Libya’s neighbours slam foreign meddling in country

Top diplomats from Libya’s neighbouring countries discuss the conflict tearing apart the oil-rich country. (AP pic)

ALGIERS: Libya’s neighbours on Thursday denounced foreign interference in the conflict-hit North African country, at talks in Algiers to seek a political solution to a crisis they say threatens regional stability.

The meeting organised at Algeria’s initiative brought together foreign ministers from Tunisia, Egypt, Chad and Mali, as well as diplomats from Sudan and Niger.

The participants insisted on the “need to respect Libya as a united country and to respect the sovereignty of its legitimate authorities”, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum said after the talks.

They also rejected “any foreign interference in Libya” and urged all sides there “to solve their conflict by peaceful means”, Boukadoum added.

“We are confident that the Libyan people will be capable of overcoming their differences through dialogue … and reaching a political solution,” he said, adding that the African Union and the United Nations should be a part of a solution.

A statement at the end of the talks said the foreign ministers “exhorted the Libyan belligerents to engage in a dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations and with the help of the African Union and Libya’s neighbours in order to reach a global settlement away from any foreign interference”.

“Foreign interference only prolongs the crisis and makes it more complex,” they warned.

The Algiers talks came days after an international summit hosted by Germany in Berlin during which world leaders committed to end foreign meddling in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas briefed the Algiers meeting on the results of Sunday’s Berlin talks, then made a brief stop in Tunis on his way home.

Several African countries had complained at not being invited to the Berlin conference. Boukadoum said the Algiers talks were aimed at “making the voices of Libya’s neighbours heard” by the international community.

Tunisia, which like Algeria shares a long border with Libya, was not invited to Berlin but Maas, in a statement released by the Tunisian presidency, said Tunis would be involved in future efforts to try and end the Libyan conflict.

‘Algerian mediation’

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since 2011. (Reuters pic)

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since Nato-backed insurgents toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Two rival administrations have emerged from the chaos.

Since April last year, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has fought back against an offensive by fighters loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar who draws his legitimacy from an administration based in the country’s east.

Haftar is supported by several countries including Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France, while the GNA has the backing of Turkey and Qatar.

GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar refused to meet in Berlin and did not take part in the Algeria talks.

On Tuesday the UN Security Council urged Libya’s warring parties to reach a long-term deal paving the way for a political process aimed at ending the conflict.

“The current situation in Libya cannot withstand an escalation,” Boukadoum said as the meeting got underway on Thursday with statements from each participant.

Algeria shares a border of almost 1,000km with Libya.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who attended the Berlin summit, said Wednesday: “Peace in Libya is equal to peace” in Algeria.

“There are statements from Sarraj, statements from Haftar’s side, which indicate that the only power capable of settling the problem is Algeria. We have their trust,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Thursday for a summit of leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to “defend peace” in the face of global instability, and suggested Libya could be on the agenda.

On the ground in the North African country, tensions remained high.

Late Wednesday, Tripoli’s sole functioning airport was closed for several hours following a rocket strike the GNA blamed on Haftar’s forces, briefly re-opened and then closed again after their rivals threatened air traffic over the capital.

But on Thursday the GNA reopened Mitiga and said it would raise the issue of Haftar’s threats at the UN Security Council.