficking.

The EU has prepared an aid package of 100 million euros ($113 million) for economic, humanitarian and development issues in Libya. It has also said it is ready to help train police and coastguard and to fight extremists.

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